Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.
This week’s dive into the samples pile held a few gems, including a well-aged version of one of Germany’s greatest Rieslings. Go figure. Who sends phenomenal, well-aged Spätlese to journalists? Germans, I guess. In any case, I was more than happy to pop open that Dönnhoff and take a swig. You should too.
A few other Rieslings made an appearance this week, including a dry one from Peter Jakob Kuhn, an excellent biodynamic producer in the Rheingau that I visited last summer. This one is slightly severe, but a pretty wine nonetheless.
On the other end of the spectrum (or the universe, depending on your point of view) I also enjoyed one of the newest releases from Nickel & Nickel, whose 2010 wines seem to be striking all the right notes.
There’s an interesting Pinot Noir from Italy’s Alto Adige there too, along with a beautiful example from the Willamette Valley as well.
All these and more below. Enjoy!
2008 Dönnhoff “Oberhäuser Brücke” Riesling Spätlese, Nahe, Germany
Yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, candied apples, and a hint of diesel fuel. In the mouth, the wine has a fantastic texture that silkily delivers bright candied citrus, lemon curd, and wet stone flavors electric with bright acidity. Beautifully balanced and lightly sweet, this wine goes down effortlessly. In its adolescence, the wine hangs between the more mature notes and the fruit of youth. Like the first scruff on the baby fat chin on its way to manhood. 8.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $55 click to buy.
2011 Smith Madrone Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of cold cream, lemon curd, and melted butter. In the mouth, bright lemon zest and lemon curd flavors mix with wet stones and grapefruit pith. Excellent acidity and brightness, with a nice airy finish.Only the faintest hint of toasted oak wafts above the juicy fruit. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $28 click to buy.
2011 Adelsheim “Bryan Creek” Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale garnet in color, this wine smells of forest floor, raspberries, and wet wood. In the mouth, beautiful forest floor and loamy darkness swirls with raspberry and redcurrant flavors that have the bounce of excellent acidity. Faint, powdery tannins scrape gently at the edges and top of the palate. Good acidity and beautiful dark mysteriousness. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $62 click to buy.
2010 Nickel & Nickel “C.C. Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, black tea, and tobacco. In the mouth, suede-like tannins wrap around a core of bright cherry fruit that has an angular quality. Flavors of cherry, tobacco, and tea mix with darker earth notes and only the barest hint of oak. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $80 click to buy.
2009 Dr. Pauly Bergweiler “Bernkasteler Badstube” Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of mandarin oranges and just the faintest hint of struck flint. In the mouth, juicy and bright flavors of mandarine oranges tinged with a hint of pear and rainwater bounce merrily across the palate. Excellent minerality and balance. Fantastic acidity makes the mouth water, and if the complexity is perhaps not as deep as it could be, well that is easily forgiven. Lightly to moderately sweet. 9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $28 click to buy.
2007 Tenuta Lageder “Krafuss” Pinot Noir, Sudtirol, Alto Adige, Italy
Pale ruby in color, this wine smells of red apple skin, mulling spices, and leather. In the mouth leather, forest floor, and red apple skin flavors have a pleasant bitterness and nice smoothness. The long finish has a forest floor earthiness that is quite pleasant. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $60 click to buy.
2008 Peter Jakob Kühn “Jacobus” Riesling Trocken, Rheingau, Germany
Light gold in color, this wine smells of mandarin orange segments in syrup mixed with diesel fuel. In the mouth, tart lemon and grapefruit flavors mix with a paraffin note, and linger with orange zest in the finish. Excellent acidity, though perhaps a bit austere. Tastes completely dry. 11.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $23 click to buy.
2008 Hooked Riesling, Nahe, Germany
Light gold in color, this wine smells of candle wax, oranges and pears. In the mouth the wine is faintly sweet and offers simple but appealing flavors of pears, apples, and mixed citrus. Good acidity keeps everything quite juicy and bouncy across the palate. 9.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $13 click to buy.