Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/18/20

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 I’ve got a couple of benchmark Chardonnays for you. The first is from Big Table Farm in Oregon, whose wines continue to shine as examples of purity and distinctiveness, both of which are words I’d use to describe their Yamhill-Carlton District Chardonnay. It’s positively electrifying.

I’ve also got the entry-level Chardonnay from Flowers Winery in the Western Sonoma Coast region. This wine also has a wonderful cut and zip, plus a hint of California richness.

Few people think of Piedmont, Italy as a white wine region, but there are a few traditional white wines grown in the area, one of which is Cortese, a brisk, mineral white that when farmed appropriately can make bracingly refreshing wines. The main growing area centers around the small town of Gavi, which leads some wines, to be labeled as Gavi di Gavi, while others outside of the town of Gavi are labeled simply Gavi. This week I received a few wines from Enrico Serafino, among which was his “Grifo del Quartaro” Gavi, which was a good example of this brisk style.

I also received a couple more wines from Serafino, including his Langhe Nebbiolo, which has a remarkably dark, earthy savoriness that might have led me to guess this wine was not 100% Nebbiolo, so dark and earthy as it presented. Serafino’s Barolo, on the other hand, was textbook berries and floral notes, with fantastic acidity and the smooth tight tannins that suggest this one will age for a long time. At $40, it’s a steal from a region where prices for such wines continue to climb above $70 or even $80 a bottle.

Back closer to home, Williams-Selyem sent me two of their top Pinot Noir bottlings, which are both quite expensive, but quite different in character. The Lewis MacGregor Pinot shows remarkably blue and black fruit flavors (and more than a little oak) while the Rochioli Riverblock is predictably cherry and cranberry and herbs. For those chasing the upper echelons of collectible California Pinot Noir, both may suit.

Finally, let’s get deep purple with some Zinfandel, and who better to do that with than Limerick Lane, the Zin-focused estate just outside of Healdsburg in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. I was particularly impressed with the acidity of all three of these wines I’m featuring this week, each was mouthwatering, carrying their ripe fruit easily across the palate and begging for another sip. The standard Russian River Valley Zinfandel was zippy with classic blackberry notes, while the Rocky Knoll bottling brought in cherry notes from a decent portion of Syrah in the mix. My favorite of the three was the 1910 Block, whose old vines, as they often do, managed to offer a remarkable elegance and balance, masking all traces of its alcohol level, and showing what makes Zinfandel so lovable.

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes

2018 Big Table Farm Chardonnay, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of grapefruit pith and lemon curd. In the mouth, bright and juicy meyer lemon curd mixes with white flowers and a touch of melted butter. Electric acidity makes the wine quite zingy and a silky texture carries hints of tangerine zest and toasted hazelnuts in the finish. Excellent. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2018 Flowers Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and white flowers. In the mouth, the wine offers floral brightness with lemon curd and candied grapefruit flavors. Very good acidity, and a nice hint of pineapple richness in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2019 Enrico Serafino “Grifo del Quartaro” Gavi, Piedmont, Italy
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of oyster shells, white flowers and citrus pith. In the mouth, crisp apple and white flowers have a nice wet chalkboard minerality beneath them. Hints of apple skin and citrus pith linger in the finish. Excellent acidity. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5 . Cost: $16. click to buy.

2018 Williams Selyem “Lewis MacGregor Estate Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blueberry and black cherry. In the mouth, black raspberry and cranberry flavors have a cedary, oak inflection and a sweetness from the oak that lingers in the finish. Surprisingly dark fruits here, and a bit more wood than I would like. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $130. click to buy.

2018 Williams Selyem “Rochioli Riverblock” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry fruit shot through with peeled wilow bark and herbs. In the mouth, juicy cherry and cedar and dried herb flavors are electrified with excellent acidity and linger with a hint of brown sugar or butter toffee in the finish. Rich, but not too rich. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $130. click to buy.

2018 Enrico Serafino “Picotener” Nebbiolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of potting soil, oiled leather and a touch of burnt meat and dried flowers. In the mouth, strawberry and meaty, earthy flavors have a distinctly savory dusty quality that is quite interesting. Faint tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5 . Cost: $25. click to buy.

2015 Enrico Serafino “Monclivio” Barolo, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry, dried flowers and rust. In the mouth, beautifully bright strawberry and orange peel flavors mix with dusty road, dried flowers, and crushed herbs. Faintly muscular tannins linger in the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2019 Limerick Lane Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of blueberry and blackberry. In the mouth, juicy fresh blackberry and boysenberry flavors have a hint of black pepper and licorice to them. Excellent acidity keeps the wine quite brisk and the mouth watering through a finish that shows just the faintest warmth of alcoholic heat. Quite tasty. 14.8% alcohol. 1500 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2018 Limerick Lane “1910 Block” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of boysenberry fruit and fennel seeds. In the mouth, boysenberry fruit flavors are quite juicy and shot through with hints of candied fennel seeds and a dusty earthy note that is quite compelling. Excellent acidity keeps the wine quite fresh, and I’d be hard-pressed to guess its 15.1% alcohol. Contains 2% Petite Sirah. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2018 Limerick Lane “Rocky Knoll” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and black cherry fruit. In the mouth, juicy black cherry and blackberry flavors are brisk with bright acidity and shot through with hints of licorice, blueberry, dried flowers and powdery tannins that buff the edges of the palate. Contains 12% Syrah and 3% Petite Sirah. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/18/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/11/20

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 relatively textbook incarnation of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, which affirms the adage that the genre is one of the most reliable in the world of wine. Generally, you’re gonna get something that matches your expectations and tastes pretty good, as this one from Jules Taylor does.

On the other hand, or you might say, the other hemisphere, I’d also strongly suggest you consider the J. Christopher incarnation of the same grape, which is a deliciously cut grass and green fruit expression that I’d be happy to drink any day of the week.

German rosé is a much less-well-known genre than New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s one to which we should all pay a bit more attention. This very pretty bottling from Weingut Wittmann in Germany’s Rheinhessen region is worth finding if you like racy, savory pink wines. This family has been making wines in the region for 350 years and is one of the more well-known estates in Westofen. Their wines have been biodynamically produced since 2004 (an early adopter of such practices), and are generally excellent.

Moving on to reds, I’ve got a bunch of Pinots worth paying attention to this week. Let’s start with two really lovely single-vineyard wines from Anderson Valley by cult Pinot Producer Rhys Vineyards. Both are excellent and worth seeking out.

I’ve also got a few Oregon Pinots as well, two from Big Table Farm, the small biodynamic producer in Gaston, and two from J. Christopher Cellars, which is the joint venture between winemaker Jay Somers and Mosel vintner Ernie Loosen, of Dr. Loosen fame. All four are worth pursuing.

Lastly, let’s head back to the Southern Hemisphere for a little Shiraz. The first from the venerable Barossa house of Yalumba, who sent through their “Samuels Collection” Shiraz. Yalumba has been making wines in the Barossa since 1849, and their wines show the confidence of experience, including this moderately priced effort.

It was intriguing to taste what a master of Syrah does with Shiraz, but that’s exactly what we’ve got in the Tournon Shiraz from Michel Chapoutier. And it offers wonderfully juicy, bright blackberry purity that seems fresher and less jammy than some interpretations of the grape from Down Under.

Tasting Notes

2018 Fritz Haag “Brauneberger Trocken” Riesling, Mosel, Germany
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of tangerine oil and Asian pear. In the mouth, lovely, silky flavors of Asian pear and mandarin oranges have a wonderful wet chalkboard quality and a beautiful crispness. Bone dry without a trace of sweetness, nonetheless, there’s an aromatic honeysuckle quality to the finish. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.

2019 Jules Taylor Wines Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of gooseberries and cut grass. In the mouth, bright green apple and gooseberry flavors have a clean brightness thanks to decent acidity. Straightforward, but pleasurable. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2018 J. Christopher “Über Sauvignon – Croft Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Palest greenish-gold in color, almost colorless in the glass, this wine smells of cut green grass and green apple. In the mouth, cut grass, kiwi, and green apple flavors have a juicy brightness with savory herbal notes and a wonderful salinity. Uber, indeed. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $29. click to buy.

2018 Wittmann Rosé of Pinot Noir, Rheinhessen, Germany
Palest baby pink in color, this wine smells of strawberries and hibiscus. In the mouth, bright hibiscus and strawberry flavors have a wonderful citrus snap and silky texture that is quite alluring. Deliciously balanced with excellent acidity and the faintest bit of aromatic sweetness that pairs with a faint herbal bitterness in the finish. Includes some Sankt Laurent fruit as well. 11.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $16.

2018 Rhys Vineyards “Bearwallow Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of earth and candied redcurrant. In the mouth, raspberry and redcurrant flavors are fantastically juicy with hints of dried flowers and cedar. Phenomenal acidity keeps the wine bright and zippy, as notes of candied orange peel linger in the finish. Layered and delicate with barely perceptible tannins. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2018 Rhys Vineyards “Porcupine Hill” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry fruit and a touch of orange peel. In the mouth, raspberry, orange peel, and redcurrant flavors mix with dried herbs and a touch of earth. Excellent acidity, silky texture, and the faintest of powdery tannins. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $90. click to buy.

2018 Big Table Farm Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry, cranberry and forest floor. In the mouth, beautifully savory notes of dried herbs and pine duff mix with raspberry and cranberry notes under a gauzy blanket of tannins. Good acidity, but I would love a little more edge to this wine. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2018 Big Table Farm “Cattrall Brothers Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of green herbs, including a touch of marijuana, redcurrant and raspberry. In the mouth, redcurrant and rhubarb flavors mix with dried and fresh herbs that take on a deeper, earthier note as they head to the finish. There’s a touch of citrus peel that creeps into the finish as well. Lovely acidity and faint, powdery tannins that show a little muscle over time. 12.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2016 J. Christopher “Volcaniqe” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth and sweet cherry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit is shot through with dried herbs and a hint of raspberry jam that lingers in the finish with a touch of citrus peel acidity. Nice juiciness, with herbal notes that gain strength over time. Faint, gauzy tannins.13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2016 J. Christopher “Sandra Adele” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth, silky flavors of raspberry and dried herbs have a beautiful aromatic sweetness to them. Notes of dried flowers linger in the finish. Faint tannins and good acidity. Named for Jay Somers’ mother. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2017 Yalumba “Samuels Collection” Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and black cherry shot through with pink peppercorns. In the mouth, blackberry and black pepper notes mix with licorice and a touch of lavender. Good acidity and fine, powdery tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2016 Tournon “Mathilda” Shiraz, Victoria, Australia
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet blackberry and dried herbs. In the mouth, juicy blackberry pastille flavors mix with a touch of citrus peel brightness and a hint of cedary wood. Excellent acidity and very faint tannins make this a particularly easy-drinking approach to Shiraz. Made by legendary Rhône producer Michel Chapoutier. 14.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/11/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/4/20

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 lovely white wines starting with an absolutely pitch perfect dry Riesling from Pewsey Vale in Australia’s Eden Valley. This Riesling is grown in a vineyard that was first planted to Riesling in 1847, the earliest such planting of the variety in the country. The estate now specializes in single-site Rieslings, and does a bang-up job of it. At $15, this Eden Valley bottling is a complete steal.

I’ve got a couple of wines from the little Oregon producer Big Table Farm this week, the first of which is their skin-macerated Pinot Gris which, like many orange wines, offers beautifully seasonal Autumn-like flavors with a lovely tannic grip to them that makes this a fantastic wine to drink with a meal.

This week also included Big Table’s Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay, which offers beautifully herbal and citrus qualities that will charm most drinkers.

In the Chardonnay category I’ve got a few more, including the bottling from Lange Estate Vineyards and Winery, which has a nice resinous note, and two Anderson Valley Chardonnays from cult producer Rhys Vineyards. The first is their regional bottling they call “Alesia” which is a blend of grapes from their various vineyards, which is quite nice. Rhys, of course, is best known for its single-vineyard bottling, like the Bearwallow Chardonnay, which has an elegant delicacy to it and intense lemon and floral qualities.

Lastly, before we move on to rosier things, I’ve got a Viognier from Yalumba, which has a wonderful orange-peel quality that is somewhat rare in the usually-peachy world of Viognier.

Many people are waking up to understand that Germany can produce excellent Pinot Noir, and that means that they can also produce excellent Pinot Noir rosé, as this entry-level bottling from Wittmann shows. It’s crisp and bright and perfect for any situation in which you’d want a rosé, which is to say, nearly everything.

Finally, let’s look at some Pinot Noir before we go this week, the first of which is the Sunnyside Pinot from Big Table Farm. This small biodynamic family farm has been producing some truly excellent wines from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and this most recent bottling of their Sunnyside Pinot is a perfect example of what makes them special: gorgeous, soaring aromatics, savory nuance, finesse, and balance. If you’re not familiar with the wines, they’re well worth seeking out.

I’ve also got the Pinot counterpart to Rhys’ Alesia Chardonnay above, which is just as worthy a bottling, plus Lange’s “Three Hills” blend of Pinot Noir from various sites around the Willamette Valley, which is also tasty.

Enjoy.

Tasting Notes

2018 Pewsey Vale Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of green apple, wet chalkboard and a tiny hint of diesel. In the mouth, brilliant tangerine zest and lemon juice flavors shimmer crystalline on the palate. Bone dry and effortless. Quite delicious. This vineyard was first planted to Riesling in 1847. 12% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.

3375375

2019 Big Table Farm Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon
A beautifully coppery orange in the glass, this wine smells of wet autumn leaves and earth. In the mouth, wet leaves, dried citrus peel and pear flavors have a nice tannic backbone thanks to the time on the skins. 13% alcohol. 133 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $32. click to buy.

2018 Rhys Vineyards “Alesia” Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith and a touch of meyer lemon blossom. In the mouth, lemon juice, lemon pith and pink grapefruit flavors have a brisk zippiness thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of citrus pith linger in the finish. Mouthwatering. 12.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45.

2018 Rhys Vineyards “Bearwallow Vineyard” Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of bee pollen, lemon pith, and grapefruit pith. In the mouth, meyer lemon curd and pink grapefruit flavors are silky and suffused with notes of white flowers. Delicate acidity. Named after the shale soil series in the vineyard: Wolfey-Bearwallow). 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $90. click to buy.

2018 Big Table Farm Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and a hint of pineapple. In the mouth chamomile, lemon curd and grapefruit pith have a zingy, mouthwatering brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Wonderful herbal notes linger through the finish which has a slightly saline character. Lovely. 14.1% alcohol. 90 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2017 Lange Winery Chardonnay, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, pink grapefruit and a hint of pine resin. In the mouth, tangy lemon and grapefruit flavors have a hint of resinous salinity to them. Notes of bitter lemon and pomelo pith linger in the finish. Excellent acidity and a nice wet pavement minerality. 13.4% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2018 Yalumba “The Y Series” Viognier, South Australia
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of peaches and apricots with a hint of orange peel. In the mouth, apricot and orange peel flavors have a nice briskness thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a faint citrus peel bitterness in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2018 Wittmann “100 Hills” Rose of Pinot Noir, Rheinhessen, Germany
Pale baby pink in color, this wine smells of rosehips and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, crababpple and rosehip flavors have a tart dryness with notes of citrus pith. Bright and juicy thanks to excellent acidity with a chalky minerality lingering in the finish. 11.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??

2018 Big Table Farm “Sunnyside Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of the forest floor. In the mouth, wonderful cherry and cranberry notes mix with forest floor and citrusy dried herbs. Silky texture and great length. Faint, supple, powdery tannins. The aromatics on this wine are quite astonishing revealing layers of herbs and dried flowers. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2018 Rhys Vineyards “Alesia” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of redwood bark, cherry and cranberry. In the mouth, bright cranberry and raspberry flavors have a faintly candied note to them, but are enlivened with excellent acidity and shot through with a faint dried herbal note. Fresh and juicy. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2017 Lange Winery “Three Hills Cuvee” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry with a hint of green herbs. In the mouth, bright cherry and cranberry flavors are shot through with chopped herbs and a touch of cedar. Pretty, with faint tannins and excellent acidity. 14.2% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/4/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 9/20/20

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 recent vintage of what I regularly describe as the best Riesling made in Napa (not that it has a lot of competition). Smith-Madrone has been making Riesling on the slopes of Napa’s Spring Mountain for a long time, and the wines are predictably tasty. The 2016 vintage is showing extremely well at this point, and I think it is my favorite in recent memory.

I’ve also got a couple of whites from New Zealand to share this week, including a small-production from Jules Taylor wines, which is a lush Sauvignon Blanc that doesn’t fall into the trap of tasting like the “standard” Kiwi Sav Blanc, but instead forges its own path of deliciousness. Her Pinot Noir is also worth paying attention to.

From slightly farther south, I’ve got the Golden Egg Chardonnay from Tony Bish. As opposed to last week, which was a bottling from a special barrel, this week there’s a bottling from, you guessed it, a special egg. Supposedly the first concrete egg made in New Zealand. I didn’t miss the oak, and neither will you.

While we’re in New Zealand, and in Hawke’s Bay, let’s not leave off without mentioning this really pretty (and first I’ve tasted of the variety from Hawkes Bay, at least that I can recall) Gamay from Easthope Family Wines. It’s delicious and intriguing and makes me want to taste other examples from the region.

And now for something completely different. Let’s go way up into the northern part of Italy’s Piedmont region to the little hill town of Castagnole Monferrato for one of Piedmont’s best-kept secrets: the grape known as Ruchè. Thought to be indigenous to this town and the surrounding communities, it is only grown in dribs and drabs, having been replaced by the much more popular Nebbiolo and Barbera. It’s an incredibly floral, juicy wine that smells like few other grapes, and is bound to turn heads. Given its relative obscurity, if you can find it, you’ll also find it affordable.

Luca Ferraris is the largest producer of Ruchè in the region, and makes several bottling of which I have notes on two this week. The first is their “Clasic” which is fermented in steel and then aged in large oak casks for six to nine months before bottling. It is released young and fruity.

The second bottling is their Vigna Del Parroco, or “Parson’s Vineyard” Ruchè, which comes from a parish vineyard tended by Don Giacomo Cauda, the man given significant credit for keeping Ruchè alive as a tradition. This bottling is a more serious, more savory rendition of the grape, and ages for longer in oak casks before release.

Back closer to home, I’ve got a nice current-release Syrah from the Alder Springs Vineyard up in Northern Mendocino, and three of Nickel & Nickel’s single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa. My favorite of the three was the State Ranch, but all three are worthy, and feature that wonderful acid balance and supple tannin that I think of as a hallmark of Napa’s 2018 vintage.

Tasting Notes

2016 Smith-Madrone Riesling, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Light blonde in color, this wine smells of citrus oil and Asian pear juice. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy tangerine, Asian pear, and lemon pith flavors have a gorgeous honeysuckle edge to them that makes for a perfect balance to the zippy acidity in the wine. Excellent, as usual, but perhaps even better than recent vintages. 12.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2018 Jules Taylor Wines “OTQ – On the Quiet – Meadowbank Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of golden apples and a touch of passionfruit. In the mouth, apple and star fruit flavors turn citrusy and bright as the wine finishes. Crisp and juicy, with a nice silky texture. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $21. click to buy.

2017 Tony Bish “Golden Egg” Chardonnay, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Light greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd with a hint of yellow flowers. In the mouth, bright and juicy lemon curd flavors mix with a touch of honeysuckle. Excellent acidity keeps the mouth-watering, and I’m not missing the oak in the slightest. Fermented and aged in a concrete egg which the winery says is the first to have been made locally in New Zealand. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2017 Easthope Family Winegrowers Gamay, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of potting soil and chopped green herbs with a few red berries mashed up alongside. In the mouth, raspberry and strawberry flavors are shot through with thyme and other dried herbs along with a touch of peeled willow bark. Excellent acidity, and nicely savory. 100% whole cluster fermentation, and aged in neutral oak for 9 months before bottling. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $39. click to buy.

2018 Jules Taylor Wines Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand
Medium ruby in color, this wine smells of raspberry and pomegranate fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry, cranberry and raspberry fruit is juicy with excellent acidity. Hints of citrus peel enter the finish along with the faint rasp of tannins. Juicy and uncomplicated, with just a touch of herbaceousness. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2019 Luca Ferraris “Clàsic” Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry jam and sage and a hint of exotic camphor wood. In the mouth, juicy and bright strawberry and cedar and herbal notes have a zingy quality thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of flowers linger in the finish with ghostly wisps of tannin. I’d be hard pressed to guess this wine was 15% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $15.

2018 Luca Ferraris “Vigna del Parroco” Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry jam, dried cherries, and dried flowers. In the mouth, notes of licorice root, strawberry jam, and dried sage have a wonderful brightness and citrusy notes that linger in the finish with the barest hint of gauzy tannins. There’s some heat on the finish as well, but wonderfully savory notes. 15% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2018 Nickel & Nickel “State Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville, Napa, California
Very dark purple in color, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry. In the mouth, excellent acidity keeps flavors of cassis, black cherry, and blackberry extremely fresh and bright. Tightly wound tannins are fine-grained and built for the long hall. Excellent, with well-integrated oak that leaves only a hint of mocha on the finish. Supple, faint tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $125. click to buy.

2018 Nickel & Nickel “Martin Stelling Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Inky purple in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and earth with lovely floral high notes. In the mouth, black cherry and cassis flavor have a dark savory licorice-root character, but are kept fresh thanks to excellent acidity. Very fine-grained tannins show remarkable restraint. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $185. click to buy.

2018 Nickel & Nickel “C.C. Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa, California
Very dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries and black cherry. In the mouth, dark licorice, earth, and black cherry flavors have a brooding savory note to them as faint tannins grab at the edges of the mouth. Excellent acidity keeps it fresh, but a tiny bit of alcoholic heat creeps into the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $125. click to buy.

2016 Alder Springs Vineyard Syrah, Mendocino County, California
Medium to dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries and blackberries. In the mouth, rich blueberry and blackberry fruit join cassis and a touch of licorice as hints of dried herbs and wet chalkboard, along with excellent acidity, keep the wine fresh. Faint tannins. Grown at 2600 feet on a relatively steep vineyard site. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $44. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 9/20/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 9/13/20

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 number of interesting wines. For starters I’ve got a slightly aged white Rhone blend from Alder Springs Vineyard up in the mountains above Mendocino. It was probably delicious to start, but with 5 years of age on it now it’s fantastically delicious, as its primary fruit flavors are starting to become mixed with herbal notes.

I’ve also got a very nice Chardonnay from the Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand, whose gravelly soils and maritime influence make for some excellent cool-climate viticulture. This Chardonnay is named Heartwood as it represents a very small batch of wine made in special barrels, whose staves are made of the heartwood of the oak. Ordinarily you’d expect such a wine to be slaked with oak flavors, but this one is nicely restrained in the flavors imparted by the wood.

Moving on to reds, I’ve got a few Oregon Pinot Noirs, the first of which is a real lip-smacker of a wine from J. Christopher, a brand that is a collaboration between Erni Loosen and guitarist-turned-winemaker Jay Somers. This wine is a special cuvee of the best barrels from several of the vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills sub-AVA of the Willamette Valley.

I was introduced to the Holocene project this week by two incarnations of Pinot Noir, as interpreted by winemaker Todd Alexander, who made a name for himself in Napa before moving to Washington State. He currently makes wines for his Force Majeure label in Washington, but Holocene represents his Oregon Pinot Noir efforts, and these two inagural bottles suggest good things to come. As a winemaker, Alexander is best known for big, rich, ripe wines, so it’s particularly exciting to see these wines using 20% new oak and clocking in at the low end of 13% alcohol.

Finally, closer to home we’ve got another inaugural vintage from the new winery La Pelle (French for “The Shovel”). It’s a collaboration between Philippe Melka’s business partner and director of winemaking Maayan Koschitzky, and the duo of Peter Richmond and Miguel Luna, who help run the vineyard management outfit named Silverado Farming Company. The wines show a lot of promise while hewing to a fairly traditional expression of Napa Cabernet, though with admirably restrained oak and ripeness.

Lastly, let’s look at the latest release from Far Niente in Napa, whose 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon is very true to its classic form, meaning it will satisfy those looking for a ripe expression of Napa fruit, although it must be said this vintage offers a measure of freshness that is not always present in Napa Cabernet.

Tasting Notes

2015 Alder Springs Vineyard “Apex 39” White Blend, Mendocino County, California
Light gold in color, this wine smells of chamomile and poached pears. In the mouth, wonderfully creamy pear and faint lemongrass flavors mix with lemon curd and a hint of chamomile. Silky and rich but with excellent acidity, this wine lingers for a while with a lovely spicy citrus kick in the finish. A blend of 27% Marsanne, 25% Picpoul Blanc, 24% Roussanne, and 24% Viognier all grown at 2700 feet of elevation. 13.4% alcohol. 240 cases made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $??

2017 Tony Bish “Heartwood” Chardonnay, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and melted butter. In the mouth, silky flavors of lemon curd and vanilla mix with melted butter and a touch of toasted popcorn. Decent acidity and length. Missing a bit of zip. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $31. click to buy.

2016 J. Christopher “Lumiére – Special Selection” Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of green herbs and forest floor. In the mouth beautifully bright raspberry pastille flavors are aromatically sweet and incredibly floral while notes of cedar and earth swirl underneath. Gorgeous acidity and faint powdery tannins round out an exceptional wine. 13.5% alcohol Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $32. click to buy.

2018 Holocene “Memorialis” Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of recurrants and raspberries with a hint of dried herbs. In the mouth, raspberry and redcurrant flavors have a zingy citrusy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of sour cherry linger in the finish. Barely perceptible tannins. 13.3% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $53. click to buy.

2018 Holocene “Apocrypha” Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, cedar and cherry and cranberry mix with orange peel as excellent acidity makes for a juicy mouthwatering package. Faint powdery tannins hang at the edges of perception as the wine finishes with cranberry notes. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??.

2018 La Pelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Inky opaque garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis with a hint of green herbs. In the mouth, cassis and black cherry fruit have excellent juiciness thanks to zingy acidity. Notes of black pepper and blackberry linger with a faint bitterness in the finish as powdery tannins gradually increase their grip on the palate. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2017 La Pelle “Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis with hints of dried herbs. In the mouth, dried herbs suffuse flavors of black cherry and cassis that are enlivened with decent acidity. Muscular tannins mostly hang back and let the fruit do the talking, only flexing a bit in the finish as hints of bitter greens linger on the palate. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $175. click to buy.

2018 Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry. In the mouth, black cherry and cassis flavors mix with cocoa powder and toasty oak. Good acidity keeps the wine juicy and drives notes of herbs and cassis in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $115. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 9/13/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/30/20

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 really lovely wines, including an especially fantastic Riesling. Dr. Ernie Loosen is well known to Riesling lovers as one of the top producers in Germany’s Mosel River valley. He produces a dizzying array of Riesling wines, a few of which carry the designation Grosses Gewächs, a class of wine invented by an organization of the top German wine producers. GG’s as they are known, must be dry Rieslings, and must come from Grand Cru or Grosse Lage designated vineyard. This one is from the Erdener Treppchen vineyard, just outside the village of Erden. Treppchen means “little staircase” and refers to the fact that this vineyard is so steep that growers build stone staircases to help them scramble up its slate slopes. This bottle is regal Riesling, plain and simple.

I’ve also got a couple of wines from Notre Vue estate this week, a rather large estate in the Russian River Valley. Their Chardonnay Musque is a clone of Chardonnay that has Muscat-like qualities of melon and green apple that might intrigue anyone who has not tried this particular flavor of Chardonnay. Their rosé, made from a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre is more of a classic style and comes packaged in an unusual bottle.

Smith-Madrone has long been a favorite producer of mine up on Napa’s Spring Mountain. Their Chardonnay leans towards the richer side of the grape, but there’s plenty of acid and salinity in the wine to make it enjoyable. They also sent along their 2016 Cabernet which is predictably lovely, with wonderful hints of green herbs and other savory notes that are unfortunately rare in Napa Cabernet these days.

J. Christopher wines started as a tiny project by guitarist-turned-winemaker Jay Somers, but quickly turned into something more when he teamed up with none other than the aforementioned Ernst Loosen. Loosen purchased a bunch of vineyard land in the Willamette Valley, and together he and Somers have built the brand into a dependably excellent source of Oregon Pinot Noir. Of the two wines I’m reviewing this week, the “Dundee Hills Cuvée” is my favorite, bright with floral raspberry notes.

Last but not least, I’ve got a couple more wines from Alder Springs Vineyard, in the hills of Northern Mendocino. Their Syrah is decidedly cool climate in character, and quite delicious for it, while their GCM (where “C” is Cunoise, rather than Syrah) blend is juicy and spicy and quite tasty as well. I recommend them both.

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes:

2017 Dr. Loosen “Erdener Treppchen Alte Reben Grosses Gewachs” Riesling, Mosel, Germany
Light greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of green apple and tangerine peel. In the mouth, beautifully silky flavors of Asian pear, mandarin zest, and white flowers have a rich sumptuousness to them even as laser-etched acidity makes for a crisp and refreshing mouthful. Gorgeous finish with hints of floral notes and citrus oil. Fully dry, with no trace of sweetness. Made from 100-year-old vines in the Erdener Treppchen Vineyard, which carries the designation of Grosse Lage, the German equivalent of Grand Cru. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $52. click to buy.

2019 Notre Vue Chardonnay Musque, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of green melon and green apple. In the mouth, green apple and lemon curd flavors mix with grapefruit and a touch of oak. Silky textured with decent acidity, there’s a faint alcoholic heat in the finish. Made from the Musque clone of Chardonnay and therefore a very different flavor profile from your standard California Chardonnay. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $36.

2017 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Light yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and butterscotch. In the mouth, intense buttered popcorn and lemon curd flavors have a wonderfully saline quality that, along with excellent acidity, keeps the mouth-watering. Notes of melted butter and toasted oak linger in the finish with a touch of grapefruit and a faint hint of alcoholic heat. Rich and on the ripe side, but quite tasty. 14.6% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2019 Notre Vue Red Blend Rosé, Chalk Hill, Sonoma, California
A pale peachy-pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon and strawberries. In the mouth, strawberries and watermelon flavors are bright and juicy thanks to very good acidity. Nicely textured and satiny, but also crisp and delicious. A blend of 34% Grenache, 33% Syrah, and 33% Mourvèdre. 12.7% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $29.

2016 J. Christopher “Basalte” Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of forest floor and cherries. In the mouth, earthy cherry flavors mix with black raspberry and chopped herbs. Silky texture, excellent acidity and very faint tannins with a touch of citrus in the finish. 13.5% alcohol Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $31. click to buy.

2016 J. Christopher “Dundee Hills Cuvée – Special Selection” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of peeled willow bark and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, bright raspberry and redcurrant fruit has a bouncy zing thanks to excellent acidity. Beautiful herbal and floral notes linger in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2016 Alder Springs Vineyard “Kinesis” Red Blend, Mendocino County, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of mixed berry jam and dried herbs. In the mouth, juicy cherry, cranberry and strawberry flavors all but burst on the palate thanks to excellent acidity. Faint tacky tannins join flavors of cedar and dried herbs in the finish. Very tasty. A blend of 63% Mourvèdre, 31% Grenache, and 6% Cunoise. 13.5% alcohol. 200 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $45.

2013 Alder Springs Vineyard Syrah, Mendocino County, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black olive, white pepper, and cassis. In the mouth, blackberry fruit is tinged with woodsmoke and white pepper. Faint powdery tannins dust the corners of the mouth, and good acidity keeps the wine lively. 13.5% alcohol. 250 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45.

2016 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black pepper, cut fresh herbs, and just a hint of green bell pepper. In the mouth, wonderfully bright and juicy flavors of cherry, cola, and a touch of pipe tobacco have faint fresh herbal notes backing them up as well as gorgeous acidity. Powdery, fine-grained tannins ghost the edges of the mouth, as a hint of bell pepper lingers in the finish. Really lovely. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/30/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/16/20

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 the two newest releases of Chardonnay from the venerable Russian River producer DuMOL, made by the steady hand of winemaker Andy Smith. Both of these wines are excellent and strike the perfect balance between nervy-juicy acidity and rich fruit that California Chardonnay can do when someone really treats it right. Neither white Burgundy nor the buttered-oak-and-pineapple of old, these are a great representation of what much California Chardonnay could aspire to achieve.

In addition to the Chardonnays I’ve got one more of DuMOLs Pinot Noirs to share this week, the “Ryan” bottling, which offers a darker interpretation of Pinot Noir fruit, but with great acidity and juiciness.

Next I’ve got a couple of wines from a relatively new project out of Bennet Valley. The Dry Stack Vineyard has new owners, and those new owners turned to a friend, well-known winemaker Jesse Katz of Aperture Cellars to make their wine for them. These are a couple of the first efforts from the vineyard—their latest Sauvignon Blanc, and a white blend from 2017. It will be interesting to see where this project goes.

Lastly, I’ve got what couldn’t be more diametrically opposed interpretations of Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa to share. The first are a pair of wines from Nickel & Nickel winery, known for its single-vineyard, modern and rich interpretations of Napa Cabernet. Of these two, I preferred the Hayne Vineyard Cabernet which had slightly better-integrated oak, brighter acidity and more refined tannins. The Element 28 is a bit of a beast—brawny, chewy and needing a couple of years before it will be in drinking shape, in my opinion. Both offer ripe, dark, sweetish fruit.

On the other end of the spectrum, the latest Cabernet from Ashes & Diamonds is a lean, European-style interpretation of Cabernet Sauvignon that isn’t afraid of pyrazines, the compounds responsible for flavors like green bell pepper. Picked on the early side, for a 13.8% alcohol level, this wine shows the herbal, more savory side of Cabernet.

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes

2018 DuMOL “Ritchie Vineyard Old Vines – Chloe” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of grapefruit pith and a touch of butterscotch. In the mouth, faintly sweet floral notes mix with lemon curd and grapefruit pith. Juicy and bright thanks to excellent acidity, with notes of pomelo zest lingering in the finish. Excellent. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2018 DuMOL “Charles Heintz Vineyard – Isobel” Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California
Light gold in color, this wine smells of pineapple and lemon curd. In the mouth, intense lemon curd and pineapple flavors have a juicy brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a touch of butter here, but mostly neon lemon zing. Lemon pith in the finish. Outstanding. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2019 Aesthete “Dry Stack Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc, Bennett Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apple and cut green grass. In the mouth, green apple and grassy notes have decent bite to them thanks to much better acidity than the previous vintage of this wine. There’s a touch of heat on the finish, but this is a juicy and bright greenish mouthful. 14.4% alcohol. 150 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30.

2017 Aesthete “Dry Stack Vineyard” White Blend, Bennett Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of cold cream and pears. In the mouth, pear and lemon citrus flavors mix with a touch of wet pavement and yellow herbs. Juicy and bright with good acidity. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??

2018 DuMOL “Jentoft Vineyard – Ryan” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry compote. In the mouth, raspberry and black raspberry fruit has a wonderful stony quality, backed by faint, gauzy tannins and supported by a darker earthy note. Good acidity and length as cedar and cranberry notes linger in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $90. click to buy.

2018 Nickel & Nickel “Element 28” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Inky purple in color, this wine smells of intense black cherry and graphite. In the mouth, massive, muscular tannins wrap flavors of black cherry and cassis in an tight grip and don’t let go. Good acidity, but a bit extracted and massive for my taste. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.

2018 Nickel & Nickel “Hayne Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa, California
Very dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and blackberries. In the mouth, rich, and expansive blue and black fruits billow through the mouth with a roiling cloud of tannins that find every nook and cranny of the mouth and bring a chalk-dust texture to the wine. Slightly high-toned, with excellent acidity, I’m missing something in the middle of the palate but that’s a quibble. This is a very good wine for its style. 14.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $125. click to buy.

2017 Ashes & Diamonds “Number 2 – Red Hen Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, green herbs and a touch of green bell pepper. In the mouth, cherry and tobacco notes mix with sweet oak and a touch of chopped green herbs, all under a fleecy blanket of fine-grained tannins. Excellent acidity and easy drinking with its 13.8% alcohol, this is a wine with a distinctly old-world conception. It reminds me of the golden days of Clos du Val Cabernet bottlings in Napa. Not for those looking for opulent, ripe Cabernet, but definitely for anyone who likes acidity and an herbal quality to their Cabernet. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $90. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/16/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/9/20

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

This week included a few more German Rieslings, including some from Rheingau producer Robert Weil, whose vineyards are shown above in a view from the terrace of their estate in Kiedrich. I’ve got three different incarnations of Riesling from Weil, beginning with their “off-dry” rendition of the grape that they bottle under the name “Tradition,” and then the traditional Kabinett and Spätlese versions as well, each progressively sweeter than the other. All three are worthy of your attention, but for me the Kabinett version just hit all the right marks with perfect balance and a near weightlessness in the glass.

I’ve also got a dry Riesling from Villa Wolf in Germany’s Pfalz region, and a single-vineyard Kabinett from Fritz Haag in the Mosel, which is excellent.

Closer to home I’ve got a Chardonnay that I almost didn’t review, so offensive is its packaging, but I’ve decided to review it both because the wine is decent and because I’d like to make the point that buying 1 kilogram thick glass bottles and then gluing a 3/8″ thick, three-dimensional metal label on it is both the height of tackiness and the nadir of environmental stewardship. I shudder to think what a case of The Calling Chardonnay might weigh, but it’s likely to give some poor warehouse worker a hernia, and singlehandedly raise the temperature of the planet, so deep is its carbon footprint. The Calling is a joint project between former CBS sports commentator Jim Nantz and Peter Deutsch, founder and CEO of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits. This bottle is part of their “Platinum Teir” of wines (insert eyeroll here). Guys, there are plenty of ways to connote luxury without quadrupling your carbon footprint. Please make it stop.

Stepping back off the soap box, I’ve got two nice Syrahs for you—one from Qupé, an estate that put Syrah on the map in California, and one from a little producer in Marin named Kendrick vineyards. Both are worthy of attention.

Finally this week I’ve got one of the more affordable wines made by the popular Washington State producer Quilceda Creek. This mostly Cabernet Sauvignon wine is juicy and dark and delicious, not to mention about half the price of many of their other wines.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy.

Tasting Notes

2018 Robert Weil “Tradition” Riesling, Rheingau, Germany
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of star fruit and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, juicy flavors of Asian pear and tangerine oil mix with white flowers and a wonderful wet chalkboard minerality. Only faintly sweet. 10.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2018 Robert Weil Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau, Germany
Palest, near colorless greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apples, Asian pears and citrus pith. In the mouth, beautifully floral flavors of honeysuckle have a weightlessness to them that is quite arresting, as the lightly sweet flavors seem to billow away across the palate in a cloud. Lovely. 9.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $26. click to buy.

2018 Robert Weil Riesling Spätlese, Rheingau, Germany
Palest greenish gold, near colorless in the glass, this wine smells of sweet star fruit and celery with a hint of white flowers. In the mouth, silky flavors of Asian pear, white flowers and honey have a more delicate acidity than I would like. Lightly sweet with a distinct wet chalkboard minerality that creeps into the finish. 9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2018 Villa Wolf “Wachenheimer Dry” Riesling, Pfalz, Germany
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of sweet white flowers and star fruit. In the mouth, a slight petillance prickles the front of the tongue as flavors of white flowers and green apples slide silkily across the palate. The acidity is delicate and slightly less bright than I would like. No real trace of sweetness. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2018 Fritz Haag “Brauneberger Juffer” Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of citrus oil, white flowers, and a hint of paraffin. In the mouth, lightly sweet flavors of honeysuckle, Asian pear and mandarin oranges in syrup are backed by a chalky, wet pavement minerality that lingers through an airy, floral finish. Excellent. 9% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $28. click to buy.

2017 The Calling “Platinum Series – Sullivan Vineyard – Dutton Ranch” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of cold cream and pineapple and white flowers. In the mouth, flavors of lemon curd and cold cream have a nice silky complexion and well-integrated oak signature. I wish there was a bit more acidity but other than that, it’s a competent California Chardonnay, but for the bottle. 13.5% alcohol. 500 cases of obnoxiously heavy bottles with horribly grotesque and ostentatious 3D metal labels made. Please stop that shit. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $51. click to buy.

2017 Kendric Vineyards Syrah, Petaluma Gap, Marin County, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of meaty cassis and blackberries with an herbal brambly note on top. In the mouth, powdery tannins clasp flavors of blackberry and black cherry and ever so gradually put on the squeeze as the wine finishes with herbal and floral notes. Excellent acidity. 13.7% alcohol. 125 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $28.

2018 Qupé Syrah, Central Coast, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of white pepper, blueberries and blackberries. In the mouth, a touch of woodsmoke mixes with earth and blue and black fruits. Faint, powdery tannins give the wine some muscle, but they are supple and smooth. Decent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. 5050 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $22 . click to buy.

2017 Quilceda Creek “CVR” Red Blend, Columbia Valley, Washington
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of plum and black cherry with a faint nuttiness. In the mouth, rich black cherry and plum flavors have a beautiful supple tannin musculature. Excellent acidity and silky texture round out a fairly sensual wine. Contains 3% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc. 14.8% alcohol Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/9/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 7/19/20

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 white wines, and in particular, a bunch of Rieslings.

But before we get to the Rieslings, let’s not overlook the “Naissance” Sauvignon Blanc from Galerie, Gianna Kelly’s project. This isn’t the current release, as the 2019s have come out, but it’s likely still in the market and worth picking up.

I’ve got Riesling three ways this week. Two from Germany’s Nahe region, both with a couple of years of age on them. The Dönnhoff Tonschiefer is predictably delicious, with wonderful dry and crisp citrus and stone fruit flavors. The Kruger Rumpf has its share of citrus along with the wonderful paraffin notes that can add another layer of dimension to aging Riesling.

And then finally I’ve got a Clare Valley Riesling from Wakefield, which is bright ahd fresh and surprisingly young for a 2017 vintage.

All three of these wines are worthy of seeking out and none will set you back very much.

I discovered several Wakefield bottles in the samples pile this week in addition to their Riesling that had been overlooked for some time, including a Chardonnay, a Cabernet and two vintages of their reserve Shiraz. The Shiraz wines were slightly tired, though still tasty, but the Chardonnay and Cabernet both offered excellent flavors and proved to be aging well.

Before we move on to red wines, I’ve got two well-known names in Napa Chardonnay this week, the Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch and the Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay. Both delivered rich “California” style, but with slightly more restrained use of oak than they might have in past years, which was a good thing from my palate’s perspective.

Finally, in addition to the reds from Wakefield I described above, I also discovered a Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache in the stack this week. This was pleasant but perhaps more subdued than I expected, given only a year in the bottle since release.

Enjoy.

Tasting Notes

2018 Galerie “Naissance” Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California
Pale blonde in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers and green apples. In the mouth, bright green apple and crabapple flavors have a faint sourness that is positively mouthwatering, as lime juice and lime zest notes emerge in the finish. Very tasty. 13.8% alcohol. 1600 cases made. Closed with a screwcap Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2016 Dönnhoff “Tonschiefer” Riesling Trocken, Nahe, Germany
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet pavement, lemon pith and mandarin orange oil. In the mouth, zippy Asian pear, mandarin orange and rainwater flavors have a wonderful crispness to them and fantastic acidity that makes the mouth water. Notes of mandarin zest linger in the finish. Delicious. 12% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $26. click to buy.

2017 Wakefield “St. Andrews” Riesling, Clare Valley, South Australia
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of paraffin, green apples and white flowers. In the mouth, juicy citrus pith, grapefruit and candied green apple flavors have a remarkable wet chalkboard minerality to them, as well as an ethereal weightlessness in the mouth. Excellent acidity. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $35.

2016 Kruger Rumpf Riesling Trocken, Nahe, Germany
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of paraffin and mandarin orange zest. In the mouth, tangerine and Asian pear flavors have a creamy texture even as they are crisp and light with a nice crystalline quality to them. Good acidity and pretty, wet chalkboard minerality in the finish. 12% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $33.

2018 Shafer Vineyards “Red Shoulder Ranch” Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa, California
Bright gold in the glass, this wine smells of pineapple and buttered popcorn. In the mouth, silky, weighty flavors of pineapple, lemon curd, and lemon zest have the creamy vanilla of oak mixed in very well. Decent but not fantastic acidity. For those who like their California Chardonnays rich, this will definitely satisfy. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2018 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa, California
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of cold cream and lemon curd. In the mouth, flavors of lemon curd, cold cream, and grapefruit have reasonably well-integrated oak influence and very good acidity. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2016 Wakefield “St. Andrews” Chardonnay, Clare Valley, South Australia
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of butterscotch and white flowers. In the mouth, lemon curd and butterscotch flavors have a wonderful lightness to them, with hints of pomelo pith emerging as the wine finishes. Lacey, delicate acidity runs throughout. 12% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25.

2018 Yalumba “Bush Vine” Grenache, Barossa, South Australia
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberry jam and dried herbs. In the mouth, somewhat bitter strawberry, cherry and cedar flavors are oddly subdued. Decent acidity, very faint tannins. 14.1% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2014 Wakefield “The Pioneer – Exceptional Parcel Release” Shiraz, Clare Valley, South Australia
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry, blackberry and chopped herbs. In the mouth, prunes and blackberry flavors are gathered up in a tight fist of muscular tannins that squeeze a bit as the wine finishes with notes of leather and black cherry. 14.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $100.

2013 Wakefield “The Pioneer – Exceptional Parcel Release” Shiraz, Clare Valley, South Australia
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cola nut and prunes. In the mouth, rich flavors of mulling spices and black cherry, leather and cola nut have a beautiful woody and saddle leather backdrop to them. Faint tannins and decent acidity. Notes of caramelized brown sugar linger in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $100.

2016 Wakefield “St. Andrews” Cabernet Sauvignon, Clare Valley, South Australia
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, mint and dark chocolate. In the mouth, cherry and green herbs have a fine, powdery tannic texture and excellent acidity. Very pretty green herbal notes linger in the finish with the cherry and a touch of leather. 14% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 7/19/20 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.