The Ones That Got Away – Summer 2018

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2015 Treana Red, Treana Winery, Paso Robles, California, USA.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Edwards & Chaffey, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2015 Cambridge Meritage, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2016 Domaine d’Andezon Cotes due Rhone, Red blend. Rhone, France.

2015 Mestizaje, Mustiguillo Vineyards & Winery, Red blend. Spain.

2011 Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz Cabernet, Padthaway, Australia.

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

2012 Acha Red, Mark Herold, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2002 Syrah, Miller Wine Cellars, Napa, California, USA.

2014 Claret, White Rock Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2016 Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvee, Sonoma, California, USA.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Winemaker’s Reserve, Robert Storey Cellars, Napa Valley, California, USA.

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

2014 Amarone la Giaretta della Valpolicella, Italy.

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.

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.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff Lede Vineyards

Yes this is the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Cliff Lede Vineyards in the Stag’s Leap District of Napa Valley, California. Great juice, here, and no surprise that it resonated so powerfully with this aficionado of the region and the varietal.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff Lede, Stag's Leap District, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff Lede, Stag’s Leap District, Napa Valley, California, USA.

This AVA is one of the best known in the world, and the small 60-acre lot that produces the fruit for Cliff Lede fuels a state-of-the-art processing operation set into the California hillside. The winery’s technology is well-described here if you’re curious for a deeper dive; more interesting to me was learning of the ‘rock blocks’ (My Generation, Dark Side of the Moon, etc.) used to name each segment of the vineyard. Love that kind of fandom…

…and speaking of fandom I loved this  2014 Cab. How could you not? Crafted by winemaker Christoper Tynan it is a real beauty of a wine, with grapes sourced from their Poetry Vineyard, Twin Peaks Vineyard, and a few gracious (and surely well-compensated) neighbors in the District. Given the terroir described for these areas there are some really interesting layers at work in the Cliff Lede Stag’s Leap District Cab. Of course there is plum and blackberry, and some things hinting at vanilla but not quite. It is crazy dark purple in your glass and amazing on your tongue, layers of something that reminds me of high-end soaps and their subtle fragrances.

Says the winemaker: “Interwoven into the floral notes are unctuous layers of plum, blackberry, and black currants.  Loads of smoked cardamom, cinnamon, and black licorice unwind onto the palate where the vibrant acidity carries the long finish to a state of balance and equilibrium.

Whoa. Said in short? Helluva wine. Yeah it’s got the mash up that I so enjoy in Bordeaux-style red. This one comprises a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, and 2% Merlot. They made 7,246 cases of this stuff, bottling it in July of 2016 after aging in French oak barrels for 21 months.

Do yourself a favor and read about the sorting, fermentation, and related production notes…and then get a bottle for the next big celebration you have. You can thank me later.

2012 Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon

This Napa Valley red jumps immediately to my Top 5 all time, an amazing thank you gift from a long-time author friend. The 2012 Cardinale is flat-out spectacular and the best wine Notes has covered all year. Many thanks, Steve, and definitely raising a glass to our continued friendship.

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cardinale, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cardinale, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The 2012 Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Merlot grapes, and truthfully is a whole lot more than that. It is a superfluous wine for which I entirely lack the vocabulary even after several hundreds of tastings covered here over the past decade. Upon initial tasting I could hit on dark cherry, on blackberry–even plum is a possibility–and some definite wisps of vanilla and peat (not sure that’s the right term for what I’m trying to describe in the latter) that I’m sure is driven by the terroir here.

A little online research shows that seven different AVAs (Howell Mountain, Diamond Mountain, Spring Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Stags’ Leap, Yountville, and St. Helena) were sourced by winemaker Chris Carpenter in developing this black cherry beauty. There are so many little subtleties in play that each time your brain seems to seize on one particular nuance it suddenly registers another flavor. Makes the 2012 very difficult to describe but spectacular to drink.

Just so I don’t leave you entirely bereft of actionable information, here’s a review from The Wine Advocate: “With enormous complexity and richness as well as full-bodied power and voluptuousness, it is a wine of exceptional purity, intensity, and well-integrated acidity, alcohol, tannin, and wood. This seamless, majestic Napa Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated 2012 should drink well for two decades.

Now, that’s a ton of technical jargon and very high praise to include on a website that’s declared purpose is to be the opposite of pretentious. Certainly not my intent, but the 2012 Cardinale Cabernet was really stunning and even thinking back I’m so amazed and privileged to try this. Many thanks Dr. G and looking forward to our next occasion!