Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up For August 31, 2020

I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes in a “mini-review” format.
They are meant to be quirky, fun, and (mostly) easily-digestible reviews of (mostly) currently available wines (click here for the skinny on how to read them), and are presented links to help you find them, so that you can try them out for yourself. Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

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Daily Wine News: An Ideal Summer Wine

Vermentino (Wikimedia)

Vermentino is the ideal summer wine that not nearly enough people know about, says Lettie Teague in the Wall Street Journal. (subscription req.)

In Wine-Searcher, Tom Hyland makes a case for still needing classic Barolo. “…with this newfound attention to Barolo from such in-demand sites as Cannubi, Brunate and Monvigliero (there are more than 160 of these recognized areas known as MGA in the production zone), it’s easy to forget that, for about a century, Barolo was a wine that was all about blending fruit from various sites.”

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected wine habits? Don Kavanagh investigates using search data from Wine-Searcher. “Despite the huge upheavals in the wine world since March, and the countless breathless news stories telling us about the “new normal”, what people are looking for hasn’t really changed. Yes, the shift to ordering and buying online has been a big shift, and the closure of many places where people could previously gather socially has significantly changed consumption habits, but there has been very little change in what people are looking for…”

“Australia’s winemakers have been hit by a second Chinese government probe, as trade tensions between the countries escalate,” reports Ainslie Chandler in Bloomberg.

After revisiting the country after two decades, Tim Atkin MW reflects on the remarkable progress made by Uruguay’s winemakers in Decanter.

In Wine Enthusiast, Zoe Baillargeon looks at how brewers are now embracing amphorae.

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre offers tips for where to find bargains on quality California wines.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/23/20

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 few more wines from DuMOL, a boutique producer in Sonoma County dedicated to cool-climate sites and meticulously crafted wines with distinct personalities. Their estate Chardonnay strikes a perfect balance between ripeness and lean verve delivering a bit of California and a bit of Burgundy for a delicious, enormously appealing package.

I’ve also got two of DuMOLs new Pinot Noir releases, both of which are excellent, but with the real star being their “FINN” bottling that is sourced primarily from their estate O’Connell Vineyard, which is indicated on the map above. This is a bright, dynamic and expressive incarnation of Pinot Noir that is delicious now and promises to dazzle later.

Last week I reviewed a couple of wines from Aesthete Wines, and I’m adding two more this week, a white blend and a rosé from the little Dry Stack Vineyard in Bennett Valley. The rosé is my favorite of the two, and definitely worth looking for.

Let’s move on to darker things, shall we?

I always like to joke about the fact that I’m directing my trademark lawyers to have a little chat with the folks at Alder Springs Vineyard. In fact, I’m always happy to see the Alder Springs on the label of a wine, and not just because of the name. It’s a great vineyard. This 140-acre site sits 150 miles north of San Francisco in the steep, redwood-covered slopes of northern Mendocino County. Planted in 1993, it has become a reliable, even venerated source of grapes for many of California’s best-known wine labels. As is often the case, those who grow grapes eventually move to making their own wines, as Alder Springs did in 2011, hiring Byron Kosuge to make the wines. Byron is also the consulting winemaker for Kingston Vineyards, whose wines I reviewed last week. This week I’m featuring their red blend of Malbec and Cabernet named “13 Tasks.”

Lastly, I’ve got two more single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Nickel & Nickel, both of which offer what this site-specific specialist has become known for: rich, layered, even opulent Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes

2016 Aesthete “Dry Stack Vineyard” White Blend, Bennett Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of vanilla and lemon curd and a touch of orange peel. In the mouth, citrus peel and lemon curd mix with a bit of pear. Good acidity and length, but with a little more wood influence than I would like. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??

2018 DuMOL “DuMOL Estate Vineyard” Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon zest and lemon blossoms with a touch of grapefruit. In the mouth, lemon curd and grapefruit flavors mix with white floral flavors. Silky and bright with excellent acidity. A touch of grapefruit pith lingers in the finish. Excellent. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2019 Aesthete “Dry Stack Vineyard” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Bennett Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest peachy pink in color, this wine smells of strawberries and rosehips. In the mouth, silky flavors of berry, watermelon rind and rosehips have a citrus peel brightness through the finish. I’d love for just slightly more acidity, but there’s enough there to keep things crisp and bright. 13.8% alcohol. 121 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40.

2018 DuMOL “FINN” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth, cherry and raspberry brightness mix with cedar and dried herbs. Citrus peel notes linger in the finish along with raspberry leaf. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $85. click to buy.

2018 DuMOL “DuMOL Estate Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry compote. In the mouth, cherry and pomegranate flavors have a cedary, herbal backdrop and a faint citrusy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Faint powdery tannins are wispy in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2013 Alder Springs Vineyard “13 Tasks” Red Blend, Mendocino County, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and blackberries. In the mouth, black cherry and blackberry fruit has a rich, ripe quality, draped in a heavy fleece blanket of tannins. There’s an aromatic sweetness to the wine and a mellow, velvety feel to the whole package. I wish there was slightly more acidity to give it some verve along with the velvet, but there’s enough to make it pleasurable to drink. A 50/50 blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $45.

2018 Nickel & Nickel “Kenefick Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga, Napa, California
Inky, nearly opaque purple in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry. In the mouth, black cherry, cassis and cola notes mix with hints of pencil shavings. Muscular, fine-grained tannins gradually squeeze the fruit, gaining stiffness as the wine lingers long on the palate. This one needs a bit of time. Excellent acidity. 14.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $125. click to buy.

2018 Nickel & Nickel “John C. Sullenger Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cassis and black cherry. In the mouth, black cherry and cassis fruit has a plush, velvety tannic texture, and with hints of candied flowers in the finish. Good acidity and length. Ripe, but not jammy. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $105. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/23/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Wine Reviews: Ashes & Diamonds

I’m back this week to focus on more California wines, this time from Napa’s Ashes & Diamonds.

This project was founded by California native Kashy Khaledi, a media and advertising executive, in 2013. The winery brands itself as “a love letter to Napa Valley as it was when it took the world stage in the 1960s.” Their glassy, mid-century modern winery, located off Highway 29, looks like a fascinating place to visit.

For winemaking duties, Khaledi wisely sought out renowned winemaker Steve Matthiasson and Diana Snowden Seysses, enologist at Domaine Dujac and winemaker at Snowden Vineyards. The several vineyard sources seem like truly special sites, from the gravelly, clay and loam soils of the Ashes & Diamonds Vineyard in Oak Knoll to the thin, rocky soils of the Mountain Peak Vineyard in the Atlas Peak appellation.

I had been aware of these wines for a while, but never wrapped my palate around one until recently. I receive and review a lot of California wines, many of which I appreciate and enjoy. But it’s rare that I taste wines that get me as stoked as these. Sipping these wines, I was shocked at their complexity, vibrancy, effortlessness. The wines are really special and delicious, and perfect for palates with a tendency toward old-school California and Old World styles.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2017 Ashes & Diamonds Blanc No. 3 USA, California, Napa Valley
Wine Reviews: Ashes & DiamondsSRP: $45
Bright yellow color. Wow, the aromas are stunning and invigorating. Quince, fig, lemon peel, papaya, the fruit is topped in yellow flowers, honey, candle wax, sea salt, mountain stream. Precise and focused on the palate, the light body (11.9% alcohol) meets a deeply textured wine, full of apricot, lemon and green melon fruit. Brisk, mineral, wild herb, honey and chalk notes add all sorts of complexity. Such a nervy, packed wine, this will improve for many years. 50/50 Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon from two vineyards in Oak Knoll and Yountville, barrel-fermented, aged 10 months in 30% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

2019 Ashes & Diamonds Rosé No. 4 USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $39
Medium copper color. Such an inviting and vibrant mix of aromas, from yellow pear, apricot and raspberry, to celery seed, mint, with notes of crushed shells, clover and chalk dust. Crisp and bright on the palate (12.4%) balanced with this textural depth and flavor complexity. Apricot, melon rind, white peaches and lemons, the fruit is juicy and pure, accented with all sorts of floral, salty, flinty, mineral, herbal tones. Beautiful presence on the palate, opens up wonderfully with air. A fantastic rosé that you can enjoy now or forget about for a few years and be assured of deliciousness. Whole-cluster Made from Cabernet Franc from Carneros, Oak Knoll and Yountville. (92 points IJB)

2017 Ashes & Diamonds Cabernet Sauvignon Mountain Cuvée No. 2 Bates Ranch USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
SRP: $105
Medium purple color. So fresh and inviting on the nose, with chilled black cherries, plums, topped generously with spicy black tea, clove, plenty of rocky, dusty tones, with pepper, violets. Fresh and crisp on the palate, this is a medium-bodied Cabernet (13%) with structured but fine tannins and incredible balance and mouthfeel. Cool black cherries, crunchy plums and wild blackberry fruit mix so well with mint, tilled soil, violets, clove. Lots of pepper, mushroom and mineral tones come out, more so with air. This is beautiful but needs several years at least to show its best. From a 2,100-foot vineyard on a 30% southeast slope. Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc, aged 19 months in 40% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

2017 Ashes & Diamonds Cabernet Sauvignon No. 2 Mountain Peak Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Atlas Peak
SRP: $125
Medium purple color. What a gorgeous nose! Vibrant currants, tangy plums, juicy blackberries, with inviting notes of warm clay, rocky earth, leather, cocoa and mint – needs time to open and show its full aromatic potential, but lots to unpack. Medium-bodied with precise acidity throughout, the tannins show structure but refinement. Black and red currant fruit abounds, with suave plums, and the fruit is laced with fascinating elements of green herbs, leather, rocky earth, black tea and anise. Beautiful, refined but age-worthy – what a stunner. Aged 19 months in 30% new French oak. (94 points IJB)