2012 Pinot Noir, Ancient Oak Cellars

It’s National Wine Day and just taking a moment to commemorate. Here is the 2012 Pinot Noir of Ancient Oak Cellars–you’re always on solid footing with a Russian River Valley Pinot, and this is a refreshing, light beverage after all the big red I’ve sampled as of late. Hope you’re celebrating with a favorite and readying for the long holiday weekend…

2012 Pinot Noir, Ancient Oak Cellars, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

2012 Pinot Noir, Ancient Oak Cellars, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

…and excuse the brevity on this one. Notes will revisit this delicious wine again soon and share a full run-down. Enjoy the day and thanks for following!

2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery

I deserved this bottle. Yeah, I said it. I was bone weary last night, the final day in a work week that included late nights, crazy travel, and unyielding deliverables, but not too tired to take a moment to savor one of the finer things in life. Because that’s what a Buena Vista bottle is–it’s a “stop and smell the roses” event each and every time.

West Coast client deliverables meant I got a late start on this 2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, but it also meant I was ready to fully immerse myself in the experience by the time I got to pour and enjoy a glass. Made the deliverable, confirmed with the client, and here we go. I’ve had a couple Buena Vista Karolys before, and this one was equal to the previous.

2014 Karoly's Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The 2014 is delicious. It needs a moment or two to breathe, but when it does you can really pull on the black cherry or blackberry scent. There is a smoke of some kind here too…not quite earthy or a spice but an accent that I can’t quite isolate. It is full, it is robust, it has a great finish. If you drift toward Cabernet Sauvignon or other big reds in your wine tastes, you’ll dig the 2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah. If you prefer lighter Pinot Noirs this might not quite be your bottle–but you’ll be missing something fun!

Okay, a quick summary of the foodstuffs: What you see here is a seared chicken dinner and a creamy couscous with an olive and raisin sauce. The chicken came out great (for a change!)–pulled from the heat while cooked through but still juicy. The couscous was a blend of cool (that’s from the verjus blanc and creme fraiche plus celery) and hot, courtesy of red pepper flakes. I’m not sure a full-throated red was the right pairing for this dish, but I figured the best of both worlds was a suitable strategy regardless. Here’s how the Buena Vista folks describe the vino:

“Our 2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah offers seductive aromas of black cherry and dark chocolate with hints of anise. Upon the palate, flavors of blackberry pie, brambles, and a slight touch of granite are well-balanced with good density and a juicy structure.”

Can’t tell you what ‘brambles’ taste like, or if this 2014 Karoly has such flavor in it, but the black cherry I can very much confirm. This wine is aged 17 months in Hungarian Oak and I’m glad it escorted me into the weekend.

2012 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon

My first ever bottle of Silver Oak, one of Alexander Valley’s most well-recognized Cabernets. This one is of the 2012 vintage, and was part of a beautiful day and Easter celebration with my other family (you know who you are!). All afternoon we had great foodstuffs and sampled good grapes–none as delicious as this one.

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2012 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA.

Thanks for allowing me to join you all and partake in so many good things: food, “Patrick TV”, deck fishing, family, and friendship. Notes on this one will have to come some other time–while the 2012 Silver Oak is exceptional, it pales in comparison to the day we just enjoyed. Looking forward to the next one already.

2013 Bela’s Selection Pinot Noir, Buena Vista Winery

This bottle arrived September 2015, and I’ve shown restraint by saving it these past 18 months. I am fond of Buena Vista wines for many reasons, some that I’m glad to share in these pages, and some are just for me. This evening I was searching for something more, some grander purpose, and, having not found elsewhere in my Saturday, decided to explore greatness (again!) through a glass of the 2013 Bela’s Selection Pinot Noir.

2013 Bela's Selection Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2013 Bela’s Selection Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA.

It’s a fascinating drink. This Pinot Noir is light on the tongue, yet shares dark fruits in ample supply to your nose and tongue. I decanted this Russian River Valley wine for an hour, and served in the right Riedel stemware. I’m not saying those steps make the difference, but they do eliminate some potential pitfalls and put you in position to experience the grapes like the winemakers envisioned.

My thoughts on the 2013 Bela’s Selection evolved over the evening. At first I noticed its little spice hints and blackberry flavors. It had many of the qualities I favor in a California Cabernet Sauvignon, but with less tannins and less velvet on your tongue. Over time I tasted red fruits (perhaps some cherry?), but none of the vanilla and strawberry that I like less in my Pinots. A better mouthfeel and better overall experience than the Masterpiece I had recently tried. The 2013 Bela gets all good marks from this taster!

Here the impression from Buena Vista: “Cranberry and cassis layered with blackberry contribute to this Pinot Noir’s rich, spreading finish.

So there you go. This is bottle number 546, one solid soldier from among 800 cases produced. Thanks for continuing to follow Notes and have a great evening.

2014 Count’s Selection Sangiovese, Buena Vista Winery

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am thankful for many things this year (you know who you are) and Buena Vista wines are one of ’em. This bottle is from the vineyard’s first-ever vintage of Sangiovese and is a harbinger of promising horizons for Buena Vista. Founded in Sonoma in 1857, Buena Vista is California’s oldest premium winery (also my favorite) and this tempting red shows the winery not content to rest on its laurels but rather the winemaker’s ongoing commitment to excellence and experimentation.

screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-4-35-18-pmWe pulled the cork on a gorgeous November afternoon; with the sun shining brightly and temperatures in the high 60s, all of us gathered for dinner were relaxing outside instead of watching football on a day I often call “Dallas Thursday” to the ire of all non-Cowboys fans. Tailgating games were in full swing, and beverages flowing–including this Sangiovese. Only a few entries of Sangiovese (see the Puglia, Amantis, or Biltmore) exist on Notes, but they do seem to coincide with family and holiday gatherings so this bottle is coincidentally relevant to this trend.

Our host and hostess provided an AMAZING spread (thank you so much, Brandon and Jackie), one that was bountiful and full of delicious treats. There were two turkeys, a spiral-cut ham, all kinds of vegetables, stuffing, cranberries, mac-n-cheese, rolls, and yes, 15 pounds of potatoes, too. So that’s the backdrop against which this 2014 Sangiovese made its (brief!) appearance.

The wine is really good, and it held up well on an occasion that calls for indulgences of all kinds. It’s got red berry scents too it, mixed with earthy spices. The 2014 Count’s Selection Sangiovese isn’t quite as tannic or peppery as, say, a Syrah or a Buena Vista Charbono, but it has a nice red/black fruit taste that is plenty inviting. It’s a nice, full finish like a Cab but a little less tannic. Since I had car tripping pending for the end of the day, I had to be restrained in my ‘tasting’ of the Sangiovese but would have gladly pushed for more if not a driver on this holiday.screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-4-32-58-pm

Here’s how the Buena Vista people describe the wine: “Our inaugural vintage of Sangiovese opens with complex aromas of Bing cherry, rose petals, and a touch of leather. Tempting flavors of cherries and orange marmalade, with a touch of anise, caress the palate.

I know my friends enjoyed it too and were asking about the bottle, so here it is guys and gals in case you’re looking to order for yourself. Glad to share the day and its celebrations with you all, and looking forward to the next occasion. Miss you all already!

2013 Chardonnay, Benziger Family Winery

Visited this winery more than 10 years ago and memories of that tour still zig-zag vividly in my mind. Rows upon beautiful rows of grapes drinking in the cool night winds and warm Sonoma sun, a hillside full of goodness just waiting to happen.* It was touring this vineyard on a tractor-pulled wagon, with informative stops along each phase of the winemaking process, that probably first planted the seeds for Notes deep inside my tiny misguided brain. In fact, in the wine rack downstairs there is still an ’04 dessert wine from Benzinger, purchased on said tour, awaiting the right occasion.

2013 Chardonnay, Benzinger Family Wines, Sonoma, California, USA.

2013 Chardonnay, Benzinger Family Wines, Sonoma, California, USA.

And so here we are in the present–any doubt why this bottle jumped out at me when I saw it in my humble neighborhood supermarket? I was searching for a white to go along with a fish dinner that I was spoiling to make, and the 2013 Chardonnay was a no-brainer. It’s nice and clean; this Sonoma white is not overly buttery and carries notes of lemon with it–a nice match for the food planned this evening. When you swirl it about in your glass, you get a whiff that can only be described as “crisp” and with more of a fruit than a flower smell. Like a soft apple peel or lemon zest? (Note: I follow another wine blogger and, while he’s quite prolific and tastes a lot of wines, his descriptions of each is like a shotgun approach–he fires off about 15 or 20 descriptions for each wine, and it makes me doubt what he can actually detect…I am definitely NOT that guy as a writer of winetastings…so the above is as best I can share with you.)

The 2013 Benziger accompanied a crispy catfish dish, and the whole thing turned out better than I had expected. Continuing the vineyard theme, this dish used Thomcord grapes and chopped almonds as a relish for the catfish. Also depicted in this image is a kale-farro salad bearing garlic and fried rosemary, which made for a delicious mixture of textures and tastes. I think this might be my first catfish experience and, though I thought it tasted like almost any whitefish I’ve ever had, I can vouch for the final result.

Crispy catfish with kale-farro salad and warm grape relish, as served with the 2013 Benzinger Chardonnay.

Crispy catfish with kale-farro salad and warm grape relish, as served with the 2013 Benzinger Chardonnay.

The meal was easy to prepare, and the wine was a great complement to the crunches of the entrée and the sautéed fish. Since the 2013 Chardonnay from Benzinger was available in my local grocery, it doesn’t seem like you have to go all the way to Sonoma to get your own–but you should (wink)! Tell ’em we sent you and enjoy the journey…and be sure to take the vineyard tour if they still give it!

*At some point the future, this post may be updated with a visual of Benziger if I can go back into an older hard drive(s) and call up one of the photos from the tour. Be sure to revisit!