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.
This week included a wonderful duo of Pinot Noirs from Foursight Wines in Anderson Valley. Wonderful not only because they were each an excellent wine, but for what they also had to teach. Both were made from the same fruit, from the same vineyard, but one was made in accordance with natural winemaking principles, with no added yeast, sulfur, or other common elements of winemaking technique. While both are excellent, I preferred the natural version.
While still in the Pinot category, it’s rare to see a bottle of Pinot Meunier, the sibling of Pinot Noir that is most often used in the wines of Champagne. It’s even more rare to find an excellent one for twenty bucks! But this little bottle from River Road Vineyards delivers on both counts. And don’t miss the rosé from NPR-reporter-turned-winemaker Alan Baker, who started his label, Cartograph, several years ago. His wines keep getting better and better, and this rosé is a great wine, not to mention an excellent value.
Moving on to bigger wines, I love thed the claret-style bightness of the Hedges Family Estate red wine from the slopes of the Red Mountain AVA in Washington State. For those who want a denser, richer Cabernet, the HALL “Bergfeld” bottling delivers great density and depth.
Look for all these and more below.
2007 Tenuta di Arceno “Riserva” Chianti Classico, Tuscany
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of roasted nuts, oak, and dried cherries. In the mouth the wine offers rich cherry flavors tinged with cedar and wet earth. The tannins are thick and somewhat hard-edged but the acidity is quite nice and there’s a stony undertone to the wine that is tasty. 14.7% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2011 River Road Vineyards “Hopkins Vineyard” Pinot Meunier, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberries and mulberries. In the mouth, raspberry, cranberry, and black cherry flavors have a nice lightness to them thanks to good acidity. Faint but persistent tannins hang in the background along with a deeper earthier quality. 14.2% alcohol Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2012 Flora Springs “Soliloquy Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc, Oakville, Napa Valley, California
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of cold cream and tropical fruit cocktail. In the mouth, mixed tropic fruit flavors have a nice lean underbelly to them with a distinct mineral tone to them along with a nice floral character. Decent acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2010 Foursight “Charles Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of floral and raspberry aromas mixed with wet stone. In the mouth the wine is quite elegant with refined raspberry and cherry fruit mixed with forest floor and hints of lavender and other herbs. Powdery wisps of tannins hang on the edges of the mouth. Excellent. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $ . click to buy.
2010 Foursight Charles Vineyard ZERO Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of bright raspberry and cherry fruit mixed with redwood bark. In the mouth, wonderfully bright raspberry, redcurrant, and strawberry flavors have a wonderful lift to them thanks to excellent acidity and faint tannins. The wine has amazing breadth and length on the palate. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $ . click to buy.
2012 Cartograph Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California
Palest pink in the glass with a hint of salmon, this wine smells of watermelon, hibiscus, and rosehips. In the mouth flavors of watermelon and rind, hibiscus, and pink grapefruit have a wonderful bounce thanks to excellent acidity. A nice chalky mineral undertone makes for a crisp, refreshing, food-friendly wine. 13.1% alcohol. around 9. Cost: $21.
2011 Ridge Vineyards “Three Valleys” Red Wine, Sonoma County, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of mixed forest berries, cedar, and forest floor. In the mouth wonderfully bright flavors of blackberry, cherry, and plum swirl with faint tannins and excellent, juicy acidity. Quite easy to drink and delicous. A blend of 65% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah, 9% Carignan, 3% Mataro, 2% Alicante Bouschet, and 1% Grenache. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.
2007 Dry Creek Vineyard “Somers Ranch” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California
Dark ruby in color, this wine smells of prunes, cocoa powder, wet dirt and licorice. In the mouth flavors of licorice, blackberry pie, and blueberry pie are deep and quite infused with rich muddy, earthiness that makes them quite serious. Leathery tannins flex their muscles as the wine lingers for some time in the finish. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2011 Hedges Family Estate Red Wine, Red Mountain, Washington
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of bright juicy cherry and huckleberry fruit with hints of violets. In the mouth flavors of cherry cola, tobacco, and chocolate take on a bright claret-like purity while faint dusty tannins coat the edges of the mouth. Excellent acidity and length. Quite pretty. A blend of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 16% Syrah, 4% Malbec, and 3% Cabernet Franc. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2008 HALL “Bergfeld” Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa, California
Very dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of beautifully sweet cherry and black cherry fruit. In the mouth, the wine is lush and ripe with sweet cherry and black cherry fruit served juicy and fresh on a bed of velvety tannin. Notes of chocolate and wet earth linger along with the cherry fruit through a very long finish. Ripe and big, but quite delicious. Good acidity and great length.14.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.
2009 Carmen “Gold Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Chile
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of dark chocolate and mint. In the mouth, the wine has a slight animal funk to it amidst all the dark chocolate and mint. The core dark cherry fruit is clasped in a fist of muscular tannin that coats the mouth. Decent acidity. Some overt oak influence. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $41. click to buy.