2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery

Buena Vista Winery has been in my life for nearly 15 years at this point, and each time I’m reminded of my first exposure to wines in their Sonoma tasting room. That’s an era before social media and some of the viral marketing that the Buena Vista now uses to attract visitors to one of the state’s oldest wineries. Probably a cheaper fee for admission, too…

2015 Antal's Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

Several of their newer releases have won awards in regional competition and, while I don’t think the 2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel was among them, it earned raves from me nevertheless when I opened this evening. I’d been sipping a Grenache-Syrah blend from the Rhone for most of this week (very pedestrian…still have to write that up), so this Buena Vista Zinfandel was like a shot of adrenaline to my taste buds. I opened it while jamming on some final work obligations for the week and decided to go all out, opting for the decanter and that whole production as well.

Seemed like good decisions all around. The wine opened up really well, releasing notes of cherry and strawberry almost immediately. Great aromas in the glass and even better at the taste. It kicked with a little something, more innate and nuanced than sometimes I sense in the market-leading David bottle. I ate a simple cheese tortellini dish with this wine, accented with a bit of butter and olive oil. The wine was really the headliner of this whole setup, and longtime readers of Notes know that Friday is often “wine reward” nite for surviving the ever-evolving challenges of the work week.

Baldacchi Vineyard (reputedly with 100-year old vines) produced the grapes used for this 2015 Zin, which pours dark red in the glass. Again, a nice contrast to the Chateau Rochecolumbe bottle that is relatively pale by comparison. Here’s how the winery described what’s at play in the Antal: “Richly layered flavors of strawberry and currant are complemented by notes of graham cracker and mocha leading to a spreading finish with a slightly savory note.”

I’ll just say it was great! Buena Vista produced 401 cases of the 2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, so I’m not sure how easy it will be to score some after all the wine club shipments go out but you’d be glad if you find it. Mine was bottle #2249–love the individual numbering and this wine overall!

 

Advertisements

2012 Napa Reserve, White Oak Vineyards & Winery

It’s well established that Notes covers California Cabernet Sauvignon and red blends with recurring frequency. This is one of the latter, shipped from the vineyard’s Alexander Valley location via an online distributer in a bottle with some considerable heft. When the bottle itself is weighty, you sort of expect the same from the wine too, right? Sometimes that doesn’t bear out in the tasting, and others – like this occasion – it really does.

2012 Napa Reserve, White Oak Vineyards & Winery, Healdsburg, CA, USA.

2012 Napa Reserve, White Oak Vineyards & Winery, Healdsburg, CA, USA.

There’s a ton of flavor in White Oak’s 2012 Napa Reserve, a bordeaux-style blend that packs in dark fruit flavors that open up beautifully as you go through the wine. It has some tannic scents when you first pull the cork, but if you let it decanter or similarly open up, you’ll find it mellows out and lets other berries come through. Yes, there is definite black berry on the nose, and probably some other dark chocolate notes that you’ll detect too. There is some damp earthiness at stake too…

I ignored some unwritten rules with this wine choice, as I was having it with some pepper-rubbed salmon and rice instead of grilled meat. Call that a little nod to cut back on the cholesterol (at least for the night!). A white might have been the textbook choice, but toss that book out and just enjoy good wine when you can.

And that’s what I’m doing here. The 2012 Napa Reserve from White Oak Vineyards & Winery folds in Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, and I’m betting its aged in oak for some time to instill the subtle notes you encounter through this rich, ruby red wine. I don’t think you can find it on the White Oaks website at present, but perhaps your favorite distributor can get you access?

It’ll be worth it. This is a nice wine for the price and I’m glad I got to sample a bottle.

2016 Machete, Orin Swift Wines

This 2016 Machete brings Notes back in spades. The blend of Petite Sirah and Grenache, developed by one of this site’s favorite winemakers, is a robust red combination that you’ll definitely appreciate. And not just from its funky label!

2016 Machete, Orin Swift Wines, California, USA.

2016 Machete, Orin Swift Wines, St. Helena, California, USA.

It has been forever (biggest gap to date?) since the last review on Notes, and I’m glad this wine allows us to re-engage. It’s a heavyweight, and I will always have fond memories of my first taste of Machete. That was well over a year ago, when I got to bogart a glass from a best friend who won the bottle as part of a football bet and treated me to a taste of his winnings. So special shout out to GDog and Eagan for putting me on this path…

…back in the present now: I opened the Machete last night after a long work week (rueful chuckle here) and allowed it to breathe in a decanter while I fired up the grill beneath the day’s fading sun. It is so purple on the pour…abundant whiffs of blackberry and black plum too. You don’t want to be too eager and sip before the wine opens up, because the finish is far smoother once you give it a few moments.

Is the seal a pain in the ass? Yes. Yes it is. You have to score the waxy plastic seal before you can get to the cork, but once you pass this test you’re sitting very pretty.

I had this 2016 with a New York Strip and a killer green salad (mixed, arugula, sliced green olives, bacon, cheese, fresh-ground black pepper and blue cheese dressing). The Machete lasted me through dessert too, a 72% cacao “intense dark” square of Ghiradelli that just finished things up perfectly.

I’m doing part of a Milk Run with this review, so expect another 2016 Machete from me in the near term. Enjoy the above for now, and more again soon. Kind regards to all.

2013 Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard Proprietary Red, Bevan Cellars

Saturday night with old friends and new wines, notably the 2013 Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard Proprietary Red from Bevan Cellars, and a 2016 bottle of Cab from Daou. Our evening didn’t finish with these two bottles, but rather kicked it off as we enjoyed a fun dinner at the Echo & Rig Butcher and Steakhouse in Las Vegas.

2013 Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard Proprietary Red, Bevan Cellars, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2013 Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard Proprietary Red, Bevan Cellars, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The Sugarloaf came with the highest reviews (and hefty price tag–thanks Tony for this treat!) and was batting leadoff. It’s a bold red blend, and even on the cork you could smell its pungent mix of dark fruit. The Sugarloaf is fantastic, a combination of dark plum and blackberry notes, with just a hint of spices below the surface. The wine is composed of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot grapes. This Bevan Cellars offering pours so purple that it’s almost miscast as a ‘red’ wine. We did let it breathe, but honestly just for a few moments and swirls. With four of us splitting the Proprietary Red there was just enough for a first glass, and course it left us wanting more. I know the winery doesn’t do public tastings so you’ll have to just trust me (which is fair…I do taste a lot of California red for a ‘regular’ dude) and sample wherever you can–or just go buy one.

2016 Daou Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, USA.

2016 Daou Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, USA.

Next up was the 2016 Daou Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, a bottle that similarly earned raves from our foursome. It may have cost a fraction of the top-shelf Sugarloaf, but its excellence was right on par with the more expensive Napa blend. Whereas the 2013 primarily accompanied appetizers, the Daou we had with our entrees. It was bold and fruity, packed with dark cherry notes and a little bit of that earthy spice that I so enjoy among California Cab. Great mouthfeel overall!

I went with a filet mignon this evening, and we did a bunch of family-style sides at this steakhouse. The staff was great, the meal was exceptional, and the friendship even better than that. Forgive me for having less information on the wine this time…I was too busy enjoying the good company. Lots of smiles in our bunch on this evening, which we would soon extend to a wine bar just up the street for after dinner drinks. Raising a glass to all that made this night so enjoyable!

2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery

This 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve is a savory, fruit-forward red, one that served as an end-of-week reward for this fan of Buena Vista Winery. The wine is really outstanding, a burst of dark berries that pours dark and fragrant into your glass.

Only 450 cases of the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve have been produced by the winery, and you’re paying for that exclusivity and the “reserve” classification to some extent, but the wine is really excellent. It is filled with big scents of plum and dark cherry that open up nicely as the wine breathes. The wine accompanied steak and garlic-mashed potatoes last evening, and then cavatelli pasta and shrimp, with a medley of summer vegetables tonight. The zin is great with both, but in particular with the grilled steak and its robust flavors.

2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The grapes for this wine come from 30-year-old vines on properties adjacent to the winery and part of Count Haraszthy’s original winery (according to Buena Vista’s notes). The fruit is harvested by hand, with the best lots then fermented separately in open-top vats before being pressed off and aged in barrels of French oak. You can almost taste that care as you sip contentedly on the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve.

Though not the cabernet sauvignon for which I’d often reach with such meals, the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve still abounds in big, dark red flavor. Guidance from the vineyard includes: “[grapes] sourced from the warmer regions in Sonoma County, allowing for warm summer days to deepen the richness on the palate…Bright flavors of tart cherry, cranberry, and boysenberry are balanced with notes of cocoa and a touch of vanilla upon the finish.

As of the time this post goes up on Notes, the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve is available on the Buena Vista Winery website if you have been moved by this summary of its many favorable qualities. Great choice for weekend drinking!

 

 

 

2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon, Willowlake Wines

The 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon was recently featured at my favorite wine shop and, as a birthday present to myself, I picked up a bottle several weeks ago. Tonight I decided was the occasion to break it out. I had high expectations given the emphasis winestore placed on it, and I was interested to share my findings with all who follow Notes here.

Important comment: I did not taste the Willowlake prior to purchasing, which is somewhat unusual for me when buying from that shop because they do a great job of giving consumer access through their sampling machines. No, this time I bought based on the description of the wine (Only 84 cases produced! “I would really challenge any of you who are Cabernet lovers to find something of this caliber at this price. The wine is INSANE.”), the bottle design, and the overall reputation of the Howell Mountain AVA in Napa Valley. Okay, a little bit based on price, too. How could I go wrong with all those factors lined up in my favor?

The 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon has some heft, its sturdy glass and cork covered not with foil but actual wax. Not sure any of the 350+ bottles covered in Notes to date has had this treatment, so that was a first for this taster. Such presentation seemed promising too and, as the wine tumbled into my Reidel Cab glassware, my interest in the Willowlake peaked. My brain was thinking “Hey this was a $135 release that I got for less than half that price!” and was already trying to interpret the vanilla and oaky notes I detected rising up from my first big pour.

2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon, Willowlake Wines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon, Willowlake Wines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

And here’s the thing. It just didn’t measure up. Man, that never happens to me, and never with a bottle that should have so many things going for it. I have read others comparing the 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon to Caymus, and I do not think they are evenly remotely similar. I’ve previously remarked of the fruit bomb that I find the Wagner offering to be, and this is not really like that in flavor at all. The vanilla I found a bit too far forward, and it took my taste buds away from any layering or earthiness that I expected in the Willowlake wine. Don’t misunderstand me; the 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon is really good stuff–but it is not the GREAT wine that I had in mind.

Part of me went, “Dude, you should have just tried the Disciples or grabbed another bottle of the Cuttings or the Palermo instead…” But that’s the whole point of wine tasting, right? You identify some favorites, sample new options, make some notes, and compare bottles as best you can with those from your memories. There is no wrong answer as long as the vino is flowing! Thanks for your interest in Notes and the 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon–share both with a friend.