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Vinography Unboxed: Week of February 2, 2014

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.

There are some gems from Greece this week, including two of the top wines from Domaine Skouras, one of the better producers making wine in the Nemea region of Greece. If you've not tried Agiorgitiko, you're missing out.

A bottle of Ridge Vineyards' Lytton Springs was also in the pile this week, and it, true to form, didn't disappoint. This wine is one of California's best interpretations of Zinfandel without a doubt.

When was the last time you had a bottle of Oregon Auxerrois? Looks like this week is all about exotic grapes starting with the letter "a." Auxerrois is a close relative of Chardonnay and features heavily in wines from France's Alsace region and its neighbor, Germany. This one, though, hails from a little closer to home.

All of these and more below. Enjoy!

2012 Adelsheim Vineyards "Ribbon Springs Vineyard" Auxerrois, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale blonde in color, this wine smells of wet chalkboard and pears. In the mouth wonderfully bright wet chalkboard and pear flavors are tinged with a hint of grapefruit. Clean, crisp, and quite pleasant. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.

dierberg_pinot.jpg2012 Adelsheim Vineyards Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of cold cream and poached pears. In the mouth, crisp pear and unripe apple flavors have a zippy, mouth puckering brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of lemon zest linger in the finish. Quite tasty. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $19. click to buy.

2012 Chateau Maris "Old School" Rosé, Minervois, Languedoc, France
Pale ruby in color, this wine smells of wet leaves and red berries. In the mouth, silky smooth flavors of cherry and raspberry mix with a nice rainwater minerality. The acidity is delicate, and makes perhaps for less crisp a wine than I would like, but it is hard to deny that it is easy to drink. Pleasant and uncomplicated. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $14. click to buy.

2011 Dierberg "Drum Canyon Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth dark cherry and cranberry mix with a stony quality as notes of cedar and green herbs emerge in the long finish. Rich and dark, but if you like that style, quite compelling. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2011 Ridge "Lytton Springs" Red Blend, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and black pepper. In the mouth gorgeous blackberry, cassis, and mulberry flavors mix with a deep granitic and wet earth quality that is quite compelling. Dusty tannins creep about the edges of the mouth like fog, solidifying as the wine lingers through a long finish tinged with wet wood. Outstanding. A blend of 82% Zinfandel, 16% Petite Sirah, and 2% Carignan. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $33. click to buy.

2012 Alexakis Vidianó, Crete, Greece
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones and white flowers. In the mouth, bright floral notes of jasmine and honeysuckle mix with a deep stony minerality that has a rainwater-like purity. Gorgeous and lean, delicate and beautifully balanced with excellent acidity. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2012 Alexakis Malvasia Aromatica, Crete, Greece
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apple and honeydew melon. In the mouth flavors of honeydew melon, white flowers, and candied green apple have a crisp dryness to them as they merge with a stony quality that is quite delicious. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $13. click to buy.

2011 Tin Barn Vineyards "Ricci Vineyard" Pinot Noir Carneros, Sonoma, California
Very light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried mushrooms and red berries. In the mouth, the wine has a nice umami character, with flavors of miso paste, cherries, and skouras_megas.jpgraspberries that all take on a cedary aspect as they head towards a long finish. Notes of leather and nutmeg emerge on the finish. Quite pretty, with good acidity, 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $34. click to buy.

2011 Tin Barn Vineyards "Los Chamizal Vineyard" Zinfandel Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich, bright blackberry fruit. In the mouth, blackberry and blueberry fruit flavors mix with nutty notes of dark chocolate, and just the barest hint of sweetness. Lush and hard not to love, with a tinge of vanilla-scented oak on the finish. 15.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $29. click to buy.

2007 Domaine Skouras "Grand Cuvee Nemea" Agiorgitiko, Nemea, Pelopponnisos, Greece
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherries and black raspberries. In the mouth powdery, fine grained tannins wrap around a core of deep crushed stone, forest berries, and forest floor. Deep, dark and mysterious. Notes of leather and dried flowers emerge on the finish. Outstanding.13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2008 Alexakis "Sra Kotsifali" Red Blend, Crete, Greece
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of exotic incense, dried violets, and juniper berries. In the mouth the wine continues to be intensely aromatic, with crushed juniper berries, licorice, and dried flowers perfuming flavors of black cherry and wet earth. A nutty quality lingers in the finish. Intense and exotic. A blend of 40% Syrah and 60% of the indigenous Cretean grape variety Kotsfali. Oak aged for 2 years. 13% alcohol.Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $14. click to buy.

2008 Domaine Skouras "Megas Oenos" Red Blend, Nemea, Pelopponnisos, Greece
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of chocolate and deep cherry aromas. In the mouth chocolate, cedar and dark cherry flavors are shot through with a forest berry brightness that is welded to a deep wet stone minerality. Powdery tannins fill the mouth and the faint scents of vanilla and new oak linger in the finish. A powerful, prodigious wine that has at least two decades ahead of it. A blend of 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 80% Agiorgitiko. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $27. click to buy.

2010 Adelsheim "Calkins Lane Vineyard" Syrah, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis, blueberries, and white pepper. In the mouth, the wine has a wonderful saline quality to it, and a fruit character that consequently hangs between black olive and blueberry. Powdery tannins coat the mouth as the silky-textured wine heads for a long finish bright with good acidity. Quite unusual and distinctive.13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud 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 World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.