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.

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