Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/24/21

Hello and welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. 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 is deep in deliciousness of many kinds. Let’s start with three more new wines from Two Shepherds Winery, which seems to be firing on all cylinders these days. They’ve got two different renditions of Vermentino, one from an excellent site in the little-heard-of Yolo County and one from a storied vineyard in Lodi. Both are tasty in their own way and worth seeking out.

It’s probably safe to say I’ve never met a Trousseau Gris I haven’t liked, and that’s certainly true of the one from Two Shepherds, which marries stone fruits like plum and nectarine to a bright citrusy backbone and just the faintest grip from tannins thanks to some skin contact during fermentation. If you’re tired of your usual rosés, give this a whirl and let your mind get blown.

I got a couple of wines this week from Tooth & Nail Winery in Paso Robles. They’ve got several brand names under which they make wines, one of which is a newer line called Destinata, which focuses on a “noveau” style, with shorter aging and a fresher, brighter profile. Their Destinata Syrah certainly seemed to offer a nice dose of freshness, along with more savory characteristics. Their “Stasis” bottling of carbonically macerated Zinfandel also doesn’t lack for freshness.

How about a random Oregon Tempranillo to liven things up. I have a feeling that the Coventina Vineyards Reserve Tempranillo will be even better in a few years, but I have a serious bone to pick with the winery with regards to the weight of their bottles. This is one of the heaviest bottles of wine I’ve come across in months. The damn thing weighs 4 and a half pounds. That’s utterly ridiculous and totally offensive to those of us who know that the single largest portion of any winery’s carbon footprint is their packaging. Coventina claims to have a “covenant with the earth” but this bottle says “disregard” much more than it says covenant. Shame, shame, shame.

The Serres family has been in Sonoma County for generations. Six, to be precise. Their family ranch was established in 1924, and they’ve been growing things ever since, including grapes. Like many families with a long history of grape growing, it was only a matter of time before the Serres family decided to make some wine with their name on the bottle. I’ve got two of their Serres Ranch wines to share with you this week, a Merlot dominant red blend, and another that is a pretty even split between Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec. Both are worth seeking out.

The real stars this week, though, were the three Zinfandels that I opened from Limerick Lane Cellars. Each is from a heritage vineyard, more than 90 years old, and each has a fantastic story to tell in the bottle. My favorite, I think was the Banfield Vineyard bottling, from perhaps the oldest Zinfandel planting in the Russian River Valley, dating to 1880. These 139-year-old vines produced remarkable fruit in 2019, positively bursting with flavor and incredible acidity. The Carlisle and Estate 1910 block Zinfandels are no slouches either. If you count yourself a fan of Zinfandel, or if you’re looking to see what all the fuss is about, you’d be hard-pressed to find better examples than these.

Notes on all these wines below.

Tasting Notes

2020 Two Shepherds “Windmill Vineyards” Vermentino, Yolo County, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of poached pears, pastry cream, and lemon pith. In the mouth, lemon pith, ginger, poached pear, and a touch of grapefruit juice have a wonderfully bright acidity and juicy quality. There’s a faint chalkiness to this wine which adds some nice texture and a little grip to a very flavorful experience. Made with organically farmed grapes. Fermented with native yeasts in half stainless, half neutral barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. 11.5% alcohol. 175 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost : $26. click to buy.

2019 Two Shepherds “Centime – Fields Family Vineyard” Vermentino, Lodi, Central Valley, California
Dark gold in the glass with some chunky bits floating around, this wine smells of yellow plum and wet leaves. In the mouth, yellow plum, orange peel, Asian pear, and a faint touch of verbena have a lightly waxy texture, with faint tannins that buff the top of the mouth as the wine finishes with a nice Ranier cherry skin tang. Tasty. Fermented with native yeasts and left in contact with the skins for 10 days. Aged for 9 months in neutral oak. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal sulfur additions. 11.3% alcohol. 70 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost : $ .

2020 Two Shepherds “Fanucchi Vineyard – Skin Fermented” Trousseau Gris, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
A light coppery pink color in the glass, this wine smells of sour cherry, nectarine, and yellow plums. In the mouth, stone fruit and berry flavors mix with a nice bite of citrus peel and juicy, tangy acidity, plus a hint of tannic grip. Quite tasty. Made from 45-year-old vines, fermented with native yeasts and 5 days of skin contact before aging in a neutral barrel. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. 12.3% alcohol. 125 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost : $24. click to buy.

2020 Tooth & Nail “Destinata” Syrah, Santa Barbara County, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis, blackberry, and wet iron. In the mouth, cassis and blackberry flavors have a nice savory quality, with green herbs and a touch of iodine. Good acidity and faint, fine-grained tannins add a stony quality. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost : $29.

2020 Tooth & Nail “Stasis” Zinfandel, Willow Creek District Paso Robles Central Coast, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberries and maraschino cherries. In the mouth, juicy blackberry and black cherry flavors have a nice chalky tannic grip and excellent acidity. Boysenberry and black currants linger in the finish. Fermented carbonically. 14.6% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost : $??.

2015 Coventina “Reserve” Tempranillo, Rogue River Valley, Southern Oregon
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of new oak. In the mouth, cherry fruit and new oak fight for attention with the oak winning, leaving me wishing I could have tasted more of the fruit. Excellent acidity keeps the wine fresh and bright. Hints of incense and cinnamon in the finish. With half the amount of new oak, this wine would have been positively delicious. 13.5% alcohol. Comes in an offensively heavy bottle weighing almost 2kg when full. That’s 4 lbs, 6 ounces of “screw our carbon footprint” per bottle. Score: around 8.5. Cost : $50. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/24/21

2019 Limerick Lane Cellars “Banfield Vineyard” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of dried flowers, cherries, and partially ripe blackberries. In the mouth, fantastically bright, mouthwatering fruit tastes like those blackberries that have a bit of red on them, a little sourish, a little sweet, and perfectly flavored of summer idylls. Faint powdery tannins add texture to an explosively juicy mouthful. A technicolor taste experience in the glass. Wonderfully balanced, despite its 15.2% alcohol. This vineyard was planted in 1880. 250 cases made. Score: around 9.5. Cost : $62. click to buy.

2019 Limerick Lane Cellars “Carlisle Vineyard” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of freshly crushed boysenberries. In the mouth, exuberant boysenberry and black raspberry flavors are juicy and bright and beautifully light on their feet. There’s just a tiny faint tannic texture to the wine, as hints of candied dried fennel seed emerge in the finish. Phenomenally delicious, complex, and balanced despite 15.1% alcohol. This vineyard was planted in 1927. 100 cases made. Score: around 9.5. Cost : $62. click to buy.

2019 Limerick Lane Cellars “Estate 1910 Block ” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark purple in color, this wine smells of blackberry and black cherry. In the mouth, juicy blackberry and black cherry flavors have a nice sour cherry brightness in the finish, as powdery, muscular tannins coat the mouth. Excellent acidity keeps things quite fresh. Contains 2% Petite Sirah. Planted in 1910. 14.8% alcohol. 300 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost : $65.

2018 Serres Ranch “Buchanan” Merlot, Sonoma Valley, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of plum and black cherry. In the mouth, juicy plum and black cherry fruit is wrapped in a tight skein of tannins and shot through with hints of vanilla and oak. Excellent acidity keeps things fresh, and the wood is reasonably well-integrated. A blend of 75.5% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.5% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost : $65.

2018 Serres Ranch “Watriss” Red Blend, Sonoma Valley, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and dark toasted oak. In the mouth, black cherry, french roast coffee beans, toasted oak, and graphite flavors have decent acidity and a tight, muscular tannic backbone. This is wound up tight and needs some time to open up. More wood influence here than I would like. A blend of 33.5% Merlot, 30.5% Malbec, 28.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.5% Petit Verdot. Score: around 8.5. Cost : $65.

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Vinography Images: Feel the Flavor

A Cabernet pumpover proceeds at Covert Estate in the Coombsville AVA of Napa Valley. The French term is remontage, which makes the process of pumping fresh juice from the bottom of the tank over the layer of skins and pulp floating at the top of the tank sound glamorous. Pumpovers introduce some oxygen to the wine, while allowing carbon dioxide to escape, as well as helping to extract the important color, flavor and aroma compounds from the skins of the grapes.

Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting “save link as” or “save target as” and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full-size view and drag that to their desktops.

To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should follow these instructions, while PC users should follow these.

The work of photographer Jimmy Hayes can be further appreciated in his recently published monograph, Veritas, by Abrams Books / Cameron + Company. Order the book from the Abrams web site.

Fine art prints of this image and others are available from Jimmy Hayes Photography.

Vinography regularly features images for readers’ personal use as desktop backgrounds or screen savers. We hope you enjoy them. Please respect the copyright on these images. These images are not to be reposted on any website or blog without the express permission of the photographer.

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Daily Wine News: The Next Super-Tuscan

(Source: Bolgheri DOC)

In Club Oenologique, Adam Lechmere tastes explores Bolgheri and finds a wine region still in search of its identity. With a mood of experimentation and collaboration in the air, what could be next from the birthplace of the Super-Tuscan?

In Decanter, Oz Clarke explains why the wines of the New World made such an impact, on him and us. (subscription req.)

With international tourists and investors, Provence enters a new era, reports Jacopo Mazzeo in Wine Enthusiast. “The thriving international reputation of its signature variety, the wealth generated by sizeable investments and a flourishing enotourism industry are turning Provence into a pink Napa.”

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre delves into the intentions of Patagonia Provisions, which just entered into the fermentation market with a line of natural wines, ciders and sake from producers who focus on the environment and regenerative farming.

Alcohol limits vary greatly by country and by gender. David Morrison takes a look at the data in Meininger’s.

In the Drop, Krystin Arneson explores how erupting volcanoes and wildfires are contributing to the changing tastes of Mount Etna wines.

In Forbes, Kim Westerman calls Santa Barbara “the most exciting wine destination in the US.”

You Don’t Have to Like Bordeaux, No Matter What the Old White Men Say

This past weekend, I celebrated my 25th college reunion and had a ball reconnecting with old friends and exploring the grounds of my alma mater. For fun, I also brought along some wines to share, including a bottle of 1996 Pontet-Canet, an excellent vintage from the well-respected 5th Growth Bordeaux estate in Pauillac. Since we were the class of 1996, I had a great time sharing the wine (and several other bottles of similar age) with some of my classmates who appreciate  such things

The wine itself was very good, full of life, with cedar and forest floor aromas, dried cherries, graphite and leather, and bright citrusy acidity.

But my experience of the wine was like most of my experiences with Bordeaux. It was tasty, but it didn’t truly move me. After a little reflection on that fact overnight, I tweeted as much.

Some people on #winetwitter called the tweet “bold.”

One suggested it was a “profound admission.”

Several others said they resembled that remark.

And the former Executive Editor of a major wine magazine said, “To me, that’s like saying ‘Bach is good but his music doesn’t move me.’ I can accept that it’s true but it makes me a bit sorry for the listener.”

I think that’s the kind of snobbish sentiment that consistently turns people off of wine.

Everyone’s preferences are only the sum total of their individual experiences.

Early on in my wine-drinking life, you could have heard me proclaim loudly to anyone within earshot that I didn’t like Champagne. Turns out, the highest quality Champagne I had tasted up until that point was Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label.

Then one day someone handed me a glass of Krug Grand Cuvee and the whole world of Champagne got an immediate reorganization in my head.

But that’s not what’s going on here.

Just because it’s a great wine, that doesn’t mean people have to like it.

For the record, I’ve tasted most of Bordeaux’s First Growths (Petrus evades me). I had a 2016 Château Mouton Rothschild a couple of weeks ago in a blind tasting (it was pretty good). I regularly attend and taste widely at the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux trade tastings when they come through town. There was a time when I regularly attended pre-auction tastings at a local auction house in San Francisco, where I would get to try top Bordeaux wines at 10, 20, 30, 40, and sometimes 50 years of age. I occasionally get samples from Cru Bourgeois producers and review them here on Vinography.

I know what Bordeaux, even great Bordeaux, tastes like, and you know, it just ain’t my bag.

And it shouldn’t have to be just because the establishment says it’s the greatest.

Some Wines are Objectively Better Than Others

To be clear, I don’t believe in subjective relativism when it comes to evaluating wines. Some wines, like some art (and I do include music there), are objectively better than others, because we have a whole historical discourse of critical evaluation that says so.

That discourse exists as part of the cultural conversation and the discipline surrounding the craft and industry of wine, and I willingly participate in it.

But that discourse is largely separate (for most people) from the individual experience of drinking wine, and those of us who are immersed in the discourse all the time are at constant danger of forgetting that.

You Don’t Have to Like Bordeaux, No Matter What the Old White Men Say
Paul Gauguin’s Nave Nave Moe c. 1894, in the collection of the Hermitage Museum

Gauguin is inarguably one of the great painters. But that doesn’t mean I have to like his paintings. In fact, I don’t. Especially not his Tahitian and Marquesan ones. I don’t respond to them visually, and they give me this icky-white-male-colonialist-gaze vibe that I don’t really care for. I wouldn’t want one hanging on my wall at home.

I can recognize his genius without loving him. Ditto for Jackson Pollack.

Ready for another bombshell? I don’t like Port, either.

I get why people love Port the same way I get that people love Bordeaux. I have experienced the organoleptic qualities of fine aged port, and yes, even marveled at minutes-long finishes and ethereal expressions of vanilla and coffee.

It might be ambrosia to some people, but I can’t get past the raisiny thing.

You Like What You Like

Preference is not the same as critical judgment, and more importantly, it is possible to have your preferences and critical judgment diverge.

Just ask half of the Napa winemakers who make massive 15.2% Cabernets by day and go home to drink Gevrey-Chambertin and Chinon.

Should we feel sorry for them, the same way the aforementioned editor feels sorry for me?

Everyone is allowed to like what they like. They are just not allowed to confuse that preference for a universal truth.

If you’re someone ready to explore the world of wine, remember that while some people might know a sh*t-ton more about wine than you, that doesn’t mean they can decide for you what you like, or judge you for that preference.

And likewise, we critics shouldn’t be allowed to confuse our critical consensus for an imperative of appreciation on the part of others.

Those of us ‘in the business’ should never, ever tell people what they should like when it comes to wine, nor should we condescend to pity them for their preferences, however mundane. Today’s Veuve Clicquot lover is, after all, often tomorrow’s rabid Krug fan.

Our job is to show people the amazing landscape of wine to be explored, and give them whatever help they want along their path of discovery. Where they choose to go, and what parts of the adventure they end up loving should be up to them, not us.

And if you’re someone ready to explore the world of wine, remember that while some people might know a sh*t-ton more about wine than you, that doesn’t mean they can decide for you what you like, or judge you for that preference.

Photo up top by Jean-Luc Benazet on Unsplash

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Train Ride: Santa Limited (Weekends Only)

Your 2-hour holiday excursion begins at the North Bend Depot. Board in North Bend and ride to the Railway History Campus, where Santa greets each child with a small gift. Come inside seasonally decorated Train Shed Exhibit Hall, explore exhibits, visit Santa in the restored Chapel Car, tour a Weyerhaeuser Caboose, and participate in seasonal children’s craft.

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