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 the big surprise that came in the form of the Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir. It’s been some time since I’ve had the estate’s wines, but let’s just say they’ve come a LONG way since I got married at their facilities 8 years ago. This wine knocked my socks off. Winemaking is now being done by the young Nathan Kandler, and if this bottle is any indication, this winery bears watching.
The set of Willakenzie bottlings I got from Oregon were all solid wines, but didn’t stand out in a crowd. My favorite is almost always the Pierre Leon, which proved true this time around, even though that isn’t their “top” wine technically.
Domaine Chandon has just released a new sparkling wine that they’re calling Etoile Tete de Cuvee (not to be confused with Etoile). The big, ugly gold medallion on the front ensures unlikely confusion, but don’t let the packaging turn you off. This is a serious, lees aged, late disgorged sparkling wine that anyone into vintage Champagne will truly enjoy. Whether it is worth its spendy price tag is for each of us to decide.
Finally, the real stars, if you’ll forgive the pun, of this week’s samples were, unsurprisingly, the two new releases from Cobb. If I hadn’t just reviewed a bunch of his wines recently I would have written them up on their own, but as that article was recent, they’re just getting lumped in here with the rest of the samples, but wow. These are stellar wines, and worth getting ahold of if you possibly can.
Look for these and more below.
2001 Domaine Chandon “Etoile Tete de Cuvee” Champagne Blend, California
Light yellow gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of baked apples, brewers yeast, and clover honey. In the mouth, honeyed flavors of butter biscuits, golden apples, and a hint of stony minerality have a nice balance and a soft, fine mousse. Good balance and very well integrated oak. Quite delicious. Score: around 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.
2009 Cobb “Coastlands Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light garnet in the glass with a touch of caramel to it, this wine smells of tangy raspberry and orange oil. In the mouth gorgeously bright raspberry and citrus flavors crackle with electric acidity on the tongue. Wonderful silky texture is backed by supple suede-like tannins that hang in the background but hesitantly advance as the wine finishes with tart raspberry and citrus. Outstanding. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $80. click to buy.
2009 Cobb “Jack Hill Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Pale garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright tangy raspberry fruit. In the mouth note of lavender mix with bright raspberry and citrus flavors. Stunning acidity makes this wine wonderfully bright and juicy. Long finish with citrus oil notes, as faint tannins scrabble at the edges of the mouth. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $70. click to buy.
2011 Thomas Fogarty Winery “Rapley Trail Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of fantastic forest floor, cranberry, and exotic floral aromas. In the mouth, beautifully earthy notes of forest floor mix with raspberry and redcurrant flavors. Stunning balance and delicacy — the wine’s acidity makes the fruit juicy and tingly on the tongue.Faint tannins, great length. Certainly the best wine I’ve ever had from this producer. 12.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2011 Willakenzie Estate “Estate Cuvee” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light ruby in color, this wine smells of sweet raspberry and cranberry nectar, with a stonier wet chalkboard note underneath. In the mouth, lean flavors of raspberry and wet chalkboard mix with a nice mulling spice and cedar quality that lingers in the finish along with an earthier rumble. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2010 Willakenzie Estate “Aliette” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of smok, toasty oak and raspberries. In the mouth flavors of raspbery are somewhat short on the palate and overshadowed by flavors of new wood. The smokiness lingers through the finish. Good acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2010 Willakenzie Estate “Kiana” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet sour cherry mixed with a hint of melted brown sugar and oak. In the mouth, flavors of raspberry and cedar are welded to a vanilla-laden wash of new oak that somewhat compromises the beauty of the fruit. Good acidity and nice balance, but as the wine finishes, all I taste is the wood. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2010 Willakenzie Estate “Emery” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet raspberry fruit and new oak. In the mouth the sweet raspberry fruit mixes in equal parts with the lightly bitter vanilla of new oak. That bitter, slightly woody note lingers through the finish. Great acidity and nice balance other than the preponderance of wood. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $55. click to buy.
2010 Willakenzie Estate “Pierre Leon” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of forest floor, wet stones, sweet raspberry fruit and new wood. In the mouth tart sour cherry and raspberry fruit mixes with wet earth and forest floor notes, while the wood is much better integrated than the other wines in the portfolio in this vintage. Great acidity makes the fruit have a citrus zip on the palate. Tasty. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2007 Ackerman Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich black cherry and chocolate. In the mouth rich, quite ripe black cherry and cassis flavors have a thick weight to them, thanks to powerul mouth-coating tannins. Decent acidity, but way more oak signature than I’d like amidst the massive fruit. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $75. click to buy.
2008 Shafer Vineyards “Relentless” Red Wine, Napa Valley, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cassis and floral notes. In the mouth expansive and rich flavors of cassis and black cherry mix sweetly under a gauze of powdery tannins. Rich, broad, and sweet. A blend of 75% Syrah and 25% Petite Sirah. 15.6% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.
2010 Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cassis and black cherry. In the mouth high toned flavors of cassis and black cherry are wrapped in muscular tannins. Bright acidity keeps the wine lively enough, but it comes across as slightly angular, with a short-ish finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.