Welcome to this week’s installment of my new feature, Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better wine samples that have crossed my doorstep recently.
This weeks samples included a number of great values from France, South Africa, and Italy. I was particularly impressed with the Laurentaise Corbieres, a very pretty little wine from the Languedoc, which I was unfortunately unable to find for sale online anywhere, but keep your eye out for it as it’s a phenomenal value. The Chateau Chambert was a nice surprise, as it avoided the trap of austerity and stiffness into which lot of Cahors wines fall. Much the same could be said for the Lagrein, though Abbazia di Novacella is an outstanding producer that can always be relied upon for great wines.
Closer to home, the Acorn Winery Sangiovese is a nice treat, and an excellent rendition of a grape that very few manage to get right in California. Apparently the Dutton Goldfield Gewürztraminer either isn’t yet released, or was made in such small quantities that it’s tough to find these days. The Hess “Allomi” Cabernet continues, vintage after vintage, to be one of the better value Cabernets in Napa. Finally, Shafer’s Relentless always sits in the shadow of that winery’s Cabernets, but it is an excellent wine and for anyone looking for a pedigreed Syrah.
2011 Morgan Winery “R&D Franscioni Vineyard” Pinot Gris, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey, California
Pale blonde in the glass, this wine smells of pears and honey. In the mouth, pleasant pear and mineral flavors mix with hints of citrus lingering in the finish. Excellent acidity keeps this wine lively and quite clear of the trap of banality into which much domestic Pinot Gris falls. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2010 Yorkville Cellars Semillon, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of yeasty lemon zest. In the mouth flavors of lemon zest and freshly baked bread crust mix with bright acidity. Pink grapefruit surfaces in the finish. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2011 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé Coastal Region, South Africa
Palest ruby in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry and watermelon. In the mouth strawberry and watermelon flavors continue with bright orange peel acidity. Juicy and bright with nice crisp finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $10. click to buy.
2010 Beni di Batasiolo “Granee” Cortese, Gavi, Piemonte, Italy
Pale blonde in color, this wine smells of yeasty bread and baked pears. In the mouth nice lemony poached pear flavors mix with nice mineral undertones and great acidity. Simple, but pleasurable. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2011 Dutton Goldfield “Dutton Ranch Green Valley Vineyard” Gewürztraminer, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of rose petals and lychees. In the mouth flavors of lychee and orange peel add rose petal notes in the finish. Excellent acidity and a faint hint of spice after a long while. Delicious. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??.
2009 Shafer Vineyards “Relentless” Syrah, Napa Valley, California
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of rich blackberry and new oak. In the mouth blackberry and new oak flavors mix with beautifully supple tannins. Slightly lower acidity than I would like, but quite tasty nonetheless. A blend of 82% Syrah, 18% Petite Sirah that betrays none of its 15.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2009 Hess Collection “Allomi” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth, tobacco, and dark cherry fruit. In the mouth the wine has wonderfully restrained flavors of cherry, tobacco, and wet dark earth. The traces of new wood, what little there are, sing nicely in the background. Balanced, and refined. Excellent. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.
2009 Cellier des Demoiselles “La Saint Laurentaise” Red Blend, Corbieres, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich cassis and blueberries. In the mouth, the wine offers cool cassis and black cherry fruit with a lovely savoriness that leans towards black olive. Faint tannins caress the tongue. Great balance. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $??.
2008 Acorn Winery “Medley” Red Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of huckleberries, cola, and cedar. In the mouth cola and cedar flavors mix with a lovely velvet texture and are wrapped in supple tannins. Delicious fruit flavors have a nice underlying earthy tone, and just the right touch of wood. A field blend of 33% Zinfandel, 31% Cabernet Franc, 23% Syrah, 3% Cinsault, 2% Muscats, 1% Merlot, 1% Blue Portuguese, and 6% other varieties.14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.
2008 Chateau de Chambert Red Wine Cahors, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of woodsmoke and cassis. In the mouth, stiff leathery tannins wrap around a core of cassis, woodsmoke, and deep wet earth. Decent acidity and very mineral driven to the point of slight austerity, but the fruit keeps it from being too much rock and tannin. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $14. click to buy.
2008 Acorn Winery “Alegria Vineyards” Sangiovese, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and sandalwood. In the mouth sandalwood and cherry flavors persist with distinct notes of leather. Powdery and muscular tannins wrap around the core of fruit and seem to add an earthier character. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $28. click to buy.
2009 MacPhail “Raye’s Hill Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cranberry and cedar. In the mouth it offers bright cranberry and cherry fruit that has a ripe sweetness to it. Nice acidity and faint velvety tannins counterpoint the silky texture of the wine. The finish lingers moderately with cherry and raspberry flavors. The wine has an overall plush quality that is quite nice. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2008 Abbazia di Novacella “Stiftskellerei Neustift” Lagrein, Alto Adige, Italy
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis, raisins, and wet dirt. In the mouth, cool flavors of raisins, cassis, and black cherry meld seamlessly with a dark mineral undertone and wet dirt flavors. Hints of wet wood linger with tart cassis flavors in the finish. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $23. click to buy.