Hello, and welcome back to my periodic dig through the samples pile. It’s been some time since I’ve had the opportunity to pry open some boxes and taste through what’s inside, but I hope to be back to it with regularity now that things have settled down a bit at work. So I’m very happy to bring you 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 unearthed a very solid set of debut wines from a brand new producer named Ernest Vineyards, whose labels bear a striking oil painting of Ernest himself, apparently a relative of the owner. These wines aren’t highly available in the market, but presumably can be purchased by contacting the winery directly.
The latest vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon from Clos du Val doesn’t disappoint. It’s no surprise that in a cool year, this winery made a wonderfully restrained and earthy wine.
I was quite pleased to taste the Barbera from Stark wine company, which offers a pitch-perfect rendition of the grape, and suffers from none of the over-ripeness that can characterize a number of Italian grape varieties made in the Sierra Foothiils.
Finally, it was quite nice to be introduced to Storm vineyards, who are making wine from a vineyard I have become quite fond of down in Santa Barbara’s wine country. Their Pinot does justice to the site, and despite being quite young, is quite pleasurable.
All these and more below. Enjoy!
2010 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of tobacco, black cherries, and crushed green herbs. In the mouth tobacco, cola, and black cherry flavors have a hint of green bell pepper to them as they swirl in a beautifully silky mix on the tongue. Nice earthy tobacco notes with a hint of umami linger in the finish. Fresh and juicy thanks to excellent acidity and nary a trace of oak. Delicious. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $25 click to buy.
2012 Stark Wine Company Damiano Vineyard Barbera, Sierra Foothills
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of crushed mulberries, juniper berries, and a touch of violets or other floral notes. In the mouth the wine has a fantastic bouncy acidity that makes flavors of cherry, mulberry, and dried flowers quite juicy and bright. An orange peel quality enters the finish. Barely perceptible tannins skirt the edges of the mouth. Quite quaffable. Gets more expressive and floral with some air.14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $36 click to buy.
2012 Storm Presqu’ile Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of spicy cedar, cranberry, and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, flavors of dried herbs, cedar, cranberry and raspberry have the greenish twang that suggests whole cluster fermentation. Excellent acidity makes the flavors pop and shimmer. Very faint tannins. 13% alcohol. 85 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $48 click to buy.
2010 Gundlach Bundschu Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of chocolate covered cherries and chocolate covered raisins. In the mouth, flavors of cherry, green herbs, tobacco and a hint of oak are nicely knit together by juicy, bright acidity. Well balanced and cheerful, this is a nice little Cabernet. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35 click to buy.
2012 Ernest Vineyards “The Jester” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of honeysuckle and golden delicious apples. In the mouth, flavors of golden delicious apples, mandarin oranges and a hint of honey have a nice brightness to them thanks to good acidity. There’s a nice silky texture too, which lingers through the finish with a hint of marmalade. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $28
2012 Ernest Vineyards “The Bombardier” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of golden delicious apples and a hint of buttered popcorn. In the mouth the wine has a classic profile, with silky textured flavors of lemon curd, golden delicious apples, and mixed citrus zest. Good acidity brings a brightness and a snap to the flavors and there’s a hint of stony chalkiness that lingers in the finish. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $38
2012 Ernest Vineyards “Dutton Ranch Rued Vineyard” Chardonnay, Green Valley, Sonoma
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of pink grapefruit, wet stones, and white flowers. In the mouth bright grapefruit flavors mix with the toasty nuttiness of oak. Lemon curd and citrus zest notes vie for attention with the wood, and ultimately win, though there’s a light bitterness of oak in the finish. Excellent acidity and juiciness. 13.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42