Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/4/21

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

Let’s start this week with what wine writer Matt Kramer has called the most reliable wine in the world: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I agree with him. If you pay $15 to $25 for a New Zealand “Savvy,” 99% of the time you are going to get a delicious wine that tastes the way you expect it to. It’s hard to say that about any other single “type” of wine in the world. The stuff ain’t profound, but it’s damn tasty. This week I’ve got a pitch-perfect rendition of the form from Allan Scott. At $12 a bottle, what’s not to love?

And now we can move into the slightly more unexpected realm of white wines with the 4 pale crown jewels in Piedmont’s ruby-studded reputation. Yes, there are white wines made in Piedmont, and some of them are damn special. Piedmont has been going through something of a white wine renaissance in recent years, as producers work hard to revive traditions that very nearly were lost forever.

Our first wine serves as the prime example. At one point there were a mere dozen or so rows of Nascetta in a single vineyard, but winegrower Elvio Cogno rediscovered the variety 20 years ago and began to expand plantings with the goal of finding out the potential of this all-but-unknown variety. Now 12 producers in Piedmont make it, including Gregorio Gitti, who has decided to try planting the grape at higher elevations in order to retain a bit more acidity, which apparently can disappear fast under the wrong conditions. While Gitti and his Castello di Perno bottling may not have yet reached the apogee of what Nascetta has to offer, the wine is very good, and the opportunity to drink a bit of forgotten history should not be missed.

In some ways, Nascetta is about 10 years behind Timorasso, which has a similar tale of rediscovery, but now is a somewhat poorly kept secret in Piedmont. The best examples of this semi-aromatic variety can be truly delicious and distinctive, and two of the best examples come from La Colombera, often called the “Queen of Timorasso” thanks to Elisa Semino who has spent 20 years dedicated to the grape along with her father Piercarlo. The one I have for you today is their single-vineyard “Il Montino” Timorasso, which grows at about 900 feet of elevation and is full of tropical fruits and brisk with bright acidity and salinity.

The two better-known white grapes of Piedmont are Cortese (made famous by the town of Gavi whose name has become almost shorthand for the wine), and Arneis, which has been made for a long time by a lot of Barbaresco producers in Roero. La Colombera also makes a really lovely Cortese and producer Malvirá has one of the better interpretations of Roero Arneis I have had in some time. Arneis can sometimes be an austere grape, so it’s fantastic when someone makes it as wonderfully balanced as this one is.

So while we’re in Piedmont let’s dally a bit with some reds as well, shall we? I’ve got four extremely different incarnations of Nebbiolo to share with you, all of which are distinctive and worthy of attention.

Let’s start with some northerly interpretations of Nebbiolo from Travaglini, which is the most prominent name in the northern parts of Piedmont. The family has been farming wine grapes in this region for four generations, and have been landholders since the 9th century. They farm 149 acres of vineyards in the foothills of the rocky Monte Rosa mountains. Their bottling of Gattinara is famous for both its quality and its distinctive curvy, asymmetrical glass bottle, which is molded from a 1958 design created by third-generation proprietor Giancarlo Travaglini.

Travaglini also makes some wine from one of the newer sub-regions of Piedmont, the Costa della Sesia, which is in the northwest of the region and shares some of the crunchy, more mineral qualities that can be found in the Gattinara bottling.

In addition to these two worthies, I have notes on a Barolo from Gregorio Gitti and a reserve Nebbiolo from Malvirá, both of which will please anyone looking for the classical complexities of the grape.

After spending a while dallying in Piedmont, I couldn’t think of a better transition back to California than the wonderfully brisk interpretation of Dolcetto from Acorn Winery just south of Healdsburg in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. This tiny producer run by husband-and-wife team Bill and Betsy Nachbauer has long focused on heritage field blends that resemble the wines that were made in California more than a century ago by the immigrants who first planted grapes in California. Their Dolcetto is brisk and crunchy and offers a lovely balance between savory notes and bright fresh fruit.

The real stars of the Acorn portfolio, however, are its old-vine heritage bottlings, of which the Medley and Acorn Hill are both excellent examples. The Medley is a full-on “Mixed Blacks” field blend with several dozen grape varieties all planted together and fermented together. The Acorn Hill is a bottling from a specific hillside right behind the winery, and while it has fewer grape varieties than the Medley, has a poise and balance that is just remarkable. These are unique wines of a type that few make any longer, and are very worthy of your attention. Bill and Betsy are also the kind of tiny family-run operation that, too, has become scarce in Sonoma County.

Tasting Notes

2020 Allan Scott Family Winemakers Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Pale gold with a hint of green, this wine smells of cut grass, gooseberries and green apple. In the mouth, zippy green apple and gooseberry flavors have a nice electric green acidity to them, with margarita lime and passionfruit flavors lingering in a mouthwatering finish. Classic New Zealand “Savvy” profile. Crisp, delicious, and what you expect. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $12. click to buy.

2018 Gregorio Gitti Castello di Perno Nascetta, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light greenish-gold
in color, this wine smells of struck match and candied lime. In the mouth, slightly sappy green apple and star fruit flavors mix with lime zest and a touch of pomelo. There’s a slightly oxidative quality to this wine. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $29. click to buy.

2018 La Colombera “Il Montino” Timorasso, Colli Tortonesi, Piedmont, Italy
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of struck match, unripe mango, and a sort of resinous floral note that is hard to pin down. In the mouth, bright lemony papaya and saffron and a hint of melon flavors are juicy with fantastic acidity, especially for this variety. A silky texture gives way to a lightly mineral dustiness in the finish. Quite compelling. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2019 La Colombera “Bricco Bartolomeo” Cortese, Colli Tortonesi, Piedmont, Italy
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of grapefruit pith and lemonade. In the mouth, silky flavors of lemon curd and grapefruit have a bright freshness thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a hint of toasty nuttiness to this wine and a wonderfully saline finish. Quite tasty. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2019 Malivirà “Renesio” Roero Arneis, Roero, Alba, Piedmont, Italy
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cream, white flowers, and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, wonderfully bright lemon pith mixes with white flowers and a deep stony minerality. Gorgeous acidity makes the mouth water as a faint saline and green apple note lingers with the margarita lime in the finish. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/4/21

2017 Travaglini Gattinara, Northern Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of smoky dried flowers and strawberries. In the mouth, bright strawberry, rhubarb, and earth flavors have a wonderfully bright juiciness. Powdery tannins flex their muscles as the wine moves across the palate, but there’s a really nice suppleness to this wine and a freshness thanks to excellent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $28. click to buy.

2018 Travaglini Nebbiolo, Coste Della Sesia, Northern Piedmont, Italy
Light ruby in color, this wine smells of strawberries, wet pavement, and citrus peel. In the mouth, fresh and bright strawberry fruit mixes with chopped herbs and a touch of licorice. Faint tacky tannins back up the very fresh juicy acidity. Easy to drink and quite delicious. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2016 Gregorio Gitti Castello di Perno “Castelletto” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass with orange highlights, this wine smells of strawberry and cherry fruit, a touch of woodsmoke, and crushed dried sage and other herbs. In the mouth, bright raspberry and sour cherry flavors are juicy and mouthwatering thanks to excellent acidity. Burnt orange peel and dried herbs emerge towards the finish, as lightly muscular tannins flex and squeeze. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2009 Malivirà “Riserva Trinità” Nebbiolo, Roero, Alba, Piedmont, Italy
Light ruby with significant brick color encroaching from the edges, this wine smells of strawberry jam and bacon fat. In the mouth, strawberry fruit still has some primary character, but notes of dried strawberry, as well as mixed dried herbs, are the dominant quality on the palate. Excellent acidity keeps the wine fresh as thyme and oregano linger in the finish. Fleecy tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $55. click to buy.  

2017 Acorn Winery “Alegria Vineyards” Dolcetto, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of boysenberries and leather with a hint of citrus peel. In the mouth, smooth, fresh flavors of boysenberry, black cherry, cola and citrus peel are wrapped in a very soft suede blanket of tannins. Excellent acidity keeps this wine quite brisk and delicious, adding an herbal tinge to the dark fruit. Contains 3% Barbera and 3% Freisa. Ages for 18 months in a combination of French and Hungarian barrels, mostly used. 13.5% alcohol. 153 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/4/21

2017 Acorn Winery “Medley – Alegria Vineyards” Red Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberries, woodsmoke, cherries, and cedar. In the mouth, juicy blackberry, cherry, and strawberry flavors swirl under a fleecy blanket of tannins. There’s a hint of cedar and incense that lingers in the finish along with a touch of oak. Excellent acidity and wonderful balance. Very compelling. A dizzying field blend of more than 60 varieties including 18% Syrah, 14% Zinfandel, 4% Dolcetto, 20% Cinsault, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Sangiovese, 2% Alicante Bouschet, 2% Petite Sirah, 1% Mourvedre, 20% various Muscats, and the remaining 12% includes dozens of other grape varieties including Einset, Blue Portuguese, Viognier and more. Ages for 15 months in a combination of French, American, and Hungarian oak barrels, mostly used. 14.4% alcohol. 119 cases made Score: around 9. Cost: $50 . click to buy.

2015 Acorn Winery “Acorn Hill – Alegria Vineyards” Red Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberries, black cherry, and exotic flowers. In the mouth, gorgeous bright fruit flavors of boysenberry, cherry, and black currant are wrapped in a fleecy blanket of tannins. There’s a cedar note that creeps into the fruit, along with some grace notes of flowers, while a citrus peel quality lingers in the finish. Unique and boisterous in personality, this wine beautifully showcases the joy of old-school mixed-black wines. An unusual field blend of 49% Syrah, 49% Sangiovese, 1% Viognier, .5% Canaiolo, and .5% Mammolo grown on the prominent hill just behind the winery. 13.9% alcohol. Ages in 42% new French oak for 18 months. 132 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/4/21 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/28/21

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

As a wine lover, I occasionally have the experience of opening a bottle of wine and having a glass and thinking to myself, “Jeez, I really don’t drink enough of <insert a certain kind of wine here>.” That’s certainly the reaction I had after my first mouthful of the lovely Chateau Hostens-Picant white wine from the Côtes de Bordeaux. The dry white wines of Bordeaux are often overlooked in favor of their much more famous red (and sweet white) brethren, but these blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon can be quite tasty. For me, the key is to get a wine that hasn’t seen too much new oak, a flavor that can overwhelm the delicate floral, fruit, and mineral tones that these wines show when they’re at their best. If you, like me, haven’t had a good Bordeaux Blanc in a while, you might want to give this one a try.

California Chardonnay has been going through a transition of late, as the pendulum swings away from the extreme ripeness and “tropicality” of the early 2000s back towards wines that display a freshness in favor of so much opulence. The example from Far Niente is an excellent example of a wine that, a decade ago, leaned a bit ripe for my taste, but now has a wonderful verve and snap even while it continues to express the full-sun ripeness of California.

I’ve got several sets of Pinot Noir this week, the first from the Duckhorn Brands label called Migration, which sources fruit from various top sites around California. Of the two on offer this week, I prefer the Dutton Ranch bottling, which has a really nice purity of cherry fruit to it.

The second set of Pinots is from renowned producer Williams Selyem. Their Sonoma County bottling is juicy and bright and everything you’d want from a Sonoma Pinot, but it’s hard to compete with the Westside Road Neighbors bottling, which is perennially one of my favorite expressions of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Both are young and drinkable now but will age into fuller expressions of their potential. I’ve also got a Zinfandel from Williams Selyem that ain’t too shabby either.

The third set comes from Dutton-Goldfield, a producer whose wines frequently end up here in the Unboxed reviews. Of the two wines I tasted this week, the Van Der Kamp bottling was my favorite, showing the brisk, bright fruit that this vineyard has become known for.

Before leaving Pinot Noir territory, I want to especially note a spectacular bottle of the stuff from Fromm Winery in the Marlborough region of New Zealand. Deeply alluring, with an incredibly floral aspect, the “Cuvée H” bottling is an assemblage made from various cuts of single-vineyard wines that the estate makes. But this wine could easily be mistaken for a top cuvée at most wineries. At $35 it’s an unbelievable steal, as very few Pinot Noirs at that price point offer so much distinctive quality and aromatic expressiveness.

Now, moving on to Cabernet-based wines, I’ve got a final set of wines from Knights Bridge Estate, whose single-vineyard bottlings I’ve reviewed in recent weeks. These wines are a bit less expensive than those and offer nice expressions of dark fruit from Knights Valley, a part of Sonoma County that gets little attention.

Speaking of slightly less expensive, I got my first taste of Post & Beam this week, a new label in the Far Niente family of wines. Designed to be a slightly more accessible wine, it displays the polish of its much more expensive relatives, but at an attractive sub-$50 price tag that has become increasingly rare in Napa.

Last, but certainly not least, I’m excited to point you towards a phenomenal value from Italy. The Cabernet-based blend “Lagoon” from Tuscan producer Aia Vecchia. Located in the Bolgheri region, which is home to some of Italy’s most famous reds, like Sassicaia and Ornellaia, Aia Vecchia has made an incredibly approachable and tasty red blend that is shocking in its level of quality for a sub-$20 price tag. This might be your next “house red” especially if you find yourself frequently grilling up some steaks.

Notes on all these wines below.

Tasting Notes

2018 Chateau Hostens-Picant “Cuvee des Demoiselles Sec” White Blend, Côtes de Bordeaux, France
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of golden apples, green apples, and papaya. In the mouth, star fruit, green apple, and candied grapefruit mix with a touch of orange blossom. Juicy bright and wonderfully crisp. A hint of woody bitterness lingers in the finish. A blend of 65% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Semillon, and 5% Muscadelle. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2019 Far Niente Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and lemon pith. In the mouth, bright lemon curd and white flowers mix with pineapple and melted butter. Juicy and bright, this wine has a lovely balance between the riper more buttery notes of California Chardonnay and the leaner more high-acid version of the grape. The oak here is more textural than flavor, though there is a hint of vanilla and toast through the finish. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2018 Migration “Dutton Ranch” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry and raspberry fruit flavors have a silky texture and wonderful juiciness thanks to excellent acidity, plus a hint of chopped herbs. Notes of orange peel and cedar linger in the finish. Very pretty. 14.5% alcohol. 201 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

2018 Migration “Drum Canyon Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of earth and raspberry fruit touched with dried flowers. In the mouth, raspberry and floral notes mix with an almost creamy quality that marries fruit and a more savory, saline flavor profile. 14.1% alcohol. 211 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $70.

2019 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright raspberry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, cranberry and cedar, and raspberry flavors are wrapped in a felt blanket of tannins that is soft and pliable but offers some lovely texture to the juicy fruit. Excellent acidity and length. 13.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2019 Williams Selyem “Westside Road Neighbors” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass with purple highlights, this wine smells of lavender, raspberries, and dried flowers. In the mouth, exceedingly silky flavors of raspberry, dried herbs, forest floor, and redcurrant have a zingy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Powdery tannins gain a faint firmness as the wine finishes long with hints of citrus and flowers. 13.6% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $110. click to buy.  

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/28/21

2018 Fromm Winery “Cuvee H” Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of an intensely sweet floral scent that I can’t quite put my finger on as well as raspberry and cherry aromas. In the mouth, very pretty cherry and raspberry flavors are bright with juicy acidity. Hints of cedar and dried herbs creep into the finish along with a hint of citrus pith. Distinctive and very pretty. A blend of wines from the estate’s various single-vineyard bottlings. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2018 Dutton-Goldfield “Van Der Kamp Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Mountain, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, bright cranberry and cherry flavors have a wonderful briskness thanks to excellent acidity and a lovely stony earthy note that rumbles along under the bright fruit and soaring dried floral notes that linger into the finish. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $??

2018 Dutton-Goldfield “McDougall Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of oak and raspberry fruit layered over an earthy backdrop. In the mouth, wet earth, raspberry, cherry, and oak flavors swirl together, but the oak is definitely the dominant flavor as the wine heads towards the finish. Just a bit too much wood for me here. I’m also surprised that the acidity isn’t brighter. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $68. click to buy.

2019 Williams Selyem “Fanuccchi-Wood Road Vineyard” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of sweet, freshly baked blackberry pie. In the mouth, juicy blackberry and blueberry flavors are shot through with a spice of black and pink peppercorns mixed with dried flowers and a faint salty kick in the finish. 15.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $95. click to buy.  

2018 Post & Beam Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry. In the mouth, bright black cherry flavors mix with a touch of cola nut and black currant. Fine-grained, velvety tannins buff the edges of the palate. Excellent acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2017 Knights Bridge “KB Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon, Knights Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, graphite and earth. In the mouth, black cherry, tobacco, espresso and dried herb flavors are brawny and powerful, propped up by muscular tannins. Notes of licorice and espresso linger in the finish. Good acidity and length. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/28/21

2017 Knights Bridge “KB Estate” Red Blend, Knights Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of raisins, chocolate, and black cherries. In the mouth, chocolate, cherries,
and hints of tobacco have a plush richness, and not quite enough acidity to stay vibrant in the mouth. Round and soft, with good flavors, though. Soft, billowy tannins. A blend of Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2017 Knights Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Knights Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry. In the mouth, bright black cherry and cassis flavors are shot through with leather and tobacco. Faint leathery tannins wrap around the core of fruit. Very good acidity keeps the wine fresh. 14.5% alcohol. 272 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.  

2018 Aia Vecchia “Lagone” Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry, tobacco, earth, and a touch of oiled leather. In the mouth, flavors of black cherry, graphite, leather, and cedar are beautifully fresh thanks to excellent acidity. Faint muscular tannins nudge the edges of the palate as the herbal-tinged cherry fruit heads for a long finish. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. An outstanding value. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/28/21 appeared first on Vinography.

Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Spring has sprung here on the East Coast, with blossoms a’ bloomin’ and new California releases arriving. This week I have a large and diverse group of wines from across the Golden State.

Napa and Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc offers a lot of spring and summer enjoyment, and there are some exciting options from Grieve and Chalk Hill. Chardonnays from Newton, Sonoma-Cutrer, Fort Ross and Frank Family deliver diversity.

On the red side of things, there are some rocking Napa Cabernets in this report from Shafer and Sullivan. And a lot of Pinot Noirs appear, with a bit of something for everyone.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

White wines

N.V. J Vineyards & Winery Cuvée 20 USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $38
Light gold color. Aromas of peaches, lemons, yellow apples, with some chalk and honey. Juicy on the palate with apricot and yellow apples, lemon drops, moderating acidity and some sugar cane notes woven in well. Bright, fun, fresh, balanced, with slight toast and honeybutter elements to accent the white flowers, sea salt and perfume tones. (88 points IJB)

2018 Grieve Family Winery Sauvignon Blanc USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $90
Rich yellow color. Gorgeous aromas of pineapple, mango, peach and lime mixing with honey, new tennis balls, chalky-minty tones. Plush and creamy texture on the palate with lively acidity, creamy and balanced but constantly alive. Pineapple, guava, drizzled with lime, the fruit matches with tones of honeycomb, white flowers, minerals, talc, lemon verbena. Beautifully expressive and pretty, no obtrusive elements here, every is fresh, balanced, complex and delicious. Aged 17 months in a mix of French oak (60% new) and concrete eggs. (92 points IJB)

2019 Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc USA, California, Sonoma County, Chalk Hill
SRP: $33
Light yellow color. Bright and zesty on the nose with grapefruit, lime and kiwi, topped in sliced cucumbers, jalapeno and chalk dust. Brisk and fresh on the palate, this offers generous textural depth as well, though. Lemons, limes and some guava fruit, topped in a pleasant mix of lemon verbena and celery seed. The notes of minerals and mountain stream add a delightful note to the finish. Fresh but complex, a balanced and vibrant Sauv Blanc. Aged in a mix of stainless steel and about 60% French oak (13% new). (89 points IJB)

2019 Fort Ross Winery Chardonnay “Sea Slopes” USA, California, Sonoma County, Fort Ross – Seaview
SRP: $30
Rich yellow color. The nose boasts yellow apples, lemon curd and peach, along with yellow flowers, whipped butter, salted nuts and sea spray. Bright acidity frames the wine well, with a creamy body, supporting lemon, yellow apple and apricot fruit. The bright tones of chalk and minerals balance well against nuanced tones of honey and salted almond. Balanced, pretty, lip-smacking Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. Aged 14 months in stainless steel and 5% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2019 Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $23
Medium yellow color. Nice mix of lemon curd and pineapple on the nose, honey, some shaved ginger and salt. Plump texture on the palate, moderate acid, with a fruit salad of guava, pineapple and lemon, along with notes of saltine cracker, pistachio, and whipped honey. Balanced and shows quite a bit of depth at this price point. Aged eight months in oak. (88 points IJB)

2019 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $38
Medium yellow color. Lovely nose of honey, nougat, ginger and chalk dust, over top of yellow apples, orange marmalade. Ripe and plump on the palate with medium+ acidity and a juicy but refined feel. Yellow apples and lemon cake flavors blend well with gingerbread, honey, white tea, and there are this intriguing notes of mineral and hay underneath. Really pretty, vibrant and balanced Chardonnay here. Aged eight months in one-third new French oak. (91 points IJB)

2018 Newton Chardonnay Unfiltered USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $55
Light yellow color. The nose shows lovely salty, honey and lemongrass tones, along with lemon peel, kiwi and green apple, a nice bright mix. Plump texture on the palate, beautiful roundness, vibrant acidity, woven together well. Lemons, orange peel, yellow apple fruit, mixed together well with tones of white flowers, saline and almond skin. Balanced but lots of depth, yet stays seafood friendly. A lot to love about this Chardonnay. (91 points IJB)

Red wines

2019 Lucky Rock Wine Co. Pinot Noir “County Cuvee” USA, California
SRP: $22
Bright ruby color. Vibrant yet ripe nose of red cherries, pomegranate, candied red apple peel, lots of spice and herbal tones mixed in as well. This is ripe but nuanced on the palate, with a fresh appeal, and tangy pomegranate, cherry and red apple peel. Notes of spicy pepper, oregano, roses and chestnut add complexity, with cola and root beer tones. Fun, fresh, this wine continues to deliver a lot of Pinot personality for the price. The grapes are sourced from Monterey, San Benito and Sonoma counties. (88 points IJB)

2018 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River Selection USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $45
Bright ruby color. Inviting nose of cherries, raspberries, McIntosh apples, along with rose petals, rhubarb, white pepper, tobacco and green herbs – there is really a lot going on here! On the palate, this is fresh with gorgeous acidity, dusty tannins, on point balance. Sour and black cherries, wild raspberry, crunchy red apple peel tones. Notes of rose petal, rhubarb, with mineral and earth undertones. The freshness, spiciness and complexity is delightful. (91 points IJB)

2018 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Hallberg Vineyard ­ USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $55
Vibrant ruby color. The nose exudes bright cherries and juicy plums, topped in rose petals, sage, rhubarb and clay. Zippy and fresh on the palate, medium-bodied, dusty tannins, this is vibrant and alive with flavors of raspberry, cherry and orange peel. Notes of rhubarb, menthol and white pepper. Perfumed, nuanced, vibrant and fresh, this is pretty young but will open nicely over the next few years. Aged 15 months in 40% new French oak. (92 points IJB)

2018 Ram’s Gate Pinot Noir USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $48
Bright ruby color. The nose pops with black cherries and rich plums, along with sweet perfume, incense sticks, roasted chestnut, cocoa and leather. On the palate, this shows velvety tannins, bright acidity, and a nice mix of juicy and tangy fruits (strawberries, pomegranate, cherries). Notes of clay, leather, earth and perfume add complexity. Concentrated yet vibrant, this needs some time to unpack and open up. Intricate spices and floral tones on the finish. Aged 10 months in 28% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

2018 Ram’s Gate Pinot Noir Estate USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $80
Dark ruby. Inviting and warm aromas of complex strawberry and cherry topped in white pepper, clove, leather, rose potpourri, clay soil. The palate is framed with smooth tannins and fresh acidity on a medium-bodied frame. Crisp but juicy with black cherries and strawberries, and the fruit is backed up with complex notes of rose petals, white pepper, rhubarb, dusty earth and clay. There’s an intriguing spice and savory mix on the finish, like cured meats and paprika, which I just love. Vibrant, earthy, minerals, a lot going on here. Aged for 16 months in 34% new French oak. (93 points IJB)

2018 Fort Ross Winery Pinot Noir “Sea Slopes” USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $35
Medium ruby color. Ripe and juicy but fresh, too, on the nose, with cherries and raspberries mixed with rose petals, rhubarb and white pepper. Smooth and velvety feel on the palate, slightly chewy tannins, really vibrant acidity, so it’s well-balanced. Cherries, raspberries and red plum fruit, mixed with earth, rose petal and rhubarb notes. Nuanced cola and coffee. Ripe but stays really fresh, with a crisp, herbal-tinged finish. Aged 18 months in 10% new French oak. So much personality and value for a Pinot at this price. (91 points IJB)

2019 Frank Family Vineyards Pinot Noir USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $38
Light ruby color. Fresh and inviting on the nose, with roses and sweet vanilla topping the raspberry, red apple fruit, with tones of black tea and cinnamon. Chewy texture on the palate with smooth tannins and vibrant acidity. Sweet but lively fruit (raspberry and cherries) mixes well with violets, spiced black tea, cinnamon, clove and cocoa. Rich but suave and fresh and full of character. Aged 10 months in 1/3 new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2017 Sosie Cavedale Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Moon Mountain District
SRP: $45
Bright purple color. The nose boasts saucy plums and juicy blackberries, along with some roasted red peppers, sage, mocha and earth tones. Full but suave and fresh on the palate. Nice grip, moderating acidity, all balanced well with the plummy, blueberry and blackberry fruit. Needs air but it opens nicely to show complex mocha, earth, graphite and iron tones. Long, smoky, earthy finish. Age this for a bit or give it a decant, but this is lovely. 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, aged 21 months in 50% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

2018 Fortress Cabernet Sauvignon ­- USA, California, North Coast
SRP: $23
Bright purple color. Aromas of jammy plums, roasted figs, saucy currants, with scorched earth, cocoa and coconut. Chewy texture on the palate, medium/low acidity, light tannins, an accessible, fun approach with saucy black cherries and plums. Notes of violets, tobacco, sweet coco and roasted chestnut. Sourced from Alexander Valley, Pine Mountain-Cloverdale, Mendocino Ridge and Napa AVAs, aged 11 months in 20% new French oak. (87 points IJB)

2018 Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $58
Deep purple color. Aromas of deep currants, juicy black cherries, laced with smoky earth, mint chocolate chip, tobacco and sage elements. Full and suave on the palate, velvety tannins, medium acidity, and the wine boasts ripe, juicy black cherries and cassis fruit. Complexities of mint, pepper, leather and anise come out with time. Delicious, ripe but nuanced, per usual from Frank Cabernet, this should open up nicely over the next few years. (90 points IJB)

2017 Sullivan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Estate USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
SRP: $110
Vibrant purple color. Deep but inviting nose of black currants, sweet black cherries, and a complex host of earth, rocky soil, graphite, black tea, anise and charcoal notes. Gorgeous mouthfeel on the palate, precise acidity, structured tannins, very well balanced. Fleshy, tangy, deep and pure black currant fruit, loaded with complexities of pencil lead, eucalyptus, tobacco, oregano, iron, mint chocolate chips. Deep but vibrant with a long, earthy, mineral-laden finish. This will age wonderfully for many years but is already so expressive in its youth, too. Includes 13% Petit Verdot. (94 points IJB)

2018 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon One Point Five USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
SRP: $98
Dark purple color. Classic aromas of dark plums, blackberry, black currant, along with waves of violets, tilled soil, smashed rocks, with cocoa, coffee and inky tones. Full and suave on the palate, well-structured but so smooth, with bright acidity, the balance and mouthfeel are pristine. Dark plums and blackberries, deep but tangy fruit, laced with pencil lead, tar, anise, violets. The cedar, clove and coffee tones are expertly woven together. Delicious, Shafer kills it again. Give this a few years or a really solid decant, or sip it over a few days to get a broader expression. Cabernet Sauvignon with 2% Malbec, aged 20 months in all new French oak. (94 points IJB)

2018 Grieve Family Vineyard Double Eagle USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $89
Deep purple color. Lush and inviting aromas, with deep plums, blackberry and cassis, along with all manner of paved road, pencil lead, coffee, anise and pipe tobacco notes. Fresh acidity is really nice on the palate, structured tannins, serious concentration and grip. Blackberry and deep plum fruit, rich but tart, with complex earthy tones underneath. Elements of violets, black tea, dark chocolate, anise cookie and coffee tones. Wow, this is delightful already but will really start opening up in the next few years and age for quite some time. Aged 18 months in 2/3 new French oak. (93 points IJB)

No Men, No Glass: One Future Vision of Wine

The four bottles came in a compact cardboard box with the words: “Your Drink Now Wines Are Here.” Picking up a bottle, I noticed three things simultaneously. The playful caricature of a woman on the front; the brief manifesto “Fight Like a Sister. Enjoy Today. Adventures Well” printed on the side; and the fact that the bottles were…well, squishy.

These were the inaugural release from Nomen, a wine brand started by Angelica O’Brien and her three eldest daughters. O’Brien and her husband David are the founders of Owen Roe Wines, a wildly successful wine brand that makes wines in Oregon and Washington State.

Nomen is the first project of the Distaff Wine Company, which Brigid O’Brien says was a project that her mother initiated as a way of giving the women of the family the opportunity to shine.

Angelica O’Brien and her four daughters.

“We were all sitting at dinner and my Mom said, ‘You know, I’ve been in the wine industry a long time, but your dad gets all the credit!'” she says with a laugh.

Distaff launched a way for the women of the O’Brien family to tell their stories and to shine in an industry that too often foregrounds men.

They have several wine projects in the works, but their first efforts (mid-Pandemic, no less) took aim at two issues that were important to them: women’s empowerment and sustainability.

Sourcing wine from the Owen Roe portfolio and getting assistance from their David O’Brien in the final blends, the mother-and-daughters team put together an initial set of four wines and adorned them with labels drawn by Marie-Therese O’Brien depicting various career women.

Perhaps most impressively, the team packaged these four wines in PET plastic bottles, making them lightweight, reusable, 100% recyclable, and fairly unbreakable. In other words, perfect picnic wines and a slam dunk for the environment.

Wine packaging is a double-whammy when it comes to impact on the carbon footprint of wine. The combination of the manufacturing process for glass bottles, plus the cost of transporting those bottles around the world makes up a full 68% of the total carbon footprint of the wine industry.

So the single best way to reduce emissions in the wine industry would be to package wine in a lower impact, lighter-weight material, as the ladies behind Nomen have done.

But it wasn’t easy.

“We had a hard time finding a bottle we liked, and then once we did we had plenty of people tell us that we couldn’t bottle our wines in plastic bottles,” says O’Brien. “We eventually found one guy who was willing to tweak his bottling truck equipment in order to make it work.”

The bottles themselves are, frankly, brilliant. From 10 feet away, they look like any glass screwcapped bottle. Pick them up, however, and you realize just how much lighter (and less breakable) they are than what we’re all used to.

With one of these bottles in your hand, it’s difficult to avoid asking the obvious question: why isn’t every wine under $15 packaged like this? Figuring out the positive impact this would have sounds like a McKinsey & Co interview question or the subject of a WSET diploma essay, but let’s just say “huge” as a starting point. One piece of math I was able to track down was that a 40% reduction in the weight of a wine bottle produces an overall 20% reduction in that bottle’s overall carbon footprint.

Fully 90% of all wines are consumed within 2 weeks of purchase in the United States, and if we restricted that to $15 wines sold in grocery stores, I’m willing to bet that the number would inch dangerously close to 100%.

There is no reason I can think of that every single one of those wines shouldn’t be packaged in plastic bottles. Getting the wine industry to do this, of course, would take some serious effort, and likely couldn’t be accomplished without some serious commercial leverage. Something akin to Wal Mart, Kroger, Albertsons, and Safeway all telling their wine vendors that they have to transition to such packaging within 3 years in order to continue selling them their products.

Of course, Gallo and The Wine Group could also make a pretty sizable dent through unilateral action themselves.

Until that happens, though, at least 2000 cases of a women-led wine brand will be showing the way.

No Men, No Glass: One Future Vision of Wine
The four O’Brien sisters

Noteworthy, too, is the fact that these scions of a fantastically successful wine family have opted to focus on making a remarkably inexpensive product. Usually you’ll find the children of well-known winemakers splashing out with boutique, micro-production efforts very much in the same or even higher price points than their parents’ efforts.

As for the wines themselves, well, they’re not amazing, but they are perfectly serviceable, which, you know, is kind of what you want for $12 a bottle. They’re polished, solid examples of their varieties that aren’t going to turn heads, but will do the trick if what you really want to concentrate on is the experience of having a picnic in the park or a pool party without the threat of broken glass.

While this first set of wines was cobbled together from bits and bobs that were already in process under the O’Reilly family brands, Brigid O’Reilly says the 2020 vintage will have been made entirely by the three sisters and their mother from start to finish—farming to final bottled wine.

Having launched mid-pandemic, the brand is currently focused on direct-to-consumer sales, but O’Reilly says they haven’t ruled out distribution if they continue to grow.

And I hope they do just that, if only as an example that I hope many, many others in the wine industry will follow, both from the standpoint of sustainability and, frankly, gender.

Tasting Notes

2018 Nomen Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, cocoa powder, and a touch of toasty oak. In the mouth, black cherry, blackberry and a touch of cedar have a light, muscular tanninc structure and decent acidity. Good length. 14.1% alcohol. Packaged in an innovative plastic bottle and closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $12.

2019 Nomen Dry Rosé, Columbia Valley, Washington
A pale baby pink in color, this wine smells of strawberries and bubble gum. In the mouth, strawberry and crabapple flavors have a sour bite to them, but not quite enough acidity to really make this wine sing. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty decent rosé. 95% Syrah, with 5% Pinot Gris added. 13% alcohol. Packaged in an innovative plastic bottle and closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $12.

2019 Nomen Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of green apple and a touch of kiwi fruit. In the mouth, decent acidity enlivens somewhat plain flavors of green apple and gooseberry. A straightforward, pleasant rendition of Sauvignon Blanc. 13% alcohol. Packaged in an innovative plastic bottle and closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $16.

2018 Nomen Malbec, Columbia Valley, Washington
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and blackberries. In the mouth, black cherry and blackberry flavors are straightforward and pleasurable. Faint tannins, good acidity. Easy to drink. 14.1% alcohol. Packaged in an innovative plastic bottle and closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $15.

You can purchase these wines, which I received as press samples, from the Nomen web site, from where I borrowed all the images above.

The post No Men, No Glass: One Future Vision of Wine appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/21/21

Welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

Let’s start this week with a couple of excellent Rieslings from opposite sides of the globe.

The first is a lovely balanced wine that calls itself “medium dry” with only a tiny hint of sweetness. It’s pitch-perfect and one of the better examples of Riesling I’ve had from Oregon in a while. Well done, Bryn Mawr.

The other is from one of Marlborough’s top producers, Fromm Winery, which makes excellent Pinot Noir in addition to Riesling. This one they call Spatlese (yes, without the umlaut), and it’s a moderately sweet, wonderfully mineral experience.

Sticking with New Zealand for a moment, I’ve got a very fresh-tasting Chardonnay from Easthope in Hawkes Bay, which manages to walk the line between richness and raciness quite competently.

Closer to home I’ve got two examples of Chardonnay from high-elevation Mendocino County, courtesy of Alder Spring’s Vineyard. They’re both aging nicely, though the 2014’s fruit is starting to fade a bit in favor of savory, herbal notes.

Headed into red territory, the Migration Pinot Noir offers a strong, pure cherry expression that many will love, while the three wines from Williams Selyem I tasted this week lean a bit more towards raspberry, each with their own charms.

Finally, I’ve got two incarnations of Sangiovese to recommend this week, one deeply earthy, the other plummy and cherry-bright. Both the Selvapiana and the Casanova di Neri represent excellent values.

Tasting Notes

2019 Bryn Mawr “Estate” Riesling, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of a hint of diesel and mandarin orange oil. In the mouth, juicy flavors of mandarin and Asian pear and wet chalkboard are bright with fantastic acidity. There’s only the barest hint of sweetness, with a perfect balance. Citrus zest lingers in the finish with a lovely stony quality. 11.8% alcohol. 130 cases made. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2020 Fromm Winery “Spatlese” Riesling, Marlborough, New Zealand
Palest greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of tangerine oil and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, moderately sweet flavors of honeysuckle, Asian pear, and mandarin orange have a wonderful wet pavement minerality and a nice filigreed acidity. 7% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2019 Nickel & Nickel “Truchard Vineyard” Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa, California
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of pineapple and buttered popcorn. In the mouth, pineapple, lemon curd, and melted butter have a rich saline quality as flavors of toasty buttered brioche linger with scents of pineapple in the finish. A rich, but vibrant expression of California Chardonnay for those who like the style. A bit ripe for my taste. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $52. click to buy.

2016 Alder Springs Vineyard Chardonnay, Mendocino, California
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of dried citrus peel, lemon juice, and dried herbs. In the mouth, citrus pith, grapefruit, and dried sage flavors have a faint salinity and a nice silky texture. Excellent acidity and length, though there’s a tiny bit of heat in the finish, surprising given the modest 13.1% alcohol. 119 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $39.

2014 Alder Springs Vineyard Chardonnay, Mendocino County, California
Light greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of baked and dried apples and dried chamomile. In the mouth, dried apple and chamomile flavors mix with lemon curd and grapefruit. Definitely entering its second stage of evolution, with the fruit fading, but the acidity is still brisk and bright. 13.5% alcohol. 350 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $39.

2017 Easthope Family Winegrowers “Skeetfield Vineyard” Chardonnay, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of sweet buttered popcorn and a touch of pineapple. In the mouth, gorgeously saline flavors of pineapple, lemon curd, and melted butter are positively zingy with fantastic acidity. Butter pineapple lingers in the finish. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $48.

2018 Migration “Bien Nacido Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of bright cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, cherry, cranberry, and raspberry fruit flavors have a bright sweetness to them, along with a wonderful purity. Excellent acidity and faint tannins, but with just a touch of alcoholic heat in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. 117 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $77.

2019 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth and cranberry and cherry. In the mouth, sweet cherry and raspberry fruit has a nice purity and excellent brightness thanks to fantastic acidity. Silky and bold with barely perceptible tannins. The sweet vanilla of new oak is clearly present here, but better integrated than the Central Coast bottling. Very easy to drink. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $80. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/21/21

2019 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California
Medium purple in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and new oak. In the mouth, rich black cherry, black raspberry, and the sweet vanilla of oak all swirl in a bright silky package across the palate. There’s a slightly candied quality to this wine and a touch more oak presence than I’d like. It may need a little time to settle down. 13.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2019 Williams Selyem “Terra de Promisso Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries, pine duff, and new oak. In the mouth, juicy bright raspberry and redcurrant flavors are shot through with the sweetness of new oak as well as bright floral notes. Hints of dried herbs linger in the finish along with the new oak. I think the oak will meld into the wine with time, but for now it’s a little in your face, and a bit too much for me. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2019 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina, Tuscany, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of forest floor and potting soil with a hint of dark fruit underneath. In the mouth, the wine is deeply earthy as well, with wet soil, pine duff, and cedar shavings mixing with cherry and black raspberry fruit. Profoundly savory in quality, with dried herbs lingering in the finish. 13% alcohol Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.

2018 Casanova di Neri “Irrosso” Sangiovese, Tuscany, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of meaty cedar and black cherry. In the mouth, juicy black cherry and earthy, cedar flavors have a wonderful salinity to them and a nice brightness thanks to excellent acidity, which leaves a faint citrus note lingering in the finish. Fleecy tannins hang about the edges of the mouth. Very drinkable. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/21/21 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/14/21

Welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week offered an unusually strong set of samples beginning with an absolutely fabulous white Rioja from the boutique producer Abel Mendoza. Husband-and-wife team Abel Mendoza and Maite Fernandez farm about 50 acres and make about 6000 cases of hand-crafted wines each year. The two have been making their own wines since 1988, and have made a name for themselves producing single-variety white wines in a region where, until recently, such wines were not allowed. This white, however, features all 5 white varieties that the couple grows, and it is a stunning expression of fruit and minerality that stopped me in my tracks. Their Seleccion Personal Rioja, which I also tasted this week, is equally as compelling. I highly recommend both wines.

There was a time (as recently as 15 years ago) when California rosé pretty much sucked. One of the problems it faced was that most folks in California didn’t know how to make it well. Most rosés were from saignee, meaning juice that was just pulled out of a tank that would go on to make red wine, rather than being wines that were made from grapes picked specifically to make rosé. Those crappy California rosés were all usually quite dark in color, and at the time, it was rare to see a pale, pink rendition that resembled the rosés of Provence. Now, thankfully, properly picked-for-rosé wines are much more common in California, and so it’s not uncommon to find wonderfully pale-colored pink wines from all over the state.

Having said that, the rosé I tried this week from Raeburn is perhaps one of the most pale-colored I’ve ever seen in California, but that lack of color doesn’t translate to a lack of flavor, however. It offers the bright range of refreshing flavors everyone has come to love in these versatile, delicious wines. I wonder, perhaps, if the pale color may be just an extra little hedge against the risk of smoke taint, the compounds of which are found in the skins of affected grapes. Regardless, there is zero perceptible taste of smoke in this wine, so either such efforts paid off, or there wasn’t anything to worry about.

Perhaps the most impressive wine I tasted this week was the latest wine from the collaboration between Burgundy’s Jean-Nicolas Méo (of Domaine Méo-Camuzet), and music entrepreneur Jay Boberg (among other things, one of the founders of IRS Records) named Nicolas-Jay. Along with the help of Associate Winemaker Tracy Kendall, this estate has been making exceptional Pinot Noirs in Oregon’s Willamette Valley for several years, with a particular emphasis on single-vineyard bottlings. Every year, however, there have always been some barrels or blocks that stand out, even from their single-vineyard focus, and in 2018, the trio decided to assemble a wine from these standout, best-of-the-best lots of wine. To this new wine they gave the name “L’Ensemble” and it truly sings. At the moment it is quite young, but the wine is both delicious and indicative that it will become even more so with age.

This week I also tasted two new releases from Acumen, one of Napa’s more interesting young wine labels. Their “Mountainside” wines are their less-expensive bottles, and both the Cabernet and the Red Blend are very tasty, and like all the Acumen wines, show a restraint of both alcohol and oak that are admirable for Napa.

Lastly, the wine world has been a bit abuzz lately with the announcement of the Penfolds California Collection, the venerable Australian producer’s set of California wines. Comprised of four wines, two of which, quite unusually, are blends of wine from both California and Australia, these were a pretty impressive set of wines.

The wines range in price from $50 to a whopping $700, but all display the extremely competent winemaking that has turned Penfolds into a powerhouse producer. My favorite of the group was the “Lot 149,” a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from both Napa and Australia that had an herbal zing and wonderful juicy acidity. Despite having 85.1% of the wine come from Napa, with 14.9% of the wine coming from outside the US, the wine has received the most generic appellation designation there is in this country: “American.” If only all American Cabernet Sauvignon was this good.

The other three wines are definitely worth seeking out, though I suspect the Quantum bottling may end up being little more than a collectors curiosity.

Tasting Notes

2019 Abel Mendoza “5V” Rioja Blanca, Spain
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of star fruit, melon, and candied grapefruit. In the mouth, juicy and bright Asian pear, melon and grapefruit flavors mix with dried yellow herbs and a wonderful citrus pith and saline quality that builds through the finish. Fantastically balanced between richness and mouthwatering juiciness. A blend of the five white grape varieties (hence the name) grown on the estate: Torrontes, Viura, Grenache Blanc, Tempranillo Blanco, and Malvasia. 14.5% alcohol. 3797 bottles made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.

2020 Raeburn Rosé, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest peach in color, to the point of being nearly colorless — certainty one of the lightest rosés I’ve had from California, this wine smells of watermelon and strawberry gum. In the mouth, faintly sweet flavors of watermelon, strawberry and raspberry fruit have a nice brightness thanks to excellent acidity, with an orange peel citrus note as well as a little jalapeño heat on the finish. Perhaps slightly candied for my taste, but doubtless a crowd-pleaser. An unusual blend of 74% Pinot Noir, 22% Zinfandel, and 4% Grenache. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $17. click to buy.

2018 Nicolas Jay “L’Ensemble” Pinot Noir, Oregon, Willamette Valley
Medium garnet in color, this wine has a slightly shy nose of dried flowers, raspberries, and cherry aromas. In the mouth, beautiful filigreed acidity brings flavors of raspberry, cherry, and forest floor alive. There’s a deep stoniness to this wine that is quite compelling, as well as a coiled potential that suggests it will blossom into something even more spectacular with age. Lovely faint tannins linger in the finish with hints of orange peel and cherry. Fermented with native yeasts and aged in 33% new French oak for 14 months. 13.5% alcohol. 1145 cases made. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.  

2017 Abel Mendoza “Seleccion Personal” Rioja, Spain
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich cherry and dark earth, shot through with dried flowers. In the mouth, cherry and earth and forest floor flavors mix with the exotic perfume of dried flowers and herbs. Gorgeously savory, with suede-like tannins that hang back at the edges of the palate and excellent acidity, this is an understated powerhouse of a wine that has beautiful balance and poise. It’s got a gorgeous voice, but it’s not shouting at you. Step closer and listen closely to what it has to say. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $61. click to buy.

2018 Acumen “Mountainside” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, cocoa powder, and tobacco. In the mouth, cherry, boysenberry, chocolate, and cola flavors have a nice brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Faint tannins buff the edges of the palate while notes of slightly-bitter and earthy licorice root linger in the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2018 Acumen “Mountainside” Red Blend, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, plum, and a touch of green herbs. In the mouth, plummy fruit and green herbs mix with cola and a berry note that are all juicy with excellent acidity. There’s a hint of bitterness in the finish that reminds me of Chinese medicinal tea.14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/14/21

2018 Penfolds “Bin 600 – Cabernet Shiraz” Red Blend, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and blackberry fruit. In the mouth, black cherry and blackberry flavors are bright and slightly spicy, with excellent acidity and a nice powdery, gauzy throw of tannins. Hints of orange peel linger with the blackberry bramble in the finish. Tasty. A blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Shiraz, some of which comes from a vineyard planted by Penfolds in the Camatta Hills of Paso Robles in the 1980s. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2018 Penfolds “Bin 704” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis, tobacco and earth. In the mouth, rich black cherry, cola, and licorice flavors are wonderfully savory and juicy with excellent acidity. The wood influence here is subtle and not overwhelming, though it does surface in the finish, leaving the wine with a faint woody aftertaste. A nicely made wine, though. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

2018 Penfolds “Bin 149” Cabernet Sauvignon, USA
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis and black licorice. In the mouth, juicy black cherry and blackberry flavors have a faint minty juiciness that it’s easy to imagine comes from the Australian component of this blend, though that’s not entirely certain. Quite juicy and very tasty, with supple, fleecy tannins that wrap around the mouthwatering core of fruit. Notes of mint and green herbs linger in the finish along with black cherry and licorice. Juicier and more satisfying than the Napa-only bottling that is part of this collection. Labeled a “Wine of the World,” this is an unusual blend of 85.1% Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and 14.9% Australian Cabernet. In all likelihood, this is the single best Cabernet without an AVA designation you’ll ever have. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $149. click to buy.

2018 Penfolds “Quantum – Bin 98” Cabernet Sauvignon, USA
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and cola. In the mouth, rich black cherry and cola flavors have a nice juicy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. There’s an interesting cedar and camphor quality to this wine, with a high-note that has an herbal incense quality to it. Very fine-grained tannins and a long finish. A blend of 87% Napa Cabernet, and 13% Australian Cabernet. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $700. Yes, you read that correctly. $700. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/14/21 appeared first on Vinography.

Wine Reviews: Ravines Wine Cellars

This week I’m focusing on three wines from New York’s Finger Lakes that really impressed me.

Started in 2001, Ravines Wine Cellars is the product of Morten and Lisa Hallgren, whose palates were honed in the culinary and winemaking worlds long before they came to America. Morten, Danish by birth, grew up in Provence, where his parents owned Domaine de Castel Roubine. He went on to study oenology in Montpellier and worked at Bordeaux’s Cos d’Estournel.

He worked in wineries in Texas and North Carolina before taking a job at the renowned Dr. Konstantin Frank Cellars. It was here that he developed a passion for dry, bright Finger Lakes wine.

They now have 130 acres of estate vines. I love Finger Lakes wines, so I was excited to taste through these offerings. They were exciting and offer a lot of tremendous value, especially if you’re looking to stock up for Spring and Summer.

These wines were received as trade samples and tastes sighted.

2017 Ravines Wine Cellars Dry Riesling – USA, New York, Finger Lakes
SRP: $18
Light yellow color. Wow, these aromas pop! Peaches, limes, papaya, topped in white flowers, slate, minerals, mountain streams and crushed rocks. Precise acidity frames this wine beautifully, racy but juicy, with pretty lime, papaya and kiwi fruit. Perfumed with floral tones, too. Mineral City – Population: This Riesling. Wow, so much chalk, minerals, mountain stream. Precise and deep but so vibrant, this is a gnarly Finger Lakes Riesling that should age wonderfully. 52% White Springs Vineyard grapes and 48% from 16 Falls Vineyard, 3 g/l residual sugar. (92 points IJB)

2019 Ravines Wine Cellars Pinot Noir Dry Rosé – USA, New York, Finger Lakes
SRP: $19
Deep copper color. So floral and spicy on the nose, with nettle, honeysuckle and rose petals on top of wild raspberry and tangy strawberries. Plush texture meets racy acidity on the palate, with flavors of white cherry, wineberry and McIntosh apple. The saline and mountain stream notes and beautiful, along with notes of crushed shells, white pepper and mint. A perfect spring or summer wine that would pair with so many foods. Really impressive pink here, all Pinot Noir, sourced primarily from the Argetsinger vineyard. (90 points IJB)

2017 Ravines Wine Cellars Maximilien – USA, New York, Finger Lakes
SRP: $25
Deep ruby color. Spicy herbs on the nose with charcoal, menthol, black pepper, on top of tangy black cherries, raspberries and red currants. Bright acidity frames this wine, medium-bodied, with dusty tannins providing some structure. Tangy cherries and currants offer a bright appeal, while I get a lot of complexity in terms of pepper, leather, roasted chestnut, paprika and peat. Delightfully fresh and fun, but complex as well. Drinks great right now or could improve with some near-term cellaring. Includes 54% Merlot and 46% Cabernet Sauvignon. (90 points IJB)

Frozen Wine in Texas

It’s being called by some ‘the St Valentine’s day massacre’. Starting on 9 February, a cold front descended on the state of Texas, bringing with it temperatures as low as -12 °F (-24 °C) and up to nine inches of snow and ice in some places. Average February temperatures in Austin, Texas, normally hover between 34 °F and 40 °F (1–4 °C). Instead, I was watching videos of friends snowboarding in their backyards.

Of course, that was only a novel point of levity in what quickly became a major disaster. Current estimates of the total damage are at hurricane levels – between $10 and $20 billion, while estimates from Texas A&M University put the agricultural damage at or above $600 million.

Texas has recently become America’s fifth-largest wine-producing state, with more than 350 wineries and more than 5,020 acres (2,032 ha) under vine (by way of comparison Oregon, ranked number four, has 35,972 acres/14,557 ha in cultivation). According to the National Association of American Wineries, Texas ranks third behind only California and Oregon among states where the wine industry has the highest economic impact, with an overall impact of $13.1 billion.

While Texas’ reputation for hot, arid flatlands belies the significant variation in its topography, it is among the warmest of America’s winegrowing regions and is generally unused to extremities such as those captured above by winemaker Regan Meador of Southold Farm + Cellar, whose porch spent the week encrusted in ice.

Continue reading this story on JancisRobinson.Com.

This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is usually available only to subscribers of her web site. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($11/mo or $111 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and maps from the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.

The post Frozen Wine in Texas appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/7/21

Welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

Let’s start with a pleasant oddity. Few people have successfully made good Grüner Veltliner in California. I think it has something to do with people thinking they can grow it and treat it like Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. But that has predictably disastrous results. This little number named Stasis, on the other hand, was clearly managed with a deft touch. I don’t know that I’d mistake it for a Wachau wine, but it’s quite tasty and definitely varietally correct.

I’ve written about Kingston Family Vineyards here on Vinography before, and have been tasting their wines since their earliest vintages. That is why I can say with confidence their latest Chardonnay is a knockout, and their best to date. Weighing in at a crisp 12% alcohol, it is bursting with flavor and electric with acidity. Pour this for friends and watch them mistake it for Burgundy.

I also got a bottle of Chalone Chardonnay recently. Chalone is one of California’s strangest, most unique growing sites, and has a history of making compelling wines. Its heavily volcanic and heavily limestone rich soils (two things that generally DO NOT go together, geologically speaking) yield distinctive wines, as this Chardonnay demonstrates.

I had a beautifully aged Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc recently with a friend, and then this week I opened the 2014 Apex 39 from Alder Springs Vineyard, and was floored at how similar this white blend from the northern reaches of Mendocino County managed to be at the hands of winemaker Byron Kosuge. Rich but not weighty, this is a serious, contemplative wine. A bit later, I’ve also got notes on an utterly delicious Grenache and Cunoise blend from the same vineyard.

Last week I tasted some of the reds and whites from Zulal winery in Armenia, but I saved the rosé for this week. It was worth the wait, offering quite a distinctive berry and melon quality with crisp acidity. If you’re a rosé fan and looking for something a little off the beaten path, this is certainly your answer.

Before we have a little Cabernet Franc love fest, let’s take a brief detour into the stony berry brightness of Lombardy’s alpine valley of Valtellina. Nebbiolo grown on a mountainside yields wonderfully light, fresh, stony fruit that is both refreshing and profound. If you haven’t had this version of Nebbiolo you owe it to yourself to try.

Lang & Reed Winery, whose Chenin Blancs I reviewed last week, was started to showcase the pleasures of Cabernet Franc, and that’s what vintners John and Tracy Skupny has been doing for decades. The winery is now transitioning to the next generation of Skupnys even as they continue to refine its Loire-inspired approach. In addition to the entry-level North Coast Cabernet Franc, and the older-vine, single clone Two Fourteen bottling, I received a special library release this week. The Franc de Pied bottling is a tiny bit of wine (576 bottles) representing the very last fruit from some own-rooted vines in Lake County that were torn out while this wine was still finishing malolactic conversion. It’s a tour-de-force of complexity and a wonderful tribute to the memory of a vineyard that is no more. It’s not cheap, but it’s clearly going to age well for many more years.

All these and more below.

Tasting Notes

2018 Stasis “Bee Sweet Vineyard” Grüner Veltliner, Edna Valley, Central Coast, California
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of pears and dried chamomile. In the mouth, pear, lemon juice and a touch of lemongrass have a bright juiciness thanks to excellent acidity. A faint woody bitterness lingers pleasantly in the finish. A pretty competent rendition of the variety for California. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $37.

2019 Kingston Family Vineyards “Sabino” Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, lemon pith, and grapefruit zest. In the mouth, wonderfully bright lemon and grapefruit flavors are positively bursting with acidity. Lean, zippy, and gorgeous, with a hint of bergamot and wonderfully stony minerality. Notes of lemon zest and lemon pith linger in the finish. Definitely, the best bottle of Chardonnay this estate has produced. 12% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $32. click to buy.

2018 Chalone Vineyard Chardonnay, Chalone, Central Coast, California
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and lemon zest. In the mouth, lemon curd, buttered popcorn, and a touch of pineapple mix in a silky textured package kept bright by good acidity. Well balanced between richness and leaner qualities. 14.1% alcohol. 2000 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2014 Alder Springs Vineyard “Apex 39” White Blend, Mendocino County, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of apples and white flowers. In the mouth, beautifully lean flavors of apples, pears, white flowers, and a touch of peaches have a faint tannic grip to them as they linger with hints of herbs and green olives in the finish. Wonderfully balanced between savory and fruit flavors at this point in its evolution. Excellent. A blend of 31% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne, 21% Picpoul Blanc, and 18% Viognier all grown at 2700 feet of elevation. 13.8% alcohol. 340 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $39.

2018 Zulal Rose of Areni Noir, Vayots Dzor, Armenia
A pale, peachy pink in the glass, this wine smells of red currants and citrus peel. In the mouth, crabapples and red currants mix with a touch of canteloupe melon as bright acidity lingers in the finish with citrus peel brightness. Tasty and distinctive. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2016 Tenuta Scerscé “Essenza” Valtellina Superiore, Lombardy, Italy
Light ruby in the glass—the color of some people’s rosé—this wine smells of potpourri and dried red fruits. In the mouth, wonderfully fresh flavors of strawberry, dusty earth, and dried flowers have a charming briskness thanks to excellent acidity. Faint tannins dust the corners of the mouth and linger with hints of earth in the finish. Lovely. Nebbiolo fruit from 30-50 year-old vines is fermented in steel and then aged in old oak casks for 24 months. 12.5% alcohol. 833 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2017 Lang & Reed Wine Company Cabernet Franc, North Coast, California
A bright medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of plum and green herbs and chopped nuts. In the mouth, plum and black cherry flavors are shot through with herbs and a touch of spicy earth. Fairly muscular tannins wrap around the core of fruit and herbs that is wonderfully balanced between savory and fruity. Hints of dried oregano and other herbs linger in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. 960 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $29. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/7/21

2016 Lang & Reed Wine Company “Two Fourteen” Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of plum and black cherry and a hint of woodsmoke. In the mouth, rich dark cherry and black plum flavors have a deeply earthy aspect and a licorice root savoriness that is quite compelling. Powdery, muscular tannins wrap around the core of the wine while excellent acidity keeps things fresh, and leaves a hint of green herbs in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. 240 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $85. click to buy.

2010 Lang & Reed Wine Company “Franc de Pied” Cabernet Franc, Lake County, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of leather and forest floor, plum, and dried flowers. in the mouth, plum and dried floral flavors are grasped in a thick fist of tannins that gradually put the squeeze on the palate. Gorgeous notes of licorice and violets linger in the finish. Excellent acidity and the muscle of the tannins suggest this wine has at least another decade ahead of itself. Made from own-rooted Cabernet Franc planted in the 1970s. This was the final vintage from these vines before it was replanted. 14.5% alcohol. 576 bottles produced. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $125. click to buy.

2013 Alder Springs Vineyard “Kinesis” Red Blend, Mendocino County, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberry jam and dried flowers. In the mouth, wonderfully bright strawberry and cranberry fruit has a juicy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. faint tannins buff the edges of the mouth as notes of flowers and licorice root linger in the finish. Fresh, bright, savory, and delicious, even after 7 years in the bottle. Wow. A blend of 49% Grenache, 19% Mourvedre and 32% Cunoise grown at 1800 feet to 2500 feet of elevation. 14.1% alcohol. 375 cases made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2016 Amor Fati “Murmur Vineyard” Syrah, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black olives and dark fruits. In the mouth, faintly saline flavors of green and Nicoise olives, blackberries, and licorice are dusted with powdery tannins. Decent acidity. I like the savory components of this wine, but wish it had a bit more vibrancy. Drink soonish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.         

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/7/21 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 2/28/21

Welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

Maybe because it’s Spring. Maybe because I need a little electricity in my life these days. Maybe because it kicks ass? I’ve been having some truly excellent Chenin Blanc experiences lately, both of my own choosing as well as thanks to spring sample shipments. This week I received two recent Chenin releases from Lang & Reed, the Loire-inspired producer in Napa that’s been making Cabernet Franc for longer than most in the valley. Six or eight years ago proprietors John and Tracy Skupny added Chenin to their portfolio, and they’ve been getting better and better. These two new bottlings are great, but the Mendocino County wine is positively fantastic. Run, don’t walk, to get thyself a bottle of electric pink grapefruit and quince goodness.

One of the chiefest virtues of any wine lover is a sense of curiosity. The wine world is so wide and varied, life is too short to just keep drinking the same grapes over and over again. That’s why I’m always thrilled to taste one I haven’t before. This week I got to taste Voskehat, an indigenous Armenian grape variety, courtesy Zulal wines, a brand developed by the WineWorks enological consulting firm in Armenia. Zulal means “pure” in Armenian, and Voskehat is a pure delight. Their renditions of the much more familiar (to me) Areni Noir grape are also worth checking out.

Speaking of mountainous wines, other than the few I regularly buy myself, I don’t get to taste a lot of wines from the spectacular Valtellina region of Italy, so I was quite pleased to get a couple from producer Tenuta Scerscé this week. Both are worth seeking out for their high-acid, savory, berry qualities.

And while we’re in Europe, let’s not overlook the phenomenal value of the Adega de Borba Reserva, a blend of local Portuguese grape varieties that hits all the right notes of savory, fruity, rich, but still with wonderful freshness. At $20 in some locations, it’s a steal. While it might be tricky to find, it’s not hard to spot, sporting a label made out of natural cork.

Closer to home we can close out this week’s tasting with three wines from Paso Robles. The first is a surprisingly light-colored Cunoise, Mourvedre, and Grenache blend from Kukula winery, which has a very pretty lift and brightness that belies its rather substantial alcohol level. The other two wines are from Dinner Vineyards. Of the two, I prefer the Cabernet-dominant blend, which has a bit more balance, but also a bit more wood. The neutral-oak aged Syrah has great flavors but doesn’t quite have the zip I wanted it to have.

Notes on all these wines below.

Tasting Notes

2018 Lang & Reed Wine Company Chenin Blanc, Oak Knoll District, Napa, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of pears and membrillo. In the mouth, wonderfully bright and crisp flavors of quince, pear, and yellow herbs have a fantastic citrus pith and pink grapefruit zing, thanks to excellent acidity. Delicious and completely mouthwatering. 13% alcohol. 269 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2019 Lang & Reed Wine Company Chenin Blanc, Mendocino County, California
Pale blonde in color, this wine smells of crème anglaise, poached pear, and pink grapefruit. In the mouth, gorgeous grapefruit and pear flavors are positively mouthwatering as they gush with acidity. Faint aromatic sweetness suffuses the wine as a membrillo note lingers in the finish. This is a pitch-perfect rendition of Chenin and perhaps my favorite that this venerable producer has ever made. Comes from 40-year-old vines in the Talmage Bench area of Mendocino County. Outstanding. 13% alcohol. 261 cases produced. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2018 Zulal Voskehat, Vayots Dzor, Armenia
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of Fuji apples, white flowers, and a touch of citrus pith. In the mouth, crisp and bright apple and pear flavors have a lovely floral overtone, as crisp acidity makes the mouth water. There’s a faint wet chalkboard minerality vibrating underneath it all. Quite pretty. Voskehat is an indigenous Armenian grape variety. This is my first taste of it, but I count myself as a fan already. Reminds me of Vernaccia. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2018 Zulal Areni Noir, Vayots Dzor, Armenia
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of forest berries and dried flowers. In the mouth, wonderfully bright boysenberry and mulberry flavors have a beautiful dried herb backdrop and lovely faint tannins that gently add structure to the rather boisterous wine. Quite tasty, with fantastic acidity. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30.

2018 Zulal “Reserve” Areni Noir, Vayots Dzor, Armenia
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar and cherries, and cranberry. In the mouth, bright cherry, cedar, cranberry, and a darker brown-sugar flavor are all lively and bright thanks to excellent acidity. Faint tannins linger with a hint of candied fennel seeds in the finish. The wood is very well integrated here, and offers some nice structure and texture along with the bright fruit flavors. Aged in Caucasian (yes, from the Caucasus region that is modern-day Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan) and French oak for 18 months. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2018 Tenuta Scerscé “Nettare” Rosso di Valtellina, Lombardy, Italy
Light ruby in the glass, almost rosé-like in hue, this wine smells of vegemite and dried roses, with a hint of asphalt. In the mouth, wonderfully taut, powdery tannins wrap around a core of strawberry and dried flowers, herbs and a bit of citrus peel. Excellent acidity. 100% Nebbiolo aged in concrete. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $33. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 2/28/21

2016 Tenuta Scerscé “Infinito” Sforzato di Valtellina, Lombardy, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of potting soil and dried flower petals. In the mouth, intense strawberry and sour cherry flavors mix with cedar and burnt orange peel. Fantastic acidity and faint, tacky tannins round out a very pretty, yet powerful wine. Alpine Nebbiolo in all its elegance. Made with grapes dried for two months prior to fermentation. Aged in large format oak barrels. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $64. click to buy.

2015 Adega de Borba “Riserva” Red Blend, Alentejo, Portugal
Medium garnet in the glass, headed towards ruby, this wine smells of blackberry and black cherry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully stony flavors of blackberry, black cherry and a hint of cedar mix with notes of forest floor and dried herbs. Lovely, balanced, and very juicy thanks to excellent acidity. A blend of 30% Trincadeira, 30% Alicante Bouschet, 20% Aragonez (Tempranillo), and 20% Castelão. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $17. click to buy.

2017 Kukula “Aatto” Red Blend, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberries and cola. In the mouth, juicy strawberry, rhubarb, and some green herbs have a nice zip to them thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a muscular, powdery web of tannins that gains firmness as the wine finishes with very little trace of its 15.4% alcohol. A very pretty blend of 45% Cunoise, 35% Mourvedre, and 20% Grenache. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2018 Denner Vineyards “Dirt Worshipper” Syrah, Central Coast, California
Very dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of meaty black olive, black cherry, and blackberry pie. In the mouth, rich blackberry and blueberry flavors fall somewhat flat on the palate, needing more acidity to keep them fresh. A thick “weighted blanket” of tannins descends on the palate and lingers with blueberry notes and a faint bitterness in the finish. Good flavors but I think perhaps just a touch too ripe for my taste. Includes 1% each of Viognier and Roussanne fermented with 45% whole cluster. Aged for 21 months in 15% new French oak, 7% new Hungarian oak, and 78% neutral oak barrels. 14.8% alcohol. 1294 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $80. click to buy.

2018 Denner Vineyards “Mother of Exiles” Red Blend, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and blackberries. In the mouth, plush flavors of black cherry and blackberry are nestled into a fleecy blanket of tannins. Good acidity keeps the wine bright and juicy, though that’s not enough to keep this from feeling a little thick in the mouth. Nonetheless, the oak is well-integrated and the overall package fairly seductive. Lovers of big, dark wines will enjoy this immensely. A blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc. Aged 23 months in 75% new French oak. 14.4% alcohol. 1210 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $80. click to buy.      

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 2/28/21 appeared first on Vinography.