Hello, 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 some excellent bottles, first of which was one of my favorite white wines in the world, a wine that tastes so utterly of the windswept and sea stained ash and tufa that it was grown in you can close your eyes and be transported to the little archipelago of Santorini. The best producer on the island is Hatzidakis, a man of few words, but of gorgeous wines.
I've opened a couple of Pinots this week from Dutton Goldfield, a perennially enjoyable producer, and their 2013s don't disappoint.
On the heavier side, I'd point out the smoky, dark, savory Syrah made by the Chumash Indians down in the Santa Ynez Valley under their label Kitá as well as the second label of one of my favorite Napa producers, Spottswoode. Their Lyndenhurst Cabernet knocks the socks off of many wineries' top bottlings, at half the price. At $75 it's still spendy for most mere mortals, but if you're in the market for Cabernets in that range, it's well worth the price.
All this and more below. Enjoy, and happy new year!
2014 Hatzidakis "Santorini" Assyrtiko, Santorini, Greece
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith and wet chalkboard with a hint of sea air. In the mouth, gorgeous lemon and grapefruit pith mix with a touch of seawater and a deep wet chalkboard minerality that is breathtaking. Fantastically dry and stony, this wine tastes like crushed stones and the sea, all scented with citrus. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2013 Capensis Chardonnay, Western Cape, South Africa
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of buttered popcorn, a touch of oak and applesauce. In the mouth, fantastic acidity makes flavors of lemon curd, toasted sourdough, and melted butter come alive in the mouth. The oak is very well integrated and leaves a smoky note in the finish. Big shouldered, but still lithe. 1000 cases made. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $80. click to buy.
2013 Gundlach Bundschu "Estate Vineyard" Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of ripe golden apples and pineapple. In the mouth, bright pineapple and green apple flavors seem to play both sides of the ripe/lean fence at the same time as great acidity keeps the fruit lively. Silky and smooth with a hint of bitterness in the finish. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2013 Dutton Goldfield "Fox Den Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and black raspberry. In the mouth, rich cherry and raspberry flavors mix with wet stone and crushed herbs. An earthy note lingers in the finish along with dusty tannins. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2013 Dutton Goldfield "Emerald Ridge Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of black raspberry and wet earth. In the mouth, wet earth, black raspberry and crushed herb flavors have a great stony depth to them and are nestled into a gauzy haze of tannins. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit bright. Delicious. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.
2014 Kingston Family Vineyards "CJ's Barrel" Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley, Chile
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet earth, black raspberries and dried flowers. In the mouth, the wine has a stunning delicacy that I've never seen from this producer, with dried flowers, black raspberries, and wet leaves mixing in a wonderfully dusty haze of tannins. A wet chalkboard flavor and texture lingers in the finish along with dried flowers. Fantastic! One of the better Pinot Noirs I've had from Chile. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: ??
2013 Kitá "Camp 4 Vineyard" Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Medium to dark purple in color, this wine smells of smoky oiled leather, cassis, black cherry, and wet earth. In the mouth, smoky and savory notes of black cherry, blackberry, wet campfire and a hint of green olives make for a compelling and very tasty mouthful. Powdery tannins linger in the finish with notes of green olive and smoky oak. 13.5% alcohol Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2012 Spottswoode "Lyndenhurst" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco and cassis. In the mouth, black cherry and cola flavors are bright and juicy with excellent acidity, and backed by suede-like tannins. Floral notes linger in the finish along with a much deeper mineral and earth quality. This wine is pretty light on its feet, and quite delicious. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.
2012 Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard "Brooks Road" Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia, Australia
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and blueberry jam. In the mouth, jammy and rich blackberry and blueberry fruit flavors have a wonderful SweetTart tanginess to them even as a deeper earthy note tinged with oak rumbles along. Excellent acidity and powdery tannins keep this wine from being completely out of balance. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $75. click to buy.
2012 Stags' Leap Winery "The Leap" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and oak. In the mouth, dark black cherry fruit and sweet oak flavors are wrapped in a soft leather glove of tannins that are quite muscular. The wood, while well integrated, is more present than I would like, and the fruit fairly sweet. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $70. click to buy.
2012 Cliff Lede Winery "Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich black cherry and blackberry fruit. In the mouth, sweet black cherry and blackberry fruit is bright with acidity and firmly clasped in a muscular fist of velvety tannins. Sweet and a bit candied for my taste, but pleasurable nonetheless. 14.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $165. click to buy.
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