This week I was stunned by the latest releases of Nickel & Nickel's single vineyard Cabernets. These are always well made wines, but usually with far too much oak influence for my taste. The 2010 vintage, however combines the leaner fruit of a cooler year with less new oak than usual for a dynamite showing. With great acidity and balance these wines will last for 20 or 30 years easily.
I've been tasting through some of the wines from Chateau Maris in France's Languedoc, which may hold the title as the greenest winery in the world (the building itself is made of hemp!). Their red blend has a nice cheeriness to it along with a more serious barnyard aspect that may not appeal to everyone, but certainly did to me.
The latest release of Shafer's Hillside Select was also in the pile this week, and it continues the tradition of high quality winemaking, though this vintage clearly needs some time in the bottle before reaching its full potential.
Other reliable Cabernets from Lancaster in Sonoma's Alexander Valley, and Smith Madrone also showed well, as did a couple current releases from Flora Springs. The 2011 Cabernet and Merlot from this producer showed remarkable restraint and had fairly low alcohols in keeping with the cold vintage, which made them quite tasty to my palate.
And finally, just so it wasn't an entirely red week, I've got a couple of inexpensive Rieslings that satisfy, in particular the bottling from Dr. Bürklin-Wolf.
All of these and more below. Enjoy!
2011 Kühling-Gillot "Qvinterra Trocken" Riesling, Rheinhessen, Germany
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon oil, a hint of petrol, and wet chalkboard. In the mouth pink grapefruit and tangelo zest have a bright, if a bit austere, zing to them. Excellent acidity. Citrus zest lingers in the finish.12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2011 Dr. Bürklin-Wolf "Bürklin Estate" Riesling, Pfalz, Germany
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of star fruit and wet stones. In the mouth, start fruit, green apple and wet chalkboard flavors have a nice crispness to them as lime zest and pink grapefruit notes linger in the finish. Excellent acidity and nice balance. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2009 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain, Napa, California
Medium to dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, tobacco, and wet earth. In the mouth, powdery tannins wrap around wet earth, black cherry, and a nice green herbal note. Beautiful bright acidity keeps this wine lean, as does the deep wet earth minerality that underlies the whole package. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2010 Nickel & Nickel "Martin Stelling Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cassis and black cherry fruit. In the mouth, juicy black cherry and cassis flavors have a deep earthiness to them. Muscular, mouth coating tannins cover every nook and cranny in the mouth as earthy and deep black cherry notes linger through the finish. Excellent acidity. 14.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $155. click to buy.
2010 Nickel & Nickel "Hayne Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherries, violets, and tobacco. In the mouth, beautifully silky and bright cherry and cassis flavors have a fantastic stony quality to them and little or no trace of oak. Outstanding, and without a doubt the best vintage of this wine I've ever had.14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.
2010 Nickel & Nickel "John C. Sullenger Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, rich black cherry, graphite, and wet earth flavors mix with a hint of wet wood and espresso. Gorgeous, dark, and showing very little oak influence. Bravo. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.
2010 Signorello Estate "Padrone" Proprietary Red Wine, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells like cherry, graphite, sandalwood and wet earth. In the mouth, beautiful graphite and cherry flavors mix with a deeper earthy quality. Powdery tannins hang gauzily about the mouth while beautifully bright cherry and cedar flavors mix with cocoa flavors and espresso in the finish. Beautifully integrated oak is barely present in the wine. Gorgeous. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.
2010 Lancaster Estate "Nicole's" Proprietary Red Wine, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and wet stones with hints of cocoa powder. In the mouth wonderfully bright cherry and black cherry flavors mix with a fantastic forest floor, graphite, and wet stone quality. Powdery, mouth coating tannins find every nook and cranny in the mouth, and linger with a muscular presence. Excellent. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2009 Shafer Vineyards "Hillside Select" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, Napa, California
Inky, opaque garnet in color, this wine smells of rich black cherry and cassis with a hint of dark earth underneath. In the mouth, rich cassis and black cherry fruit has an excellent brightness to it, thanks to good acidity. Mouth coating tannins linger, with a hint of dryness and a suggestion that this wine be left alone for a few years to mellow itself. Shows little hint of its 15.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $240. click to buy.
2011 Flora Springs Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich black cherry and tobacco with a hint of chocolate. In the mouth, beautifully bright cherry and tobacco flavors mix with espresso and wet earth in a gorgeously balanced package. Supple, velvety tannins linger through the finish with just the faintest hint of green bell pepper and crushed herbs. Lovely. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2011 Flora Springs Merlot, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of brown sugar, plums, and dark chocolate. In the mouth, juicy black plum, cola, and chocolate flavors have a nice fuzzy blanket of tannins to rest in, while good acidity keeps the fruit bright. A caramelized note pervades the wine, continuing through the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2010 Chateau Maris "Les Planels" Red Blend, Minervois La Liviniere, Languedoc, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of a muddy barnyard and rich black cherry and cassis fruit. In the mouth, spicy cassis and mulberry flavors have a creamy aspect and a dark loamy undertone. Good acidity keeps the wine bright, and a spicy/peppery note lingers in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
The Superb Grace of Old Vines: Drinking Janasse The Zinfandel Experience: January 31, San Francisco Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 4, 2015 Vinography Images: The Colors of a New Season Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 27th, 2014 Vinography Images: Rich Skies Losing a Legend in Serge Hochar Flirting with the Ecstatic: The Wines of Nikolaihof, Austria Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 20, 2014 A Grape By Any Other Name
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune