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Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 22, 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 sample wine that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week's selections had a little something for everyone. For the cutting edge hipster crowd, I've got an unusual and distinctive Chenin Blanc from a very traditional, non-interventionalist winemaker from Savennieres in the Loire Valley of France.

For the die-hard California heritage fans I've got a library-aged Zinfandel from old vines at Dry Creek Vineyard.

For the svelte, Pinot-loving crowd you'll want to check out Pence Ranch's estate Pinot from down around Santa Barbara -- it's a steal at $30.

If you're tired of California Chardonnay, why not head north and see what they're doing in Oregon, courtesy of this very nice bottle from Stoller Vineyards.

And finally if you're looking for just some hedonistic, light hearted pleasure, be sure to track down the FogDog rosé of Grenache from Joseph Phelps.

All this and more below. Enjoy!

2011 Davis Bynum "Jane's Vineyard - Garfield Block" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of forest floor and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry and raspberry fruit have a nice brightness to them as notes of cherry and cedar linger in the finish. Faint lightly tacky tannins remain in the mouth as the cheeks continue to pucker thanks to the good acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $46. click to buy.

2012 Joseph Phelps "FogDog" Rose of Grenache, Monterey, California
Pale ruby in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry and watermelon. In the mouth, bright stoller_chard.jpgberry flavors mix with a nice bright rosehip citrus quality that lingers in the finish with a hint of chalky texture and minerality. Crisp and juicy. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??. Hard to find.

2010 Keller Estate "La Cruz Vineyard" Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of pineapple, lemon curd, and dried mango. In the mouth, rich pineapple and buttered sourdough flavors mix with lemon curd and pink grapefruit citrus all suffused with a hint of sweetness. Rich and ripe, but thankfully devoid of overt oak flavors, though its presence clearly comes through in the silky texture of the wine. Fans of the rich style of California Chardonnay will enjoy this offering. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2007 Dry Creek Vineyard "Beeson Ranch" Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium ruby in the glass with the barest hint of purple, this wine smells of chocolate covered raisins, overripe bananas, and chocolate. In the mouth beautiful flavors of chocolate, cedar, prunes, and licorice swirl with a nicely balanced character. Good acidity and faint, supple tannins. Aging nicely. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??. Hard to find.

2011 Stoller "Reserve" Chardonnay, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of poached pear and potpourri spices. In the mouth bright lemon curd flavors shift towards pink grapefruit and dance on the palate with excellent acidity. There's a nice deep stony quality under the fruit, and nary a trace of oak. Very nice.13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2010 Pence Ranch "Estate" Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of crushed green herbs, forest floor, and raspberry fruit. In the mouth flavors of raspberry, wet earth, and notes of green herbs mix in a nicely balanced package backed by excellent acidity. Very faint tannins linger in the finish with hints of green wood and wet dirt. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2012 Dutton Goldfied "Dutton Ranch Green Valley Vineyard" Gewürztraminer, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lychee and rose petals. In the mouth flavors of lychee, mandarin oranges, and other exotic citrus have a nice mellow brightness to them thanks to delicate acidity. Balanced and quite drinkable. The finish is floral and ethereal. Dry. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

NV Clement Barnaut "Cuvee Pitrouillet" Chenin Blanc, Savennières, Loire Valley, France
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of sawdust, quince paste, marzipan and exotic incense smoke. In the mouth flavors of cooked quince, bergamot and pink grapefruit have a zingy intensity thanks to excellent acidity. A hint of cream sherry flavor lingers in the finish with just a touch of appley sweetness. Interesting and quite unique. 12.7% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. Hard to find in the U.S.

2011 Stony Hill Gewurztraminer, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of Asian pear, lemongrass, and raw quince. In the mouth, flavors of Asian pear, exotic citrus, and unripe apple have a nice chalky mineral quality to them even as bright acidity lights up the mouth. Sourish cucumber and green apple skin linger in the finish. Dry. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $31. click to buy.

2010 Hedges Family Estate "Bel'Villa Vineyard" Syrah, Red Mountain, Columbia Valley, Washington
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black pepper, violets, and cassis. In the mouth, flavors of blackberry, black pepper, and cassis have a tight brightness to them, and a tart blueberry skin quality that lingers through the finish. The tannins are stony and cool and taut. 14% alcohol. 485 cases produced. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??. Hard to find online.

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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