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 some continued impressive work from Thomas Fogarty winery. Winemaker Nathan Kandler has been doing some truly stellar work there, and these Pinots (and a Chardonnay) are showing extremely well in their youth.
I’ve got another Chardonnay in the pile worth looking at from Oregon, as well as a lovely white Rhone blend from Mendocino county courtesy of the reliable Sonoma producer, Anaba.
One of the most exciting wines this week was a brand new, never-before-released effort from one of my favorite wineries, Smith-Madrone. They’ve released a reserve Cabernet from one single section of their vineyards named Cook’s Flat. It’s an excellent wine and one that I believe will age beautifully. Unfortunately it is made in quite tiny quantities and probably needs to be purchased directly from the winery.
The irrepressible Randall Graham continues to prove that Syrah is not dead, thanks to his latest release of a lean, mineral Bien Nacido Syrah, which after several excellent vintages, has now become my favorite wine that he makes.
Finally, look for a nice Merlot from Livermore and a couple of other nice Cabernets from Napa below.
2007 Smith-Madrone “Cook’s Flat Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of espresso, cherry, and dark bitter chocolate with hints of dried herbs. In the mouth very plush tannins wrap around a core of cherry cola and tobacco flavors that are juicy with excellent acidity. Smooth, seamless and very well balanced, this wine is tasty now but will be exceptional in 10 years. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $200.
2010 Anaba “Alder Springs Vineyard” White Rhone Blend, Mendocino, California
Light gold in color, this wine smells of honey, peach nectar, and pastry cream. In the mouth flavors of golden apples, quince, and vanilla crème brulee mix with a lively acidity and a very pretty mineral undertone. Nicely balanced and incredibly easy to drink (a tiny hint of sugar helps with this). A blend of 38% Roussanne, 33% Marsanne, and 32% Viognier. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.
2011 Thomas Fogarty “Razorback Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and raspberry leaf with a hint of bergamot. In the mouth, delicate flavors of raspberry and wet earth have an ethereal quality to them — lifted and airy over the palate. Excellent acidity. Very faint tannins, and hints of wet leaves in the finish. 12.7% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2010 Thomas Fogarty “Albutom Vineyard” Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of pineapple and lemon curd. In the mouth, wonderfully dry flavors of lemon curd take on a slight tropical tone, as if flavors of pineapple are waiting in the wings, or merely being borne on the breeze. A beautiful chalky, mineral backbone sits beneath this fruit, with pretty acidity and good length. 11.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $56. click to buy.
2011 Thomas Fogarty “Rapley Trail Vineyard M Block” Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry bramble, mulberry, and a stemmy, woody, wet leaf quality that is quite charming. In the mouth, dark forest floor, mulberry and raspberry flavors have a wonderful mineral quality to them even as bright acidity brings in the tang of the raspberries as the wine passes across the palate. Dark and brooding, with some time needed in the bottle. Faint tannins have a harder edge to them. 13.3% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $80. click to buy.
2008 Ackerman Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich cherry, cedar, and a hint of graphite. In the mouth suede-like tannins with a muscular aspect surround flavors of cherry, cocoa powder, and hints of oak. Decent acidity and nice balance. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $125. click to buy.
2010 Steven Kent Winery “Small Lot Offering – Ghielmetti Vineyard” Merlot, Livermore Valley, Calfornia
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich plum and the sweetness of oak. In the mouth, bright plum and vanilla flavors have a nice juiciness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Faint tacky tannins hang at the edges of the mouth and let the fruit tell most of the story, with hints of cinnamon and cedar and oak hanging nicely in the background. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2011 Stoller Reserve Chardonnay, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of honey, white flowers and just a hint of buttered sourdough. In the mouth, bright lemony citrus flavors mix with a hint of chamomile and pink grapefruit, along with oak and honey. Decent acidity, good length. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.
2009 Purlieu Le Pich Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherries and dark chocolate. In the mouth, quite smooth supple tannins wrap dustily around a core of bright cherry fruit tinged with dark chocolate. Good acidity keeps the fruit bright and juicy through a long finish. Quite pretty. 14.6% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $37. click to buy.
2009 Bonny Doon Vineyard Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah, Santa Maria Valley, Central Coast, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of wood smoke, blueberry skin, and black plum. In the mouth flavors of white pepper, black plum, blackberry and smoke swirl in a granitic matrix of muscular tannin that makes you feel like your mouth is petrifying a bit. Gorgeous and lean, with excellent acidity and wonderful floral overtones of violets in the finish, this is a very impressive wine. 13.3% alcohol Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.