Winter 2019 – The Ones That Got Away

2016 Treana Red, Treana Winery, Fairfield, California, USA.

2017 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.

2017 Evodia, Altovinum, Spain. 

2016 Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California, USA. 

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

2014 Amarone Della Valpoliccella Classico Riserva, Catarina Zardini, Valpolicella, Italy.

2017 Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon, Hopeland, California, USA.

2015 Villa Maffei Amarone Della Valpolicella, Valpolicella, Italy.

2017 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.

 

 

2016 Dry Creek Vineyard, “Old Vine” Zinfandel

After an unprecedented amount of October work travel, it’s amazing to just unwind for an evening. The world slows down for a beat and lets you appreciate the finer things in life. A day spent relaxing, sipping a fine glass of wine (or two!), and enjoying quality time. That’s what this night is all about.

Margaux’s Restaurant is playing host. It’s just into the cocktail hour, and the bartender is attentive with hors de’ouevres as well as the stemware. Having skipped lunch, we’re out early and seeking sustenance in all forms. Company, foodstuffs, and grapes too of course—this bottle is the 2016 “Old Vine” Zinfandel from Dry Creek Vineyards in Sonoma Valley (Healdsburg, actually). It’s an apt selection for Zin fans, and the winemakers pride themselves on harvesting fruit from old vines that are over 95 years in age—and in some cases more like 130. That’s a lot of time to take on the character of the terroir (here an iron-rich, rocky and gravelly loam), I am sure.

2016 Dry Creek Vineyard, “Old Vine” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA.

So what about this Old Vine Zin? It’s a swirl of dark fruit flavors, with definite vibes of blackberry and perhaps plum in the mix. Like all the zins that resonate with this guy, there is a spicy note or two, and several other intangibles that I can never quite define as precisely as I’d like. This 2016 bottle is a combination of zinfandel (78%), petite sirah (19%), and carignane (3%) grapes, and it has a nice, rich finish that’s very gentle. 

Here’s how the Dry Creek team describes for you: “This vintage presents alluring aromatics of blackberry cobbler, fresh cranberries with notes of white pepper, cola and dried herbs. On the palate, brambly layers of black cherry, black raspberry and dark chocolate come forward with nuances of nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon.

Okay, so “spicy note or two” is vague but directionally solid. Sounds great, right? In researching I also uncovered that the 2016 was actually harvested the first week of September 2016, and it was stored 5 months in French, American, and Hungarian oak (27% new). We’re sampling with roasted Brussel sprouts, a chilled platter of Old Bay steamed shrimp, and a funky salad (or should I say “salat”?) involving a bit of Belgian endive wizardry. 

Thankful the evening and all the good things that it portends. Hoping you can put your hands on a bottle too and share your thoughts in the Comments section below. Enjoy your night, and your wine too. 

2017 The Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery

The Sheriff of Buena Vista has become one of my favorite red blends, and it’s made annual appearances on Notes. Feedback on the 2016, 2015, and 2013 are all here for easy access but know now each is a bold, full-flavored powerhouse. This is big flavors that you sort of need to balance against something as weighty–or not.

 

2017 The Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

 

This vintage runs back the formula that worked so effectively in the 2016. I’m betting the response from consumers was such that the team at Buena Vista decided, “If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.” Here is a mix of Petite Sirah (34%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), Grenache (14%), Syrah (11%), Petite Verdot (5%), Mission (2%), and Cabernet Franc (1%), and it conveys big blackberry and plum from your glass. Darker notes of chocolate and spice are pretty evident too. See what I mean about the overall weight of this bad boy?

Here’s how the winemaker sourced this year’s Sheriff: “The varietals that compose 2017 vintage are harvested from vineyards throughout the county, including the Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley, Moon Mountain, Sonoma Mountain, Fountaingrove, Chalk Hill, Alexander Valley, and Rockpile. The individual varietals were aged separately for 10 months in a variety of new and neutral oak barrels before being blended prior to bottling.

Hmm. No shout out to Dry Creek this year. This wine is aged in French, American, and Hungarian oak (15% new oak). I never see it on the shelves of my local wine stores but seems readily available through Buena Vista (I’m a tenured member and long-time fan). Tip of the cap to this good Sonoma County friend and enjoy.

2014 Pinot Noir, Steele Wines

The wines on my birthday dinner have not always made Notes. There are a lot of factors in play, from great company to competing priorities or even just cruising past a glass without making any tasting notes. This year I jotted some ideas down while this 2014 Steele Pinot was still top of mind.

2014 Pinot Noir, Steele Wines, Carneros, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2014 Pinot Noir, Steele Wines, Carneros, Sonoma County, California, USA.

First? The setting. A great restaurant (O-Ku) in downtown Raleigh, a cooly lit and funky-vibed sushi place that had a great understated buzz to it. Second? I’m there with Mom, and we’ve done a couple really fun birthday celebrations over the years. (Hell, she was there at the start!) Third–the food. It’s really delicious, a mashup of great presentation and unbelievable flavors. Yes we did edamame, then traipsed through an amazing rock shrimp “O-Ku” style (with honey sriracha aioli, fried shallots, and mixed greens), and then hit our entrees. Mine was the Hamachi Crunch – which consisted of yellowtail, jalapeño miso aioli, crispy rice puff, serrano, and black volcano salt. Really amazing…

…but how about the wine? This is the 2014 Steele Pinot Noir, a Carneros bottle that of course reminded me of adventures past. The winery sources grapes from Sangiacomo properties that, like much of the region, surely benefits from the cool breezes and evening temperatures that help the fruit develop amazing flavors. This wine is aged for nine months in a combination of French and Hungarian oak barrels.

It tastes light, it tastes strawberry, and it tastes cherry. No question about that at all. It pours a gentle red in your glass, and immediately you catch notes of the strawberry flavors at play. At the same time it’s juicy, carrying just a little heft to it but of course far easier than the red blends and California Cabs that I’ve sampled more recently. Liked it a ton, but the overall evening far more. A fun memory that’ll keep!

2016 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery

This bottle of the Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah surprised me, as I didn’t realize when pulling the cork on this bad boy that it was completing a flight I had started several years ago. If you haven’t been paying attention (guilty here), Notes has actually hit on the 2015 vintage, the 2014, and the 2013 (my lord…tasted and noted but never pushed ‘live’ to the website) as well. That makes at least four of these in my book, people.

2016 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2016 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

I’m more than a little wistful that I have tasted these vintages over the years instead of having the discipline to save and savor the wines all at once. On the other hand, I’m grateful to have occasion and means to come back to the Karoly’s Selection year over year to drink in this goodness.

Like previous vintages, the 2016 is an experience. It is a crazy purple in your glass, and its notes are pretty heavenly. Whiff and you’ll smell dark berry flavors. It has a subtle edge to it, a blueberry(?) or blackberry scent that grabs your attention right off the pour. The 2016 Karoly’s Selection is aged 15 months in 100% French, American, and Hungarian oak, 15% new oak according to our friends at Buena Vista.

Here’s how the Buena Vista team described the vintage: “Big round tannins with a richly textured mouthfeel, this wine showcases flavors of raspberry and dark cocoa with a touch of strawberry.” I’m usually in lock step with the BV team but did not get much strawberry in this sampling. That said, for many reasons, I have been coming back to Buena Vista for an extended period–I’m never disappointed and hope you find similar enjoyment in their wines.

 

2016 Red Hill Ranch Cabernet, Laurel Glen Vineyard

A man, his dog, fire, and great grapes…no, not the start of some joke but rather a great way to spend a Saturday Happy Hour. In this case, the vino is the 2016 Red Hill Ranch Cabernet from Laurel Glen Vineyard. It’s a single-vineyard Cab harvested from Sonoma Mountain, and the Laurel Glen team produced just 250 cases of this “Proprietor’s Blend Special Cuvee.”

2016 Red Hill Ranch Cabernet, Laurel Glen Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain, California, USA.

2016 Red Hill Ranch Cabernet, Laurel Glen Vineyard, Glen Ellen, California, USA.

I’m guessing you like the photo* but let’s hit some quick research before you get bored. Sonoma Mountain is an extinct volcano located about 20 miles from the Pacific, one of those amazing California spots were you get long periods of sunlight on the vines, and cooling winds as well. Always bears well for the fruit, and virtually every wine from the region. Feels like the very definition of terroir. The hand-picked grapes are fermented for 18 months in a combination of new and older oak barrels, and the result is this 2016 Red Hill Ranch Cabernet. The vineyard’s website does a nice job of describing their process and philosophy in equal measures.

I started the bottle last night after a long work week (I know, I know…they all are…) but really had a chance to think about its taste today while fireside. My wood pile was filled with branches downed from storms Florence and Michael, and that pile is much smaller today as I indulged in my inner pyromaniac and oenophile simultaneously. It’s a deep red wine, one that imparts notes of plum, black cherry, and spicy undertones upon tasting. The Red Hill Ranch is wonderfully fragrant and I found myself rolling it around in the glass just taking it in…

I snatched up a few of these bottles (thanks for the good value, winestore team!) and look forward to sampling another as the fall season makes great reds so enjoyable. Hoping you have an opportunity to do the same. Thanks for reading.

*The perfectionist in me hates the streak marring the label, yes, but hoping the rest of the composition resonates for you.