Welcome to the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better wine samples that have crossed my doorstep recently, and the first edition of 2013.
This week's samples included a stellar wine that has quickly become one of Napa's best values, the (slightly difficult to find) "Herrick" red blend from the folks at Conn Creek winery. This bottle is great candidate for a house wine, but sophisticated enough for serious Cabernet drinkers.
Quivira, the biodynamic estate in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley has been producing great wines over the past few years, many of which are excellent values. Their basic Zinfandel proves that case in spades for the cooler 2010 vintage, with great balance and pure drinkability.
I continue to be impressed with the value-priced wines of Pierre Sparr in France's Alsace region. His Cremant, a sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay has a distinctive rocky character that is quite appealing, especially at the sub-$20 price point.
Finally, this cool 2010 vintage has meant that some producers whose wines tend to be on the bigger-boned side are producing leaner versions of their wines. The 2010 MacPhail Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir is a great example. I often find MacPhail wines to be too massive and ripe, with overt new oak influence, but this wine is wonderfully balanced and quite pleasing to drink.
All these and more below.
2011 Morgan Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of cut green grass, green apple, and cucumber. In the mouth bright cut grass, lime zest, and gooseberry flavors have a nice zip to them thanks to excellent acidity. Crisp and very green. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $14. click to buy.
2011 Simeonidis "Cantharus" White Blend, Pangeon, Greece
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet rocks and a hint of honey. In the mouth, wet stone, white flowers, and a hint of honey all blend in a nice mineral tone that is lively thanks to excellent acidity. Racy and lean, and quite pleasant, despite its unfortunate homonym of a name. A blend of 70% Assyrtiko and 30% Malagousia. 12.6% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $19. click to buy.
NV JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset "No. 21" Cremant de Bourgogne, Burgundy, France
Pale gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of lemony pear and wet stones. In the mouth wet stones and lemon zest mix with a pear and apple fruit quality that honestly takes a back seat to the minerality. Nice delicate lacy acidity and a soft mousse. Good tangy lemon finish.12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16. click to buy.
NV Pierre Sparr "Brut Reserve" Cremant d'Alsace, Alsace, France
Palest greenish gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of wet stones and unripe pears and green plums. In the mouth, the wine has a stony austerity with flavors of green apple, green plum and wet rocks. Like drinking granite. Quite unique. 12% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $19. click to buy.
2010 Macphail "Sangiacomo Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry fruit and a hint of struck match. In the mouth cranberry and raspberry fruit have a nice complexion, shot through with woody notes of redwood bark and cedar. Quite pretty and balanced with excellent acidity, this is a pleasure to drink. Excellent finish. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $49. click to buy.
2009 Conn Creek "Herrick Red" Proprietary Red Wine, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in color this wine smells of bright cherry fruit and a hint of spruce boughs and new oak. In the mouth a strong signature of new oak is relatively well integrated with the bright cherry and cola flavors of excellent fruit. Leathery tannins grip the edges of the mouth firmly, though with a fine grained feel. Excellent acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $17. click to buy.
2010 Quivira Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright blackberry and cassis fruit. In the mouth remarkably pure blackberry and cassis fruit has a fantastic brightness and acidity, coupled with the structure that faint tannins can add. Wonderfully composed and balanced. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2009 Dierberg Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis and blackberry fruit. In the mouth smoky notes of blackberry and cassis are wrapped in thick, dusty tannins. Earthier notes emerge towards the finish. Nice acidity keeps the flavors bright. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $34. click to buy.
2009 Spring Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis, dark roasted espresso, and new oak. In the mouth flavors of new French oak integrate fairly well with cassis, black cherry, and cola flavors. Decent acidity. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $75.
2010 Brophy Clark Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright raspberry jam and cedar. In the mouth, tart raspberry fruit mixes with taut but faint tannins over a bed of wet chalkboard flavor that is quite nice. While not horribly complex, this wine is quite pleasant, and easy to drink especially thanks to its restrained13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2008 Dry Creek Vineyard "Meritage" Red Blend, Sonoma County, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cedar and wet dirt. In the mouth wet earth fuses nicely with cherry and earth and cedar. Nice furry tannins grip the edges of the mouth and tongue. Good acidity, nice finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2009 Gabbiano "Belleza - Riserva" Red Blend, Chianti Classico, Chianti, Tuscany, Italy
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of struck matches and cherry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit has a lightly smoky quality to it, and a joyous, bright nature thanks to excellent acidity. Fine grained tannins provide skeletal support. Nicely balanced and youthful. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??.
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