2017 Red Wine, Napa Bridge Vineyards

For this guy, usually it’s the wine that makes the memories. The wine that marks time, shines a light on special occasions. And while wine was part of this year’s holiday celebrations, it was more about the unusual circumstances that makes the 2017 Napa Bridge Red Wine stand out from many Napa reds I sampled in ‘22.

We’re in Brockport, having snuck into town among the unfriendly swells of a big rainstorm that accompanied Cara and I all the way up the 95 corridor. We started our trip in the unfriendly “green” radar of RDU and flew with the storm all the way up to Washington and then again to the ROC. Good pilots and friendly attendants balanced out rolling turbulence until we were on the ground and headed for family and Christmas treats. As the temperatures plummeted and precipitation picked up last night, flight cancellations were suddenly national news and made us feel lucky to beat the storm into town.

This morning we woke early and did a walking tour of the neighborhood before the storm really took hold. The pavement was wet and skies ominous, but that was all just prologue to the real weather events of Christmas weekend in western New York. We had just started clearing breakfast dishes when the power flickered for a few hesitant moments and then died. Looking out through the snowflakes to the neighbors’ houses it was obvious the entire ‘hood was impacted.

2017 Red Wine, Napa Bridge Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

Early afternoon, I bet the power would be restored by 4:05pm (it wasn’t!). We checked the local power company websites (not by WiFi obviously!) and saw the confirmed outages affecting much of the area, and many others. The snowfall didn’t seem to be the chief factor, but rather the howling gusts that bent limb and landscape to their will. At that point, I was pleased Mom’s recent siding and window project was complete, as you could almost see the house bleeding heat to the elements.

Funny moments? Those were the times you checked an appliance for the time, or when you automatically flicked a light switch when entering a room. Those moments when great neighbors called to check in on us, or when we reflected back on the last time (1991ish?) power was lost for an extended period. Less fun was reading that power crews are not able to get up poles and bucket loaders when winds exceeded 35mph, readings I was positive we exceeded several times each minute, or when your brain wondered how long the outrage would really last.

We broke out a puzzle and then cards, throwing hearts and that queen of spades hammer until it was so dark that we were calling out our discards to one another. Then it was Parcheesi by candlelight, wrapped in blankets and warm hats, until finally this guy had to break out the Napa Bridge. Maybe this was to fight through the doldrums of the powerless afternoon, maybe an appeal for warmth, or just because I knew several were ready, willing, and able?

At first taste, I was not overly impressed with this 2017 Red Wine from Napa Bridge Vineyards. Vanilla notes (not always my favorite) were definitely present, and the wine was slightly dry, tannic, and acidic. Red fruit flavors of cherry, and maybe blackberry were notable. Having ordered this online several weeks prior to Christmas I had anticipated a welcome treat that could be shared with the entire family. Check…ish? I would have bet it a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and maybe Cabernet Franc—at least upon initial sampling? Generally I found it “meh” but, since our entertainment options were limited by Mother Nature’s fury, I sunk into this reality and enjoyed it with the great family time.

Once the wine had an opportunity to breathe, it was much more enjoyable. Since a powerless afternoon zapped us of stove or appliances, we opted for local pizza dinner (thanks Steve!) and carried the Bridge into the evening hours. The house was a balmy 51 degrees when power was finally restored around 730pm. Phew! Special thanks to all the dudes braving the swirling snow and icy winds to get back our comforts of home.

Later on, I discovered that Napa Bridge Vineyards combined nearly equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot for this fruit-driven 2017 Red Wine. Other reviewers described its plum and cherry notes as well as “cedar and herbal inflections in this mouth-watering, velvety blend.” I would not use “velvety” in my recap but warmed to this vintage over several subsequent tastings over the weekend.

Be assured, I know the day was nothing like Buffalo residents faced, nor those traveling by Southwest Airlines during Christmas 2022. It was inconvenient at times, to be sure, but somehow melded us all together more closely. It’ll be a Christmas that we’ll be talking about well into the future, and that’ll always be the place I keep too the 2017 Red Wine from Napa Bridge Vineyards. Happy holidays, friends!

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, PureCru Wines

Birthday wine, this gem, one selected specifically for the occasion. Where does a gent go for satisfaction and representation of the Finer Things Club? Yes, the answer is Napa Valley Cab. This one is new for me, a 2016 from PureCru Wines. Let’s break it down.

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, PureCru Wines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The date is April 7, 2022. It’s evening, a long workday slowly sliding into the rear view mirror. I’m fatigued, in part from the concentration and in part from the early start of this Thursday. Thankfully this bottle, a dinner of several favorites, and Cara’s good company are there to raise my spirits. Several ‘nifty gifties’ are neatly wrapped and well within my interested gaze…

The 2016 PureCru Cabernet Sauvignon simply caught my eye on a recent trip to the wine store, seeking a bottle worthy of this milestone. Loved the striking bottle design, the raised red lettering both stamped and scrawled over the textured black label. Plus I’m a sucker for anything like the PureCru where there is limited production—there were fewer than 500 cases of this wine produced. 

I think “Napa” is my actual favorite four-letter word? Anyway, the wine is a pleasure. A bright, cheery and cherry wine filled with ripe fruit flavors. It’s all about red fruit and full bodied goodness, but has subtle notes of chocolate or plum just behind the dominant cherry. I’m tired but want to tip my cap to Mitch Cosentino – winemaker – for this 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was barrel-aged for 39 months in French oak. I only purchased one, but additional bottles are in order, yes sir…

2019 Conundrum 10th Anniversary Red Blend, Wagner Family of Wine

Conundrum is always a great option for your vino fix, a proprietary red blend that Notes has covered many times and in many ways over the years. This site has covered bottles going back nearly a decade, and be sure to cruise notes on the 2012, 2013 (there are several) and even the 2014, or others at your convenience. I am not sure how I missed a vintage in this vertical but looking to make up for that here.

2019 Conundrum 10th Anniversary Red Blend, Wagner Family of Wine, Napa Valley, California, USA.
2019 Conundrum 10th Anniversary Red Blend, Wagner Family of Wine, Napa Valley, California, USA.

It’s a flavor bomb, a tooth-stainer of a red that has fans all over the world. As with previous vintages, the 2019 Conundrum is jammy and packs in the dark berry goodness. Sampling Conundrum for the first time or the 100th you’ll surely detect the dark cherry or plum notes, the leggy red tumbling full and inky into your glass. I have occasionally whiffed a little hint of vanilla in the mix, but this particular bottle had more of the fruit than the spice as defining characteristics. It had a few minutes to breathe but was essentially ready to enjoy right away without decanting, filtering, or similar preparation.

Yes the label is eye-catching, but less so than the Wagner name (Notes covers many of those, too) for most oenophiles. On the other hand, I’ve missed recent vintages of Conundrum so the silver did work as a marketing tool.

Polished off this 2019 tonight with a healthy tilapia (white wine, butter, garlic/caper goodness), broccoli, and apple sauce dinner. Trying to make good decisions early and often in 2022, and hoping your new year is off to a similar good start. Thanks for reading and best in the year ahead.

2018 No.8 Proprietary Red, Verdon Estate Blue Vineyards

The 2018 No. 8 Proprietary Red is smokin’ hot. Love this limited production wine (courtesy of Rutherford-based Verdon Estate Winery) and so very glad that my cellar has a few more of this well-crafted big red. 

2018 Verdon Estate Blue Vineyards No. 8 Proprietary Red, Napa, California, USA.
2018 Verdon Estate Blue Vineyards No. 8 Proprietary Red, Napa, California, USA.

Let’s start with the particulars. First, the fruit is produced in two small, rocky vineyard sites near Duckhorn and the Napa River. Those grapes—a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Malbec (30%), and Merlot (20%)—are then managed by winemaker Kevin Morrisey of Petrus, Etude, Stags Leap, and Ehlers fame. 

That pedigree makes for a stunning wine, one that tonight accompanied a pan-seared ribeye, perfectly seasoned with just salt and pepper. The meat paired well with the No. 8 Proprietary Red, handling its tannins and dark cherry notes nicely. This 2018 bottle has the cherry and pepper hints of the Cab, and the soft underbelly of the Merlot. 

“Reminiscent of a top Amarone, the blend is ethereal with divine balance, a gentle grip, a deep berry richness that carries through to the finish.”

—Verdon Estate

In the near term, Notes will have a follow-up to this first post on the 2018 Verdon Estate Blue Vineyards No. 8 Proprietary Red, and I hope you’ll check back again for further thoughts this amazing bottle engenders. In the meantime, enjoy your wine and your weekend. 

2018 The Fabric of the Land, Quilt Winery

Quilt wine was first shared with me several Thanksgivings ago (thanks Potter!) and I enjoyed that big Cabernet Sauvignon right away. Notes should have reviewed that bottle at least once since (I’ve enjoyed a couple), and when I saw The Fabric of the Land was available at my favorite local wine store*, I made sure to add a bottle to a recent order.

Suffice it to say, the Fabric made its appearance last night, a welcome reward for working with my hands throughout the afternoon. There’s something to be said…something primary…something elemental for putting your hands in the dirt and planting while a kind sun beams down on you. I had bare feet in warm grass–occasionally wet grass–that felt equally rich for my overly desked body, and I was appreciative of the opportunity to shape the world around Cara and me for a few hours.

Neither of us felt like cooking for the first time in weeks, so we decided to pick up barbecue from Picnic and have that with the Fabric. We split a kale salad, potato salad, and slaw to varying degrees; she opted for pulled pork (which was great) and I went with the brisket. The brisket was only average, but thankfully the wine was above average. And that’s good, right? After all, this is a wine blog first and foremost.

2018 The Fabric of the Land, Quilt Winery, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2018 The Fabric of the Land, Quilt Winery, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The Fabric of the Land is produced by Quilt, which is part of Copper Cane in Napa Valley, California. Right on the bottle the Quilt team proudly promotes the mix of Merlot, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Petit Verdot grapes that go into this big red (French Oak barreled) blend. Quilt selects these grapes from across Napa Valley, including the Oak Knoll and Calistoga areas of this rich AVA.

When combined, you get a nice even, fruity blend. The Merlot is soft and gentle; the Sirah definitely adds some of the spice notes you’ll detect on your palate. It’s obviously less of a Cabernet or Petite Sirah taste and much more of a Bordeaux-style that reminded me of Conundrum. (I picked up one of those too in the recent wine run, and that new vintage we’ll assuredly cover in the days ahead.) In your glass the Fabric is dark cherry, and it has that flavor to it too, along with definite black raspberry afterthoughts. Here’s how the Quilt team articulated that idea:

“Full-bodied and complex flavors of tart raspberry, blackberry, dark chocolate, and light notes of spice. This wine as a long finish with a smooth and velvety mouthfeel.”

Honestly, I get more of the cherry than raspberry but that’s simply this guy’s take. Quilt wines are well-packaged and well-marketed, including this new personality added to the Wagner family roster. You’ll enjoy, so be sure to pick up a couple the next time you can stop by your local wine store. Enjoy!

* Yes, this was a safe, controlled-environment curbside transfer…thanks COVID-19 for that extra wrinkle.

2013 Aristocrat, Buena Vista Winery

If you’ve followed Notes to any real extent over the past 6 or 7 years, you’ll know the special place that Buena Vista wines have for me. Buena Vista has a great tasting room and was the very first wine club I joined—their bottles are braided throughout these posts and have a prominent role in the Notes Top Ten Reds list. 

2013 Aristocrat, Buena Vista Winery, Calistoga AVA, California, USA.

The Aristocrat I’ve had once previously, and it was flat-out great. That 2012 vintage (the inaugural) was fantastic, and from this 2013 I had similar expectations. I’ve held onto this bottle for several years, looking for the right situation or celebration to break out the red blend. This Friday was the exact right occasion—the company, the accomplishment, the week survived—but the 2013 Aristocrat didn’t really live up to my expectations. 

We had the right glasses, a pair of stemless Reidel reds, and right mood to appreciate these grapes. They’re harvested from the Calistoga AVA of Napa Valley, and I believe the final blend includes both charbono and petite syrah fruit. That’s more from a bit of research, though, because the wine itself was a little underwhelming. This bottle was a safe shot down the fairway. It didn’t have the subtle structure or layered nuances that I so often detect in my favorite wines, including the dozens of Buena Vistas that I’ve covered here in Notes. It was a red with an easy, smooth finish—but was otherwise just ‘meh’ overall. 

I know the 2013 is just the second vintage of the Aristocrat, however, so perhaps they just skipped a beat after the first batch? I have not tasted subsequent vintages so don’t know if this is a blip on the radar or was perhaps just a rare miss at the bottle level. I’ve shared feedback on more than 400 wines over the years (most reds), and just 2 Aristocrats so perhaps I just hit an outlier. If you’ve tried the Aristocrat of any vintage, would you perhaps share your findings or notes here so we can paint a fuller picture for Notes readers? Thanks for your continued readership and have a great day.