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Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 22, 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.

As much as it pains me to admit, my process for going through samples is less than orderly, as is my basement, where they pile up, dangerously at times. Consequently there are bottles that get lost, tucked into a corner, only to be discovered a couple of years later as I move things around. As embarrassing as that can be, sometimes it yields great dividends, as it did this week when I found a box of Zinfandels from Bella. With a few years on them they are tasting great, or at least this Belle Canyon bottling I tried below would suggest that to be so.

And then there are wines that don't get lost in my cellar, they get lost in the winery's cellar. Renaissance Vineyards is known for keeping lots of library wines for later release, and this 1997 Cabernet they sent me is a perfect example of why. Gorgeous, supple, and aging beautifully, this wine really shines.

The other big surprise this week was the juicy boisterousness of the Stark Cunoise, which while not profound, is certainly deeply pleasurable to drink even at this youthful stage.

Finally, don't miss the lean and herbal Foursight Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley that offers yet another chapter in the "harvesting earlier pays dividends" book for that region's Pinot Noir.

All these and more below. Enjoy!

anselmo_contacto.jpg2011 Foursight "Charles Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of bright, briary raspberry fruit with a hint of citrus zest. In the mouth, juicy raspberry and green herb flavors have a citrus oil snap to them thanks to fantastic acidity. Silky in texture with barely perceptible tannins, this is quite an elegant wine. Long orange peel finish. 13.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $46. click to buy.

2008 HALL "Excellenz" Red Blend, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and cola. In the mouth, faintly sweet flavors of cherry, cola, and tobacco have a deep richness, with faint powdery tannins that coat the mouth, and a bright juicy acidity. Flavors of tobacco and candied cherry linger in the finish. Sweeter than in past vintages, but still a very well made wine. 15% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $200.

2012 Storm "John Sebastiani Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry, wet earth, and cedar. In the mouth, raspberry and cedar flavors have a lightly tacky, tannic grip to them and are made zippy by bright acidity. A lightly bitter flavor that is at once woody and herbal lingers for some time in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??

2012 Anselmo Mendes "Contacto" Albariño, Vinho Verde, Portugal
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of honeysuckle and golden apples. In the mouth bright citrusy apple flavors bounce merrily across the palate thanks to juicy acidity. A light mineral note adds some complexity, and grapefruit zest lingers in the finish. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $17.
click to buy.

2012 Dutton Goldfield "Dutton Ranch - Emerald Ridge Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of peeled bark and raspberries. In the mouth juicy raspberry and cranberry fruit is tinged with mixed green herbs. Edgy, with tart acidity, the wine has a beautiful sour cherry and redwood bark finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50.
click to buy.

2011 Hilliard Bruce "Sky" Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry fruit with a hint of oak. In the mouth, bright raspberry and cherry fruit has a slightly candied quality, but that is nicely countered by a bit of earthiness and green herbs. Polished, with good acidity and length. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $55.
click to buy.

2012 Fog Crest Vineyard "Estate" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry tinged with cedar. In the mouth, slightly sweet cherry and cranberry fruit and cedar flavors also have a hint of vanilla. A nice sour cherry kick of acidity follows up the somewhat candied core of this wine, leaving a mouthwatering finish in its wake. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $55.
click to buy.

2012 Stark "Eaglepoint Ranch" Cunoise, Mendocino, California
Light ruby in color with a hint of purple, this wine smells of bright cherry fruit. In the mouth, gorgeously bright cherry and raspberry fruit has a fantastic aromatic sweetness to it, and a wonderful cola flavor that seems welded to the light, leathery tannins that linger through the finish. Excellent acidity and freshness. Quite delicious. 13.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??

1997 Renaissance Vineyards "Premiere Cuvee" Cabernet Sauvignon, North Yuba, Sierra Foothills, California
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of cedar, mushrooms, shafer_one_five_2011.jpgand dried red apple skin. In the mouth, gorgeous cedar and red apple skin mix with dried flowers, wet earth, and a juicy cherry fruit that is still lively. Powdery tannins coat the mouth and add a lightly woody quality to the wine. Fantastic acidity and brightness.13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75.
click to buy.

2010 Alpha Estate "AXIA" Red Blend, Florina, Amyndeon, Greece
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of dried flowers, currants, and forest floor. In the mouth, thick, muscular tannins wrap around a surprisingly tart and juicy core of cassis, sour black cherry, and blackberry flavors. This wine is nothing so much as a handful of imperfectly ripe blackberries picked off the vine, some dark and ripe, some more red and sour. A blend of 50% Syrah, and 50% Xinomavro. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20.
click to buy.

2008 Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry cordials. In the mouth, cherry, tobacco, and new oak flavors merge seamlessly on a bed of tannins with rippling muscles, flexed and flexing further as the wine lingers through the finish. The oak leaves the mouth just slightly dry, but is generally well integrated. Notes of tobacco and cherry linger in the finish with a hint of cedar bitterness. 14.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60.
click to buy.

2011 Shafer Vineyards "One Point Five" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, Napa, California
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of ripe cherry, tobacco, and new oak. In the mouth, rich ripe cherry and tobacco flavors mix with cola and cocoa powder, all dusted with faint, powdery tannins and the vanilla of new oak. Good acidity and length, and a nice aromatic sweetness that suffuses the finish with sweet maraschino cherry. Not much hint of the wine's 15.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70.
click to buy.

2007 Bella Vineyards "Belle Canyon" Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium ruby in color with just a hint of purple, this wine smells of blackberry and licorice. In the mouth, licorice, blackberry, and a hint of black pepper all swirl beautifully with darker notes of earth. Faint tannins dust the palate, while notes of licorice and dried flowers linger through the finish. Very pretty and aging beautifully. 15% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $38.

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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