The Ones That Got Away – Winter 2020

This gallery contains 6 photos.

  I’m always regretful when the business of daily life prevents me from sharing tasting notes. There are so many bottles and so little time…here’s a snapshot of several of the great wines that closed out this 2020 year. Best to you all in the year ahead! -R

2018 The Count’s Selection Charbono, Buena Vista Winery

This Christmas special had to follow up a 2017 Machete from Christmas Eve, and it was very equal to the challenge. Whenever possible, I try to keep Buena Vista in mind for life’s occasions, even when that occasion is simply to make a celebration. Voila…

2018 The Count’s Selection Charbono, Buena Vista Winery, Calistoga, Napa Valley, California, USA.

It poured ruby red, little flecks of rich color flecking our glassware as it tumbled from the bottle. From these first notes you could scent dark, heady fruits—I think perhaps black berry or black cherry?—at the heart of the Charbono. With our minds thinking of family and friends far away, I had been asked to pick a good red (but nothing too sweet!) and I was positive this 2018 would answer the call.

The Charbono is a byproduct of a European vine-collecting expedition by the winery’s founder, Count Haraszthy, and I presume there are far fewer of these grapes grown in Napa Valley than the Cabernet Sauvigon that’s the hallmark of this AVA. The warm Calistoga weather brings us this wine, a soft, medium-bodied red. It tastes more black cherry than plum, and yes a few earthy spices that add a little complexity to the wine.

Our 2018 Charbono accompanied pan-seared duck breast called into service by virtue of postponed travel plans. An amazing port/cherry demi-sauce went with the bird, as did Hericots Verts and a fun parsnip purée that was flavorful and delicious. Our arugula salad included shaved fennel, sweet onion, toasted walnuts, and blue cheese crumble. Yes, dinner rolls and a Christmas Tree butter rounded out our plates just as the Buena Vista did our glasses, which we raise in toast to those who couldn’t be with us this day. Sending much love to you all…

2018 Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery

Slipped away to the lake this weekend for some quiet and quality time. The Sheriff of Buena Vista has been covered previously in Notes and this 2018 vintage is worthy of the history. Be sure to review older vintages on the site, including the 2017, 2016, 2015, and even the 2013. We’re old friends at this point.

2018 Sheriff of Buena Vista

2018 Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma Valley, California, USA.

This bottle accompanied grilled strip steaks and sweet potatoes, and good times and even a refresher guitar session courtesy of my brother from another mother. Looking forward to more of all this in the future. Thanks BMan…

2018 The Prisoner, The Prisoner Wine Company

The Prisoner is a favorite red blend, for me as well as so many Dave Phinney fans. Back in 2003 when Phinney first created it, the Prisoner was not familiar to me but has thankfully become a welcome dinner guest. I wish I could say “frequent” dinner guest but that’s really more a case of wishful thinking.

2018 The Prisoner, The Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

Anyway, so here we go..The Prisoner stopped by last night and again this Halloween night to keep us company. Friday a 2018 vintage of The Prisoner accompanied a fun Greek (including a great hummus…can’t believe I’m writing that…) meal and tonight it finished up with a memorable seafood dinner, one with all the right fixings and high-class touches. That’s the right way to enjoy the Prisoner for sure!

Yes, Notes has covered The Prisoner on prior occasions. (And various Dave Phinney wines—if you’re interested just do a Search on the site) What’s true there remains valid here as well. It’s a rich, black cherry gem, delivering a huge mouthfeel and an even finish. All these flavors are blended together, a wine with many fathers—including zinfandel, cabernet, syrah, petite sirah, and charbono grapes in a proprietary blend. The Prisoner offers you hints of other dark fruit plus vanilla and earthiness, and a cult of fans extols its virtues.

Here is The Prisoner in the winemaker’s own remarks: “Bold aromas of black cherry and plum are heightened by hints of oak and Madagascar vanilla. A soft and velvety palate of anise, dark cocoa powder, and roasted sage lead into a dense finish with luscious tannins.

I’ve had this wine to celebrate life events both great and small, and it goes well on these occasions and every thing in between. Happy Halloween to you all.

2017 Salman Vineyard Petite Sirah, Jeff Runquist Wines

Held back this Jeff Runquist gem for as long as possible but finally uncorked it after emerging largely unscathed from the week’s challenges. Notes has covered the vineyard often (most often for its 1448), including this Petite Syrah on multiple occasions. This is more of the same goodness and you’re encouraged to chase down the 2017 Salman Vineyard Petite Sirah. 

2017 Salman Vineyard Petite Sirah, Jeff Runquist Wines, Plymouth,California, USA.

2017 Reale Sonoma County Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2017 Sonoma County Reserve from Reale makes an appearance as Notes sneaks up on review #500. This bottle breaks a recent streak of France-based Cabs but doesn’t quite come all the way back to the Napa-based Cabernet Sauvignon that this reviewer (often) finds so enjoyable.

Reale 2017

2017 Reale Sonoma County Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, USA.

Let’s stop for a second. Perhaps this is obvious, but not all California Cabernet is created equal. AVAs have been established specifically to showcase the distinct differences in grapes from one location to another. Case in point—Napa and Sonoma are a stone’s throw from one another but produce very different grapes. Sonoma offerings, for example, have slightly different exposure in coastal sun and soil from their eastern brothers. Sonoma is also almost twice the size of Napa, so there is more diversity among its production, too. 

Part of this comes through in the 2017 Reale, which is a gentle, slightly more tannic expression of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. This wine is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. It shows plenty of dark berry (e.g., black cherry, blackberry) notes, with a kiss of spices, And I know, I know…Notes sometimes shares a pretty interesting meal or two in context to the vino, but this weekend that’s less a consideration. Suffice it to say the grapes stand on their own merit.

Here are the words of the winemaker: “The wine showcases a ruby color with aromas of red fruits and dark cherry. Hints of red raspberry and black cherry follow with spicy notes of currants, anise, cloves, cedar, and a touch of vanilla.”

This bottle was obtained from an online reseller, and I have only seen it offered once (this occasion) so I’m not sure how easily you can find a similar Reale. If you do, know that it’s a good one, and decent value as you consider its taste versus the cost. I’ll look to order my next and encourage you do to the same. Until then, cheers!

2015 Yeoman Cabernet Sauvignon, Goldschmidt Vineyards

The holiday this year includes fewer fireworks, but this wine goes off with a big bang* nevertheless. Happy July 4th, friends, so pull up a chair and check out the 2015 Yeoman Cabernet Sauvignon from Goldschmidt Vineyards.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon - Yeoman Vineyard, Goldschmidt Vineyards

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon – Yeoman Vineyard, Goldschmidt Vineyards, Alexander Valley, California, USA.

We found this Cab in the fine wines section of Raleigh’s version of Wegman’s. Sigh. What a fun field trip to cruise through its well-stocked aisles…even writing this now I’m thinking of the amazing charcuterie awaiting Cara and I later today.

Shortly after sipping a couple delicious watermelon cocktails, we turned our focus to dinner and opened the Goldschmidt while prepping. It’s first impression is black cherry and leather, a heady mix of the bold and the subtle. My favorite wines often weave together such traits, and probably why I often gravitate to California Bordeaux-style Cabs and powerful Syrah.   

The Yoeman Vineyard is specifically a 3-acre plot near Geyersville, a small bit of land that is home to loamy soils and Eastern morning suns. Winemaker Nick Goldschmidt notes that the topography enables extended grape hang time for maximum flavor development—this taster nods appreciatively. The fruit was harvested October 1, 2015, hand-picked and aged 31 months in French Tarasaud barrels.

It’s 100% Cabernet. A powerful red (pours like ruby) that is slightly tannic but not dry; to the contrary it’s lush and full. Little bit of blackberry flavor too. Really great wine. As excited as I was to sample this Goldschmidt, I know in the back of my head that it would be even better if we let it breathe for a couple beats before drinking. That’s a prescription for another day some time off in the future.

Because today we’re celebrating things. Freedom. Time together. And even our dinner—charcoal-grilled strips, grilled asparagus, and a Romaine salad (also grilled!) with anchovy vinaigrette and toasted and buttered panko. Proud to report that we kept the coals crazy hot; they produced not only great steaks but also stayed hot enough to support a couple killer s’mores too.

Sometimes wine IS the occasion, and sometimes you have wine to mark an occasion. On a day this great I’m not sure which applies, but I want more. Bring on the “too much” I’ll take every bit I can get.

 

* Yes, I know it’s a ‘dad’ joke but hey sometimes these things write themselves…

2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Justin

I’m fairly certain that I had a Justin many years ago, a Reserve or similar high-end split courtesy of my brother George, and that memory sparked my purchase of this 2017 for the holiday weekend. Those memories may be suspect, however, as I do a search and see no results returned. Regardless, the vineyard’s 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is here for your consumption.

2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Justin, Paso Robles, California, USA.

Winemaker Scott Shirley does nice work with the 2017, which commemorates 30 years of producing this Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s traditionally crafted, right from the hand-picking of the grapes from their limestone-soiled, Paso Robles vineyards to the hand-sorting and small oak barrel aging (for more than a year) of the fruit. This craftsmanship implies care, quality, and consistent berry quality as well.

In your glass it pours deeply, fragrant purple, with really nice cherry aromas. We taste it and think of earth notes and leather too, so there’s more than some of that in the 2017 vintage. The wine is full and has an excellent mouthfeel and a fresh finish. Loved the taste for the price point, and it went very well with our dinner of grilled (okay, and partly roasted too) chicken thighs, corn, and a delicious rice-black bean recipe that’s years in the making.

Here’s your notes from the winemaker: “Dry, nearly full bodied, with ripe black cherry, cassis and red fruit, baking spice and oak accents on entry with sustained ripe primary and mostly black fruit, dried autumn leaf, cocoa and a pleasant suggestion of camphor on the mid-palate into the finish.”

I purchased this bottle from a grocery I (unfortunately!) don’t often frequent so I’m not sure how often the Justin will make an appearance in Notes. I’ll look forward to the occasions that it does. Try one for yourself!