Vinography Images: Happy Grapes

Happy Grapes
LOMPOC, CA: Pinot Noir grapes grow plump and ripe in a Sta. Rita Hills vineyard near Lompoc, California. The Sta. Rita Hills contains approximately 3000 acres of Pinot Noir, a grape that is particularly suited for the cool maritime climate with its fog influence from the nearby Pacific Ocean.

INSTRUCTIONS:
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.

BUY THE BOOK:
This image is from a series of photographs by George Rose captured in the process of shooting his most recent work WINE COUNTRY: Santa Barbara County, a visual celebration of one of California’s most beautiful wine regions. The book can be ordered on George’s web site.

PRINTS:
Fine art prints of this image and others are available at George Rose’s web site: www.georgerose.com.

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 web site or blog without the express permission of the photographer.

The post Vinography Images: Happy Grapes appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 7/5/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a couple of wines from an organic and biodynamic producer outside of Barcelona in the Penedes region of Spain. Better known for the Spanish sparkling wine Cava, Penedes has long produced some still wines, but is seeing something of a renaissance in the use of the traditional Cava grapes to make terroir-driven, very interesting white wines. These two from Pares Balta, a family operation with dual sinter-in-law winemakers, are perfect examples of why there is more to Penedes than Cava. Made from Xarel-lo, they sing a beautiful stony song.

Closer to home, the Beacon Hill Riesling from Oregon shows that variety continues to hold promise in the region, while the Wester Reach Chardonnay from DuMOL delivers pretty, lemony goodness for those who enjoy California Chardonnay on the leaner side.

I’ve got two pink wines to share this week, and my favorite of the two was the shockingly pale Raeburn rosé from the Russian River Valley. California winemakers are rarely brave enough to make rosés this pale, but when they do, it pays off, as it does with this wine and its tangy strawberry and watermelon flavors.

Beacon Hill sent along a couple of their single vineyard Pinots this week, both of which were excellent, but even the incredibly tasty Beacon Hill Vineyard bottling didn’t match the spectacular zing of their La Sierra Vineyard Pinot, which was a crystalline wonder of red fruit that would set any Pinot Lover’s heart aflutter.

Last, but not least, I’ve got one more wine from Fattoria Valentina in Abruzzi. Named “Spelt” this entry-level Montepulciano comes with a screwcap closure and perhaps a slight surfeit of wood, but if you like your wines smoky, then this might be for you.

Tasting Notes:

2019 Pares Balta “Calcari” Xarel-lo, Penedes, Spain
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of star fruit and white flowers backed by wet pavement. In the mouth, delicious white flowers and wet chalkboard minerality take on a citrus pith and faint unripe apple quality as the wine cuts a linear path across the palate. There is some weight here, silky textured and slightly voluminous, leaving the impression of a beautiful mineral fog moving across the palate. Excellent. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.

2019 Pares Balta “Cosmic” Xarel-lo, Penedes, Spain
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of melting snow, white flowers and green apple. In the mouth, green apple and white floral flavors are welded to a deeply mineral, wet chalkboard quality that extends to a faint drying, tannic texture as the wine finishes with hints of pomelo pith and chamomile. Gorgeous. Includes 15% Sauvignon Blanc. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2019 Beacon Hill “Beacon Hill Vineyard” Riesling, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of Asian pears and citrus zest. In the mouth, ever-so-faintly-sweet flavors of Asian pear and mandarin orange have a nice snap thanks to excellent acidity. Beautifully balanced and delicious with notes of orange pith lingering in the finish. 12.9% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $26.

2018 DuMOL “Wester Reach” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of cold cream and Meyer lemon curd. In the mouth, floral notes of cold cream, lemon curd and white flowers have a wonderful silky texture and a nice acidity to them, with the oak making itself felt solely in the texture of the wine. Supple and delicious. 14.1% alcohol. 3352 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $57. click to buy.

2019 Raeburn Rosé, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
One of the palest rosés I’ve ever seen from California, this wine is almost colorless with just a whisper of pink to it. It smells of bubblegum and strawberries. In the mouth, juicy strawberry and watermelon flavors mix with a nice citrus twang. There’s not quite as much acidity as I would like, but with a good chill on it this one will be a helluva porch pounder. A blend of 66% Zinfandel, 26% Pinot Noir, 8% Grenache. 13.5% alcohol. 13,000 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2019 Balverne “Forever Wild” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale salmon pink in the glass, this wine smells of citrus peel and berries. In the mouth, citrus and unripe strawberry flavors have a bright edge to them thanks to excellent acidity. A touch of bitterness lingers in the finish with citrus and crab apple tartness. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $24. click to buy.

2018 Beacon Hill “Beacon Hill Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and wet earth. In the mouth, wonderfully earthy notes of cherry and cranberry turn zingy and sour with raspberry brightness in the finish touched by a hint of brown sugar. Excellent acidity and nice herbal notes round out a very pretty wine. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2018 Beacon Hill “La Sierra Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of beautiful fresh raspberries and some floral notes. In the mouth, lovely crystalline flavors of raspberry, sour cherry and redcurrant have a fantastic clarity and mineral backbone to them with hints of herbs and cedar backing up the stony fruit. Gorgeous acidity and texture, with faint, gauzy tannins. Outstanding. 12.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2016 Fattoria Valentina “Spelt” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzi, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and leather and a touch of woodsmoke. In the mouth, doused campfire flavors are shot through with black cherry and closed in a fist of woody tannins that somewhat dry the mouth. The wine gives the impression of having too much burnt wood influence from the barrel. Good acidity, but a bit too toasty for my taste. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 7/5/20 appeared first on Vinography: A Wine Blog.

Vinography Images: Them Thar Hills

Them Thar Hills
LOMPOC, CA: The Sta. Rita Hills are viewed from Sanford & Benedict Vineyard near Lompoc, California. Planted in 1971, Sanford & Benedict Vineyard was the first in the area that would become the Sta. Rita Hills Appellation. Now the AVA boasts more than 59 vineyards totally more than 2700 acres of predominantly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

INSTRUCTIONS:
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.

BUY THE BOOK:
This image is from a series of photographs by George Rose captured in the process of shooting his most recent work WINE COUNTRY: Santa Barbara County, a visual celebration of one of California’s most beautiful wine regions. The book can be ordered on George’s web site.

PRINTS:
Fine art prints of this image and others are available at George Rose’s web site: www.georgerose.com.

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 web site or blog without the express permission of the photographer.

The post Vinography Images: Them Thar Hills appeared first on Vinography: A Wine Blog.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 6/28/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a bunch of excellent wines, beginning with one of the better California Albariño’s I’ve tasted in some time. While this is definitely the California version of the grape (lacking the steely, nearly iodine nature it expresses in Rias Biaxas), it doesn’t leave much lacking in the pleasure department with its electric lemon brightness.

Speaking of lemon, you’ll enjoy the Meyer lemon curd of Kendrick Vineyards’ Chardonnay with its lovely texture and a price that’s pretty easy on the pocketbook.

Sticking with Kendric for the moment (Stewart Johnson’s generally Marin-focused wine label) I enjoyed all the wines I tasted this week, from the delicate Pinot Noir from the Petaluma Gap to the positively ethereal interpretation of Sangiovese from the Sierra Foothills—one of the better California Sangioveses I’ve had. The Reward Ranch it comes from may be quite aptly named.

I’ve got a couple of new releases from Dutton Goldfield, among which their Fox Den Vineyard Pinot Noir stands out as a stellar example of the form: zippy, bright, tangy, and all around mouthwateringly good. The Devil’s Gulch Pinot is no slouch either, but offers deeper, richer flavors than the Fox Den.

Before we move on from Dutton Goldfield, I should also note their Morelli Lane Zinfandel which will please most Zinfandel lovers greatly with its blackberry-licorice juiciness.

I’ve got two more reds to share this week. The first is the entry level Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Fattoria Valentina which is pretty darn good for the $15 you’ll pay to get yourself a bottle. Closer to home the Turnbull Reserve Cabernet offers a few pleasant surprises from Napa. Namely, (relatively) restrained alcohol, well integrated wood, and a price that while high for most people ($85) remains relatively humble for Napa.

Notes on all the wines follow below.

Tasting notes:

2019 Mettler Family Vineyards Albariño, Lodi, Central Valley, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon zest and honey. In the mouth, extremely zingy, bright lemon and lemonade flavors all but burst on the palate thanks to fantastic acidity. Notes of grapefruit linger in the finish. Excellent and refreshing—a lovely Californian interpretation of this variety. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2018 Kendric Vinyeards Chardonnay, Petaluma Gap, Marin, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of pomelo pith and white flowers. In the mouth, flavors of lemon curd, butterscotch and golden delicious apples have a nice snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. Silky texture and nice long lemony finish. Nicely done. 13.7% alcohol. 130 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $28.

2017 Kendric Vinyeards Pinot Noir, Petaluma Gap, Marin, California
Light ruby in the glass, almost approaching rosé color, this wine smells of raspberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth, very pretty raspberry and herb flavors mix with a touch of toasty wood that lingers with notes of mulling spices in the finish. Excellent acidity. Perhaps more wood flavor than I’d prefer, but very tasty and delicate. 13.3% alcohol. 300 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2017 Dutton Goldfield “Devil’s Gulch Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Marin County, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of rich cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, cherry and cranberry fruit is juicy with bright acidity and backed by a hint of earthy cedar and dried herbs that linger with a hint of bitterness in the finish. Excellent acidity and length. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $72. click to buy.

2017 Dutton Goldfield “Fox Den Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry jam. In the mouth, zippy cherry flavors mix with raspberry and redcurrant and an incredible citrus kick thanks to excellent acidity. Mouthwatering, with a faint hint of tannins lingering with sour cherry in the finish. Excellent. 13.5% alcohol. 650 cases produced Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2016 Kendric Vinyeards “Reward Ranch” Sangiovese, Shenandoah Valley, Sierra Foothills, California
You might think this was a rosé from its light ruby color. In the glass, this wine smells of dried cherries and raisins with a hint of leather. In the mouth, the wine has great lift and a nice combination of citrus and cherry flavors mixed with leather and cedar. Delightfully varietally correct, and quite tasty. A very light-bodied interpretation of Sangiovese at only 13.7% alcohol. 165 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2017 Fattoria Valentina “La Valentina” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzi, Italy
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of licorice and black cherry with a hint of woodsmoke. In the mouth, smoky black cherry, mint and licorice flavors have a hint of alcoholic heat as the wine finishes, with gauzy tannins gently caressing the palate. Decent acidity but could use more. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2017 Dutton Goldfield “Morelli Lane Vineyard” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright juicy blackberries. In the mouth, blackberry and blueberry fruit takes on an almost candied quality, but is saved from being confectionary thanks to excellent acidity and earthier notes of licorice and black pepper. There’s a faint heat on the finish along with a little citrus peel. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2017 Turnbull Wine Cellars “Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis. In the mouth, black cherry and cola flavors have a nice brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Fleecy, muscular tannins grasp the fruit and put on the squeeze as the wine finishes with floral and cola notes. The wood is well integrated and the wine balanced, despite its richness. At 14.2% alcohol it is also on the leaner side of Napa Cabernet generally. 1050 cases made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $85. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 6/28/20 appeared first on Vinography: A Wine Blog.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 6/21/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included some excellent values from Italy among other places. Two of them came from Gioacchino Garafoli, a dynastic producer in the Marche that’s been making wine under their last name since the late 1800s. Their Verdicchio and their Rosé of Montepulciano are both steals at $15 and under as is their red Montepulciano named Piancarda. Their slightly elevated, oak-aged Verdicchio is also worth paying attention to.

Sticking with Italy for the moment I’ve also got a couple more wines from Veneto producer Inama. Their Vigneti di Carbonare Soave Classico has a faint whisper of wood to it and is quite lemony tasty, while the difficult-to-pronounce “Bradisismo” blend of Cabernet and Carmenere is also quite tasty in its herbal, red fruit goodness.

I’ve reviewed the wines of Acumen previously, but their newest Sauvignon Blanc has just been released, and it’s worth a look for classic lemon-lime essence.

The Jordan Chardonnay is likewise dependably tasty, and a relative bargain at $35.

The real star of this week, however, is a small production rosé made by Kathleen Inman in the Russian River Valley. It’s deliciously bright, juicy, fruity, and snappy, with that gorgeously silky texture that Pinot Noir rosé can have if treated right. This is a wine picked and pressed for rosé, and its worth the slightly higher tariff you’re paying for basically single-vineyard pink Pinot Noir.

In addition to all these, I’ve got Flora Springs’ Merlot and Jordan’s Cabernet below as well, both solid examples of their form.

Tasting Notes:

2017 Inama “Vigneti di Carbonare” Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy
Light gold in color, this wine smells of ripe golden apples warmed by the sun. In the mouth, juicy pear and lemon pith flavors have a hint of butteriness to them, and a touch of butterscotch in the finish. Excellent acidity makes the mouth water and a nice wet chalkboard minerality lingers for a while. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $29. click to buy.

2019 Acumen “Mountainside” Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith and grapefruit. In the mouth, lemon and lime flavors mix with a touch of cut grass and sweet celery. Good acidity and length, with a hint of herbal bitterness in the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2019 Garafoli “Macrina” Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore DOC, Marche, Italy
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith and pears. In the mouth, zingy lemony pear and apple flavors have a nice wet chalkboard background to them. Floral notes linger in the finish. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2017 Garafoli “Podium” Verdicchio, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore DOC, Marche, Italy
Pale yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon and grapefruit pith with a hint of oak. In the mouth, flavors of lemon and grapefruit mix with a touch of buttery vanilla. Good acidity and length. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2018 Jordan Winery Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and lemon curd. In the mouth, lemon curd and grapefruit flavors have a nice brightness thanks to very good acidity. A faint hint of toastiness lingers in the finish with notes of lemon curd and grapefruit pith. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2019 Inman Family Winery “Endless Crush – OGV Estate” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale baby pink in color, this wine smells of strawberries and watermelon rind. In the mouth, juicy watermelon rind, berries and hibiscus have a fantastic bright snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. Crisp, clean and quite delicious, a tiny bit of kumquat lingers with the berries in the finish. 12% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2019 Garafoli “Komaros” Montepulciano Rosato, Marche, Italy
Pale ruby pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon rind. In the mouth, crisp and bright flavors of watermelon rind and hibiscus have a nice bounce thanks to excellent acidity. A faint sour cherry note lingers in the finish. Pretty. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $12. click to buy.

2017 Inman Family Winery Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cedar. In the mouth, cherry and cedar and raspberry mix with an earthier, forest floor quality. Faint tannins dust the edges of the mouth as the wine lingers with a touch of dried herbs. Good acidity and length. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $68. click to buy.

2016 Inama “Bradisismo” Red Blend, Veneto, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and chopped green herbs and a touch of green bell pepper. In the mouth, flavors of cherry and cola mix with green herbs and touch of dark earth. Excellent acidity and fine grained, dusty tannins. A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Carmenere. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2017 Flora Springs Merlot, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and black plum. In the mouth, plummy cherry and cassis mix with chocolate and a touch of tobacco. Good acidity and well-integrated wood leave a mocha note in the finish. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2017 Garafoli “Piancarda” Rosso Conero, Marche, Italy
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and a touch of woodsmoke and leather. In the mouth, black cherry and blackberry flavors have earthier, leathery notes but excellent acidity that gives a citrus kick to the dark fruit. Leathery tannins feel somewhat restrained around the edges of the mouth. Hints of herbs in the finish. Made with the Montepulciano grape. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2016 Jordan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and cola. In the mouth, black cherry and cola flavors are smooth and nestled into a gauzy bed of tannins. A hint of herbs lingers in the finish, with a fresh, medium-bodied feel to the wine, thanks to its restrained 13.8% alcohol. Good acidity, but not super dynamic. Even-keel and pleasant. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $58. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 6/21/20 appeared first on Vinography: A Wine Blog.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 6/7/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This past week included a bunch of new releases from Sojourn Cellars, a boutique producer in Sonoma County, mostly focused on Pinot Noir with a little bit of Chardonnay and Cabernet thrown in. Owners Craig Haserot and Erich Bradley bonded over their love of wine and tennis, and for 20 years they’ve been making small quantities of wine from some of Sonoma County’s top vineyard sites.

Two of the standout wines from Sojourn were the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Reuling Vineyard, planted with cuttings smuggled back from Burgundy in the early 2000s, and both are fantastic examples of the form. The Pinot in particular is a stunner, delicate, intense, gorgeously textured. Run don’t walk to find yourself some of that if you like California Pinot Noir.

Despite Cabernet Sauvignon being the wine that inspired Haserot and Bradley to start their project together, I don’t think I’ve ever actually had one of their Cabs, as I’ve always known Sojourn as a Pinot Noir project. The Oakville Cabernet I tasted this past week was quite pretty and very accessible for early drinking, but with the complexity that suggests it would also improve with age. I was pretty impressed.

I’ve also got a tranche of wines this week from Sonoma producer Dutton-Goldfield, including their Angel Camp Vineyard Pinot Noir which was my favorite among the group that I tasted this week.

One of the more unusual and exciting wines this week is a white Pinot Noir made by Emeritus Vineyards called “Hallberg Blanc” which is made in the blanc-de-noir method by pressing the Pinot grapes immediately and then fermenting the juice in concrete and neutral oak where it loses whatever little tinge of color it has and becomes a vibrant white wine that is as delicious as it is mysterious.

Sticking with Pinot Noir for just a little longer, I’ve got two wines from Oregon pioneer Sokol Blosser – their standard Estate cuvée and then their Orchard Block, which was far superior to my taste and a wonderful example of the finesse and delicacy that Willamette Valley Pinot Noir can have in the right hands. It’s definitely a very pretty wine.

Finally, after all that Pinot, I’ve got something darker and smokier to finish the list — a classic Amarone della Valpolicella from Famiglia Pasqua, a somewhat brash producer that’s been making wine in the Veneto since 1925 and more recently trying to be a bit more adventurous in their marketing. This wine, however is on the traditional side, made with dried Corvina grapes and quite well balanced despite its intensity.

All these and more below.

Tasting Notes:

2018 Sojourn Cellars “Reuling Vineyard” Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass this wine smells of cold cream and lemon curd. In the mouth, flavors of lemon curd, cold cream and candied grapefruit have a bright zing thanks to excellent acidity. Great persistence and length. Super yummy. The vineyard is planted with cuttings smuggled back from Montrachet in the early 2000s. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $69. click to buy.

2017 Emeritus “Hallberg Blanc” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale blonde in color, this wine smells of cherry and citrus. In the mouth, juicy bright citrusy lemon and grapefruit flavors have a fantastic zing thanks to excellent acidity. Hints of orange peel linger in the finish. Made from Pinot Noir in the blanc-de-noir style: pressed immediately off its skins and then fermented in concrete tanks and neutral barrels. Outstanding and delicious. 13.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2018 Sojourn Cellars “Rodgers Creek Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry and cranberry compote. In the mouth, wonderfully bright and juicy flavors of cherry and cranberry and pomegranate have an intense aromatic sweetness even as the wine finishes beautiful and dry, with a hint of dried herbs in the finish. Silky and gorgeous. 15% whole-cluster fermentation. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $48 . click to buy.

2018 Sojourn Cellars “Reuling Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dusty roads and bright cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, gorgeous raspberry pastille and cherry fruit have an intense brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Fantastic silkiness and an effortless soaring finish. Outstanding. This Pinot vineyard is planted with cuttings DRC and La Tache as well as the Calera clone of Pinot Noir. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $69. click to buy.

2018 Sojourn Cellars “Gap’s Crown Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cedar. In the mouth, the wine has a bright and juicy core thanks to excellent acidity, but there’s a faint hint of alcoholic heat on the wine. A touch of tannin. Cherry compote lingers in the finish. 10% whole-cluster fermentation. 14.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $69. click to buy.

2017 Sokol Blosser “Estate” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells faintly of struck match and leather along with red berries. In the mouth, flavors of red berries are tinged with a hint of leather and earth, with notes of dried herbs lingering in the finish. Decent acidity. Faint tannins. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $42. click to buy.

2017 Sokol Blosser “Orchard Block” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and hibiscus. In the mouth, delicate raspberry and floral flavors have a wonderful lacy acidity to them and notes of citrus and herbs that linger through the finish with faintly muscular tannins adding structure and grip. Very pretty and distinctive. 13.5% alcohol. 400 cases made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $72. click to buy.

2017 Dutton Goldfield “Docker Hill Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mendocino County, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cranberries. In the mouth, cherry and cedar flavors are bright with juicy acidity and linger with hints of dried herbs in a finish dusted with faint tannins. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $68. click to buy.

2017 Dutton Goldfield “Deviate” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cherry pie. In the mouth, sweet cherry flavors are shot through with oak and vanilla. Decent acidity but a bit too rich for my taste. Some will like the sweet fruit density here, however. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $72. click to buy.

2017 Dutton Goldfield “Angel Camp Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and dried flowers. In the mouth, raspberry and cherry flavors have a snappy brightness thanks to excellent acidity and a nice dusty road and dried herb underbelly that is very pretty. Faint, grippy tannins add structure to the wine and linger in the finish with a hint of citrus peel. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2017 Dutton Goldfield “Emerald Ridge Vineyard – Dutton Ranch” Pinot Noir, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry compote. In the mouth, cranberry and cherry fruit is shot through with orange peel citrus notes and comes across as zippy thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a cedary, earthy backdrop to the fruit that is pleasant and a touch dark. Faint tannins linger in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $64. click to buy.

2017 Emeritus “Pinot Hill” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry jam. In the mouth, juicy raspberry and cherry flavors have slightly softer acidity than I would like, but very pretty texture thanks to powdery tannins that drape like gauze over the core of fruit. A faint citrus note lingers in the finish. 13.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2016 Sojourn Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco and a touch of oak. In the mouth, very smooth cherry and tobacco notes mix with cola nut and very restrained tannins. Very smooth, and silky, with a mocha finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $79. click to buy.

2015 Famiglia Pasqua Amarone della Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy
Dark ruby in color with a touch of brick to it, this wine smells of cocoa powder and black cherries with a hint of smoke. In the mouth, intense black cherry, cassis and smoky herbs are gripped by fine-grained tannins even as they burst with vibrant acidity. Hints of chocolate-covered raisins linger in the finish. Made in the classic apassimento style with the (mostly Corvina) grapes dried for three months before fermentation. 15% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/24/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a couple of pretty rosés from Oregon and California. The first, from Argyle winery has a nice savory quality. The second, from relative newcomer Minus Tide Wines in Mendocino, is a really lovely rendition of Carignan in pink form that is just mouthwatering and just what you want to be drinking on a warm afternoon.

Minus Tide also offered a Pinot this week from Mendocino Ridge, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This wine wasn’t quite as pitch perfect as the rosé, but it did some some very nice qualities, chief among which was a nice forest-floor quality.

I’ve reviewed some other wines from Eden Rift recently, but this week I’m featuring their lower-end line of wines named “Valliant,” and the Pinot Noir released under this label is certainly worth seeking out, especially given its reasonable price of $26.

I’ve got a few more Williams Selyem wines to note this week, three Pinot Noirs and a Zinfandel. The Pinots, like those I reviewed last week, were in excellent form. The simple Sonoma County bottling was particularly excellent for its price point (roughly 30-40% lower than single-vineyard or other named bottling). But the star of the Selyem lineup this week was their single vineyard Terra del Promissio Pinot Noir which had incredible brightness and juiciness welded to a silky-smooth texture and wonderful floral and herbal notes tinged with new oak. With a little time, hopefully the oak will fade into the fruit a bit more, but it was pretty damn tasty right now despite a woody signature.

Lastly, I received a few Pinot Noirs from Papapietro Perry this week that seemed to be made in wildly different styles, some unbalanced and ripe with alcohols pushing towards 15% while others, like the Leras Family Vineyard bottling I’m featuring here, were a modest 13.5% and very pretty and elegant.

Tasting Notes

2017 Flambeaux Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass with a slight tinge of green, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and cold cream. In the mouth, relatively brisk lemon curd and white floral flavors have a nice complexion and excellent acidity with only the faintest trace of wood influence, mostly in texture rather than wood flavor. Pineapple lingers in the finish. A classically styled California Chardonnay. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??.

2019 Argyle Winery “Grower Series” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
A light baby pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon rind and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, juicy watermelon rind and citrus peel flavors have a nice zing to them thanks to excellent acidity. Bitter orange lingers in the finish. Mouthwatering, leaning a bit towards the savory side of pink. 12% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $19. click to buy.

2019 Minus Tide “Feliz Creek Vineyard” Rosé of Carignan, Medocino, California
A pale salmon pink in the glass, this wine smells of citrus peel and watermelon rind. In the mouth, watermelon rind, green strawberries, and citrus peel have a zippy, bouncy brightness thanks to fantastic acidity. Lean, bright, with a pink SweetTart finish that is mouthwatering. 12.9% alcohol. Score: around 9 . Cost: $ 24.

2017 Minus Tide “Mariah Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino, California
Light to medium ruby in the glass with purple highlights, this wine smells of green willow bark, forest floor, and raspberries. In the mouth, notes of red apple skin, raspberry, and dried cherry have a very nice brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. The wine has a feeling of having been well oxygenated, which makes it taste more evolved than I would expect at this young age, but all the flavors are good. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $ 42. click to buy.

2018 Eden Rift “Valliant” Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry pastilles and cherries. In the mouth, the wine offers bright cherry and cranberry notes with a hint of herbal bitterness that lasts through the finish even as the front of the mouth tingles a bit. Cranberry and cherry and cedar linger in the finish.14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $26. click to buy.

2018 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of black raspberries and chopped herbs. In the mouth, the wine is draped in sinewy tannins that tighten around a core of raspberry and fresh flowering herbs with a touch of blueberry. Distinctive and quite unusual. Brilliant acidity and very light on its feet despite “bluer” flavors. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2018 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of redcurrant and raspberries. In the mouth, bright raspberry and citrus peel flavors have incredibly vibrant acidity that makes the mouth water. Faint tannins linger through a long finish. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2018 Williams Selyem “Terra del Promissio Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries and dried flowers. In the mouth, ethereal delicate flavors of raspberries and herbs mix with a hint of cedar. Faint tannins grip the edge of the palate as satiny raspberry fruit sings a sweet song through a long finish with just a hint of citrus peel, perhaps just a bit more sweetish oak influence than I’d like, but only by a hair. Outstanding. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $90. click to buy.

2017 Papapietro Perry “Leras Family Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry compote. In the mouth, bright cherry and raspberry flavors are silky-textured and have a bright zing to them thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of herbs and wood linger in the finish. Pretty. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2018 Williams Selyem “Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and licorice and flowers. In the mouth, bright and juicy blackberry flavors are zippy with fantastic acidity and mix with blueberry and floral notes that linger with a touch of licorice root in the finish. Wonderfully balanced, betraying none of its prodigious 15.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $150. click to buy.

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Vinography Images: Intersecting Planes

Intersecting Planes
SANTA MARIA, CA: Hillside Pinot Noir vineyards along the Tepusquet Bench are seemingly on a different plane from the golden, grassy hills seen in the late afternoon light near Santa Maria, California.

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The Reincarnation of Pinot Noir: Adam Lee’s Clarice Project

If you went looking for a poster child, rags-to-riches wine success story in California, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better candidate than Siduri Wines. In the early 90’s Adam Lee and his wife Diana Novy were just a couple of wine lovers living in Texas. Diana was a farm girl who majored in Marketing. Adam was a History major from a teetotaling Southern Baptist family. Through sheer happenstance, Adam got a job at a wine retailer and rose up through the ranks, and met Diana when he became the wine buyer for Nieman Marcus, where Diana worked. By that time they had both been bitten by the wine bug. So in 1993 Adam and Diana decided that, more than anything, they wanted to make Pinot Noir. They got engaged, moved to Sonoma County, and on the typical shoestring budget of borrowed savings and credit cards, they produced their first Pinot Noir under the label Siduri, named for the Babylonian goddess of alcohol and parties.

The wines were highly acclaimed by critics from the start, turning Adam Lee into something of a superstar winemaker in the hot new category of California Pinot Noir. Siduri was one of the first wineries in California, and perhaps the first to grow to any significant size, without any vineyards to its name. Adam and Diana built a substantial (25,000 cases or more) portfolio of wines (at one point holding the distinction of making more individual bottling of Pinot Noir than any other producer in the state) solely through purchased fruit, which at their height included vineyards from the Willamette Valley down to Santa Barbara.

In 2015, Adam and Diana sold Siduri (and their other label Novy Family Wines) to Jackson Family Wines for an undisclosed, but purportedly handsome sum. Adam signed up for a three-year contract, and was happy to, as he told me at the time “focus on the fun stuff and let someone else handle all the headaches.”

Jackson Family Wines is among the world’s most experienced and sophisticated wine empires and has (to my mind) a rather remarkable track record of not screwing up the wineries they purchase. Indeed, instead of parachuting in the “folks from corporate” to “help{ they seem positively enlightened when it comes to creating situations under which their new brands, and the people who built them, can thrive.

“When we sold to Jackson, I told them, ‘I have some other projects that I’m interested in pursuing and some people who want me to consult,'” said Lee. “They told me, ‘as long as you’re devoting your time and energy to keeping Siduri on track, and as long as you’re not consulting for Gallo or Constellation, we’re fine with it.’ They know that people like doing little projects and that anything that gets my name out there is good for them.”

Lee has long been a proponent of the Santa Lucia Highlands, and has been buying fruit from Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni and their Garys’ Vineyard and Rosella’s Vineyard for more than 20 years. It was those sites and relationships that served as much of the inspiration for Lee’s new project, the Clarice Wine Company.

Garys’ Vineyard from above, courtesy of @pisonivineyards

“Each of those two vineyards have these two-acre parcels I’ve been working with for a long time,” said Lee. “The vines are older, planted in 1997 and 1999 respectively, and they usually ripen about 10 days to two weeks apart. At Siduri, I’d pick each parcel separately and make standalone wines with them.” Even within these two parcels, separate blocks of vines ripen at different rates.

Instead of picking each block separately, however, Lee was inspired by his grandmother Clarice. “She was born in 1896 and she taught me how to cook with a crockpot,” recalled Lee. “You put in the roast and the potatoes, and the carrots, the broth, the seasonings. It all comes together as one and anything you add at the end stands out like a sore thumb.”

Instead of making multiple passes through the vineyard, and instead of picking the parcels block-by-block at perfect ripeness, Lee now picks them in one fell swoop.
“Consequently when they’re ready as a whole, there’s stuff in there that is less ripe and stuff that is more ripe,” said Lee. “The blend as a whole is hopefully more interesting. And because these vines have some age, I decided I wanted to pick them earlier than I was used to picking them for Siduri. I also decided I wanted to do a lot more whole cluster. I’m hoping to offer a bit more tannin than you would ordinarily get from the Santa Lucia Highlands.”

The Reincarnation of Pinot Noir: Adam Lee’s Clarice Project
Adam Lee during a night harvest of Clarice fruit.

Lee ferments the wines in open-top fermenters with roughly 55% whole cluster usage in his 2017 vintage, and close to 80% in his 2018 release. He adds no yeast, no acid, and lets the wine go through malolactic conversion naturally.

Clarice Wine Company features three wines: the “Clarice” which is the blend of both Garys’ and Rosella’s Vineyard, and then a bottling of each vineyard separately. The single-vineyard wines get about 70% new oak, the Clarice bottling a bit less.

Sure, there’s nothing particularly revolutionary about the winemaking in these wines. They’re leaner, more whole-cluster influenced and debatably a bit more hands-off in their winemaking than Adam might have been at Siduri, but beyond that, they’re just (excellent) Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir.

The Reincarnation of Pinot Noir: Adam Lee’s Clarice Project

What makes Clarice Wine Company so interesting is the business model, which is unlike anything that anyone has ever done in the California wine industry.

“Clarice is really a whole concept,” explained Lee. “I think people don’t just want to buy wine these days, they want a community. What makes a wine stand out? It can’t just be another good Pinot. When I started Siduri, that was enough, but now, they need more.”

With the exception of a few spare cases sprinkled here and there, Clarice is generally not sold at retail or in restaurants. There is not and never will be a tasting room. There is no mailing list or wine club in the way that most California wineries would describe them. Instead, 500 people (and only, ever, 500 people) can become subscribers.

As a subscriber, you pay $960 per year — in several installments if you don’t want to pay all at once. What that $960 gets you, for as long as you’re a subscriber, is 1 case of wine each year, a mix of the 3 Clarice wines. The price includes tax and shipping, and you’ll continue to get a case of wine each year as long as you’re a subscriber.

Membership, as they say, has its benefits, too. There’s an online community where subscribers can interact with each other and directly with Adam, asking questions about everything from the wines themselves to his recommendations on estates to visit in South Africa.

“I also host parties at other people’s wineries,” said Lee, speaking to me before the current pandemic. “I also do limited offers of other people’s wines. This all goes back to the very earliest days of Siduri where we [winemakers] were all helping each other out. If I was busy, Brian Loring [of Loring Wine Company] would pour Siduri at a tasting. Now, too often it seems like we’re fighting for shelf space with each other, rather than growing the pie. Once we’re all selling out our wines, then we can fight over shelf space. Until then, we gotta hang together. That’s the key. It’s incredibly important.”

The Reincarnation of Pinot Noir: Adam Lee’s Clarice Project

Lee insists he’s not going to grow Clarice any larger. Sticking with 500 cases of production, sold to his 500 subscribers. New subscribers replace old ones that drop out, and so far, attrition is in the single digits, with a decent waiting list.

And the wines, to my taste, are certainly worth waiting for. I’ve now tasted the first two vintages, and they’re among some of my favorite Adam Lee wines that he’s ever made. They have a poise and on the balance of things, more elegance than exhuberance (a trait I always have associated with Siduri Pinots).

Do these wines demonstrate what a little calm can do? How a winemaker performs when the pressure is off entirely and he’s made enough money to be comfortable? Lee doesn’t think so.

“I don’t sleep particularly better at night,” he said. “I drive the same car. I live in the same house. I do have a level of comfortability, but the question is, how comfortable do I let myself get? Now I think I can take time to look at the bigger goals I have as a winemaker. It’s not just about one more Pinot for me, or chasing sales. At the end, Siduri was running me, not the other way around. Now, I get to move things forward.”

Tasting Notes

2017 Clarice Wine Company Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry and a hint of citrus peel. In the mouth, faintly muscular tannins wrap around a core of cranberry and raspberry fruit that is bright with juicy acidity. Wonderful dusty herbal notes ramble along beneath the bright fruit. Hints of citrus in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

The Reincarnation of Pinot Noir: Adam Lee’s Clarice Project

2018 Clarice Wine Company Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dusty roads and red fruit. In the mouth, spicy, dusty roads mix with raspberry fruit that leans more savory than the 2017 wine, perhaps thanks to increased use of whole cluster. Juicy acidity keeps the fruit bright and drives the herbal notes and bits of earth into the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2017 Clarice Wine Company “Rosella’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully bright and juicy raspberry and cherry flavors are bright and slightly herbal with faint tannins. Citrus notes in the finish. Silky and gorgeous but there’s a bit of heat. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 9.

2018 Clarice Wine Company “Rosella’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry and wonderfully bright floral notes. In the mouth, gorgeous floral notes are very refined and quite delicate with raspberry and cherry fruit. Great acidity, powdery tannins, long finish. Gorgeous. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2017 Clarice Wine Company “Garys’ Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of floral raspberry and cherry. In the mouth, bright cherry flavors are juicy and wonderfully balanced and stunning. Gorgeous, supple, wonderfully balanced between bright fruit and a touch of minerality. Long. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9.5.

2018 Clarice Wine Company “Garys’ Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and herbs. In the mouth, muscular tannins wrap around a core of raspberry, cherry and dusty road. Notes of dried herbs linger through the finish with a bit of green willow bark. Around 80% whole cluster. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

Sadly, these wines are not available for purchase by the general public. You can get on the waiting list for a subscription at the Clarice Wine Company web site.

Images of Adam Lee by Richard Green Photography, courtesy of Clarice Wine Company.

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/17/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included one of the better renditions of Albariño that I’ve had from California in recent memory. Only about 300 acres of Albariño are planted in California, making it about as common as Grenache Blanc, occupying less than a third of the acres dedicated to Gewürztraminer in the way of another comparison. This variety, which is best known in the racy, lean white wines of northwestern Spain and Portugal, in California often lacks the searing acidity found in its European forbears. I’ve always chalked that up to a combination of the Californian tendency to pick the variety far too late and the grape being planted in inappropriate places. In its arguably most famous incarnations, the wines of Rias Baixas and Vinho Verde, Albariño is grown in rocky, often sloping vineyards with alluvial or primary rock soils and is often harvested to achieve somewhere between 11% and 12% potential alcohol by volume.

Rosemary Cakebread has made her Albariño in that style (if slightly riper), sourcing grapes from Matthew Rorick’s eclectic, rocky vineyard in Calaveras County in the Sierra Foothills. She’s managed to preserve some of the raciness of the grape despite having barrel fermented it after some extended skin contact.

I’ve also got her rosé this week, which is worth a look as well, made from an unusual combination of Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chappellet is a well-known name in Napa, having made wines up on Napa’s famed Pritchard Hill for decades. In 2017 they launched a series of wines known as the Grower Collection, along with a tasting room dedicated to these “cool climate” wines in the town of Sonoma. The wines are made by the long-time Chappellet winemaker Phillip Titus and feature grapes sourced from some of Sonoma’s best growers. The wines are made in what I might consider a more conventional or mainstream California style, leaning towards the riper end of the spectrum of flavors, and featuring significant use of oak in flavor and texture. This week I’m featuring both a Chardonnay and a Pinot from their collection.

The rest of the wines this week are Pinot Noirs as well, with the latest estate Pinot from Eden Rift, which continues to rise in quality, as well as a wine from Argyle winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

I’ve got a couple more wines from Merry Edwards Winery (recently purchased by Champagne Louis Roederer), with my favorite of the two being her Olivet Lane Pinot Noir from one of the sweet spots in the Russian River Valley.

Lastly, I’ve got two wines from the original cult Pinot Noir label Williams-Selyem. They sent me their 2018 Pinot Noir lineup recently and it’s a humdinger of a selection. This week I’m featuring two of their regional wines, the Central Coast Pinot made down near Chalone, and their Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, both of which are excellent, with the Sonoma Coast bottling drinking like some of their wines that are twice the price.

Tasting Notes

2019 Gallica “Rorick Heritage Vineyard” Albariño, Calaveras, Sierra Foothills, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of steely green apple and white flowers. In the mouth, very lean and racy green apple and lime zest flavors mix with pomelo pith and a touch of honeysuckle. One of the more varietally correct Albariños from California I’ve ever tasted. Excellent. Contains a tiny bit of Muscat Blanc. 13% alcohol. Grown at 2000 feet elevation, certified organic. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2018 Chappellet “Grower Collection – El Novillero Vineyard” Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa, California
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of apples, white flowers and melted butter. In the mouth, white flowers, melted butter, popcorn and vanilla flavors have a very nice, juicy acidity and a hint of toasty wood that lingers in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5 . Cost: $49. click to buy.

2019 Gallica “Estate” Rosé, St. Helena, Napa, California
Pale peachy pink in color, this wine smells of the rind of an orange fleshed melon and a touch of redcurrant. In the mouth, brisk citrus peel and redcurrant flavors have a nice bite to them thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a SweetTart note to the citrusy finish and a touch of chalky bitterness on the palate. A blend of 76% Petite Sirah and 24% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $28.

2018 Merry Edwards “Olivet Lane” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, bright raspberry and cranberry fruit is bouncy and bright thanks to excellent acidity. Citrus and raspberry notes burst bright in the finish with mouthwatering effects. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2018 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet raspberry, and cherry fruit with a hint of potting soil behind the fruit. In the mouth, raspberry and cherry notes mix with that darker earthier tone as a touch of citrus peel lingers in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2018 Chappellet “Grower Collection – Dutton Ranch” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar and raspberry. In the mouth, cherry and cranberry fruit has a nice sweetish complexion and hints of cedar and herbs. More wood influence than I would like. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $49 . click to buy.

2018 Eden Rift “Estate” Pinot Noir, Cienega Valley, Central Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cranberry and raspberry with a hint of herbs. In the mouth, cranberry and raspberry fruit flavors are backed by a faint bitterness that lingers with a citrus peel tinge into the finish. Bitter orange and cedar and winter savory. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $52. click to buy.

2018 Argyle Winery “Grower Series” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of juicy cherry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry and raspberry fruit flavors have a slightly candied quality, but also feature a hint of herbs to back them up and keep them from being too confectionary. There’s a deeper black tea note to the wine that lingers in the finish. 14% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $27 . click to buy.

2018 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries and candied redcurrants. In the mouth, wonderfully bright raspberry and redcurrant and hibiscus notes are juicy and bouncy and wonderfully boisterous on the palate. Excellent acidity with notes of citrus peel and dried flowers in the finish above well-integrated oak. Outstanding. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $79. click to buy.

2018 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, San Benito County, Central Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cranberry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, cranberry and raspberry fruit is bright with juicy acidity and touched by the faintest gauzy tannins that linger with hints of citrus peel and dried herbs in the finish. Excellent. 13.3% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

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