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Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 6, 2013

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 the remainder of the group of wines I was recently sent from Alsace producer Pierre Sparr, and I find that over several of these Unboxed postings, I've basically recommended nearly every wine from this producer. None of them are knockout amazing, but they are all quite tasty, and most are fantastic values.

I've got another wine in here this week from Dry Creek producer Quivira, a special blend of Zinfandel from their biodynamically farmed vineyards.

We've got two very different California Chardonnays this week, one done in a leaner, cooler, more mineral style, the other in the more tropical tones that have long characterized California Chardonnay, but both are extremely well made and balanced.

Two entries from Tuscany this week also pleased -- a classically profiled reserve Chianti Classico from Cacciata (a far-flung part of the Bronco Wine empire), and a Super-Tuscan blend of Cabernet and Merlot from Gabbiano.

All these and more below.


NV Gloria Ferrer "Va de Vi Ultra Cuvee" Sparkling Wine, Sonoma County, California
Pale gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of apple and lime and pear with hints of sea air. In the mouth a fine mousse delivers flavors of apple and pear with a nice tangy citrus note to the palate. Excellent acidity and nice balance with a touch of sweetness. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $. click to buy.

2011 Pierre Sparr Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of wet stones, honey, and white flowers. In the mouth SetWidth155-PS-NV-Pinot-Blanc-Bottle-PP.jpgwonderfully stony flavors of white flowers and honey take on the barest tinge of sweetness, but racy acidity keeps the wine tasting almost dry through its beautifully bright finish. Lemon zest, ripe bartlett pear, and more. 12% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2011 Pierre Sparr Riesling, Alsace, France
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of linalool and lychee. In the mouth floral notes mix with lychee and a deep stoniness -- a wet chalkboard-like slate character that is quite compelling. Dry, crisp and very appealing, if on the simpler end of things. 12% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $14. click to buy.

2011 Pierre Sparr Gewürztraminer, Alsace, France
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of candied orange peel, lychee and very faintly, of roses. In the mouth The wine has a wonderful silky weight to it, which caresses the tongue with flavors of candied orange peel and rosewater. Lychee notes emerge on the finish with has a hint of heat to it. Fleshy, though with enough acidity to keep it from being flabby. Off-dry. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $17. click to buy.

2011 Dutton Goldfield "Dutton Ranch" Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells only faintly of white flowers and wet stones. In the mouth lean flavors of lemon zest, rainwater, and unripe apples give the wine a narrow, laser beam focus. Excellent acidity contributes to this deep mineral quality to the wine that is quite compelling. Not an ounce of "fat" in this wine. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2009 Dierberg Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and buttered popcorn. In the mouth the wine has a zingy lemon and wet stone quality that is surprisingly less ripe than the nose, with a well integrated oak profile and excellent acidity. Would never be mistaken for white Burgundy, but is an excellent example of the California profile. 14.5% alcohol Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2008 Conn Creek "Anthology" Proprietary Red Wine, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cola and a hint of new oak. In the mouth cassis and bright cherry flavors have a nice brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Supple tannins hang in the background, letting the fruit do the talking. Hints of new oak appear only in a slight bitter woodiness in the finish, otherwise, this is quite a clean bright wine with nice balance. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2010 Quivira "Flight" Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright blackberry fruit and and hints of green herbs. In the mouth taut and smooth tannins wrap around a core of blackberry and mulberry fruit that combine with a woody/herbal note. A bitter quality enters the finish, but isn't strong enough to spoil the pleasure of the bright fruit. Good acidity. 14.7% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $36. click to buy.

2009 Gabbiano "Alleanza" Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and plum and a hint of green bell pepper. In the mouth, the wine has a nice restrained earthiness to it underneath flavors of cherry and plum and a hint of green herbs. Smooth but aggressive tannins latch themselves onto the sides of the mouth, as the wine finishes with nice cassis notes. A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2008 Cacciata Riserva Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy
Medium ruby in color with just a hint of purple still at the rim, this wine smells of licorice, sawdust, and oiled leather with a hint of cherry. In the mouth cherry, leather, and sandalwood flavors mix with a hint of orange peel. Fine grained tannins hang in the background while nice acidity keeps the wine lively through a decent finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25.

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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