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Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 16th 2012

Thumbnail image for bigstock-Overhead-view-of-a-twelve-bott-31810241.jpgWelcome to the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better wine samples that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week's samples included a Riesling I enjoyed very much even though I suspect it might have been slightly oxidized. It was a 2010 vintage but tasted 5 to 10 years old at least -- which is to say, quite pleasurable, but my suspicion is that I didn't get a perfect bottle. But that didn't particularly matter to my palate.

Don't miss the incredible value represented by the Pierre Sparr white blend from Alsace, which offers a wonderful melange of flavor that is very food friendly as well as easy on the pocketbook.

I was surprised to open up a box from Spottswoode Winery in Napa, a favorite producer of mine, to find a bottle of Syrah. But apparently they've been playing around with cool climate Syrah in their spare time. It's a pleasant bottling, but doesn't match the quality of Spottswoode's Napa wines.

Quivira has begun making some proprietary blends that tend to resemble the old "mixed blacks" field blends that were characteristic of Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley around the turn of the century. My first taste of one of these shows great promise.

All that and more below for this week's installment.


2010 Weingut Leitz "Rüdesheimer Berg Kaisersteinfels" Riesling, Rheingau, Germany
Light gold in color, this wine smells of honey and roasted nuts. In the mouth the wine is already showing some maturity, with richer flavors of lemon curd and candied mandarine orange peel, a hint of parchment, and a deep undercurrent of wet stones. Big and rich, I wonder a bit if this bottle isn't just slightly oxidized. That doesn't keep me from really enjoying it, though. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2010 Pierre Sparr "One" White Blend, Alsace, France
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of green melon, lychee, and exotic lillies. In the mouth flavors of green melon mix with lemon and lime and a hint of peach. A beautiful melange of flavors is kept lively thanks to excellent acidity. This is a real pleasure to drink. quiv_quest.jpgA blend of 40% Muscat, 40% Riesling, and 20% Pinot Gris. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $13. click to buy.

2011 Chatzivariti "Eurynome" Roditis, Slopes of Paiko, Greece
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of unripe pear and pastry cream. In the mouth, silky smooth flavors of pear, linalool, and wet rocks have a nice balance of crisp mineral notes and smoother, even creamy fruit notes. Pleasant. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??.

2009 Charles Krug "Generations - Family Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dark cherry and tobacco. In the mouth the wine offers a very smooth, silky presence on the tongue, with flavors of cherry, tobacco, and cassis nicely mixed with a deeper earthy quality that is quite compelling. A stately wine, that betrays none of its 15.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2009 Conn Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of ripe cherry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit has a tobacco and cedar note, but mostly rolls around the tongue as a beautiful beryl-like gem of cherry flavor. Clean and quite unfettered by any overt traces of new oak, this wine has a claret style to it that is quite compelling. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2009 Brophy Clark Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry and wet dirt. In the mouth lovely and lively flavors of cranberry, wet earth, cedar and a hint of cherry mix beautifully under the skein of fine grained tannins. Excellent acidity and nice length through the earthy finish. Pretty. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2010 Quivira "Quest" Red Blend, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of fresh mulberry and boysenberry fruit. In the mouth, beautifully bright mulberry and boysenberry fruit flavors are juicy thanks to excellent acidity. Nice earthy notes accompany the vivid fruit, and dusty tannins add structure to the wine. Excellent and unique. A blend of 85% Zinfandel, 11% Petite Sirah,and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. 15% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2009 Trione Vineyards & Winery "Block Twenty One" Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of crushed cashews and hazelnuts. In the mouth, the wine is overtly sweet, with flavors of cassis and black cherry and tobacco wrapped in a thick blanket of tannins that dry the mouth. Notes of raisins and candied fruit emerge in the finish, and the new oak is surprisingly well integrated. The wine is a tad too big for my taste however, and comes in one of those obnoxiously heavy bottles that are a waste of resources. Nonetheless, it is well made. 14.4% alcohol Score: around 8.5. Cost: $64. click to buy.

2010 Field Book "Griffin's Lair Vineyard" Syrah, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
A second label to Spottswoode vineyard in Napa, this wine smells of blackberry fruit and a hint of smoky, woodiness that is quite interesting. In the mouth there's a hint of farmyard to the wine (brettanomyces?) that plays counterpoint to the dark blackberry and cassis flavors and their loamy undertones. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??.

2009 Gabbiano "Riserva" Chianti Classico, Chianti, Tuscany, Italy
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and sandalwood. In the mouth cherry and sandalwood flavors have a nice lift thanks to excellent acidity, even while they seem somewhat strapped down with thick, aggressive tannins. With some time, these tannins will relax a little and the fruit will shine through. Made in a modern style, but without an overload of French oak. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $23. click to buy.

2009 Boheme "Taylor Ridge Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet earth and bright raspberry fruit. In the mouth a deep earthy quality pervades the raspberry and redcurrant fruit, as a lightly leathery slip of tannins caresses the mouth. Nicely balanced with excellent acidity, this is a compelling wine. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud