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Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 23, 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 further proof that Syrah is not dead in the form of two excellent wines, one from Napa, the other from the Central Coast of California. Now whether anyone will buy them is another matter, but at $15 (in some outlets) the Morgan Syrah is definitely a steal, and the Spring Mountain Syrah is worth its heftier price tag as well.

A nice Aszu Eszenscia wine is worth seeking out as well, made from only completely botrytized berries in Hungary's Tokaj region (meaning very little wine can be made from a LOT of grapes raisins), this will make anyone fond of sweet wines positively swoon. Drink chilled in front of the fire, or (gasp) poured over ice cream. Comes at a dear price, but they don't call it the Nectar of the Gods for nothing....

Great rosé Champagne is tough to afford, but pink Cremant d'Alsace is not. While it isn't profound, it certainly does the trick, and this week's entry from value-priced producer Pierre Sparr is an excellent buy.

Finding a great Pinot Noir for under $30 can sometimes (and unfortunately) be quite a chore in California. I don't know too many, but this week I add another to my list courtesy of producer Brophy Clark, whose 2010 Santa Maria Valley Pinot was everything I want in a California Pinot.

I continue to be impressed by the consistency of the red wines from Dry Creek Vineyards, and in particular their reserve-level, single-vineyard "Endeavor" Cabernet, which year after year continues to deliver. The 2008 is no exception, and will satisfy anyone looking for a rich but balanced wine, not to mention making clear that Napa has no monopoly in California on excellent Cabernet Sauvignon.

All these and more below.


2010 Weingut Max Ferd Richter "Veldenzer Elisenberg" Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of wet stones, lemongrass, and honey. In the mouth bright flavors of wet stones, honey, and white flowers have a delicate, lacy acidity. Moderately sweet, and tasting more so because of the lighter acidity, This is a pretty, but not profound wine. 9.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2006 Alana Tokaj Azsu "Eszenscia" White Blend, Hungary
Light orange gold in the glass, this wine smells of apricots, honey, and white flowers. In the mouth excellent acidity makes flavors of apricots, honey, candied orange rind and exotic 2008_endeavour_cabernet_sauvignon_btl_xlg.jpgresins bright and electric on the palate. Mouthwatering and gorgeous with a silky texture. Long finish. 7.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $139 for 375ml. click to buy.

2010 Boheme "English Hill Vineyard" Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California
Light to medium gold in color, this wine smells of honey and pineapple and candied lemon. In the mouth the wine has a nice balance between lemon and pineapple flavors that don't get so overwhelming as to cancel out the nice stony undertones to the wine that, along with the bright acidity, make it tasty. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??.

2010 Jordan Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of mixed nuts and lemon zest. In the mouth, flavors of of lemon zest, cold cream and a hint of buttered sourdough bread mix nicely with excellent acidity. Restrained and pleasing, if not horribly complex. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.

NV Pierre Sparr Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rosé, Alsace, France
Pale baby pink in the glass with moderately fine bubbles, this wine smells of wet stones and hibiscus. In the mouth the wine is lean with a delicate mousse and a stony body that is merely scented with raspberries and hibiscus. Quite pretty. 12% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2008 Dry Creek Vineyard "Endeavor" Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of dark ripe cherry and cola. In the mouth cherry cola is the flavor of the moment, rimmed by velvety tannins and incorporating espresso notes in the finish. Juicy acidity keeps things bright, and quite mouthwatering.14.5% alcohol. 490 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2010 Brophy Clark Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Very light garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and redcurrant and wet earth.In the mouth, redcurrant and wet dirt have a wonderful deep forest quality that is quite tasty. Excellent acidity brings in a citrusy-orange-peel note to the wine that lingers in the finish over top of the earthy rumble at the base of the wine. Very faint tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2009 Charles Krug Merlot, Napa Valley, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of ripe cherry and plum fruit. In the mouth, plush cherry and plummy fruit mix with suede-like, and surprisingly thick, tannins. Good acidity. A hint of bitterness emerges in the finish. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $17. click to buy.

2009 Trione Vineyards & Winery "River Road Ranch" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cola nut. In the mouth flavors of cola and cherry dominate, with notes of cedar and licorice in the background. A strange flavor profile for a Pinot, and a bit rich for my taste, but nice acidity means the wine is pleasant to drink.14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $35.

2010 Morgan Winery Syrah, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey, California
Dark purple in color, this wine smells of cassis and blueberry. In the mouth the wine has a nice stony quality to it as flavors of cassis and blackberry have a nice restraint as the smoothly flow across the palate. Virtually no tannins to speak of, and excellent acidity.13.6% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2009 Spring Mountain Vineyard Syrah, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of dark black cherry and wet earth. In the mouth the wine is surprisingly earthy, with rich loamy black cherry and cassis flavors mixed with the fetching bitterness of cocoa powder. Powdery tannins emerge in the finish to round off a dark and brooding wine.14.6% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $55. 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