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. 

2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery

This 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve is a savory, fruit-forward red, one that served as an end-of-week reward for this fan of Buena Vista Winery. The wine is really outstanding, a burst of dark berries that pours dark and fragrant into your glass.

Only 450 cases of the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve have been produced by the winery, and you’re paying for that exclusivity and the “reserve” classification to some extent, but the wine is really excellent. It is filled with big scents of plum and dark cherry that open up nicely as the wine breathes. The wine accompanied steak and garlic-mashed potatoes last evening, and then cavatelli pasta and shrimp, with a medley of summer vegetables tonight. The zin is great with both, but in particular with the grilled steak and its robust flavors.

2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The grapes for this wine come from 30-year-old vines on properties adjacent to the winery and part of Count Haraszthy’s original winery (according to Buena Vista’s notes). The fruit is harvested by hand, with the best lots then fermented separately in open-top vats before being pressed off and aged in barrels of French oak. You can almost taste that care as you sip contentedly on the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve.

Though not the cabernet sauvignon for which I’d often reach with such meals, the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve still abounds in big, dark red flavor. Guidance from the vineyard includes: “[grapes] sourced from the warmer regions in Sonoma County, allowing for warm summer days to deepen the richness on the palate…Bright flavors of tart cherry, cranberry, and boysenberry are balanced with notes of cocoa and a touch of vanilla upon the finish.

As of the time this post goes up on Notes, the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve is available on the Buena Vista Winery website if you have been moved by this summary of its many favorable qualities. Great choice for weekend drinking!

 

 

 

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.