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Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 1, 2013

box_o_wine.jpgHello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of wine that have crossed my doorstep recently.

All sorts of exciting things showed up in the samples pile this week, including the dependably great Fumé Blanc from Grgich Hills which always brings a smile to my lips after the first sip. It's bright, sunny, and delicious.

In the same category, Yangarra's entry-level, old vine Grenache is one of the wine world's great values -- bursting with flavor and from some seriously old vines in South Australia.

For those who like their reds big and bold, you'll be impressed with the latest release from HALL wines, a blend of Syrah and Cabernet that pays tribute to the Australian wines that its owners love.

I've been a big fan of Anaba's wines since they launched a few years ago, and they continue to expand their portfolio. Two wines I tasted this week included small production efforts from the Sierra Foothills and the Dry Creek Valley, both worth seeking out.

Finally, I was thrilled to be introduced this week to the wines of Solminer, a label of which I had never heard until some bottles showed up in the mail. Run by a husband and wife team, Anna and David deLaski, this boutique little label just came on the market. They farm a few acres in Los Olivos, and make small lots of wine with minimal intervention and lots of TLC. David is a refugee from the music industry and Anna is a sustainable forestry consultant. Their friend Steve Clifton, of Palmina and Brewer-Clifton is consulting in the cellar. The wines are honest, and beautifully refreshing. I'm going to learn more about them, and soon. They are a label to watch.

Look for all these and more below.

2009 Alpha Estate "Utopia" Tannat, Florina, Greece
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of prunes, chocolate, and black plums. In the mouth, blackberry and black cherry are backed by stiff, muscular tannins that leave no doubt as to the origins of the name of the grape. Blueberry and boyzenberry notes linger in the finish. Good acidity keeps the ripe fruit alive on the palate. Moderate finish.14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??

2012 Solminer "Linus - deLanda Vineyard" Rosé of Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Light to medium coppery salmon color in the glass, this wine smells of citrus rind and rubellite_finalopt.pngmulberries. In the mouth, flavors of hibiscus, rosehips, and raspberries have a nice savory herbal tinge to them that makes this bright, light wine quite compelling. The finish is long and has a citrus kick that is a lot of fun. Definitely the best Syrah-based rosé I've ever had from outside France. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20 click to buy.

2012 Solminer "Rubellite - deLanda Vineyard" Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Not quite a rosé, not quite a full red, this perfectly light ruby colored wine smells of cherry and wet stones with a hint of floral note to it In the mouth, bright cherry and even strawberry fruit flavors have a wonderful bright crispness to them, as powdery tannins dust the tongue. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit vibrant and juicy while deeper rumblings of earth and wet stone hang out below the soaring fruit. Quite compelling, and in total, the wine is much more of a rosé than a big red. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $22 click to buy.

2010 Anaba "Naggiar Vineyard" Mourvedre, Sierra Foothills, California
Medium to dark purple in color, this wine has an arresting nose of candied violets, fennel seeds, and cassis. In the mouth, jiucy bright flavors of cassis, huckleberry, violets, and licorice have incredibly restrained tannins and a wonderful smoothness. Phenomenal acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??

2008 HALL "Darwin" Red Wine, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, sweet flavors of cherry, chocolate, and tobacco are surrounded by velvety, mouth-coating tannins. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit bright, but it is a little too sweet for my taste. A mystery blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50 click to buy.

2010 Anaba "Teldeschi Vineyard Home Ranch" Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Opaque, inky purple in the glass, this wine smells of struck match, woodsmoke, and cassis. In the mouth, rich black cherry, cassis, and blueberry flavors have a faint sweetness to them and are enclosed in deeply velvet tannins. Smooth, dark, and mysterious, this wine finishes with a gorgeous dark chocolate quality. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $40 click to buy.

2011 Selbach-Oster "Zeltinger Schlossberg" Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Germany
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of honeysuckle and asian pears. In the mouth, the wine has a slight spritz to it still, and beautiful honeysuckle, asian pear, and mandarin orange flavors that float over a bed of wet stones. Juicy and delicious. 8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25 click to buy.

2010 Mayacamas Vineyards Chardonnay, Mount Veeder, Napa, California
Pale blonde in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones, cold cream and meyer lemon pith. In the mouth, the wine has a silky smooth texture and bright lemon and grapefruit pith character welded to a deep minerality. 14.25% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25 click to buy.

2011 Grgich Hills "Fume Blanc" Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of gooseberries and passionfruit. In the mouth, bright passionfruit and gooseberry flavors burst on the palate with electric acidity. Fantastically bright and mouthwatering. 13.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $27 click to buy.

2010 Yangarra "Old Vine" Grenache, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of exotic incense, mulled spices, and mixed berry fruit. In the mouth, rich forest berries mix with cedar and exotic spices as fleecy tannins rim the edges of the mouth. Distinctive and quite arresting. Excellent acidity and great length. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $32 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