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. 
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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.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rued Estates

The 2008 Rued Estate Cabernet Sauvignon packs a powerful cherry punch. You can taste it right away, a red fruity salvo that announces cherry to anyone sampling this Sonoma County Cab.
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2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rued Estates, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA.

I still don’t know if this is pronounced “red” or “rude” but it is striking in label design and obviously in its taste. Regardless, the winery is located in Dry Creek Valley, a fertile 2-mile stretch of land that receives cool morning fog and abundant afternoon sun. Notes has profiled a Dry Creek wine or two in its day, including a Cabernet Sauvignon, and you can see the overall semblance of this red gem to those wines if you care to explore those tastings further.

This bottle I had with a hearty winter dinner, a sheet pan deviled chicken (slathered with a smoky spice / Dijon coating) and a really delicious side of collared greens (accented with yellow onion and garlic) and a baked sweet potato. All tasted great and probably would be even better if not for the head cold that has plagued me and my taste buds as of late.
I don’t have as much experience with the 2008 vintage but this one is worth a repeat. The initial production was less than 400 cases, though, so you may not have many options for doing so. This 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon is barrel-aged for 30 months in French oak (more old oak than new) and smells of cherry from the very first pour. Consequently, you see the color as red but probably veers closer to purple than you’d initially think. There is a hint of pepper in play too, but not like a Syrah, and the ’08 from Rued has gentle, dry tannins.  I hope you enjoy this wine as much as I did and thanks for your continued readership of Notes.

2014 Mountain Cuvee Red Wine, Gundlach Bundschu

The 2014 Mountain Cuvee from GunBun is a delicious red wine bargain. It’s a Bordeaux-style Cab-Merlot blend grown and bottled in Sonoma County, and I hope the winery survived this last week of California wildfires without major incident. They make this easy-drinking, smooth red, and you will enjoy this wine like you might a fruit-forward red that is less Syrah blend and more Merlot in its profile.

2014 Mountain Cuvee Red Wine, Gundlach Bundschu, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2014 Mountain Cuvee Red Wine, Gundlach Bundschu, Sonoma County, California, USA.

Grapes for this drink are, some quick research shows, sourced from the Maycamas Mountain range and originate mostly from two growers in close proximity to the vineyard. The 2014 is a blend of 56% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot, and it is aged for 14 months in French oak. Yes, I had it with fish both last night and again tonight, and that’s more of an indictment (if you must) of me than the wine itself. I was in a red mood and just couldn’t fire up a chardonnay or grigio to go with tilapia etc.

I recently bumped into the 2014 GunBun Mountain Cuvee at a blind taste testing at my favorite wine store, and it ranked pretty high on my list as I tried to determine which of their masked bottles was the 2014 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon. I am not 100% sure, but I think my brother and I got a sample of the GunBun when we hit a tasting event at Fleming’s last summer? The bottle looks very familiar, and I know that would have been the only other time I’d been exposed to it or the name. Ah, yes, checking that link now (you should too) and it was their Mountain Cuvee. Liked it then (despite a different blend) and liked this ’14 for sure. You will appreciate as well–and I’m glad I have another bottle of these cellared too.

The Ones That Got Away – Summer 2017