2016 Machete Red Wine, Orin Swift Cellars

Machete. The start of my spiral down into Orin Swift wines…the wine I still count as responsible for my descent into Dave Phinney’s genius, and still appreciate Jamie for sharing with me (indirectly) and George (directly) for my first sample. Um, my wallet says “thanks” fellas!

2016 Machete Red Wine, Orin Swift Cellars, St. Helena, California, USA.

2016 Machete Red Wine, Orin Swift Cellars, St. Helena, California, USA.

This is a shared wine, and that always makes for better grapes. This 2016 bottle of Machete came to me as part of a Milk Run, and I have high hopes for the next such release–now that we’ve hit the fall it must be coming soon, yes? Anyways, let’s talk about the here and now.

This 2016 Machete accompanied oven-broiled, pan-seared steaks (pulled just at the right time), roasted Brussel sprouts, and a baked potato. We thought the wine delicious, a shared experience of blackberry and dark fruits. The Machete is a compelling beverage, beckoning you on to more even if you’re not usually an aficionado of red wine.

And that was the case here. I love the Machete not only for its funky pop culture street cred, but also for its robust blackberry and minerality. It’s not mountain fruit, to be sure, but has hallmarks that you’ll appreciate if you gravitate in any way toward the Napa Mountains.

I’m thankful to have another 3 of these in the racks today. The 2016 Machete is a powerful, inky bomb that you’ll love. I know I do, and this one will stick with me for some time.

 

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Mountain Veeder Winery Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

This is a bottle intended for special occasions. I’ll always remember why I bought it, and then again why I decided to open it this particular evening. Life is a series of adventures and we learn from them all…in time.

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Mountain Veeder Winery Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Oakville, California, USA.

It’s an exclusive, just one of 120 bottles (#86 specifically–check the label) produced by Napa Valley’s best-known vintners as they work to promote, protect, and enhance the Napa Valley appellation. I’ve never had wine from Mt. Veeder previously, and I’m curious to know how this stands as a representative sample. Full disclosure: I did NOT let it breathe adequately when I first uncorked it. My first glass had an extra tannin finish that I didn’t really relish, but it opened nicely over the course of the evening.

Here’s a little promo from the bottle: “As few as 60 and never more than 240 bottles of each Premiere Napa Valley wine are made, allowing the vintner to select from their finest sources, break with tradition, and come up with an offering that is truly handcrafted with a personal expression of their style.” You can see how it caught my eye, right?

I had this wine with a very simple meal–beef and potato–and thought about all the inky red goodness swirling about my Cabernet glass. This Mount Veeder Winery Estate Cabernet was not jammy but still filled with cherry and plum flavors. Once the tannins slid to the background you could catch notes of pepper and other spices on the nose too. I’ve heard the term “mountain wine” used on such bottles in the past, and that tip to the terroir I understand in context of this 2014.

And it was good, too. Really enjoyed it. But I had sort of expected better, and I can tell you this didn’t crack my Top 10, for 2018 and certainly not my all-time list. It’s a rare enough bottle that you might not be able to find this same vintage and that’s probably okay–there are plenty of outstanding wines at this threshold if you were feeling so inclined.

 

 

 

2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery

Buena Vista Winery has been in my life for nearly 15 years at this point, and each time I’m reminded of my first exposure to wines in their Sonoma tasting room. That’s an era before social media and some of the viral marketing that the Buena Vista now uses to attract visitors to one of the state’s oldest wineries. Probably a cheaper fee for admission, too…

2015 Antal's Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

Several of their newer releases have won awards in regional competition and, while I don’t think the 2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel was among them, it earned raves from me nevertheless when I opened this evening. I’d been sipping a Grenache-Syrah blend from the Rhone for most of this week (very pedestrian…still have to write that up), so this Buena Vista Zinfandel was like a shot of adrenaline to my taste buds. I opened it while jamming on some final work obligations for the week and decided to go all out, opting for the decanter and that whole production as well.

Seemed like good decisions all around. The wine opened up really well, releasing notes of cherry and strawberry almost immediately. Great aromas in the glass and even better at the taste. It kicked with a little something, more innate and nuanced than sometimes I sense in the market-leading David bottle. I ate a simple cheese tortellini dish with this wine, accented with a bit of butter and olive oil. The wine was really the headliner of this whole setup, and longtime readers of Notes know that Friday is often “wine reward” nite for surviving the ever-evolving challenges of the work week.

Baldacchi Vineyard (reputedly with 100-year old vines) produced the grapes used for this 2015 Zin, which pours dark red in the glass. Again, a nice contrast to the Chateau Rochecolumbe bottle that is relatively pale by comparison. Here’s how the winery described what’s at play in the Antal: “Richly layered flavors of strawberry and currant are complemented by notes of graham cracker and mocha leading to a spreading finish with a slightly savory note.”

I’ll just say it was great! Buena Vista produced 401 cases of the 2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, so I’m not sure how easy it will be to score some after all the wine club shipments go out but you’d be glad if you find it. Mine was bottle #2249–love the individual numbering and this wine overall!

 

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. 

2012 Napa Reserve, White Oak Vineyards & Winery

It’s well established that Notes covers California Cabernet Sauvignon and red blends with recurring frequency. This is one of the latter, shipped from the vineyard’s Alexander Valley location via an online distributer in a bottle with some considerable heft. When the bottle itself is weighty, you sort of expect the same from the wine too, right? Sometimes that doesn’t bear out in the tasting, and others – like this occasion – it really does.

2012 Napa Reserve, White Oak Vineyards & Winery, Healdsburg, CA, USA.

2012 Napa Reserve, White Oak Vineyards & Winery, Healdsburg, CA, USA.

There’s a ton of flavor in White Oak’s 2012 Napa Reserve, a bordeaux-style blend that packs in dark fruit flavors that open up beautifully as you go through the wine. It has some tannic scents when you first pull the cork, but if you let it decanter or similarly open up, you’ll find it mellows out and lets other berries come through. Yes, there is definite black berry on the nose, and probably some other dark chocolate notes that you’ll detect too. There is some damp earthiness at stake too…

I ignored some unwritten rules with this wine choice, as I was having it with some pepper-rubbed salmon and rice instead of grilled meat. Call that a little nod to cut back on the cholesterol (at least for the night!). A white might have been the textbook choice, but toss that book out and just enjoy good wine when you can.

And that’s what I’m doing here. The 2012 Napa Reserve from White Oak Vineyards & Winery folds in Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, and I’m betting its aged in oak for some time to instill the subtle notes you encounter through this rich, ruby red wine. I don’t think you can find it on the White Oaks website at present, but perhaps your favorite distributor can get you access?

It’ll be worth it. This is a nice wine for the price and I’m glad I got to sample a bottle.