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.

2014 Encantado Cabernet Sauvignon, Pine Ridge Vineyards

The Encantado Cabernet Sauvignon is the little brother to the flagship Pine Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons produced by this well-regarded vineyard from the Stags Leap district. The winery has been in acquisitive mode, securing more than 150 acres from five appellations in Napa Valley–including Stags Leap, Howell Mountain, Oakville, Rutherford, and (one of my favorites) Carneros.

Given this access to grapes from different terroir (pretty expensive terroir at that), it’s easy to see the Pine Ridge winemakers can mix and match to achieve subtleties in their offerings. The Encantado – which means “charmed” in Spanish – is a good example of this approach, as fruits for this big Cab are sourced from holdings across the valley. It’s a Bordeaux-style red, with big flavors of cherry leading the charge. I almost think there’s some vanilla notes in play, but I liked the Encantado too much for that. Maybe I’d describe that subtlety as slate instead? That ribbon running through this ruby red is not what I often describe as peat moss or earthy, and it’s not quite leather or spice box as other reviewers would describe. Thus I give you slate?

2014 Encantado Cabernet Sauvignon, Pine Ridge Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2014 Encantado Cabernet Sauvignon, Pine Ridge Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

Grapes for the Encantado were selected and sorted prior to pressing, and this fruit went through extended maceration after fermentation so that certain flavors could be pushed forward–sounds cool and I can tell you the taste speaks well for the care the Encantado receives. It’s also aged in 100% new French oak barrels for 18 months prior to bottling.

Really nice wine and, since I purchased from WTSO.com, I am pleased to say I have another one or two of these to continue my Encantado adventure. This 2014 vintage accompanied a classic Memorial Day meal–burgers and dogs from the grill (braved in the rain!), a little green salad, and potato salad too. Some might opt for a Miller Lite or something with this lineup, but this guy is more a wine aficionado than a beer fan–but that is an option for the future too. Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend and thanks again for following Notes.

2016 Waccamaw Proprietary Red Blend, Waccamaw Wines

The 2016 Waccamaw Proprietary Red Blend is a delicious red wine, a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Toriga, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, and Cab Franc–and I guess shows my blended state of mind this weekend after the 2016 Sheriff last evening. It’s affordable, layered, and fruit forward in a very generous way. Whereas I recall the Syrah textures and blackberry flavors of the Sheriff, my memory of the Waccamaw ties it more closely to black cherry notes. More of the Zin and Cab I think?

2016 Waccamaw Proprietary Red Blend, Waccamaw Wines, California, USA.

2016 Waccamaw Proprietary Red Blend, Waccamaw Wines, California, USA.

My friends at Winestore liken the 2016 Waccamaw Proprietary Red Blend to the Banshee Mordecai, and I think the Waccamaw is far and away the better option. The Banshee always seemed to need time to open, but the Waccamaw was ready to go right from the time of uncorking. It was better than the Rockus Bockus red blend that I’d sampled recently too.

A great value and I should have purchased more of these when I was last in my favorite wine store. Sorry for the short review, folks, and I look forward to expanding further on the 2016 Waccamaw Proprietary Red Blend when I get my next one.

 

2016 The Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery

Notes has profiled vintages of The Sheriff from 2013 and 2015 for sure, and I’m not quite sure how I missed the 2014 along the way. It’s a rich, well-balanced red blend, and long-time readers may nod remembering those previous reviews. Buena Vista Winery is my favorite in Sonoma and carries great memories of adventures and wines past, in equal measure.

2013 The Sheriff of Sonoma County, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2016 The Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The 2013 I described as a “kitchen sink” red because of its unique blending of grapes, and the 2016 follows a similar pattern of success. This vintage is a mix of Petite Sirah (34%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), Grenache (14%), Syrah (11%), Petite Verdot (5%), Mission (2%), and Cabernet Franc (1%). Like the other vintages, the 2016 Sheriff is weighty, from the heft of the bottle and its special badge design to the wine itself. Purple flavors tumble out of this bottle, with some blackberry and dark chocolate notes figuring prominently. Compared to, say, a Michael David red blend, the 2016 Sheriff has a bit more of the Syrah that comes through it in your tasting. It is even, measured, and has faint traces of some other spices in the glass. Really nice wine overall…

…and I had it with a garden salad (arugula with some spinach) and a grilled steak. Just what the doctor ordered after 10 long days on the road for work. I invested far too much of myself in this travel and was nearly tired to the point of intoxication before I tasted even sip one. That said, I made time to slow down and sample amply.

Here’s how the winemaker explains the makeup of the 2016 Sheriff: “The varietals that compose the blend are harvested from vineyards throughout the county, including the Alexander Valley, the Sonoma Valley, Rockpile and Dry Creek. The individual varietals were aged separately in a variety of new and neutral oak barrels before being blended prior to bottling.

For those interested in the fine details, that’s 10 months in French, American, and Hungarian oak (15% new oak). For those interested in the overall effect, it’s noteworthy. A great welcome home gift and much appreciated by this fan of good grapes.

2015 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, the Prisoner Wine Company

This review of the 2015 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon will be short and sweet. It is very similar to the 2014 vintage covered by Notes previously, and puts this grateful fan one step closer to a vertical flight of the Cuttings. The 2014 was immediately ranked inside Notes‘ Top Ten (#5) all time, and this one paces that result favorably. Already I’m wondering what will be in store for this amazing wine in the future bottling.

2014 Cuttings, Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

Pictured here is the 2014 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

This one is a birthday present, and one I really appreciated. It definitely “fits”! Mom and I enjoyed this bottle on a lazy Sunday afternoon, sipping contentedly while watching The History of the Eagles. Great music, and even better vino.

It’s so rich and decadent on the nose, and a massive fruit bomb on the tongue. In the 2015 The Cuttings, there is black cherry in spades, and a leathery spice undertone as well. Others have used the terms “baking spice”, “cigar box”, and “freshly roasted coffee” and I nod in agreement to each even though I wouldn’t have detected those notes specifically myself. I just love its massive red layers.

This is great birthday beverage, a treat that makes you smile and feel glad to be alive. I’m appreciative of all and thank my mother for the thoughtful gift of her visit and this amazing 2015 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon too.

2012 White Oak Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Reserve

There are several interesting nuances that I’m going to share with you on the White Oak Napa Reserve Blend—a wine that some consider a slight bump up from the winery’s highly rated Alexander Valley Reserve offering. First, it is somewhat of a rarity, as White Oak only produces this wine about three times each decade. The grapes are pulled from a side of Wooden Valley that “collects heat from the Palisades” and they only go to bat for this wine when conditions are ideal. Sounds like a labor but one of love for the growers.

2012 White Oak Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Reserve, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2012 White Oak Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Reserve, Napa Valley, California, USA.

White Oak has about 750 acres around Alexander Valley and they focus on small-quantity releases. This one is a Bordeaux Blend, with a foundation in Cabernet Sauvignon (47%) and Merlot (15%) for sure, but also with a big Petit Verdot (23%) and Malbec (15%) presence as well. At your first sip the Malbec has the biggest bite and announces itself loud and clear; once the wine breathes a bit it takes more of a back seat to the Cab/Merlot blend. This mix is dark, deep purple in the glass and has the Malbec greet your nose. The 2012, crafted by winemaker Bill Parker, is aged 18 months in French Oak.

This is a Vivino purchase and they describe as a “very dark, structured, and aromatic wine that has the shoulders of Howell Mountain but the midsection of Stag’s Leap.

The 2012 White Oak Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Reserve is a bold red that comes at you in waves. I have one more bottle of this same blend and may decant the next one so that it properly breathes; this one I rushed just a bit. The 2012 White Oak Napa Reserve accompanied chicken and pasta on one evening, and a flatbread pepperoni pizza on the next. The bottle was enjoyable with both, and with better care by me next time I have even higher expectations. Hope this helps you with the same.

 

2013 Nickel & Nickel – Branding Iron Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon

A group of friends, some new and some old, came together tonight for some great vino while a nor’easter raged outside. Although the winds gusted and trees toppled nearby, inside we were all smiles while enjoying great grapes like this 2013 Nickel & Nickel, Branding Iron Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a 100% Cab from the Oakville appellation in Napa Valley and a fantastic beverage–many thanks to Jorge and Denise for hosting and opening this gem.

2013 Nickel & Nickel - Branding Iron Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA

2013 Nickel & Nickel – Branding Iron Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The vineyard is close to the base of California’s Mayacamas Mountains and comprises “well-drained clay loam”, with vines vertically trellised to maximize their exposure to sunlight in morning and afternoon times. It was planted in 1998 on eight acres that have to be pretty valuable at this point, located north of Yountville and near the famed Stag’s Leap District. Its grapes were harvested in October 2013 and aged for 17 months in French oak (47% new; 53% once-used) before released to the public in September of 2015. The vineyard’s website contains excellent information to expand upon this snapshot if you are so inclined.

Rather than visit those notes, however, you might better spend your time ordering a bottle or tasting this big, mixed berry treat. It’s more purple than red in your glass, and wow does it have legs. This single-vineyard wine practically slouches down your glass and is so endearing on your palate…it’s fantastic. There is definite blackberry in the mix, and an earthiness too I think. Having said that, there was also some Johnny Walker Green Label on the counter and it may just be the idea of good whisky that influenced my brain on the deep peat moss notes that I was smelling.

This is the first time I’ve sampled a Nickel & Nickel Branding Iron Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and, with a little luck, it will not be the last. Several friends have shared their praise for the vineyard too, and I can understand why. This wine commands your attention, with its big mouthfeel and easy finish–thanks again to our hosts for breaking out this showstopper.