In PUNCH, Leslie Pariseau talks to sommelier James Sligh about his Children’s Atlas of Wine project, which reimagines the traditional map through the lens of natural wine-and with fewer borders. “Sligh, who until recently worked and taught wine classes at SoHo’s La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, launched his own online education platform, under the “Atlas” name, in partnership with Chambers Street Wines in New York… The project and collection’s title is not only a self-deprecating nod to Sligh’s status as an amateur cartographer and artist, but also reflective of the approachable nature of his teaching style.”
Welcome to my weekly roundup of the wine stories that I find of interest on the web. I post them to my magazine on Flipboard, but for those of you who aren’t Flipboard inclined, here’s everything I’ve strained out of the wine-related muck for the week.
I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes in a “mini-review” format.
They are meant to be quirky, fun, and (mostly) easily-digestible reviews of (mostly) currently available wines (click here for the skinny on how to read them), and are presented links to help you find them, so that you can try them out for yourself. Cheers!
“Who gets to judge our wines? And why them? What qualifies James Suckling or Michel Bettane or Jancis Robinson or Antonio Galloni or Monica Larner to rate our wines? Why do they get the gavel, the robes and the wig? Sure, they have great palates, but if technical tasting ability was the foremost requirement, then surely we’d call on winemakers themselves? Or would we?” In Wine-Searcher, Oliver Styles looks at what makes a wine judge.
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.
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 Green Shine SANTA MARIA, CA: Chardonnay vineyards along the Tepusquet Bench shine with late afternoon light, near Santa Maria, California. Raised benchland at the foot of the San Rafael Mountains, cut away by the Sisquoc River, the Tepusquet Bench was an early site of vine plantings in Santa Barbara County.
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This week, I’m visiting (from afar) Sonoma’s Knights Valley. Here, in the northeast corner of Sonoma, where Napa and Sonoma meet at the base of Mount Saint Helena, the climate is the warm and the soils rocky.
I recently received a group of wines from Knights Bridge from this area. This winery was formed in 2006, and the wines are made by Douglas Daneilak, who has been with Knights Bridge since the beginning. Their diverse mix of Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays offers an interesting way to analyze what this region has to offer. This was my first time tasting wines from this producer, and I found an interesting mix of complex white wines (and a few reds) worth seeking out.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
2018 Knights Bridge Sauvignon Blanc KB Estate– USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley SRP: $30
Medium yellow color. Bright and stony on the nose with apricot, grapefruit, with lemongrass, basil and chalk dust. Plump texture on the palate with crisp acidity, balancing it well. Apricot, green apple, kiwi and orange peel, mixed with honeysuckle, daisies, along with notes of river rocks and minerals. Vibrant, lively, nuanced feel. (88 points IJB)
2019 Knights Bridge Sauvignon Blanc Fairview– USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley SRP: $70
Pale yellow color. Aromas show lemons, apricot and white peach, topped in nettle, honeysuckle, with some cream, whipped butter and sea salt. Creamy texture on the palate, fleshy but vibrant with a bright, crunchy feel, and delicious yellow apple, apricot and lemon fruit. Steel, floral, perfumed and mineral tones contrast nicely with these cinnamon, vanilla and white tea elements. Rich but complex and nuanced. (91 points IJB)
2019 Knights Bridge Sauvignon Blanc Pont de Chevalier– USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley SRP: $40
Medium yellow. Rich and deep on the nose, with a tropical blast of papaya, green melons, topped in honey, whipped cream, white tea and vanilla candle. Full and creamy on the palate with rich texture, but medium acidity keeps it moderately fresh. Papaya, white peach and cantaloupe fruit mix with lemon crème, vanilla and cinnamon, subtle white pepper and white tea tones. A Chardonnay-esque Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s well done. (88 points IJB)
2018 Knights Bridge Chardonnay KB Estate Unoaked– USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley SRP: $30
Light yellow color. Aromas of green apples, lemon, topped in mint, yellow flowers, hay and honeysuckle. Crisp and bright on the palate with green apples, pineapple, lemon and guava. Accents of honeysuckle, daisies and dandelion add a nice touch. Ripe but fresh and steely. Nicely done, seafood-friendly stuff that stays fresh and inviting. (87 points IJB)
2018 Knights Bridge Chardonnay KB Estate– USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley SRP: $40
Deep yellow color. Aromas of yellow apples, lemon bars, topped in salted almonds and pecans, with graham cracker and chalk tones. On the palate, this shows chunks of yellow plums, yellow apples, lemon curd and green melon. Creamy but nuanced, moderate acidity, has a subtly salty and chalky feel to the richer elements of nutshells and whipped honey. Showing some balance and nuance, though. (88 points IJB)
2018 Knights Bridge Chardonnay East Block– USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley SRP: $75
Light gold color. Creamy, warm, inviting aromas of yellow apples, apricot and orange marmalade, with peanut brittle, hay and white flowers. Full and creamy on the palate, but nice acidity keeps it from being heavy. Delicious fruit (creamy yellow apples, orange marmalade) mixes well with graham cracker, almond butter, creamy, waxy tones, topped in some white flowers and notes of sea salt. Lush, creamy, but also very pretty. (89 points IJB)
2018 Knights Bridge Chardonnay West Block– USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley SRP: $85
Light yellow color. Aromas of lemon curd, baked apple, topped in cinnamon crumb and almond cake, with honey, graham cracker, also some sea salt and chalk. Plump and rich and creamy on the palate with moderate acidity. Flavors of lemon bars, yellow apples, mixed with whipped butter, mixed nuts, hay and shaved ginger. Deep, delicious, rich, yet shows nuances and complexity that keep it interesting. (90 points IJB)
2018 Knights Bridge Chardonnay Pont de Chevalier– USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley SRP: $50
Rich yellow color. Bold aromas of graham cracker, almond cake, whipped honey and nougat, with baked apples, yellow plums and orange marmalade. Plush, waxy texture, rich and inviting, with medium-low acidity. Juicy yellow apples, baked pears, lemon bars and orange marmalade, the fruit is mixed with cinnamon crumb cake, vanilla crème, peanut brittle. Subtle chalk and white floral tones. Rich and boastful but it is undeniably delicious and sports solid complexity if you like this style. (89 points IJB)
2016 Knights Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon KB Estate- USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley SRP: $60
Deep purple color. Nose shows smoky earth, dark chocolate, cedar and roasted chestnut over top deep currant and blackberry fruit. Plush texture on the palate, with surprisingly vibrant acidity, on a chewy-textured frame with smooth tannins. Juicy plums, red and black currants, smooth, refined fruit with notes of smoky earth, graphite, anise and dark chocolate adding complexity. Violets and pencil lead on the finish, this is a deep but refreshing Cabernet showing very well at the moment but should show even better in a few years. (90 points IJB)
2016 Knights Bridge Red Blend KB Estate– USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley SRP: $50
Deep purple color. Aromas of plums, saucy cherries with smoky earth, grilled herbs and vanilla bean. Full-bodied with velvety tannins, some medium acidity with flavors of saucy plums and currants. Notes of tilled soil, black pepper, roasted bell pepper and grilled herbs really jive well with the deep yet silky fruit and feel. Juicy, vibrant and lush, this should open nicely in a few years. Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. (90 points IJB)