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Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 1, 2014

box_o_wine.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included the latest release from Tim Mondavi's Continuum project which is a real stunner. I thought the 2010 might have been the winery's best effort to date, but the 2011 may have topped it, yet again. Only time will tell, but if you're into high-end Napa reds, this one is definitely a keeper.

Slightly more affordable but definitely compelling, the Flora Springs Trilogy I opened this week was fantastic. The winery has toned down the oak influence in this wine slightly over the years and it is now a beautiful seamless whole.

While we're on the subject of Cabernet, the Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa was also very good, but couldn't hold a candle to the two previously mentioned wines.

Last week I reviewed the 2012 Gundlach Bundschu Gewürztraminer, and this week it's the 2013 that is stealing my heart (though really, I preferred the 2012, by a slight margin).

Finally, I can't turn you loose on the tasting notes without a mention of the gorgeous, restrained, and refined Petite Sirah from Ridge Vineyards. There are few bottles of Petite Sirah I'd feel like finishing over dinner, but this is definitely one of them.

All these and more below. Enjoy!

2013 Gundlach Bundschu Gewurztraminer, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Palest blond in color, this wine smells of orange peels and rose petals. In the mouth, bright and zingy orange peel and grapefruit flavors are tinged by a slight rose-petal floral quality that is quite nice. There's a hint of alcoholic heat on the finish, but hardly enough to suppress the pleasure of this wine. Excellent acidity and no trace of sweetness. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $23. click to buy.

2012 Paul Hobbs Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of pineapple and buttered popcorn. In the mouth, rich pineapple, lemon curd, and vanilla flavors swirl on a bed of satiny texture. Rich and ripe, but left to its own expression without an overabundance of oak, this wine will appeal to those who prefer their Chardonnays robust and fruit. Decent acidity and nice continuum_2011.jpglength. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.

2011 Hilliard Bruce "Sun" Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cherry pie. In the mouth the wine offers rich, slightly sweet cherry and raspberry fruit flavors touched by only the faintest leather of tannin. Good acidity, and quite pleasant, but lacking complexity and overly sweet. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2011 Hilliard Bruce "Earth" Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar and raspberry fruit with a hint of green herbs. In the mouth, bright raspberry fruit is tinged with green herbs and cedar and has a citrusy bright acidic snap to it. A faint sweetness suffuses the wine, but that is cut by the faint bitterness of the herbal notes, and resolves to a nice balance. Good acidity. 13.75% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $55. click to buy.

2011 Ridge Vineyards "Lytton Estate" Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky purple in the glass, this wine smells of match smoke and black cherries. In the mouth, smooth-as-suede black cherry, blackberry and cassis flavors swirl in a dark earthy whirlpool on the palate. Faint tannins are dusty and seem suspended like motes in the sunbeam of this wine's fruit. Excellent. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $33. click to buy.

2012 Cuvaison "Spire" Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry and pomegranate fruit. In the mouth cherry and cranberry and raspberry fruit has a rich, layered quality, tinged with a hint of green herbs and oak. Ripe but not massive, this is a pleasant and rich Pinot but it lacks the brightness and minerality that could turn it from good to great. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2011 Charles Krug "Family Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherries, green bell pepper, and oak. In the mouth, minty flavors of cherry and tobacco have a nice bright juiciness to them thanks to excellent acidity. The oak is present, both in flavor and in slightly drying tannins, but doesn't cross the line into objectionable, though it flirts with that zone. Cocoa powder lingers in the finish. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $60.

2011 Flora Springs "Trilogy" Red Blend, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, rich cherry, black cherry, and tobacco flavors are wonderfully bright and mouthwateringly juicy. Very little oak signature can be felt in this wine other than the silky texture and a hint of a vanilla high note. Beautiful, long finish. Excellent. 14.2% alcohol. 4680 cases produced. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.

2011 Stickybeak Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherries, raisins, and prunes. In the mouth, bright flavors of cherry, leather, raisins, and a hint of cocoa powder mix in a medium bodied package, dusted with faint tannins. Not particularly complex, but pleasant enough. A blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot, and 10% Syrah. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2011 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of tobacco, cherry, and a hint of green herbs. In the mouth, rich cherry and black cherry flavors are tinged with the toasty vanilla of oak. Excellent bright acidity makes the wine quite tasty, but it doesn't fully resolve into a harmonious whole yet. The components, however, are quite tasty, so given some time, it may unify. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $90. click to buy.

2011 Continuum Proprietary Red Wine, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco with a hint of floral overtone. In the mouth the wine has an incredible seamlessness to it, with rich black cherry and cherry flavors shot through with dark chocolate, tobacco, and a hint of espresso. Very well integrated oak adds a high note of vanilla to the mix, but stays quite subdued in the wine. Regal and poised and quite remarkably ready to drink, thanks to incredibly supple, powdery tannins. A stunner. A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 12% Petit Verdot and 2% Merlot. 14.7% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $170. click to buy.

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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