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Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 18, 2014

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 included Clos du Val’s 2009 Stag’s Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon, which was as wonderfully balanced and restrained as it always is, ready to age for the long haul.

In the Cabernet department I also received the latest release from Mt. Brave, made by the talented Chris Carpenter. This wine is more ripe and modern than the Clos du Val, but still a model of restraint compared to some in Napa. I loved its juiciness.

I get a lot of samples from MacPhail Family vineyards and often find the wines to be over-oaked, so I was thrilled to taste the 2011 Flyer and find it balanced, juicy and delicious. And while we’re talking about Pinots, the Adelsheim is definitely worth seeking out for its unusual herbal character and overall complexity.

Finally, one of the best surprises this week was the dry Gewürztraminer from Gundlach Bundschu. Bright, light, and missing the bitter edge that can often accompany this grape, this was one of the best domestic renditions of the grape I’ve had in some time.

All these and more below. Enjoy!

2010 Monteverro “Tinata” Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis and black cherries with a hint of violets. In the mouth bright violet and cassis flavors mix with the sweetness of new oak, that also brings with it some drying tannins. The fruit is so pure and bright however, that it’s hard not to like this wine, despite its very modern, polished stylings. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $95. click to buy.

2012 Ridge Vineyards “Benito Dusi Ranch” Zinfandel, Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of licorice and blackberry pie. In the mouth, juicy blackberry and blackberry bramble lean towards the herbal side of things as a leafy note complements the pure blackberry jam fruit. Faint, dusty tannins, and good acidity. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $27. click to buy.

2010 Mt. Brave Red Blend, Mount Veeder, Napa, California
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis, black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth rich black cherry, graphite, tobacco and the vanilla of new oak mix with a smoky espresso quality that is quite compelling. Rich, dark, and woodsy, this wine nonetheless has excellent acidity that cuts through the fine grained powdery tannins that coat the mouth. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2011 Macphail “The Flyer” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of struck match and cranberry compote. In the mouth, cranberry and cherry flavors have a bright juiciness, thanks to excellent acidity. The faintest of tannins dance in the background. A citrus note lingers in the moderate finish. Tasty. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2013 Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford, Napa, California
Palest gold, near colorless in the glass, this wine smells of cut grass and gooseberries. In the mouth bright green apple and gooseberry flavors have a lime zest sharpness to them, and the acidity cuts like a knife. Lean and angular. 12.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $17. click to buy.

2011 Adelsheim Vineyards “Ribbon Springs” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of marijuana resin, raspberries, and green herbs. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful balance between green herbs and raspberry fruit. A hint of tomato leaf lingers in the finish along with a peaty quality that is quite arresting. Excellent. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $68. click to buy.

2009 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of green herbs, black cherry, and wet earth. In the mouth, dusty tannins surround a core of graphite, black cherry, and wet earth that is tinged with green herbs and a faint cedary quality. Gorgeous acidity and lovely texture round out a pitch perfect performance. Outstanding. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2010 Vidigal “Brutalis” Red Blend, Lisboa, Portugal
Inky, opaque garnet in color, this wine smells of woodsmoke, black cherry, and cassis. In the mouth, massive black cherry flavors are surrounded by muscular, grainy tannins. Decent acidity keeps the fruit from being flabby, and notes of cedar and licorice emerge in the finish. Doesn’t show much of its 15% alcohol, and therefore doesn’t quite live up to its brutal name, which is just fine with me. A blend of Alicante Bouschet and Cabernet Sauvignon. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50.

2012 Gundlach Bundschu “Estate Vineyard” Gewurztraminer, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of rose petals and lychee. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful delicacy, with excellent acidity and beautiful lychee and orange peel freshness that sits on top of a mineral core. Outstanding. Completely dry and refreshing. 14.5% alcohol Score: around 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.