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 a couple of very unusual wines from Chile, that are both quite compelling in their own right. The first is a wine made from the Pedro Ximenez grape, a grape imported to Chile from Spain, that has historically been used to make Pisco, the distilled spirit quite popular in Chile and neighboring Peru. The high desert areas of Elqui have been growing grapes for Pisco for decades, but only recently have some of these grapes been farmed for table wine. This little wine from Mayu is a crisp and refreshing indication that more people ought to consider it.
The other wine is made from a somewhat uncommon color (but otherwise genetically identical) mutation of Sauvignon Blanc called Sauvignon Gris. While the grape may not be practically different from Sauvignon Blanc, this example shows a very distinct (and delicious) character.
In addition to these two fine whites, we’ve also got an utterly reliable and delicious Cabernet from Grgich Hills, whose biodynamically produced wines are consistently quite high quality and delicious.
I also enjoyed a few interesting blends, including an inexpensive California entry from J.C. Cellars, and a more pedigreed blend from the Aconcagua Valley in Chile.
All these and more below. Enjoy!
2010 Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of plums, cherries, and tobacco. In the mouth, the wine is beautifully smooth and silky, with faint velvety tannins that wrap around flavors of cherry, plum, and cedar that meld with nice earthy undertones. Notes of oak penetrate the finish, but are otherwise subdued in the wine. Beautiful acidity and balance. 14.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.
2010 JC Cellars “The Impostor” Red Blend, California
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of rich black cherry and cassis. In the mouth, silky, dark flavors of black cherry and cassis meld beautifully with juicy acidity and faint, powdery tannins. Delicious and rich. 14.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $28. click to buy.
2008 Native 9 “Rancho Ontiveros Vineyards” Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of nutmeg, raspberries, redcurrants and leather. In the mouth, briary raspberry and green herb flavors have a wonderful leathery spice quality to them. Notes of red apple skin linger in the finish. Silky and smooth, with powdery tannins that have a little muscle. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70.
2006 Gloria Ferrer “Jose S. Ferrer Selection” Pinot Noir, Carneros, Sonoma, California
Light to medium brick red in the glass, this wine smells of red apple skin, mulling spices, and raspberry jam. In the mouth, flavors of cedar and red apple skin mix with raspberry and citrus peel. Good acidity, but feeling a little tired for only being six years old. 1000 cases made. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25.
2007 Stone Edge Farm “Surround” Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black olives and rich black cherry fruit. In the mouth, bright plummy cherry and black olive flavors have a nice bright juiciness to them thanks to excellent acidity. The new oak, while present is reasonably well integrated. Some alcoholic heat emerges on the finish. A blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2012 Mayu Pedro Ximenez, Elqui, Chile
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of star fruit and green apple. In the mouth, bright star fruit, cucumber, and lime zest have a zingy quality thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a creamy note to the wine as well, alongside a deep wet chalkboard minerality but a bit of heat in the finish along with a peachy lime quality that is quite nice. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2012 Casa Silva “1912 Vines” Sauvignon Gris, Colchagua Valley, Chile
Pale gold in the glass, this wine has a wonderfully bright lemon pith and wet stone minerality in its aromas. In the mouth, gorgeous deep minerality marries with lemon and pink grapefruit pith. Outstanding crispness and fantastically bright acidity. Made from an unusual clone of Sauvignon Blanc called Sauvignon Gris. Gorgeous.13.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2008 Von Siebenthal “Montelìg” Red Blend, Aconcagua Valley, Chile
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry fruit and new oak. In the mouth, bright cherry and plum fruit has a wonderful brightness and claret-like transparency. The signature of new oak is strong and pervasive, and most of what you taste in the finish. Too much wood for my taste, but a very high quality wine. A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Carmenere, and 30% Petit Verdot. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2010 Garcia & Schwaderer “Facundo” Red Blend, Chile
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of boysenberry, and black cherry. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful lightness to it despite its lip-staining darkness. Boysenberry, black cherry, and wet earth combine in a very nice mellow and drinkable mélange that is quite tasty. Faint powdery tannins. A blend of 50% Carignan, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot, and 7% Malbec. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35
2009 Casey Flat Ranch “Open Range” Red Blend, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherries and cocoa powder. In the mouth, rich black cherry and cassis flavors are tinged by the sweet vanilla and espresso flavors of new oak. Faint tannins rustle about the edges of the mouth. Good acidity and nice smooth, easy drinking quality. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.