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Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 29, 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 an absolute knockout Pinot Noir from Adelsheim Vineyards in Oregon. I like their wines a lot, but this was one of the most ethereal, floral renditions I've ever had from them. It's only available for purchase direct from the winery, and a real treat.

The wines of Sequoia Grove have been under the radar for a lot of people. It's not a big Napa name, but they turn out some good juice, and increasingly, wines that are showing less oak. Their Cambium bottling, a proprietary Bordeaux-style blend is excellent.

I was happy to get the lineup of red wines from the Symington-owned Quinta de Roriz in Portugal's Douro valley this week. These are all incredible values, but especially their low-end bottling, which represent as good a contender for a house red as any wine under $20. I'd happily drink it every night with dinner.

Finally, it's hot, and so some white wine might be in order, nicely chilled, and sipped in the shade. We've got a few Chardonnays in this week's lineup, including a (best ever?) rendition of Shafer's usually quite rich Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay, and a surprisingly good entry from Beringer, which represents a pretty good value as well.

All these and more below. Enjoy!

2011 Hilliard Bruce Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and pineapple. In the mouth, strong pineapple and lemon curd flavors have a bright zinginess to them thanks to excellent acidity. There's a a light bitter lemon peel note in the finish, and a hint of alcoholic heat. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between8.5 and 9. Cost: $45.
click to buy.

2012 South Coast Winery "Wild Horse Peak" Chardonnay, South Coast, California
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of pineapple and a hint of green apple with notes of oak. In the mouth, pineapple, green apple, and pink grapefruit all have a lightly bitter edge to them. A lightly buttery, oaky note that leans towards the spicy enters the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $24. click to buy.

2012 Shafer Vineyards "Red Shoulder Ranch" Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa, California
Palest green gold in the glass, this wine smells of golden apples and honeysuckle. In the mouth, juicy golden apple and green apple flavors meld with bright mineral undertones under a canopy of woody oak. The oak doesn't become offensive, however, and adds a nice toasty, nutty quality to the wine. Excellent acidity and length. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2010 Fog Crest Vineyard "Elevage" Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of sweet oak and lemon curd. In the mouth, flavors of lemon curd and tropical fruits have a nice juicy roundness to them, but unfortunately some alcoholic heat creeps into the finish along with strengthening flavors of oak. 14.2% alcohol. 100 cases made. Score: around 8.5 . Cost: $45. click to buy.

2012 Beringer "Luminus" Chardonnay, Oak Knoll District, Napa, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and cold cream. In the mouth, exceptionally silky flavors of lemon curd and cold cream have a bright juiciness to them thanks to excellent acidity. The oak is beautifully integrated into the wine and fairly subtle. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30.
click to buy.

2012 Rusack Reserve Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Light gold in color, this wine smells of lemon rind, buttered popcorn, and pineapple. In the mouth strong and high-octane flavors of pineapple and lemon curd have a raciness to them sgv_cambium_btlHR.jpgthanks to very strong acidity. Lemon rind and pink grapefruit linger in the finish with notes of slightly bitter oak. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $27. click to buy.

2011 Truchard Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cranberry and cherry compote. In the mouth, bright cranberry and cherry flavors have an nice aromatic sweetness to them backed by a hint of woody bramble. Barely perceptible tannins and good acidity. A green herbal note lingers in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2011 Adelsheim Vineyards "Calkins Lane" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of beautifully perfumed dried flowers and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, gorgeous floral notes float on top of a raspberry and forest floor bed of fruit and earth. Fantastic acidity and balance, fantastic earthy, mineral depth. Outstanding. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $68. click to buy.

2010 Quinta de Roriz "Prazo de Roriz" Red Blend, Douro, Portugal
Medium to dark garnet in the glass with a deeper purple aspect, this wine smells of cherry, cassis, and mulberry fruit. In the mouth, bright berry notes mix with leather and sawdust flavors, as tannins grip the edges of the mouth. The red and black fruits are juicy and pleasant, with a nice earthiness to back them up. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2011 Quinta de Roriz "Post Scriptum de Chryseia" Red Blend, Douro, Portugal
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis and blackberry fruit. In the mouth, juicy blackberry and cassis fruit has a smoky aspect, and is snuggled into a thick fleecy blanket of tannins. Excellent acidity and a leathery, earthy depth add brightness and complexity in turn. Delicious and deep, and quite serious for a $25 wine. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25.

2009 Quinta de Roriz "Chryseia" Red Blend, Douro, Portugal
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis with a hint of raisin and prune. In the mouth, beautiful cassis and black cherry flavors are nestled into a suede purse of tannins that prove quite muscular as the wine finishes long and earthy. Excellent acidity and a floral brightness linger with the earth. Wonderful depth. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50.

2009 Sequoia Grove "Cambium" Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis, cherry, and tobacco. In the mouth bright cherry and cola flavors mix with deeper earthier tobacco and leather. Powdery, muscular tannins wrap around the core of fruit, and excellent acidity keeps things bouncy through the long, cherry finish. Extremely well integrated oak, and drinking beautifully now. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.

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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.