Hello from the bottom 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.
Let’s begin this week with a classic value Cabernet from Ridge Vineyards, which you might consider the baby brother to their famous and unequaled Monte Bello bottling. The sibling certainly doesn’t have the profundity or class of that much more expensive wine, but at 1/3 the price, this one is a bit easier on the pocketbook.
On the other end of the spectrum we find the Antinori Family in the Maremma region of Tuscany, with their Tenuta Biserno “Bibbona” Bordeaux blend and its little brother as well. Both classy as hell, and distinctly old-world in their sensibilities, to the point of having some of the greenness that some dislike in Bordeaux.
The single vineyard wines from Nickel & Nickel are always well made, I just find myself arguing with the amount of new oak influence in the wines. The few 2010’s I tried below were still a bit too woody for my taste, but undeniably well balanced thanks to a cool vintage and consistent winemaking.
The real stars of this week, in my mind, however, were the two 2011 Pinots from Dutton-Goldfield. I actually reviewed the 2009 vintage of the Emerald Ridge wine in the last Unboxed installment, and this 2011 was just as exciting, if not more so. These are wines that are filled with the nervous energy and brightness of a vintage just on the edge of viability.
Look for these and more below.
2011 Lenikus “Der Bisamberg Gemischter Satz” White Blend, Vienna, Austria
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of white flowers and honeydew rind mixed with roasted nuts. In the mouth, flavors of melon, green apple, white flowers, and wet stones swirl in a mysterious melange on the palate. Notes of pomelo pith and herbs linger in the finish. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??
2010 Ridge Vineyards “Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of green tea, black cherries and wet earth. In the mouth the wine has a nice, medium body to it, with very faint tannins that wrap around flavors of cherry, green herbs, green wood, and the whiskey barrel notes of American oak.Good acidity, and a nice overall balance make this wine quite drinkable. A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc, 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.
2009 Cinnabar “Amber Knolls Vineyard” Malbec Lake County, California
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis and blueberries and black cherry. In the mouth, thick powerful tannins wrap around a core of blueberry and cassis fruit tinged with cocoa powder. Good acidity keeps the fruit bright through a long finish even as the tannins tighten their ironclad grip. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2009 Tenuta di Biserno “Bibbona” Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of green bell pepper, cherry, and wet earth. In the mouth, cool earthy and stony flavors of cherry and cocoa powder are shot through with a nice green vegetal note. Supple, suede-like tannins ripple at around the fruit and earth at the core of the wine. Nice acidity and nice balance. Long finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $165. click to buy.
2009 Tenuta di Biserno “Il Pino di Biserno” Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, graphite, cassis, and a hint of green bell pepper. In the mouth, the wine has a wonderful, smooth tautness to it, as supple tannins wrap around a core of cherry and green bitter herbs mixed with notes of forest floor. Notes of nut skin emerge in the finish. Good acidity keeps the mouth puckered for a good while. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2010 Nickel & Nickel “Harris Vineyard” Merlot, Oakville, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and plum aromas. In the mouth, bright plum and cherry flavors have a nice zing to them thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of cocoa powder emerge as thick and powerful tannins reach in to grab the tongue and sides of the mouth. Decent finish. 14.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.
2010 Nickel & Nickel “Suscol Ranch” Merlot, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and cherry and a hint of eucalyptus. In the mouth, minty flavors continue with plum and cherry wrapped in a menthol blanket and supported by leathery tannins. Good acidity keeps the fruit bright. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $52. click to buy.
2010 Nickel & Nickel “Darien Vineyard” Syrah, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and cassis. In the mouth, blackberry pie and wet stones mix with notes of briary green herbs. Thick powerful tannins have a powdery texture, and after an initial attack, they fade into a gentle buffeting of the mouth as the wine finishes long. Good acidity. 14.7% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2011 Dutton Goldfield “Angel Camp Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet raspberry fruit with a hint of earth underneath. In the mouth raspberry and sour cherry flavors mix with earthier notes and faint tannins. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit fresh and bright. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2011 Dutton Goldfield “Dutton Ranch Emerald Ridge Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Light purple in the glass, this wine smells of pomegranate and wonderfully floral violet aromas. In the mouth, beautifully sweet black raspberry and violet flavors mix with forest floor and darker earth tones. Remarkably bright acidity makes the fruit positively burst on the palate. Faint tannins hang in the background. Stunning. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2008 Dry Creek Vineyard “Heritage” Zinfandel Sonoma County, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of roasted nuts, blackberry jam and fennel. In the mouth light, leathery tannins wrap around flavors of blackberry and cherry that have a nice black pepper spice to them. That spiciness lingers in the finish with a mexican chocolate quality that is quite nice. Good acidity.13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.