2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Courtney Benham

2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Courtney Benham, Napa Valley, California, USA.

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2016 Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon, Orin Swift Cellars

How do you commemorate writing a @*%* tax check for Uncle Sam? You shake your head and reach for a bottle of good wine to cushion the landing. This guy opted for the 2016 Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon from Orin Swift Cellars. (Yes, I’d have celebrated a better return the same way, those of you asking…)

2016 Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon, Orin Swift Cellers, Napa Valley, California, USA.

Palermo has been on my radar for some time, as a gift for friends, from friends, and once on a memorable date that I enjoyed a ton. We didn’t even finish the bottle on that occasion – guess the company was the more intoxicating play. Said another way, this was the first time I was drinking this Bordeaux-style red with thoughts of how I would describe here in Notes. It’s rich purple in your glass (I went with Riedel stemware for this one) and waves blackberry scents to you right from the first pour. The 2016 vintage is very drinkable, dark berry fruits, and has an easy finish that is probably some of the blended fruit rounding off the harsher tannic corners of the Cabernet. Little spice notes that are far more subtle than the blackberry / dark cherry taste.

The Palermo is a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc grapes that the winemaker sources from across the ripe floors of Napa Valley. Calistoga, St. Helena, Coombsville, and Oak Knoll all contribute to this kitchen sink of a wine as does Pope Valley, Atlas Peak, and both Rutherford and Oakville. To what extent? Only the winery knows for sure, but you can bet their inclusion is for both taste and the overall marketability of the Palermo. They mature the Palermo in French Oak barrels for 10 months.

This evening, the 2016 accompanied a pork loin (just a tad overdone) and just a big ol’ salad of arugula, spinach, green olives, and a sweet onion that I shaved into little slivers of goodness. And yes, fresh ground pepper and bacon, with blue cheese dressing. Hey, if tax day doesn’t bring out your sense of carpe diem and good wine what does?!?

2012 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Beringer Vineyards

This bottle I’ve been saving for six months (pretty sure it’s actually been longer), looking for the right occasion to break it out. This day is not quite unfolding in reality as it had in my mind’s eye, but the 2012 Beringer Private Reserve is doing good things keeping me grounded. This wine brings together some delicious berry notes and spices in a way that is so refreshing after the last couple of beer days I’ve had.

2012 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Beringer Vineyards, California, USA.

2012 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Beringer Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The Beringer is sharp. And that’s not to say tannic. I mean it’s a nice, headsy beverage. High caliber. Really a nice-drinking vino, with deep purple colors and a boatload of dark berry flavors. This is blackberries from the vine, and a nose full of spices that are more kitchen-based than from the forest floor. This Cabernet Sauvignon is practically screaming to be enjoyed with a nice grilled steak but (surprisingly) accompanies a lovely piece of salmon and asparagus with burnt butter sauce instead. Both wine and fish disappear with astonishing speed…

Here’s what the Winemaker offers on the Beringer Private Reserve: “After aging for 17 months in French oak barrels, the final blend showcases black fruit, mint, and dark chocolate along with a long, luxurious finish.

That all sounds amazing as I read on the now-empty bottle. I love single vineyard reds–and Napa Valley Cabs in particular–and 2012 is certainly a banner year for both. I know, I know…Notes can seem to alternate between single vineyard Cab and “kitchen sink” reds so who am I to trumpet for either? I’m blessed to say I’ve had more winners than losers in my little lifetime, and the Beringer is a big “W”.  Enjoy your weekend everyone.

 

Mountain Veeder Winery Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

This is a bottle intended for special occasions. I’ll always remember why I bought it, and then again why I decided to open it this particular evening. Life is a series of adventures and we learn from them all…in time.

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Mountain Veeder Winery Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Oakville, California, USA.

It’s an exclusive, just one of 120 bottles (#86 specifically–check the label) produced by Napa Valley’s best-known vintners as they work to promote, protect, and enhance the Napa Valley appellation. I’ve never had wine from Mt. Veeder previously, and I’m curious to know how this stands as a representative sample. Full disclosure: I did NOT let it breathe adequately when I first uncorked it. My first glass had an extra tannin finish that I didn’t really relish, but it opened nicely over the course of the evening.

Here’s a little promo from the bottle: “As few as 60 and never more than 240 bottles of each Premiere Napa Valley wine are made, allowing the vintner to select from their finest sources, break with tradition, and come up with an offering that is truly handcrafted with a personal expression of their style.” You can see how it caught my eye, right?

I had this wine with a very simple meal–beef and potato–and thought about all the inky red goodness swirling about my Cabernet glass. This Mount Veeder Winery Estate Cabernet was not jammy but still filled with cherry and plum flavors. Once the tannins slid to the background you could catch notes of pepper and other spices on the nose too. I’ve heard the term “mountain wine” used on such bottles in the past, and that tip to the terroir I understand in context of this 2014.

And it was good, too. Really enjoyed it. But I had sort of expected better, and I can tell you this didn’t crack my Top 10, for 2018 and certainly not my all-time list. It’s a rare enough bottle that you might not be able to find this same vintage and that’s probably okay–there are plenty of outstanding wines at this threshold if you were feeling so inclined.

 

 

 

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.