Hello from the bottom (or more truthfully, from somewhere in the middle) of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of wine that have crossed my doorstep recently.
This week’s offerings hail from France, Australia, Italy, and even Portugal, and bring with them some nice surprises.
I continue to be impressed with the still wines of Gloria Ferrer. Better known for their (decent, but not fantastic) sparkling wines, Ferrer’s still wines have never garnered much attention (from me or elsewhere). But I’ve been tasting them for the last few years and they are improving. Some of their reserve bottlings have gotten quite good. This week I’m tasting just their normal Chardonnay, but it doesn’t disappoint, especially not for $17.
It was nice to taste that side-by-side with both the Cornerstone offering from Oregon as well as the generic Bourgogne blanc from Burgundy producer Henri Darnat. Each offered its own charms.
Speaking of charms, it’s pretty tough to beat “Centine” by Banfi Vintners out of Italy. I can only assume this $9 wine is produced in massive quantities, but it’s pretty damn tasty, and worth every penny at that price. Complex? No. But quite drinkable.
On the red side, the Robert Oatley Tic Tok Cabernet also wins on charm at a nice price. It’s hard to imagine anyone being able to produce a Cabernet of this quality in Napa for a price like this. But if you’re looking for reasonably priced reds from Napa, the Grgich Hills Merlot is always a stalwart contender.
And while I couldn’t seem to find a place to buy the Big Table Farm Riesling or the Muros Megaço Vinho Verde online, they’re both definitely worth seeking out.
All these and more below.
2010 Banfi Vintners “Centine” White Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of sweet white flowers and mixed tropical fruits. In the mouth the wine offers a nice silky texture and quite pretty flavors of mixed tropical fruits, ripe Fuji apples, and lemon pastry cream. There’s a little hint of the vanilla of oak, but it is quite subtle, as is a light sweetness to the wine. Overall quite a pleasant quaffer. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio. 12.5% alcohol. Score:8.5. Cost: $9 click to buy.
2011 Purlieu “Le Pich” Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of slightly odd, confected white flowers and green melon. In the mouth lemon and grapefruit flavors have a nice pithy chalkiness to them that is quite tasty. 13.8% alcohol. Score:8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2010 Cornerstone Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells a little of the mineral waxiness of chapstick mixed with lemon pastry cream. In the mouth wonderful grapefruit and cold cream flavors mix with a stony underbelly of the wine that is prickly thanks to excellent acidity. Lean and cool, with a slick silky feel, this wine has a wonderful reserved quality about it. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35 click to buy.
2010 Henri Darnat “La Jumalie” Bourgogne Blanc, Burgundy, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of crisp ripe apples, a hint of brewers yeast, and wet stones. In the mouth, flavors of ripe apple and pink grapefruit take on a slightly tart edge with notes of zest and pith in the finish. Nice acidity and juicy brightness. A pleasant mouthful, indeed. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2009 Gloria Ferrer Chardonnay, Carneros, Sonoma, California
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of toasted and buttered sourdough bread mixed with lemon curd. In the mouth flavors of lemon curd, pink grapefruit and ripe Fuji apple mix with a stonier note and toasty/nutty hints of oak. Nicely balanced, with excellent acidity. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $17. click to buy.
2009 Mayacamas Vineyards Chardonnay, Mount Veeder, Napa, California
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of wet stones and grapefruit with a hint of old paper. In the mouth lemon and grapefruit zest mix with drier, chalkier notes of pith and wet stones. Excellent acidity leaves a tangy, mouthwatering finish. Somewhat austere. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $27. click to buy.
2011 Muros del Megaço Albarinho, Vinho Verde, Portugal
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and grapefruit zest. In the mouth, flinty notes of white flowers and kumquat zest mix with slightly sweeter notes of pink grapefruit. Nice acidity and brightness, and quite a silky texture. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??
2010 Big Table Farm “Brooks Estate Vineyard” Riesling, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and lemon curd. In the mouth, lemon curd and wet stones mix with lemon pith and a hint of mandarin oranges. Excellent acidity, and a light chalky/tannic quality to the finish. Dry. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??
2010 Cornerstone “Stepping Stone” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry with hints of cedar. In the mouth, excellent acidity brings flavors of cherry and raspberry to life, wrapped in a fleecy blanket of fine-grained tannins. Bright flavors of citrus peel linger with raspberry in the finish. Tasty. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $ click to buy.
2010 Robert Oatley Winery “James Oatley Tic Tok” Cabernet Sauvignon, Western Australia
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and a hint of green herbs. In the mouth, bright cherry and green herbal flavors are wrapped in supple, dusty tannins. Excellent acidity keeps the cherry fruit bright, as notes of tobacco and earth enter the finish. Tasty. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $11. click to buy.
2008 Grgich Hills Estate Merlot, Napa Valley, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of plummy cherry and mulberry fruit. In the mouth, plum, cherry, and brown sugar flavors have a nice earthiness to them and a juicy lushness. Faint but persistent tannins and excellent acidity round out the package. Lovely earthy notes linger in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.