Vinography Unboxed: Week of 12/25/22

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 (and last for 2022) installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This past week included a couple of cheerful, fresh, and greenish tangy Sauvignon Blancs from Viña Leyda, in Chile. I had a hard time deciding which one I preferred, but I think in the end, the wine from the new single-vineyard coastal project won out by a hair.

Next, I’ve got a few more wines to recommend from the new (to me) producer Newfound Wines. I reviewed a couple of their bottles last week and the ones I tasted this week were just as excellent. In particular, they’re Semillon, which is a grape that gets much less attention here in California than it should. It’s usually blended into Sauvignon Blanc (often with excellent results) but really it can, and should, stand on its own more. Don’t miss their Grenache, either.

Limited Addition Wines is also receiving a second week of coverage for their tiny-production, quirky wines from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Thanks to them I have now tasted my first domestically produced rendition of the Mencia grape, which I usually enjoy from producers in northern Spain. It was tasty, though not quite as delicious as their Gamay, Jura-inspired red blend, or their Cabernet Franc. Fans of crunchy red wines will enjoy all these wines.

On the richer red front, I’ve got a nice red blend from the heel of Italy’s boot to offer below, as well as a tasty Shiraz from Australia’s McLaren Vale.

But the star of the red wine show this past week was undeniably the latest (not quite, but just about ready to be released) flagship wine from Cathy Corison: her always spectacular Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Displaying its usual restraint and elegance, along with the near-perfect balance that came with many 2019 wines in Napa, this is a stellar, old-school expression of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, from an old vineyard in St. Helena that yields precious little fruit. As usual, it is built for the long haul, and will evolve and improve for two or three decades.

OK, notes on all these and more below.

Tasting Notes

2021 Viña Leyda “Coastal Vineyards – Garuma” Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley, Chile
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of lime zest, cut grass, and green apple skin. In the mouth, tangy green apple and lime zest flavors mix with cut grass and a hint of gooseberries. Excellent acidity. Faint salinity. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2022 Viña Leyda “Reserva” Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley, Chile
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of cut grass, lime zest, and gooseberries. In the mouth, tart green apple, gooseberries and lime pith flavors mix with lime juice and a touch of grapefruit. Bright and juicy with excellent acidity. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15

2020 Newfound Wines Semillon, Napa Valley, California
Pale gold with a hint of hazy green in the glass, this wine smells of lemon and white flowers. In the mouth, lemon pastry cream and white floral flavors have a nice zip to them thanks to excellent acidity and a nice silky texture. Hints of citrus zest linger in the finish. Subtle, but delicious. This wine will get richer with age. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2019 Newfound Wines “Scaggs Vineyard” Grenache, Mt. Veeder, Napa, California
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of candied strawberries. In the mouth, gorgeous crunchy flavors of strawberry and flowers have fantastic acidity and a surprisingly muscular grip for a wine this pale in color. Hints of redwood bark and red licorice linger in the finish. Excellent. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $53. click to buy.

2020 Newfound Wines “Gravels” Red Blend, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of boysenberry and blueberry. In the mouth, powdery muscular tannins coat the mouth, as the wine offers boisterous berry and herb notes tinged with blood orange. Tastes like some or all the wine was carbonically macerated, and the tannins make the 100% whole cluster fermentation somewhat obvious. Excellent acidity. A blend of 85% Grenache and 15% Syrah aged in 500 to 600-liter barrels. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $29. click to buy.

2021 Limited Addition Gamay, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium purple in the glass, this wine smells of blood orange and boysenberry. In the mouth, crunchy, bright boysenberry and blood orange flavors are shot through with a touch of earth and dried herbs. Herbal notes get almost minty in the finish, while light grippy tannins buff the edges of the palate. Dry-farmed grapes. 12.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2021 Limited Addition Mencia, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium purple in color, this wine smells of struck match and dried flowers. In the mouth, vaguely saline flavors of smoky meaty blackberry and cassis mix with stony pavement and crushed dried herbs. There’s a faint hint of black pepper in the finish. Dry-farmed grapes. 12.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2021 Limited Addition Red Blend, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in hue, this wine smells of forest berries, flowers, and green herbs. In the mouth, crunchy berry and herb flavors are shot through with a hint of earth and dried flowers. There’s a light salinity to this wine as well that makes it quite gulpable. A blend of 33% Trousseau, 33% Gamay, and 24% Pinot Noir, all dry-farmed. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $27. click to buy.

2021 Limited Addition “Field Blend” Cabernet Franc, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black plum, sweaty socks, and green herbs. In the mouth, very silky flavors of black plum, black cherry and a hint of green herbs are gorgeous and stony, with fine, powdery tannins that coat the mouth. Floral notes linger in the finish. Very pretty, and likely to blossom more with time. The “field blend” referenced in the name is a wide variety of different Cabernet Franc clones planted in high density together. 12.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $32. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 12/25/22

2019 Terre et Sang “The Patriarch – Larner Vineyard” Syrah, Ballard Canyon, Santa Barbara, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and sweet oak. In the mouth, blackberry and oak flavors compete for attention with the mocha sweetness of wood finally tipping the scales. Fine, powdery tannins and good acidity. Just slightly too polished for my taste. 14.9% alcohol. Comes in a bottle that is heavier than it needs to be, weighing 1.58 kg when full. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $75.

2017 Tenute Rubino “Jaddico – Rosso Risserva” Red Blend, Brindisi, Puglia, Italy
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of prunes and black cherry with an unusual hint of camphor. In the mouth, rich black cherry and blackberry flavors have a hint of sweet raisin to them, along with a lovely dark earthiness that turns to licorice in the finish. Excellent acidity and putty-like tannins. A blend of 80% Negroamaro and 20% Susumaniello. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??.

2015 Koomilya “DC Block” Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and a hint of struck match. In the mouth, lush blackberry and black pepper flavors mix with a hint of minty green herbs that expand into the finish with a touch of menthol heat. Excellent acidity and faint tannins.14% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

2019 Corison Wines “Kronos Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, St.Helena, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackcurrant, black cherry, and dried flowers. In the mouth, black cherry, cola, and cassis flavors are wrapped in wispy tannins and stony with excellent acidity. With a gorgeous texture and fantastically well-balanced, this wine is showing just a touch of its oak barrels at the moment, and needs a couple of years for the fruit to eclipse the wood. In 5 to 10 years, this wine will be stunning, but it’s pretty damn delicious right now. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $250. click to buy.

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Vinography Images: Mossy Branches

A mossy sentinel oak stands watch over a greening winter vineyard in Sonoma’s Knight’s Valley. One of the least-known sub-appellations of Sonoma County, Knight’s Valley and its volcanic soils play host to some exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon, among other things.

INSTRUCTIONS:
Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting “save link as” or “save target as.” 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 desktop.

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

PRINTS:
Fine art prints of this image and others are available on George Rose’s website.

EDITORIAL USE:
To purchase copies of George’s photos for editorial, web, or advertising use, please contact Getty Images.

Zinfandel vines hunkered down for the winter are seen through a cold morning mist in Alexander Valley. Sonoma County plays host to some exceptionally old vineyards of Zinfandel, some of which are found in Alexander Valley. These days, they are a rarity, as more and more acreage gets converted to the more lucrative Cabernet Sauvignon.

INSTRUCTIONS:
Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting “save link as” or “save target as.” 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 desktop.

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

PRINTS:
Fine art prints of this image and others are available on George Rose’s website.

EDITORIAL USE:
To purchase copies of George’s photos for editorial, web, or advertising use, please contact Getty Images.

ABOUT VINOGRAPHY IMAGES:
Vinography regularly features images by photographer George Rose 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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Thoughts on My Year of 94 Books

One Hundred.

The thought occurred to me that if I really pushed I could hit 100 books read for 2022. But so what if it’s 94? Though 100, triple digits, is a milestone number, it’s not a failure if you don’t summit. I’d be happy to climb 94% of Mount Everest (and come back alive and in good physical/mental health). Having said that, I’m going to attempt my book version of peak-bagging and set my sights on The One Hundred for 2023.

(not my library) Photo: michael kogan via Flickr

How? I think if I take the time between my cat waking me up in the morning and the time I feed him to read rather than Doomscrolling in the Dark (sung to the tune of The Boss) I can add a half-dozen or so books.

BTW, I adopted a cat in February from Seattle Area Feline Rescue. His name is Gucci. Though I also will refer to him as my little pumpkin loaf, cinnamon bun-bun, or any combination thereof: pumpkin bun/cinnamon loaf. (Also like to give a shout-out to everyone at Madison Street Animal Hospital for their great care and thoughtful answers to my extremely long, detailed-yet-rambling emails.)

Thoughts on My Year of 94 Books
My little cinnamon/pumpkin bun/loaf.

I also need to sing the praise of audiobooks. I do a lot of walking and listening. Highly recommended and a great way to make your reading goals. BTW, please do not walk and read a hardcover book or paperback. And definitely not a pop-up book.

So let’s get to the books! Here are some of my highlights/thoughts/recommendations. Not a “Best Of” list just an experiential type of homespun, facile algorithm. Like to see the whole list? It’s on Goodreads.

All book links are affiliate links to Bookshop.org. Support local, independent bookstores!

The Read the Book then Listen to the Audiobook Experience

The Idiot by Elif Batuman is one of my all-time favorite books. So I was really excited to read the sequel, Either/Or. I actually listened to the audiobook of The Idiot, read by Batuman herself, this year. She is a great reader; I really enjoy how her phrasing, tone, and pauses enrich each character and the narrative. (Sidebar: Why don’t more fiction writers read their audiobooks?)

So after devouring Either/Or, I listened to the audiobook and gained an even keener appreciation for the book. So my thought for you, dear reader, is to get a physical copy of The Idiot and/or Either/Or, then listen to the audiobook. What a fun exercise for a book nerd, no? (I also got a chance to see Batuman at Elliott Bay Book Company and her talk and Q&A was very entertaining, candid, and thought-provoking.)

Unforgettable Audiobook Performance

I loved Jenifer Lewis’ memoir The Mother of Black Hollywood. A tour de force performance, and how could you expect anything less from a Diva (yes, Capital D) like Lewis? Walking in My Joy: In These Streets delivers more of the same, highs and lows and everything in between, in her indomitable voice. Also: songs!

The Reread of a Book You Haven’t Read in Years

I read Geek Love in 2017 and it affected me deeply. Actually, it was given to me. And that always adds a certain gravitas to a book, when someone you are dating wants you to read a book. This year I took a (remote) class via The Center For Fiction called “Born Freaks: A Katherine Dunn Reading Group.” Obv we read Geek Love and I wondered how I would react to it in this more “formal” setting of a very informal Zoom discussion group. Anyway, I still really enjoyed it and I think it is the book reader’s eternal struggle to devour new books or revisit favorites. I am of the mind to judiciously reread the books that resonate the most, at least a couple a year. Also, Dunn’s new book that’s not new, Toad, is also excellent.

What did I read in 2021? Find out about the 80 books here.

Short Stories

Short stories are underrated. I have a great appreciation for those who embrace the format. Here are two collections to check out:

A Centuries-Spanning Review of Black Achievement

Illustrated Black History: Honoring the Iconic and Unseen by George McCalman is, in both prose and pictures, a book that (in my case) serves as an introduction to many remarkable Black men and women who haven’t received their due historical recognition. And using his own life and experience as a lens, McCalman provides illuminating depth and complexity to Black icons who influenced and inspired him.

Yes, I am Well-Versed in the JFK Assassination Controversy

Two books for those interested in knowing more about the topic. The title of the first, A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination, is a bit of a misnomer. It’s actually focused on the Warren Commission, which was doomed/handcuffed/a fait accompli before it even started. The book doesn’t judge, just lays out the fascinating/maddening history of the Warren Commission, how it came to be, and those who served on it.

The second, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen, focuses on Kilgallen’s extremely suspicious death just as she was ready to meet again with Jack Ruby. I’d also like to note that Kilgallen was a media pioneer and her life and work independent of JFK is book-worthy. She shouldn’t be mainly known for her tragic place in the murky malaise of those who got too close to the truth.

Like more? My favorite books of 2019. I don’t know why I didn’t do this in 2020. [shrug]

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