2014 Freakshow Red Wine, Michael David Winery

Lake Monomonac is the backdrop for this red blend, one of my favorites from Michael David winery and often featured in Notes. It’s a big, jammy red with just a touch of spice that’s a little more tobacco than it is pepper.

2014 Freakshow Red Wine, Michael David Winery, Lodi, California, USA.

2014 Freakshow Red Wine, Michael David Winery, Lodi, California, USA.

The 2014 Freakshow Red Wine is a blend of 71% Syrah, 25% Petite Sirah, and 4% Souzao grapes, and it’s presumably the dilution of the Syrah that makes me think there’s less pepper in play here. It’s going to sound ostentatious but know the Freakshow accompanied filet mignon, lobster, fresh homemade bread, a mix of yellow and green string beans, and plenty of other delicious accents. And it poured out rich, nearly chocolatey, for each glass.

Of the 2014 vintages, the winemaker comments, “Aromas of blackberry cobbler, toasted walnuts, espresso bean, and hints of brandy. The wine is weighty with a velvet-like texture boasting flavors of ripe brambleberry jam, toffee, and dark chocolate mousse…

Much of that is true, and you should be drinking the 2014 Freakshow Red Wine just in case my tasting notes are even close to accurate. So release your inner Dog-Faced-Boy and let that dog hunt–as long as he’s chasing down this bottle you’ll be very satisfied.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, John William Vineyards

Few things in life are both cathartic and fulfilling all at once. That’s what you’ll find in the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from John William Vineyards, with a little dash of calm thrown in the mix too. We know 2014 was a great vintage in terms of Napa reds, and this one falls squarely into that category. I pulled the cork on Friday at the end of a long work week and finished it off with a smile just this evening.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, John William Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, John William Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

Friday this red blend was the backdrop to a crazy late afternoon thunderstorm where the rain was driving down at an angle, bending plants and trees to its will. The John William I had intended to accompany some grilled pork chops but instead it went with a couple of leftover burgers that were the perfect antidote to standing outside in the rain getting drenched. And so it went yesterday, and the pork chops kept nicely for Saturday dinner and perfect temperatures–both outside and in the entrée.

I liked this wine right from the first pour, and my enjoyment only increased as I researched this vintage. Most of the grapes for the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon were sourced from John William reserve vineyards, terroir including Howell Mountain and St. Helena that comes together in a delicious blend of deep, dark red that is nearly purple in the glass. I drank from Cabernet Sauvignon stemware and could smell and taste a rich set of dark berries in the works here. Less cherry flavors and more like blackberry, with accents of spice (not pepper like a Syrah) and a long fruity finish that is really wonderful. I haven’t done its profile justice in previous bottles that I failed to record in Notes, and most importantly you should know I’d hit another one right now if given the opportunity but I obtained from an online offer and not sure how accessible it is in my local wine shop.

Some details from the Winemaker:

  • They deliberately kept the grapes separated by region throughout the fermentation and aging processes in order to keep their unique characteristics.
  • The separate lots were aged in 35% new French oak barrels for 15 months.
  • The final product is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon with 7.5% Cabernet Franc and 0.5% Merlot varietals.

Great grapes, discerning process, and a fantastic result. I originally purchased based on vintage and AVA–and out of deference to one of my favorite composers John Williams of Star Wars and Spielberg/Lucas fame. Whatever the reason strikes a chord with you, just get it and see for yourself. You can thank Notes later.

 

2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery

I deserved this bottle. Yeah, I said it. I was bone weary last night, the final day in a work week that included late nights, crazy travel, and unyielding deliverables, but not too tired to take a moment to savor one of the finer things in life. Because that’s what a Buena Vista bottle is–it’s a “stop and smell the roses” event each and every time.

West Coast client deliverables meant I got a late start on this 2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, but it also meant I was ready to fully immerse myself in the experience by the time I got to pour and enjoy a glass. Made the deliverable, confirmed with the client, and here we go. I’ve had a couple Buena Vista Karolys before, and this one was equal to the previous.

2014 Karoly's Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The 2014 is delicious. It needs a moment or two to breathe, but when it does you can really pull on the black cherry or blackberry scent. There is a smoke of some kind here too…not quite earthy or a spice but an accent that I can’t quite isolate. It is full, it is robust, it has a great finish. If you drift toward Cabernet Sauvignon or other big reds in your wine tastes, you’ll dig the 2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah. If you prefer lighter Pinot Noirs this might not quite be your bottle–but you’ll be missing something fun!

Okay, a quick summary of the foodstuffs: What you see here is a seared chicken dinner and a creamy couscous with an olive and raisin sauce. The chicken came out great (for a change!)–pulled from the heat while cooked through but still juicy. The couscous was a blend of cool (that’s from the verjus blanc and creme fraiche plus celery) and hot, courtesy of red pepper flakes. I’m not sure a full-throated red was the right pairing for this dish, but I figured the best of both worlds was a suitable strategy regardless. Here’s how the Buena Vista folks describe the vino:

“Our 2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah offers seductive aromas of black cherry and dark chocolate with hints of anise. Upon the palate, flavors of blackberry pie, brambles, and a slight touch of granite are well-balanced with good density and a juicy structure.”

Can’t tell you what ‘brambles’ taste like, or if this 2014 Karoly has such flavor in it, but the black cherry I can very much confirm. This wine is aged 17 months in Hungarian Oak and I’m glad it escorted me into the weekend.

2015 The Prisoner, The Prisoner Wine Company

Much like California Cabs, Napa Valley red blends have a special place in my heart. Given its reputation among wine aficionados and critics, The Prisoner had been on my target list for some time. I know friends have enjoyed immensely and I wanted to understand if the hype was real or just noise.

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2015 The Prisoner, The Prisoner Wine Company, Napa Valley, California, USA.

You know The Prisoner is the real deal after your first tasting. The scent is full and fruity, a mixture of cherry and chocolate, and no overpowering tannic notes. I did not decant the bottle and it seemed very stable as I smelled and poured. There’s some hint of spice and vanilla in the glass, but it was understated in comparison to a mass market Cab that I was drinking recently–in that wine the vanilla was out and in front of the grapes in a way that seemed artificial instead of innate. Not sure that makes sense as I write it, but by contrast The Prisoner seemed more nuanced.

Zinfandel is a big part of this red blend, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Charbono, and no wonder the winery sources grapes from 80 different Napa locations to make their wines. Chrissy Wittman, winemaker at PWC since 2016, is now responsible for the legacy of The Prisoner, and after my first exposure to her work, I’d say its reputation is in good hands.  This is a really enjoyable wine and I’d feel lucky to continue drinking The Prisoner again in the future.

Unless it’s gifted to you, you’ll need to buck up for The Prisoner, and you can find it listed at $47 on the winery’s website. (I paid considerably less, courtesy of my favorite local wine store…) It’s a great drink, one that makes your evening special as soon as you uncork it. But if you’re on a tighter budget and looking for a similar tasting experience, I would suggest you pull a bottle of the Jeff Runquist 1448 that Notes recently covered. Their impact on your taste buds will be very close, but The Prisoner makes a greater impact on your wallet so you have to bear that in mind too.