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.
Let’s start this week with two winners from the southern hemisphere. The first is one of the more exciting Chilean wines I’ve tasted in a long time, and just the sort of thing that Chile ought to be trying to do more of: an old vine blend of lots of different grapes from the Cauquenes Valley in the Maule region. The Clos des Fous “Cauquenina” is juicy and delicious and serious enough to be sipped contemplatively if you’re in that sort of mood, otherwise it’s one of the world’s best pizza wines.
The other entry from Chile this week is one of the founding members of the VIGNO movement, a group who are making old-vine Carignan from the same region, Cauquenes. You can learn more about VIGNO from one of my posts about their efforts. Or you can just go buy this delicious example from Garcia & Schwaderer.
Closer to home, we’ve got a delicious Freeman Vineyards Chardonnay from the Russian River, whose name, “Ryo Fu” means cold wind, and another from pioneering producer Adelsheim Vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Worth drinking even before you knew it was $13, the Banfi “Centine” red blend from Tuscany is definitely a steal and while it isn’t as good as the Clos de Fous, it’s worth drinking with your pizza as well.
All these and more below. Enjoy!
2011 Clos des Fous “Cauquenina” Red Blend, Cauquenes, Maule, Chile
Lip staining, inky purple in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and mulberry fruit. In the mouth, gorgeously bright and juicy flavors of blackberry, mulberry, and cherry burst with juicy acidity and wonderful crushed green herb notes. Faint powdery tannins and a long finish. A blend of 40% Malbec, 20% Carmenere, 14% Syrah, 10% Pais, and 6% Carignan all made from gnarly old vines. Unique and outstanding. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2010 Garcia & Schwaderer “VIGNO” Carignan, Maule, Chile
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry cola and a hint of crushed nuts. In the mouth, gorgeously bright cherry and mulberry flavors take on a plummy note as they head through a finish tinged with oak. Tannins are somewhat stiff and powdery. The wood can’t be held against the wine, however, which is quite juicy and delicious. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2010 Mer Soleil “Silver” Unoaked Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, Central Coast, California
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of honey, baked apples, and butterscotch. In the mouth baked apple, butterscotch and lemon curd flavors have a nice brightness to them, with decent acidity and a nice butterscotch finish. Showing signs of age, so drink up. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2009 Long Meadow Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Cloudy dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, green herbs, and tobacco. In the mouth the wine has a nice cool tautness, as muscular tannins support flavors of black cherry, plum, and a hint of green herbs and green bell pepper. Good acidity keeps the fruit bright, but there is a bitter component to the finish that is less than desirable. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $44. click to buy.
2010 Adelsheim “Stoller Vineyard” Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light blonde in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and cold cream. In the mouth, lemon curd, cold cream and pink grapefruit flavors are kissed by the vanilla of oak. Gorgeously bright acidity keeps pink grapefruit flavors soaring through a long finish. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost:$55. click to buy.
2010 JC Cellars “Smoke and Mirrors” Red Blend, California
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of cherries, chocolate, and boysenberries. In the mouth, rich cherry, dark chocolate, orange peel, and plum flavors swirl in a very rich, dark package dusted by powdery tannins. Excellent, mouthwatering acidity makes the wine quite drinkable, despite being rich and clearly high octane. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost:$25. click to buy.
2011 Rusack “Reserve” Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of rich raspberry and cranberry aromas. In the mouth, juicy raspberry and cranberry flavors are bold and delicious and backed by wonderful mineral notes. Orange-peel citrus notes emerge in the long finish thanks to zippy acidity. Faint tannins coat the mouth. A hint of alcoholic heat emerges in the finish. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2009 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California
Palest gold, nearly colorless in the glass, this wine smells of gooseberries and green apples. In the mouth bright flavors of candied green apple and kiwi have a slight sweetness to them that is quite pleasant amidst racy acidity and mouthwatering freshness. Delicious. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9 . Cost: $18. click to buy.
2010 Freeman “Ryo-fu” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of buttered popcorn, ripe apples, and lemon curd. In the mouth, tangy lemon curd and golden delicious apples mix with notes of butterscotch and grapefruit zest. More tropical notes emerge on the finish. Big and powerful, but with restrained oak use. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5 . Cost: $45. click to buy.
2010 Banfi “Centine” Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry, tobacco, and cedar. In the mouth, cherry and cedar flavors are bright and smooth on the palate, with notes of leather and wet earth. The oak is nicely restrained, and acidity keeps the fruit bright. A pleasant and cheery wine. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $13. click to buy.