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Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 13, 2013

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 sample wine that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week’s dive into the samples pile yielded a wide range of wines. On the one hand we’ve got, frankly, a wine that was lost in the cellar for a while, and after a couple of years has yielded remarkable things. At six years of age, this Glen Carlou from South Africa may well be the best $15 bottle of Chardonnay I’ve ever had. A remarkable accident, indeed.

On the other end of the spectrum we’ve got the 2010 Phelps Insignia, which is all that you’d expect a luxury cuvee to be, albeit with a bit more oak than I’d like. But having tasting any number of past vintages, I can safely say the wine will swallow the wood over time, even though at the moment it’s quite the reverse.

Star Lane Vineyard / Dierberg makes a decent showing this month, with well made wines that show good restraint, while Adelsheim from Oregon’s Willamette Valley offers some excellent wines, in particular, a beautiful Pinot Blanc.

All these and more below. Enjoy!

2011 Adelsheim “Bryan Creek Vineyard” Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Palest greenish gold, nearly colorless in the glass, this wine smells of ripe pears and white flowers. In the mouth, juicy bright pear and lemon rind flavors have a zippy, sour quality that makes the mouth water. Lean and mineral, this is quite refreshing. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2012 Star Lane Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Happy Canyon, Santa Barbara, California
Palest green-gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apples and white flowers. In the mouth green apple, cut grass, and gooseberry flavors have a night bright crispness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Juicy and refreshing.14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2007 Glen Carlou Chardonnay, Paarl, South Africa
Medium gold in the glass, this wine smells of toasted hazelnuts and lemon curd. In the mouth, toasted oak, hazelnuts, lemon curd, and bright lemon peel swirl in a bright, deliciously aged package. This wine has held up remarkably well, and is drinking beautifully. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2011 Adelsheim “Temperance Hill” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of wonderfully dark raspberry fruit and forest floor. In the mouth, dusty, even smoky, forest floor flavors surround dark raspberry and redcurrant fruit flavors. Faint tannins dust the edges of the mouth, and bright acidity puckers the cheeks bringing a light citrusy quality to the finish that is otherwise shot through with wet earth. Lovely. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $68. click to buy.

2011 Ridge Vineyards “Ponzo” Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and black pepper. In the mouth, bright black cherry and blackberry flavors have a wonderful lightness to them, and excellent acidity backs them up as faint tannins scratch along the edges of the mouth. Juicy and delicious. 97% Zinfandel, 3% Petite Sirah. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $28. click to buy.

2010 Joseph Phelps Vineyards “Insignia” Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright black cherry and cassis with a hint of espresso. In the mouth, bright and slightly sweet flavors of cherry, chocolate, espresso and new oak mix with notes of cedar and sandalwood. Powdery, mouth-coating tannins wrap around the core of the wine. Luscious fruit, but just a little too much new oak for my tastes at the moment. After 10 years, this wine will be brilliant, but for now, it’s too oaky. A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petite Verdot, 4% Merlot, and 2% Malbec. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $180. click to buy.

2010 Dierberg Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of struck match, white pepper, and cassis. In the mouth, bright blackberry and cassis flavors have a wonderful juiciness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Leathery tannins grasp the edges of the mouth, while smokier notes of black pepper linger in the finish. 14.7% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $34. click to buy.

2009 HH Cellars “Reserve – Robert Andrews – Coyote Canyon Vineyard” Mourvedre, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of bright black cherry, cassis, and notes of vanilla. In the mouth, sweeter flavors of black cherry and black plum are distinctly flavored with oak, whose drying tannins leave the mouth somewhat parched. Excellent acidity and juicy fruit, however, make this a pleasant enough wine to drink, and the oak doesn’t totally overwhelm the wine. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??

2010 Adelsheim “Elizabeth’s Reserve” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry, cherry, and a slightly sharp aroma of ethyl alcohol. In the mouth bright notes of raspberry and cherry have a slightly sharp, bitter edge to them on top of notes of cedar and forest floor. Despite being 13% alcohol, there is a bit of heat to the finish of the wine. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.