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 couple of pretty rosés from Oregon and California. The first, from Argyle winery has a nice savory quality. The second, from relative newcomer Minus Tide Wines in Mendocino, is a really lovely rendition of Carignan in pink form that is just mouthwatering and just what you want to be drinking on a warm afternoon.
Minus Tide also offered a Pinot this week from Mendocino Ridge, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This wine wasn’t quite as pitch perfect as the rosé, but it did some some very nice qualities, chief among which was a nice forest-floor quality.
I’ve reviewed some other wines from Eden Rift recently, but this week I’m featuring their lower-end line of wines named “Valliant,” and the Pinot Noir released under this label is certainly worth seeking out, especially given its reasonable price of $26.
I’ve got a few more Williams Selyem wines to note this week, three Pinot Noirs and a Zinfandel. The Pinots, like those I reviewed last week, were in excellent form. The simple Sonoma County bottling was particularly excellent for its price point (roughly 30-40% lower than single-vineyard or other named bottling). But the star of the Selyem lineup this week was their single vineyard Terra del Promissio Pinot Noir which had incredible brightness and juiciness welded to a silky-smooth texture and wonderful floral and herbal notes tinged with new oak. With a little time, hopefully the oak will fade into the fruit a bit more, but it was pretty damn tasty right now despite a woody signature.
Lastly, I received a few Pinot Noirs from Papapietro Perry this week that seemed to be made in wildly different styles, some unbalanced and ripe with alcohols pushing towards 15% while others, like the Leras Family Vineyard bottling I’m featuring here, were a modest 13.5% and very pretty and elegant.
2017 Flambeaux Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass with a slight tinge of green, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and cold cream. In the mouth, relatively brisk lemon curd and white floral flavors have a nice complexion and excellent acidity with only the faintest trace of wood influence, mostly in texture rather than wood flavor. Pineapple lingers in the finish. A classically styled California Chardonnay. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??.
2019 Argyle Winery “Grower Series” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
A light baby pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon rind and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, juicy watermelon rind and citrus peel flavors have a nice zing to them thanks to excellent acidity. Bitter orange lingers in the finish. Mouthwatering, leaning a bit towards the savory side of pink. 12% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $19. click to buy.
2019 Minus Tide “Feliz Creek Vineyard” Rosé of Carignan, Medocino, California
A pale salmon pink in the glass, this wine smells of citrus peel and watermelon rind. In the mouth, watermelon rind, green strawberries, and citrus peel have a zippy, bouncy brightness thanks to fantastic acidity. Lean, bright, with a pink SweetTart finish that is mouthwatering. 12.9% alcohol. Score: around 9 . Cost: $ 24.
2017 Minus Tide “Mariah Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino, California
Light to medium ruby in the glass with purple highlights, this wine smells of green willow bark, forest floor, and raspberries. In the mouth, notes of red apple skin, raspberry, and dried cherry have a very nice brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. The wine has a feeling of having been well oxygenated, which makes it taste more evolved than I would expect at this young age, but all the flavors are good. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $ 42. click to buy.
2018 Eden Rift “Valliant” Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry pastilles and cherries. In the mouth, the wine offers bright cherry and cranberry notes with a hint of herbal bitterness that lasts through the finish even as the front of the mouth tingles a bit. Cranberry and cherry and cedar linger in the finish.14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $26. click to buy.
2018 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of black raspberries and chopped herbs. In the mouth, the wine is draped in sinewy tannins that tighten around a core of raspberry and fresh flowering herbs with a touch of blueberry. Distinctive and quite unusual. Brilliant acidity and very light on its feet despite “bluer” flavors. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.
2018 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of redcurrant and raspberries. In the mouth, bright raspberry and citrus peel flavors have incredibly vibrant acidity that makes the mouth water. Faint tannins linger through a long finish. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2018 Williams Selyem “Terra del Promissio Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries and dried flowers. In the mouth, ethereal delicate flavors of raspberries and herbs mix with a hint of cedar. Faint tannins grip the edge of the palate as satiny raspberry fruit sings a sweet song through a long finish with just a hint of citrus peel, perhaps just a bit more sweetish oak influence than I’d like, but only by a hair. Outstanding. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $90. click to buy.
2017 Papapietro Perry “Leras Family Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry compote. In the mouth, bright cherry and raspberry flavors are silky-textured and have a bright zing to them thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of herbs and wood linger in the finish. Pretty. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2018 Williams Selyem “Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and licorice and flowers. In the mouth, bright and juicy blackberry flavors are zippy with fantastic acidity and mix with blueberry and floral notes that linger with a touch of licorice root in the finish. Wonderfully balanced, betraying none of its prodigious 15.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $150. click to buy.
SANTA MARIA, CA: Hillside Pinot Noir vineyards along the Tepusquet Bench are seemingly on a different plane from the golden, grassy hills seen in the late afternoon light near Santa Maria, California.
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In the San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley ponders the convoluted logic behind California’s winery tasting room reopening plan. “In other words, for now it’s a patchwork, with some wineries allowed to open and others still prohibited. Why? Because winery tasting rooms aren’t included in California’s Stage 2 plans — part of the state’s phased-in process of reopening the economy after shelter-in-place — unless they serve full meals. Which turns out to be a thornier issue than many wine drinkers might expect.”
“Caymus Vineyards, one of Napa Valley’s best-known wineries, has filed a lawsuit against California’s governor and public health officer, alleging that the state’s reopening plan is treating winery tasting rooms inequitably,” reports Mitch Frank in Wine Spectator. “Chuck Wagner, the winery’s proprietor, is calling on a federal court to strike down the measure that has allowed some tasting rooms to open while others remain closed.”
In the New York Times, Eric Asimov profiles Dr. Pourfar, a wine lover and neurologist who found a deeper relationship with wine after losing his sense of smell with the onset of Covid-19.
“The COVID-19 crisis appears to have accelerated the shift of U.S. wine consumers to online buying, and several of the nation’s top retailers expect wine buyers to stay online,” reports Andrew Adams in Wine Business.
Does a great vintage make blending easier or harder? On the blog for Tablas Creek, Jason Haas explores his blending approach to the 2019 vintage.
In Wine Enthusiast, Matt Kettmann explores the wines from Santa Cruz Mountains.
Lettie Teague considers examples of bad wine advice in the Wall Street Journal. (subscription req.)