Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 25, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a smorgasbord from around the world. We had a couple of Burgundies, including a nice Chablis from Drouhin Vaudon; a great entry-level Riesling from Schloss Vollrads in Germany's Rheingau, and a couple of reds from Renato Ratti in Italy's Piedmont region.

Two particular highlights this week, however, were a GSM blend from Fable Mountain Cellars in South Africa, which had a nice character to it, and the perpetually well-crafted Ridge Lytton Springs bottling, which has been giving Zinfandel a good name for decades.

All these and more below.


2014 Drouhin Vaudon "Vaudesir" Grand Cru Chablis, Burgundy, France
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of green apple and struck match. In the mouth, juicy green apple flavors mix with a little cut grass and cucumber that has a faint aromatic sweetness. Crisp acidity makes the wine quite gulpable and the silky texture adds some elegance to the overall package. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2014 Schloss Vollrads Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau, Germany
Near colorless in the glass, this wine Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 25, 2016smells of Asian pear and a whiff of paraffin. In the mouth, green apple and Asian pear flavors have a wonderful wet chalkboard minerality and snappy bright acidity. Very faint sweetness accompanies citrus pith in the finish. 11% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2014 Joseph Drouhin Côte de Beaune-Villages, Burgundy, France
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and forest berries. In the mouth, bright berry and herbal flavors have a fresh snappiness thanks to excellent acidity. Tasty, if a little uncomplicated. Faint tannins add some texture in the finish, but the wine is mostly an expression of fruit. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $27. click to buy.

2012 Ladd Cellars "Nash Mill Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and earth. In the mouth raspberry and forest floor flavors have a dark intensity and a light bitterness that lingers with a hint of sour cherry finish. Faint tannins linger with that sourness. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??

2013 Renato Ratti "Battaglione" Barbera D'Asti, Piedmont, Italy
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, tar, and hints of citrus peel. In the mouth, cherry, cassis and citrus peel mix with dark earth and muscular tannins. Excellent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2013 Renato Ratti "Ochetti" Nebbiolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberries and earth. In the mouth, dark strawberry fruit has a nice freshness thanks to great acidity. Notes of forest floor and herbs and light tannins linger in the finish with a faint chalkiness. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $23. click to buy.

2013 Tenuta Degli Dei "Le Redini" Red Blend, IGT, Tuscany, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of pencil lead and cherry fruit. In the mouth, cherry and pencil lead and forest floor flavors are juicy and bright thanks to excellent acidity which also brings a touch of citrus peel to the mix. Lightly muscular tannins wrap the fruit and linger through the long finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2013 La Pitchoune "Chenoweth Vineyard" Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of unripe apples and pineapple. In the mouth cold cream and lemon curd mix with pineapple and a hint of other tropical fruits. Excellent acidity keeps things fresh, but there's a hint of heat in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??

2013 La Pitchoune "VDK" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry and cherries. In the mouth, slightly sweet cranberry flavors mix with cherry and cedar, and are bright with acidity. Faint tannins abrade the edges of the palate, and the wine finishes sweetly. A bit candied, but pretty. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $108. click to buy.

2011 Fable Mountain Vineyards "Night Sky" Red Blend, Coastal Region, South Africa
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of mulberry and cherry and cedar. In the mouth, cherry and mulberry flavors mix with cocoa powder and mixed herbs. Notes of strawberry linger in the finish. A blend of 60% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre and 15% Grenache. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.

2014 Ridge Vineyards "Lytton Springs" Red Blend, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blueberry and blackberry fruit. In the mouth a gorgeous mix of blueberry, black pepper, licorice, and cassis mix with a hint of oak and a dash of jalapeño. Faint, powdery tannins coat the mouth, and the wine finishes long and languorously. Fantastic acidity and balance. A blend of 69% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah, 11% Carignan, 2% Mourvedre. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $33. click to buy.

I’ll Drink to That: Aldo Vaira of G.D. Vajra

Episode 398 of I'll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features features Aldo Vaira of the G.D. Vajra winery in Italy's Barolo region. Giuseppe Vaira, Aldo's son, translates for this interview. This episode includes a Warm Up from Erin about grape varieties that are outliers in their areas.

Aldo Vaira is a compelling speaker who brings years of experience and revelations to his words, but he has rarely been heard by an English speaking audience. This interview, translated by Aldo's son Giuseppe, allows his thoughts to shine for English speakers as well. The episode traverses four decades of Aldo's life at the winery, and bears witness to a region that he saw change first-hand. Aldo recalls in this interview a car coming to pick him up at his home. In the car were Aldo Conterno, Bartolo Mascarello, and Quinto Chionetti. All great personalities of the Langhe, all now passed away. Aldo Vaira brings them back to life for us briefly, discussing why Conterno and Chionetti were friends, and Mascarello's quiet manner of speaking. It is a treat to go back in time in this way, and to hear more about names that many Americans may be encountering only for the first time, such as Luigi Veronelli and Mario Soldati. For Veronelli in particular, Aldo explains the context of what he accomplished, and why it was important. He also chronicles the changing social landscape of his region, as he describes a time before the wines of his area had international renown or sales. If you are a fan of the Piemonte, this is a revealing discussion. If you are just getting into the wines of Barolo, this is a must listen.

Listen to the stream above, or check it out in iTunes or NEW! - check it out on YouTube.

I'll Drink to That is the world's most listened-to wine podcast, hosted by Levi Dalton. Levi has had a long career working as a sommelier in some of the most distinguished and acclaimed dining rooms in America. He has served wine to guests of Restaurant Daniel, Masa, and Alto, all in Manhattan. Levi has also contributed articles on wine themes to publications such as The Art of Eating, Wine & Spirits magazine, Bon Appetit online, and Eater NY. Check out his pictures on Instagram and follow him on Twitter: @leviopenswine

Magnums for New Year’s Eve, Please

You don’t need that corkscrew and you could drink it out of that Charley Harper tumbler. Sharpie may come in handy at some point.

I put together a little roundup of New Year’s Eve sparkling wine suggestions for Wine Enthusiast. My pick? Naturally, rosé Champagne. But the selections run the gamut from fizzy to fancy.

One thing I forgot to mention when it comes to New Year’s Eve bottles is GO BIG. I was reminded of this when I went to my neighborhood wine shop, Dandelion Wine, to pick up a bottle for Christmas. I ended up taking home a 1.5L of this wine:

Lini 910 Labrusca Rosso Lambrusco 

A dry, fizzy delight. When opened, it did not last long. I paid $36 for it, a bargain. And though this is not a full-on sparkler, explosive with bubbles, Lambrusco is one of the most f00d-friendly wines out there. It loves cured meats, pizza, really almost anything you can throw at it. (And for a red wine, very low in alcohol: 11%.)

Have you done your NYE wine shopping yet? Here’s your last-minute guide:

14 Spectacular Sparklers for New Year’s Eve

Also Happy New Year! It’s been a crazy year first year in New York and I’m very happy to be settled in Greenpoint, where I hope to be for a while. Here’s a little scene of how charming my new neighborhood is during the holidays. Thank you all for reading.

Magnums for New Year’s Eve, Please


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