Vinography Unboxed: Week of 11/13/22

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 installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This past week included a wonderfully bright and zippy and deeply stony expression of the volcanic terroir of Italy’s Soave region. The Inama Family has been making wine for 50 years and has become one of the standard-bearers for Soave and its Garganega grape. This particular wine is a single plot of pergola-trained vines grown in old fractured basalt, and is as pitch-perfect an expression of Soave as you’ll ever find. I highly recommend it.

I received two vintages of an unsual skin-fermented Pinot Gris recently, grown in the far north of California. Humbolt County is better known for its marijuana and redwoods than for its wine, but Adrian Jewell Manspeaker and his wife Lily grew up there, and feel strongly about its potential as a winegrowing region. I was fairly impressed with the 2020 vintage of their Joseph Jewell Pinot Gris, done in a strong ramato style to the point that it is a definite rosé in character. The 2021 has a bit more funk to it, which may appeal to some, but I preferred the cleaner 2020 wine.

The 2020 vintage of John and Tracey Skupny’s Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc (formerly North Coast, now just a California appellated wine) offers its usual great value for the money, with classic varietal character, restrained winemaking, and general deliciousness.

I got a decidedly Sine Qua Non vibe when I unboxed a group of samples from the brand new producer Terre Et Sang recently. In particular I was dismayed at the pretentious weight of the bottles, which clock in at 1.8 kilograms apiece. The wines I can recommend this week are almost on opposite ends of the Syrah spectrum, one from the old X block at Bien Nacido, with lots of whole cluster and low alcohol, the other a rich, ripe brawny bottle of fruit.

Lastly, I was sent a bunch of wines from Truett-Hurst winery, one of the more unusual wineries in Sonoma County. Just looking at its website, you’d think it was a small family-run estate winery, with 26 acres of vineyards focused on organic and biodynamic wine production. That’s true. On the other hand, it’s also a public corporation that has historically made several hundred thousand cases of wine every year, many of them private labeled brands for grocery stores and retailers, including Trader Joes (though this part of its business was apparently sold in 2018). It’s hard to reconcile those two realities, just as it’s hard to know exactly what is in the bottle you’re drinking, unless it bears the “Estate” designation like the Petite Sirah below, which presumably means certified organic and biodynamic production. Of the wines I sampled this week, my favorite was the Rattler Rock Zinfandel, which had more of a red fruit character and great juiciness.

Notes on all these and more below.

Tasting Notes

2020 Inama “Carbonare – Vecchie Vini” Garganega, Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apple and lime zest. In the mouth, bright and delicious lime and lemon flavors mix with green apple skin and wonderfully crackling wet stone minerality. Fantastic acidity and brightness, with a long saline finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $27. click to buy.

2020 Joseph Jewell “Ryan Vineyard – Skin Fermented” Pinot Gris, Humboldt County, California
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of citrus peel, wet earth, and plum. In the mouth, bright plum and citrus notes mix with a hint of dried flowers and herbs. There’s a light tannic grip to this wine, which along with good acidity makes for a nicely balanced and complex mouthful. 12% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2021 Joseph Jewell “Ryan Vineyard – Skin Fermented” Pinot Gris, Humboldt County, California
Pale to light ruby in the glass with distinctly chunky bits of sediment, this wine smells of red apple skin, plum and orange peel. In the mouth, dried herbs and plum skin mix with orange peel and a touch of berries. Good acidity and a hint of yogurty tang in the finish. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2020 Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of crushed hazelnuts, green herbs and cherries. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit is shot through with green herbs and a touch of cocoa powder. Excellent acidity and lightly grippy tannins. Very tasty. 14.5% alcohol. 508 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2020 Terre et Sang “Passenger” Syrah, Santa Barbara County, California
Inky opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of licorice and blackberry pie with some floral notes overtop. In the mouth, juicy and rich blackberry and black cherry flavors are shot through with black pepper and brightened by brisk acidity. Rich but not brawny, the wine is quite well balanced for its 15.7% alcohol. Contains 10% Grenache. Nasty heavy bottle weighing 1.8 kg when full. 115 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $75.

2020 Terre et Sang “X Block – Bien Nacido Vineyard” Syrah, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
A very dark, hazy garnet in the glass this wine smells of sweet blackberry fruit. In the mouth, juicy ripe and unripe blackberry fruit has a nice brisk freshness and a tangy herbal zip. Excellent acidity and a faint tannic texture over a stony underbelly, but somewhat lean and missing a little something. 85% whole cluster. 13.1% alcohol. 130 cases made. Nasty heavy bottle weighing 1.8 kg when full. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $75.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 11/13/22

2019 Truett-Hurst “Red Rooster – Old Vine” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberries, raisins, and roasted figs with hints of licorice. In the mouth, blackberries, raisins, chocolate and licorice flavors have juicy acidity but also some heat in the finish, thanks to the 15.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $49. click to buy.

2019 Truett-Hurst “Rattler Rock – Old Vine” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberries and blackberries. In the mouth, bright blackberry and strawberry flavors have a nice juiciness and crisp freshness thanks to excellent acidity. Hints of herbs and licorice enter the finish, along with some alcoholic heat. 15.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $49. click to buy.

2019 Truett-Hurst “Single Vineyard Collection – Rockpile” Petite Sirah, Rockpile, Sonoma, California
Inky opaque garnet in color, this wine smells of blueberries and blackberries. In the mouth, faintly sweet blueberry, blackberry, and black cherry fruit is lush and rich and dark. The wine coats the mouth with fine powdery tannins and teeth-staining fruit. If you like ’em big and bold, this is your wine. Very good acidity keeps things fresh in the mouth. 15.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2019 Truett-Hurst “Single Vineyard Collection – Estate” Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of struck match, blueberries, and black cherry. In the mouth, rich blueberry and black cherry fruit has a nice brisk freshness thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a muscular tannic texture to the wine that increases its grip over time. Candied blueberries and floral notes linger in the finish. Rich, dark, and powerful, for those who like such things. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 11/13/22 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 11/6/22

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 installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a few very nice, relatively inexpensive white wines I’m happy to recommend, beginning with a nice Sardinian Vermentino from Surrau, which offers a wonderful floral and citrus character.

Sticking with the floral theme, Sokol Blosser’s Estate Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley is also floral, with wonderful pear notes to complement the flowers, and most crucially, lots of acidity to keep the wine crisp and zingy.

A Pinot Blanc from the meticulously Biodynamic producer Alois Lageder rounds out the bright and crisp portion of this week’s reviews. Pinot Blanc is an underrated grape variety that can offer a lot of pleasure in the glass. Lageder’s is a pretty classical rendition.

Three Sticks Winery sent along a bunch of wines. I reviewed a few last week, and now a few more this week, including their mailing-list-only Alana Chardonnay, which did a perfectly poised balancing act between minerality and ripeness that I quite admired. The two Pinots I tasted from them this week were also excellent, both expressions of the eastern side of the sprawling Sonoma Coast AVA. There’s nothing particularly coastal about these two vineyards, but that shouldn’t detract from their ability to produce great fruit, which they have been doing for years. Both wines offer bright berry and cherry qualities, with excellent acidity.

I also received a German Pinot this week from August Kesseler, a well-known producer in the Rheingau, and it offered some bright, event boisterous fruit flavors that global warming has now made possible in the historically chilly area. At $25 it will satisfy Pinot Noir lovers looking for an inexpensive way to enjoy their favorite grape.

Lastly I received two special bottlings from Tom Gamble of Gamble Family Vineyards, one lovingly named after his dog Cairo, the other named after his family home in Napa. Both bottlings (one from the 2016 vintage and 2017) are nicely balanced between richness and restraint, offering slightly lower than average alcohols for Napa. I think I slightly preferred the Cairo, but that would really be splitting (dog) hairs.

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes

2021 Surrau “Branu” Vermentino di Gallura, Sardinia, Italy
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of orange blossom water and lemon curd. In the mouth, lightly salty flavors of orange peel, orange blossom water, and pomelo zest have a slight prickliness on the tongue and a nice crisp aspect thanks to very good acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2020 Sokol Blosser “Estate” Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of white flowers, pears, and unripe apples. In the mouth, juicy and bright lemon pith, Asian pear, daikon radish, and wet pavement minerality are bright and savory and very tasty. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2020 Alois Lageder “Versalto” Pinot Bianco, Dolomites, Italy
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and lemon pith. In the mouth, bright lemon pith and grapefruit juice have a zippy, tangy quality thanks to excellent acidity. Crisp, bright, and juicy, with a hint of sour tanginess in the finish. Demeter-certified biodynamic. 11.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $33. click to buy.

2020 Three Sticks “Alana Vineyard” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale yellow gold in the glass with green highlights, this wine smells of lemon curd and cold cream. In the mouth, lemon curd and melted butter mix with brighter apple and wet chalkboard flavors for a nice balance of rich and crisp. There’s a nice lemon zest note in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $75.

2020 Three Sticks “Durell Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
A hazy medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, cherry and cranberry flavors crackle with excellent acidity and hints of dried herbs and citrus peel linger in the finish. Barely perceptible tannins. Bright and juicy. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 11/6/22

2020 Three Sticks “Gap’s Crown Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
A slightly hazy medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and pomegranate. In the mouth, bright raspberry and pomegranate flavors are juicy thanks to excellent acidity, and there’s a nice stony undercurrent to the wine, with faint tannins and a hint of dried herbs lingering in the finish along with citrus peel brightness. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

2019 August Kesseler “The Daily August” Pinot Noir, Rheingau, Germany
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of boysenberries and raspberries. In the mouth, bright boysenberry and raspberry fruit flavors are shot through with hints of green herbs. Good acidity and brightness. There’s a hint of bitterness in the finish along with a faint tannic grip. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2017 Gamble Family Vineyards “Cairo” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, cola, and licorice. In the mouth, juicy flavors of black cherry, cola, licorice root, and wet earth have a nice freshness thanks to excellent acidity. Muscular tannins grip the edges of the mouth, as notes of oak and earth linger in the finish. Named after the owner’s dog. Spends 20 months in oak. 14.1% alcohol. 505 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2016 Gamble Family Vineyards “Family Home” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and blackcurrant. In the mouth, black cherry and blackcurrant flavors are fresh with excellent acidity and hints of dark chocolate and green herbs. Lightly muscular tannins and a touch of licorice root linger in the finish. Spends 20 months in oak. 14.2% alcohol. 698 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 11/6/22 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 9/18/22

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 installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This past week included an excellent value white from the folks at Donnafugata, who make their Anthìlia white wine primarily with the grape Catarratto, one of my favorites from Sicily, though lesser-known than its typical bedfellow Carricante. It’s crisp and salty, and juicy and wonderfully ready for a hot day on the porch, and can often be found for less than $20.

I also tasted two more of Merry Edwards’ current releases, the estate’s Russian River and Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs. I’m not sure why the Sonoma Coast bottling ended up in such a heavy, planet-unfriendly bottle, but it’s my favorite of the two bottlings, with a nice zingy acidity that makes it very easy to drink.

Two of the newest releases from the tiny producer Dogwood & Thistle made their way to my door recently as well, and the Pinot has a vibrant juiciness that is very compelling, and the Carignan, while needing a year or two to settle down, is quite tasty as well.

When it comes to weightier wines, let’s begin with the perennially tasty Smith-Madrone Cabernet, made high on the slopes of Spring Mountain by two brothers who have doggedly stuck to their vision for what Napa Cabernet should be for many years—namely restrained and ageworthy. Their 2019 is a beautiful expression of their style and of the steep hillsides they farm.

Gundlach-Bundschu has a long history (and a long history of mispronunciation). They’re actually one of California’s oldest wineries, which is why when they issued an Anniversary Cuvée recently, it had a three digit number attached to it. This “Vintage Reserve” bottling deserves a bit more cellaring before it is drunk, but it will be a worthwhile wine to watch over the long term.

Finally, the folks at Quintessa are finally ready to release their 2019 flagship wine, a Bordeaux blend with a dash of Carménère as a nod to the founder Augustin Hunneus’ Chilean heritage. Of course Carménère came to Chile from Bordeax in the first place, so it’s all a virtuous circle of celebration, so to speak. But on to the wine. It’s a showstopper of a wine, that has a lithe, effortless quality to it that is extremely riveting. Enough acidity and tannic muscle to age well, but still quite accessible in its youth. If you’re in the market for $200+ Napa Cabernet, this one delivers.

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes

2021 Donnafugata “Anthìlia” Catarrato, Sicily, Italy
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of wet chalkboard and lime zest. In the mouth, margarita and margarita salt flavors have a nice saline zing to them with lime and grapefruit lingering in the finish. Electric acidity. Quite delicious. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2020 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass with a faint haze, this wine smells of cherry and raspberries. In the mouth, powdery tannins wrap around raspberry and black raspberry flavors in a gauzy haze, while hints of citrus peel creep into the finish. Good acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Comes in a nasty heavy bottle weighing 1.62 kg when full. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $66. click to buy.

2020 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried herbs, cranberry, and cherry. In the mouth, dusty tannins wrap around a core of sour cherry and cranberry fruit which leans towards raspberry in the finish as the acidity kicks the salivary glands into overdrive. Hints of dried herbs linger in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $64. click to buy.

2021 Dogwood & Thistle Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry fruit and a hint of dried flowers. In the mouth, slightly candied raspberry flavors are juicy and bright with excellent acidity, plus they’re tinged with a hint of dried herbs and flowers that linger into the finish. Zippy, bouncy, and bright, with a nice fruit expression. A crowd pleaser of a wine. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.

2021 Dogwood & Thistle “Testa Vineyard” Carignan, Mendocino County, California
Medium purplish garnet in the glass, this wine smells of herbs, huckleberries, and boysenberries. In the mouth, powdery, muscular tannins wrap around a core of boysenberry and huckleberry fruit, shot through with green herbs. The tannins get stiffer through the finish. This will be better in a couple of years, but it’s fairly tasty now. 12.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $28. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 9/18/22

2019 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of crushed dried flowers, tobacco leaf, and black cherries. In the mouth, wonderfully intense black cherry and forest floor notes have a hint of pencil lead and more of the moist pipe tobacco scent that is so alluring. Excellent acidity and very well-integrated oak round out the package. The tannins are quite restrained, and fine-grained, like a soft suede against the top and sides of the mouth. Elegant. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2018 Gundlach-Bundschu “Vintage Reserve 160th Anniversary” Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky, opaque garnet in color, this wine smells of dusty black cherry and cassis with hints of chocolate and cola. In the mouth, lush cherry cola flavors mix with blackcurrant and licorice as a muscular fist of fine-grained tannins slowly closes around the core of fruit. Excellent acidity and length. Powerful, and in need of a few years to reach its full potential. 14.5% alcohol. Comes in a nasty heavy bottle, weighing 1.65kg when full. Score: around 9. Cost: $140. click to buy.

2019 Quintessa Proprietary Red Wine, Rutherford, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and cola. In the mouth, juicy and bright black cherry, black currant and black plum flavors snuggle down into a fleecy blanket of tannins. Excellent acidity brings some plum-skin tanginess into the finish along with a hint of licorice root. A nicely elegant wine with great freshness and acidity, remarkably light on its feet, like an Olympic athlete with zero body fat. A blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot, 2% Carménère, and 1% Petit Verdot that spends 22 months in 60% new French oak. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $230. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 9/18/22 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 9/4/22

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 installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This past week included a very pleasant white wine from Portugal’s Symington Family, who run the Quinta da Fonte Souto in the Alentejo region. This blend of Arinto and Verdelho offers flavors that might be a nice change from your usual white wine.

I’ve also got a couple more canned wines from Maker Wine to recommend, their Chardonnay from Handley Cellars and their red blend from Gilbert Cellars in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills appellation. Both are straightforward and pleasant and deliver good flavor for the price.

Quigley Family Wines is a small, estateless wine brand run by winemaker Patrick Quigley, his brother, and father. Buying fruit from a number of vineyards, the Quigleys are making small lots of wine in a restrained style, with lower ripeness, old oak, native yeasts, and low sulfur additions. They sent along their Syrah from the famed Alder Springs Vineyard (not just famous because of the name), and it’s a lovely cool-climate rendition of the grape that will appeal to those who like the wines of the northern Rhône.

Lastly, but certainly not least this week, I’ve got three more recent releases from Aperture Cellars, including what I think is the best of their 2019 Cabernets, the SJ Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemaker Jesse Katz (son of my friend and photographic collaborator Andy Katz) makes rich, powerful wines that at their best have a remarkable finesse and grace. The 2019 SJ Ranch bottling is a perfect example of this phenomenon.

The other two wines, the less expensive “Soil Specific” Cabernet, and the Del Rio single vineyard bottling are also excellent, and worth your attention if you’re in the market for these kinds of wines.

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes

2020 Quinta da Fonte Souto White Blend, Alentejo, Portugal
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of green apple, star fruit, and lemon cucumber. In the mouth, green apple, lemon cucumber, and a touch of greengage plum have a nice bright acidity and a faint mineral quality. Fresh and bright, though with a tiny bit of heat in the finish. A blend of 75% Arinto and 25% Verdelho. 60% of the blend was fermented in oak barrels, the rest in stainless steel. Post fermentation, the wine was aged in a mix of new and used oak. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $26. click to buy.

2021 Maker Wines “Handley Cellars” Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of apple and a touch of melted butter. In the mouth, lemon juice, golden apple, and pastry cream flavors have a nice filigreed acidity and just the faintest hint of tannic texture to them. Straightforward and pleasant Chardonnay for those who want to taste the grape and not any wood. 13% alcohol. Packaged in a 250ml can Score: around 8.5 . Cost: $10.

2019 Maker Wines “Gilbert Cellars” Red Blend, Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley, Washington
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, blackberry and oak. In the mouth, rich black cherry flavors mix with black plum. Very good acidity keeps the salivary glands cranking, while faint muscular tannins grip the edges of the palate. The oak appears on the finish as well, though it doesn’t hit you over the head. 14% alcohol. Packaged in a 250ml can Score: around 8.5. Cost: $12.

2019 Quigley Family Wines “Alder Springs Vineyard” Syrah, Mendocino County, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberries, iodine, and a touch of woodsmoke. In the mouth, rich blackberry and earth flavors have a savory herbal note to them as well. Powdery tannins coat the mouth and flex their muscles as the wine finishes with notes of licorice and black cherry. Savory and deep, with just a hint of salinity. 13.1% alcohol. 69 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 9/4/22

2019 Aperture Vineyards “Soil Specific” Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California
Inky, opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and cola. In the mouth, cherry and cola flavors have a bright sweetish complexion and supple, suede-like tannins. Excellent acidity keeps the mouth watering, and there’s only a faint hint of heat in the finish that betrays the 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

2019 Aperture Vineyards “Del Rio Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky, opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and blackberries. In the mouth, juicy bright cherry fruit has a fantastic weightlessness on the palate as excellent acidity and gauzy, ghostlike tannins float through the mouth. Juicy and bright with notes of cola lingering with blackberry in the finish. Exceptional. 14.7% alcohol. Comes in a nasty, heavy bottle weighing 1.8 kg when full. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.

2019 Aperture Vineyards “SJ Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry, tobacco and a hint of licorice. In the mouth, gorgeously juicy flavors of cherry and cola mix with plum and a touch of pipe tobacco. Fantastic acidity and power with very little weight. Elegant, even majestic. No trace of the 14.9% alcohol. Comes in a nasty, heavy bottle weighing 1.8 kg when full. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $150.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 9/4/22 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/14/22

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 installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This past week included a few of the new releases from Aperture Cellars in Sonoma County, the Son-Father project of winemaker Jesse Katz and his photographer dad, Andy Katz, who is a friend, and whose work I occasionally feature here on Vinography. This week I tasted their newest two white ones, one of which is a fairly breathtaking Sauvignon Blanc, which includes a tiny bit of Semillon from a new estate vineyard at Aperture. It’s barrel fermented and made with the techniques of Bordeaux Blanc, but is unmistakably California in its expression. The Chenin Blanc they sent along is pretty tasty as well.

I also tasted a number of new releases from Kendric Vineyards in Marin County’s Petaluma Gap AVA. Winemaker Stewart Johnson make small quantities of wine with great care and little ostentation, and these latest releases are great examples of that combination, with a crisp Chardonnay, a delicate Pinot Noir and a decidedly cool-climate, savory Syrah. Like many places dismissed by some for being too cool, Marin County increasingly turns out some excellent wines.

In addition to his whites, I also tasted the 2018 vintage of Jesse Katz’ Devil Proof project, which used to be just a single bottling of Malbec from Farrow Ranch in Alexander Valley, but now includes a bottling made from purchased fruit grown in the Rockpile AVA high above Lake Sonoma. Katz bought the Farrow Ranch property last year. I think that in past vintages, I have always preferred the Farrow Ranch bottling, but this year I think the edge goes to Rockpile which has some extra lift and brightness. Both are serious and muscular wines, but manage to walk that fine line between heft and elegance.

Lastly, I tasted the latest vintage of The Prisoner, the wildly successful red blend pioneered by winemaker Dave Phinney, and the core of the ever-expanding The Prisoner Wine Co. portfolio. The Prisoner has always been a rich, dark, sweeter red wine, with legions of devoted fans. It’s been a while since I tasted it, and was happy to see that its sweetness and ripe fruit are still balanced by excellent acidity, making it much more drinkable than some other copycat red blends on the market.

That’s all for this week. Notes on all these wines below.

Tasting Notes

2021 Aperture Vineyards “Soil Specific” Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California
Pale yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of cape gooseberries and lemon oil. In the mouth, exceedingly silky flavors of gooseberry and passionfruit have a bright zing to them thanks to excellent acidity. Hints of candied green apple linger in the finish. Quite tropical but with enough acid backbone to make those flavors electrifying. Outstanding. Includes 3% Semillon, and is barrel fermented in 30% new oak. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2021 Aperture Vineyards “Soil Specific” Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of pears and Asian pears with hints of citrus pith. In the mouth, pear, citrus pith, and Asian pear flavors mix with some floral notes and hints of grapefruit that linger in the finish. Bright, juicy, and with just a touch of salinity. The wine doesn’t sing out its varietal nature—despite being very tasty, it would be hard to peg this as a Chenin Blanc in a blind lineup. 12.7% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2019 Kendric Vineyards Chardonnay, Petaluma Gap, Marin, California
Pale yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of grapefruit pith and white flowers. In the mouth, bright lemon curd and grapefruit flavors mix with a hint of melted butter. I wish there was slightly more acid here, but the wine is balanced and there’s a faint tannic grip to the finish. 13.4% alcohol. 80 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $29. click to buy.

2019 Kendric Vineyards Pinot Noir, Petaluma Gap, Marin, California
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry, raspberry leaf, and red apple skin. In the mouth, bright, faintly saline flavors of raspberry, redcurrant, and sour cherry have a lovely gauzy tannic structure and pretty citrus peel acidity. Delicious and quite sensuous on the palate. 13.6% alcohol.300 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $39. click to buy.

2019 Kendric Vineyards Syrah, Petaluma Gap, Marin, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of struck match, white pepper, and blackberries. In the mouth, blackberry and white pepper flavors have a faint saline quality to them and are backed by muscular, fleecy tannins. Lovely herbal and savory bone broth notes linger in the finish along with the blackberry florals. Tasty. 13.4% alcohol.175 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/14/22

2018 Aperture Vineyards “Devil Proof – Rockpile Ridge” Malbec, Rockpile, Sonoma, California
Inky, opaque garnet in color, this wine smells of earthy blueberry and black cherry fruit with hints of dried flowers. In the mouth, vaguely minty flavors of black cherry and blueberry have a remarkable freshness to them, as fantastic acidity keeps the saliva flowing with blackberry and blueberry notes lingering with hints of florals in the finish. Powdery, gauzy tannins coat the mouth but stay out of the way, letting the fruit shine. Deep, rich, and powerful but without much weight, this wine is a prizefighter in perfect conditioning and form. There’s a hint of raisin and chocolate in the finish. I believe that this is the first vintage I have slightly preferred the Rockpile bottling to the Farrow Ranch bottling. 14.9% alcohol. Unfortunately, it comes in a nasty, ostentatiously heavy bottle weighing 1.76 kg when full. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $249. click to buy.

2018 Aperture Vineyards “Devil Proof – Farrow Ranch” Malbec, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky, opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and blueberry fruit. In the mouth, rich and dark flavors of blueberry, black cherry, and blackberry are wonderfully juicy with fantastic acidity. Gauzy tannins brush the edges of the mouth, but let the fruit take center stage on the palate. The oak is incredibly well integrated and its flavors barely register amidst the dark fruit. Despite being big, this wine is not heavy and shows only a little of its 15.1% alcohol. Quite tasty. Unfortunately, it comes in a nasty, ostentatiously heavy bottle weighing 1.76 kg when full. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $225. click to buy.  

2019 The Prisoner Wine Company “The Prisoner” Red Blend, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry pie, licorice, and smoky roasted figs. In the mouth, sweetish, rich flavors of blackberry, licorice, chocolate, grilled figs, and prunes have surprisingly bright acidity and hints of raisins and caramel linger in a port-like finish. Definitely on the sweeter side, with 8 grams per liter of residual sugar, but the substantial 15.5% alcohol doesn’t show itself that much in the wine. This is not my personal style of wine, but for those who enjoy the rich and dark side of wine, this will undoubtedly satisfy. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $33. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/14/22 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/7/21

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 past week included some delicious bottles, starting with a brand new release from the mother-and-daughter pair I call the Lorenza Ladies. Melinda Kearney and her daughter have made one of California’s most reliably delicious rosés for the last 14 years under the brand Lorenza. For the first time, they now have a white wine, a Picpoul Blanc from Lodi that is zippy and fresh and aromatic and, unsurprisingly, delicious. They sent both this new white and the latest vintage of their rosé to me recently. Both are worth seeking out for their value and flavor.

This week I was also sent two of California’s more storied white wines. The first is the Chenin Blanc that Chappellet winery has been making for ages and ages. It’s a favorite of the winery’s patriarch Molly Chappellet, whose signature the bottle now bears. For the longest time, this was one of the only (if not the only) varietal Chenin Blancs made in California. Plenty of other people have now jumped on the bandwagon of this fantastic grape variety, but this is definitely still the state’s OG Chenin Blanc.

The other OG white I tasted this past week was the Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc, which has the distinction of being the highest scoring Sauvignon Blanc in California according to some critics. That may be why the winery has decided to put it into a bottle that weighs as much as many top Napa Cabernet Sauvignons, a move I find disappointing. The wine, which features 6 months of sur lie aging with twice weekly battonage (stirring of the lees) delivers predictably rich flavors and a silky texture.

Merry Edwards Winery also sent along their Meredith Estate Pinot, and while it, too, has a far-too-heavy bottle, it delivered its usual bright, juicy rendition of ripe-but-balanced Russian River Pinot Noir. It’s pretty hard not to like this wine, which has the acid and structure to age well for decades.

Ashes & Diamonds burst onto the Napa scene in 2014 and immediately set itself apart from many other wineries in any number of ways, from its mid-century design aesthetic to the employment of not one but two top winemakers. And then there were the winery’s decidedly old-school wines, which quite deliberately harkened back to the Napa wines of the 1960s and 1970s. Ashes and Diamonds sent along their Mountain Cuvee, a Bordeaux blend from the Saffron Vineyard on Mount Veeder made by Diana Snowden Seysses. Clocking in at only 13% alcohol, this is a savory, aromatic, lithe Bordeaux-style blend that will instantly charm you.

The folks at Tenuta Arceno (aka Jackon Family Wines, who bought the property in 1994) sent along their Chianti Classico Riserva, which is brimming with the bright cherry fruit, smoky earth, and herbs that you want from a good Chianti. This one includes 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, which melds quite nicely with the Sangiovese. Aged in neutral oak, this wine has a very nice savory, umami note in the finish.

To finish up, I’ve got four wines from Booker Wines in Paso Robles. Run by winemaker Eric Jensen and his wife, the estate became certified organic with the 2021 vintage, and makes expressive, big-boned wines that you might expect from Paso Robles. Jensen sent along four of his wines, spanning price points and various vineyard sites, all of which offered richer, riper flavors, with well-integrated oak, and generally very good balance. The wines show a certain amount of restraint, with alcohol levels that are fairly low for Paso Robles. I only wish Jensen’s choice of glass reflected that same restraint. They’re far too heavy for a winery that is ostensibly interested in sustainability.

That’s all for this week. Notes on all these wines follow below.

Tasting Notes

2021 Lorenza Picpoul Blanc, Lodi, Central Valley, California
Pale straw in color, this wine smells of orange pith and grapefruit pith with a hint of white flowers. In the mouth, bright and juicy orange peel, apricot, grapefruit, and yellow herbs all but burst with fantastic acidity. Fresh, bright, aromatic, and delightful. The Lorenza ladies deliver, as always. 10.8% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $28.

2021 Chappellet “Signature” Chenin Blanc, Napa Valley, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of quince paste and lemon rind. In the mouth, baked quince, grapefruit pith, grapefruit juice, and pear flavors have a lighter acidity than I would like, and a faint bitter tannic grip in the finish, like the flavor and texture of Asian pear skin. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2020 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers, candied gooseberries, and vanilla. In the mouth, faintly sweet flavors of gooseberry and green apple have a slightly candied aspect, as notes of lime zest and grapefruit pith linger in the finish. There’s enough acidity to keep this wine from feeling flabby in the mouth, but I wish it had more zip. Definitely on the rich side. 14% alcohol. Packaged in an unusually heavy (for Sauvignon Blanc) bottle, weighing 1.6 kg when full. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2021 Lorenza “True” Rosé, California
Palest peachy pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon rind, citrus peel, and green strawberries. In the mouth, unripe strawberry, watermelon, rosehip, and floral notes have a bright zip thanks to excellent acidity. A silky texture and clean zesty finish make for a mouthwatering package. A blend of 44% Mourvèdre, 27% Carignan, 17% Cinsault, and 12% Grenache. 11.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.

2020 Merry Edwards “Meredith Estate” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and black raspberries. In the mouth, juicy and bright cherry and raspberry flavors have a faint citrus peel brightness to them. Excellent acidity and silky texture, with just a faint bitter note in the finish. Slightly on the riper side, but well-balanced and tasty. 14% alcohol. Packaged in a bottle that weighs far more than it needs to, coming in at 1.63 kg when full. Score: around 9. Cost: $88. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/7/21

2019 Ashes and Diamonds “Mountain Cuvee No. 4 – Saffron Vineyard” Red Blend, Mount Veeder, Napa, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, chopped herbs, and plum. In the mouth, the wine is light and fresh with great acidity and a nice cherry and tobacco quality with hints of dried herbs and fennel seed. Conveys an impressive smoothness. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 28% new oak for 19 months. Made by Diana Snowden Seysses. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2018 Tenuta di Arceno “Riserva” Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth, cherry, and dried herbs. In the mouth, juicy acidity buoys flavors of cherry, earth, and woodsmoke shot through with flavors of dried herbs. Hints of blood orange, meat, and fennel linger in the finish. 90% Sangiovese, with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2019 Booker Vineyard “Fracture” Syrah, Lodi, Central Valley, California
Inky opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and blackberries. In the mouth, tight, powdery tannins wrap around a core of blackberry, woodsmoke, and black plum. Notes of licorice linger in the finish. 14.6% alcohol. Comes in a particularly heavy bottle weighing 1.68 kg when full. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2019 Booker Vineyard “Harvey and Harriet” Red Blend, San Luis Obispo, Central Coast, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and licorice. In the mouth, rich brawny flavors of black cherry, blackcurrant, and licorice are wrapped in a fleecy blanket of tannins. Good acidity keeps things bright and juicy, but the fruit is dense and the tannins thicken over time. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2019 Booker Vineyard “My Favorite Neighbor” Cabernet Sauvignon, San Luis Obispo, Central Coast, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, tobacco leaf, and blackcurrant. In the mouth, blackcurrant and black cherry flavors are shot through with a touch of Nutella and licorice. Billowy, fine-grained tannins coat the mouth. 14.4% alcohol. Not “my favorite” bottle weight – clocks in at 1.66 kg when full. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2019 Booker Vineyard “Oublié” Red Blend, Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of raisins, black cherry, and blackberries. In the mouth, rich black cherry, licorice, and blackberry flavors are dusted with powdery tannins that stiffen over time. A darker earthy rumble underneath everything. Ripe, rich, dense. A blend of 34% Grenache, 31% Syrah, 27% Mourvèdre, 4% Tannat, and 4% Petite Sirah. 14.1% alcohol. Comes in an awfully heavy bottle weighing 1.68 kg when full. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/7/21 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 7/31/22

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 installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This past week included all sorts of treats, starting with the latest release from Domaine Carneros of their flagship Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs, which is one of California’s finest sparkling wines. I’m continually impressed with the richness of this wine without a single drop of it spending time in wood. It’s a delight.

Next up I’ve got a couple of Verdejos from Rueda, Spain, both of which are excellent values, with a slight preference on my part for the Protos bottling which at 12 bucks is a steal of a wine if you’re looking for something friendly and delicious.

Lang & Reed has been making Loire-inspired wines in California for a long time, and in recent years the brand has been doubling down on its commitment to Chenin Blanc. This is a perfect example of what treasures can be unearthed in California. Proprietor John Skupny found some older vines in Mendocino and boy are we lucky he did. This is a distinctive wine with great character.

There’s never a bad time to drink pink, which is why I’ve got four different Italian rosés for you, each a great value and a welcome antidote to anyone who’s been watching the price of those rosés from Provence climb in value. Why pay $100 for a bottle of refreshing citrus and berry brightness when you can pay $14? Don’t miss the “Torrerose” from Masseria li Veli, which proves why Negroamaro is one of the best grapes for making rosé.

Before we get out of rosé territory, it’s definitely worth noting the very rare pink bottling from Napa stalwart Smith-Madrone, which has only made a bottle of rosé twice before. This blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc might surprise you with its bright juicy cherry goodness.

For those who are still looking for reds to go with their grilled steaks this summer, I’ve got two options for you, a leaner, polished wine from Australia’s Wynns Coonawarra Estate, which has a real elegance to it, as well as a Cabernet from Tierra Roja in Napa which expresses some more typical Napa richness.

That’s all for this week. Notes on all these wines below.

Tasting Notes

2014 Domaine Carneros “Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs” Chardonnay, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in the glass with a hint of green and moderately fine bubbles, this wine smells of yeasty bread, lemon zest, and lemon pith. In the mouth, a soft mousse delivers wonderfully balanced flavors of lemon curd, roasted nuts, lemon oil, toasted sourdough, and a faint salinity that keeps the salivary glands gushing. Crisp and bright with excellent acidity, this is a lovely mouthful. 11.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $ . click to buy.

2020 Buil & Gine “Nosis” Verdejo, Rueda, Spain
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of Meyer lemon curd and white flowers. In the mouth, bright lemon curd, grapefruit, and peach flavors have decent acidity and a faint chalky texture to them. Bright and cheerful. 14.1% alcohol. Closed with a plastic cork. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2021 Protos Verdejo, Rueda, Spain
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of candied lemon and white flowers. In the mouth, bright lemon, citrus pith, and grapefruit flavors have a cheery, sunny disposition, with a hint of peach emerging on the finish. Very good acidity. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $12. click to buy.

2020 Lang & Reed “Talmage” Chenin Blanc, Mendocino County, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of quince paste, grapefruit pith, and vanilla. In the mouth, flavors of quince and grapefruit mix with creme anglaise and a faint nutmeg quality that is as compelling as it is surprising. Very good acidity, which I wish were slightly more aggressive, but that’s a quibble. The wine has a pretty, silky texture. 40-year-old vines grown on the Talmage Bench in Mendocino. Spends 14 months in barrel. 13.5% alcohol. 50 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2021 Fattoria La Valentina Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cherries and orange peel. In the mouth, juicy cherry and red plum flavors mix with orange zest, which lingers with a faint hint of bitterness in the finish. A note of dried fennel creeps in as well. Excellent acidity. 13% alcohol. 100% Montepulciano. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $14. click to buy.

2021 Tenuta Sant’Antonio “Scaia” Rosato, Veneto, Italy
Pale peachy pink in color, this wine smells of strawberries and citrus peel. In the mouth, silky flavors of strawberry, watermelon, and redcurrant have a wonderfully tangy bright acidity to them and a clean, aromatic finish. Very tasty. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a Vinolok glass stopper. Score: around 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2021 Garafoli “Kòmaros” Rosé Blend, Marche, Italy
Palest baby pink in color, this wine smells of strawberries and cream. In the mouth, strawberries, vanilla, and white floral notes have a silky texture and juicy brightness. A hint of citrus peel lingers in the finish. Perhaps not quite as snappy as I would like, but the flavors are hard to argue with. 100% Montepulciano. 13% alcohol. Closed with a plastic cork. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $13. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 7/31/22

2021 Masseria li Veli “Torrerose” Negroamaro Rosé, Salento, Puglia, Italy
Palest peachy pink in color, this wine smells of peaches and watermelon rind and white flowers. In the mouth, flavors of watermelon rind, peach, redcurrant, and citrus peel have a nice, crisp acidity and wonderful balance, with notes of orange zest lingering through a long finish. Excellent. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $14. click to buy.

2021 Smith-Madrone Rosé, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
A pale ruby in color with bluish highlights, this wine smells of cherries and plum skin. In the mouth, bright cherry and sour cherry flavors have a juicy tartness and a faint tannic grip, as fantastic acidity keeps the saliva flowing through a long finish. A blend of 33% Merlot and 67% Cabernet Franc that is co-fermented in stainless steel. 14.1% alcohol. 165 cases made. This is only the third time in its history that Smith-Madrone has made a rosé. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2019 Wynns Coonawarra Estate “John Riddock Limited Release” Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, chocolate, and minty pine oil. In the mouth, juicy black cherry, cassis, and black plum flavors have a wonderful elegance thanks to excellent acidity. Barely perceptible tannins hang wispy and ghost-like in the background letting the silky fruit do its thing on the palate before they stiffen slightly in the finish. Very pretty. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2019 Tierra Roja Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and sweet tobacco. In the mouth, rich, somewhat sweetish flavors of black cherry, licorice, and cassis are tinged with cocoa powder and a touch of espresso. Good acidity, but comes across as fairly ripe and sweet. Barrel fermented and then aged in new French oak for 30 months before bottling. 14.8% alcohol. 250 cases made. Comes in a somewhat heavier bottle than it needs to, weighing 1.65kg when full. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $175. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 7/31/22 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 6/19/22

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 installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This past week included a handful of wines from a winery that prefers to be known by its initials, RG|NY. RG stands for Rivero Gonzáles, a winemaking family from Mexico that in 2019 purchased a vineyard on the North Fork of Long Island in New York. Their early releases are interesting. My favorite among them was the very lean, citrusy Viognier, but both the sparkling riesling and very light-bodied Cabernet Franc had merits as well.

I also received an Argentinian Malbec recently that is grown at one of the highest-altitude vineyards in the world. The Hess Family has long been a pioneer in the region of Salta, and their Bodega Colomé brand is one of the better wine values in Argentina. Their “El Arenal” Malbec is a single-vineyard expression of a sandy site with more than 8000 feet of elevation and sings with a rich, robust, and powerful voice.

The real star—nay, scene-stealer—this week, were the latest releases from Corison Winery in Napa. I’ve been writing about Cathy Corison and her wines for years, as I’m a fan of her old-school, low alcohol, restrained interpretation of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Her wines rarely exceed 14% in alcohol, yet they never lack for perfume or flavor, and they age exquisitely.

I don’t know what to say about her 2019 vintage effort other than it blew me away. Her 2019 St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon may well be the best-tasting new release I’ve ever had from the winery. It offers an incredible aromatic landscape in the glass while delivering a spectacular level of elegance and finesse on the palate. The companion Cabernet from the Sunbasket Vineyard doesn’t quite have the finesse of her standard St. Helena bottling…. yet. It has a more youthful expression that is perhaps not fully resolved. The Cabernet Franc that she calls “Helios” from the same vineyard is more settled in its identity, and positively delicious.

These wines aren’t cheap, but they are among the best that Napa Valley has to offer, and compared to other top Napa wines that are 4 to 6 times their price, they are positively a bargain. Put a few bottles away for 10 years and prepare to have your mind blown.

Tasting Notes

2020 RG|NY Viognier, North Fork of Long Island, New York
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of apples, lemon, and apricots. In the mouth, juicy and bright flavors of Asian pear, apricot, and citrus pith have a nice tangy juiciness to them thanks to excellent acidity. It might be hard for me to peg this as Viognier if tasted blind, so lean and citrusy as it is, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t tasty. 12.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $ . click to buy.

2020 RG|NY “Scielo” Sparkling Riesling, North Fork of Long Island, New York
Light cloudy yellow-gold with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of mandarin orange pith and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, a soft mousse delivers flavors of lemon oil, citrus pith, and winter melon. Lightly tart, with good acidity. My guess is that this is an un-disgorged bottle-fermented wine. No information is available on the bottle or the website about its winemaking, however. 10% alcohol. Closed with a crown cap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $ . click to buy.

2020 RG|NY Cabernet Franc, North Fork of Long Island, New York
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and a hint of nut skin. In the mouth, faintly candied flavors of cherry, green herbs, and caramel have a nice silky texture and good acidity. This is a somewhat simpler incarnation of Cabernet Franc but not an unappealing one, especially if you think of it as a dark rosé, which it nearly resembles. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $ . click to buy.

2019 Corison Winery “Sunbasket Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackcurrant, cocoa powder, and black cherry. In the mouth, black cherry and cola flavors are surrounded by fleecy tannins as bright cassis and blackberry notes linger in the finish with a hint of citrus peel. Excellent acidity. Brimming with youthful energy and a spring in its step. Not fully knit together yet, I don’t think. Needs a little time. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $225. Not yet released.

2019 Corison Winery “Helios – Sunbasket Vineyard” Cabernet Franc, St. Helena, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of plums, cherries, and crushed hazelnuts. In the mouth, bright plummy flavors mix with cherry and cola as fantastic citrusy acidity electrifies the palate. Tight muscular tannins grip the edges of the tongue and the sides of the mouth, as the wine finishes juicy with hints of aromatic herbs. Excellent. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $100. Not yet released.

2019 Corison Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of flowers, dark ripe plums, and blackcurrants. In the mouth, gorgeously supple, velvety tannins wrap around a core of black cherry and cassis fruit that has a wonderful purity to it. Hints of graphite and dried flowers float across the palate, as bright acidity keeps the fruit juicy and the saliva flowing. Outstanding. The incarnation of elegance, and largely untouchable by most other Napa Cabernet. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $110. Not yet released.

2019 Colomé “El Arenal” Malbec, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and blackberries. In the mouth, rich blackberry and blueberry fruit is wrapped in a massive fleecy blanket of tannins. Excellent acidity keeps things juicy as rich earth and notes of citrus and cola linger in the finish. Grown at the jaw-dropping altitude of 8530 feet above sea level in extremely sandy soils, this wine comes from the El Arenal vineyard. 4.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $ . click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 6/19/22 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/22/22

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 installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This past week included some more new releases from Minus Tide, the tiny operation run by three college friends in Mendocino County. While their Chardonnay was decent I got more excited about their crunchy Carignan and their two distinctly cool-climate Syrahs, which both sported lovely white pepper spice aromatics.

In addition to those wines, this week continued last week’s theme of “neighbors” as I worked through the remaining wines from Aperture Cellars and Acorn Winery, which basically sit across the road from each other south of Healdsburg.

From Acorn, I can recommend their reliably tasty Acorn Hill field blend of many different varieties and their Heritage Zinfandel, which itself is also a field blend, though Zinfandel dominant. Both wines express admirable honesty and demonstrate the magic of co-fermented field blends in terms of creating harmonious complexity in the glass.

From Aperture, I can recommend the soil-specific Chenin Blanc which, while not singing with varietal character, is extremely tasty, along with several Cabernet Sauvignons. The first is the winery’s less expensive “Soil Specific” Cabernet, which offers bright fruit and a lovely buoyancy of character. The two single-vineyard-designated Cabernets are a bit more serious and powerful and demonstrate why people enjoy winemaker Jesse Katz’s wines so much. These two Cabernets pull off the great trick of being both powerful and elegant, juicy and rich without being too much of either. They’re outstanding expressions of what Sonoma’s Alexander Valley can deliver in terms of quality, and world-class incarnations of Cabernet Sauvignon. I just wish they came in lighter bottles, which would suggest the winery cared more about the environment than a luxury image.

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes

2020 Aperture “Soil Specific” Chenin Blanc, North Coast, California
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon peel and Asian pear. In the mouth, wonderfully bright lemon and pear, and grapefruit flavors are simultaneously ripe and racy, with an aromatic sweetness and a crackling, mouthwatering acidity. Very tasty. Made from vines planted in the 1940s. Barrel-fermented, then aged in 80% stainless, 20% neutral oak. 12.1% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $26. click to buy.

2019 Minus Tide “Manchester Ridge Vineyard” Chardonnay, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino, California
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of vanilla and grapefruit pith. In the mouth, flavors of lemon peel, butterscotch, and grapefruit juice have a nice silky texture and good brightness thanks to decent acidity. There’s a tiny hint of toasted, woody bread on the finish. 13.3% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $42. click to buy.

2019 Minus Tide “Feliz Creek Vineyard” Carignan, Mendocino County, California
Dark hazy garnet in the glass, this wine smells of boysenberry pie and ripe blueberries. In the mouth, juicy flavors of boysenberry, blueberry, and black cherry have a faint powdery tannic texture and a hint of green herbs shot through them. Made in a glou-glou style for easy drinking with-a-chill, there’s a sour cherry note on the finish. Excellent acidity. 14.1% alcohol. Closed with a synthetic cork. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.

2019 Minus Tide “Perli Vineyard” Syrah, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino, California
A hazy dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry, cassis, and white pepper. In the mouth, wonderfully spicy notes of white pepper mix with ripe and unripe blackberry, and notes of dried herbs. Faint powdery tannins gain stiffness as the wine heads to a long finish. I suspect this wine will blossom with some age. 13.6% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $39. click to buy.

2019 Minus Tide “Valenti Vineyard” Syrah, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of meaty black cherry and blackberry. In the mouth, smoked meats and dried flowers mix with blackberry and blueberry flavors that are shot through with green herbs. Decidedly savory and very aromatic with excellent acidity. On the lean side, but quite tasty. 13.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $39. click to buy.

2017 Acorn Winery “Alegría Vineyards – Acorn Hill” Red Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry, cedar, dried flowers, and a touch of earth. In the mouth, flavors of black cherry, cocoa powder, brown sugar, and dried herbs have a nice fleecy tannic texture and good acidity. Easy-drinking and delicious. Shows the magic of the field blend, in this case a cofermentation of Sangiovese, Syrah, Viognier, Canaiolo, and Mammolo. 14.3% alcohol. 192 cases made Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2018 Acorn Winery “Alegría Vineyards – Heritage Vines” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry, black cherry, and licorice. In the mouth, juicy black cherry, blackberry, Worcestershire sauce, and licorice flavors have a leathery tannic texture to them and excellent acidity that keeps the mouth watering, as the wine finishes with notes of sweet blackberry pie. There’s a touch of heat in the finish as well, but not enough to really bother. While this is labeled Zinfandel, it is really a traditional mixed-backs field blend of 78% Zinfandel. 11% Alicante Bouschet, 9% Petite Sirah, and 2% of a bunch of other varieties (Carignan, Trousseau, Sangiovese, Petit Bouschet, Negrette, Syrah, Black Muscat Cinsault, and Grenache all planted together in 1890. The grapes are all harvested together and fermented together. 14.7% alcohol. 295 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/22/22

2019 Aperture “Soil Specific” Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry and blackberry fruit. In the mouth, extremely juicy cherry and blackberry flavors mix with a hint of cocoa powder and licorice. Faint, putty-like tannins stiffen through the finish and there’s a hint of plum skin that lingers in the finish as well with its characteristic sour tang. Quite tasty. Includes 3% Merlot and 1% Malbec, all aged for 18 months in 55% new French oak. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

2018 Aperture “Oliver Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, tobacco leaf, and cocoa powder. In the mouth, rich cherry fruit is shot through with meatier, savory notes and hints of dried herbs and flowers, while wrapped in a fleecy blanket of tannins. Cocoa powder, licorice, and tobacco linger in the finish. Excellent acidity. Aged 22 months in 80% new French oak. 14.5% alcohol. Comes in a much heavier bottle than needed, weighing 1.75 kg when full. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.

2018 Aperture “Del Rio Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, cassis, and cola. In the mouth, rich black cherry and cola flavors are juicy with acidity and backed by gauzy wispy tannins that powder the inside of the mouth. Both rich and powerful but also juicy and supple, this wine walks a deliciously fine line. Aged 22 months in 100% new French oak. 14.7% alcohol. Comes in a much heavier bottle than needed, weighing 1.75 kg when full. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/22/22 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/15/22

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 installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This past week included a few new releases from Aperture Cellars, the Sonoma-focused brand started by young winemaker Jesse Katz and his photographer father, Andy Katz (whose images I’ve featured regularly here on the site). The Sauvignon Blanc they sent through was incredibly intense and expressive and bound to impress anyone who’s looking for fruit in their Sauvignon Blanc, while at the same time keeping us acid freaks happy with its zippy crispness. We’ll come back to Aperture again below as we get into the big reds.

In the meantime, let’s spend a little time in the hammock with three tasty bottles of rosé. The first two are made by the same winery, Center of Effort located in Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo County. COE, as they are sometimes known, is the reincarnation of Lawrence Vineyards, one of the first major vineyard sites to be planted in the region. The current owners, Bill and Cheryl Swanson, have basically made COE their retirement project, elevating it to new heights with a talented team, including winemaker Nathan Carlson. These two rosés are quite similar in style and expression. The estate wine, named “Effort” is slightly silkier and more refined, but the Fossil Point delivers wonderful bright, juicy crispness that will please the perennial pink drinker.

The third rosé on offer is the work of a tiny little project between three young college friends named Minus Tide. Recently begun, this little label is making some lovely, restrained wines that showcase fruit from Mendocino County. Their rosé of Carignan has a lovely sour-cherry tanginess that I really enjoyed. The trio also sent through their Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir, which was quite tasty, especially for anyone (like me) who enjoys some of Pinot Noir’s more secondary aromas that emerge with some time.

Perhaps on the opposite end of the Pinot spectrum, the latest release from EnRoute (part of the Far Niente family of brands) is all about primary, ripe fruit, bursting as it is with cherry and raspberry.

When people ask which wineries to visit near Healdsburg, I often send them to two wineries, right across the road from each other and as different as night and day.

Acorn Winery has been run for decades by husband and wife Bill and Betsy Nachbaur. They make reasonably priced, old-school field blends that have little adornment, and offer a winery and tasting room that exudes down-to-earth charm and hospitality. I tasted their Sangiovese (which is really a field blend) and their Axiom Syrah this week and can recommend both, especially the Syrah which will appeal to anyone who enjoys the more savory side of the grape.

Just across the road, lies the sleek, modern winery of Aperture Cellars, with gorgeous architecture, lighting, landscaping, and decorated with the stunning photographs of Andy Katz. In addition to the Sauvignon Blanc above, I tasted their Sonoma “Soil Specific” Red Wine this week, which is plush and juicy, as well as their pricier, allocated SJ Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon.

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes

2020 Aperture “Soil Specific” Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California
Light yellow-gold in the glass with a hint of green, this wine smells of lemon rind and cape gooseberries. In the mouth, intense passionfruit, citrus zest, and candied green apple flavors have a bright aromatic sweetness and excellent acidity. Quite intense and mouthwatering. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost : $40. click to buy.

2021 Center of Effort Rosé of Grenache, Edna Valley, Central Coast, California
Pale peachy pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon rind and unripe strawberries. In the mouth, juicy and bright watermelon and berry flavors are silky but also crisp and zingy thanks to excellent acidity. A quintessential example of a Grenache rosé. Which means: quite delicious. Made with 100% estate fruit. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2021 Fossil Point Rosé of Grenache, San Luis Obispo, Central Coast, California
Pale peachy pink in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones and watermelon rind. In the mouth, watermelon flesh and rind flavors mix with a bit of citrus peel and a hint of herbal bitterness that lingers in the finish along with citrus oil. Made by Center of Effort with fruit from friends and neighbors. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2021 Minus Tide “Feliz Creek Vineyard” Rosé of Carignan, Mendocino County, California
Light coppery pink in the glass, this wine smells of sour cherry and citrus peel. In the mouth, silky flavors of sour cherry and strawberry have a nice snappy brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Ripe cherry flavors linger in the finish. Pretty. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $26. click to buy.

2019 Minus Tide “Manchester Ridge Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mendocino Ridge, California
A faintly hazy medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of wet redwood bark, red apple skins, earth, and raspberries. In the mouth, raspberry and red apple skin flavors mix with cedar and dried flowers as gauzy tannins float wispily in the corners of the mouth. Excellent, orange peel acidity. Tastes fairly evolved, as if it got a lot of air before bottling. 13.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2019 EnRoute “Les Pommiers” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry and raspberry jam. In the mouth, sweetish raspberry and cherry flavors have a silky texture and faint cotton-ball tannins that buff the edges of the mouth. Good acidity and length, just more on the riper side than I’d like, with just a hair too much oak influence, though it is relatively well integrated. Many will appreciate the richness of fruit, however. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2018 Acorn Winery “Alegría Vineyards” Sangiovese, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth and cherry and cocoa powder. In the mouth, cherry and cocoa powder mix with the sweetness of oak. Muscular tannins have a leathery grip and the wine finishes with a hint of wood. Good acidity. A field blend of 26 different clones of Sangiovese co-fermented with Canaiolo and Mammolo. 14.1% alcohol. 240 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $42. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/15/22

2018 Acorn Winery “Alegría Vineyards – Axiom” Syrah, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Very dark garnet with purple highlights, this wine smells of wet metal, blackberry, and blueberries. In the mouth, flavors of iodine and rust mix with dark berries and deeper earth notes. Very savory and deep, with a faint note of incense. Brooding. Includes a small amount of Viognier. 14.2% alcohol. 310 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2018 Aperture “SJ Ranch Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
An inky, opaque garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and cola. In the mouth, powdery tannins hang in a haze around a core of cherry cola fruit, tightening over time. Excellent acidity kicks in midway across the palate and flavors of cocoa powder and cola linger in the finish with a hint of salty black licorice. Ripe. Aged for 22 months in 90% new French oak. 14.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost : $150.

2019 Aperture “Soil Specific” Red Blend, Sonoma County, California
Opaque dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries and black cherries. In the mouth, juicy boysenberry and black cherry flavors have a bright acidity and a very supple, velvety tannic backdrop. Fruit forward but not massively ripe, this is a lush expression of fruit, for those who are looking for such things. There’s just a tiny bit of heat in the finish. A blend of 40% Malbec, 32% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot. Aged for 18 months in 45% new French oak. 14.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost : $60. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/15/22 appeared first on Vinography.