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Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 14, 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 one of the best Xinomavros in existence. What’s Xinomavro, you ask? A lovely, dark grape from northern Greece that can do great things in the right hands, and this is a prime example. If you haven’t tried it, go out and get yourself a bottle!

Winemakers in California seem to be backing away from the oak barrels when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc, which means more and more of them are nicely balanced and quite refreshing. There are a few excellent examples below.

Cornerstone Napa Valley has been hitting their stride, and their basic 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is a perfect example of how they’re making wines of wonderful balance and finesse.

Blogger-turned-winemaker William Allen has a thing for Grenache Blanc and so do I. It’s one of the world’s most underrated white wines, and Allen’s example is a fine one.

Finally, I was introduced this week to a tiny little wine project run by a journalist who sources some fruit from near Petaluma and who has appropriately named his wines Fourth Estate.

All these and more below. Enjoy!

2013 Dry Creek Vineyard “Fume Blanc” Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of kiwi, gooseberries, and green apple. In the mouth, crisp green apple, cut grass, and cucumber flavors have a sharp snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. Bright and lean and refreshing. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $12. click to buy.

2013 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California
Near colorless in the glass with only the barest hint of gold, this wine smells of green apple and vanilla. In the mouth, silky flavors of green apple, white flowers and a hint of grassiness linger through a pretty finish that has a faint sweetness to it. Nicely balanced. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $22 click to buy.

2012 Keenan Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of roasted nuts, buttered popcorn, and candied lemon rind. In the mouth, pink grapefruit mixes with pineapple and juicy lemonade flavors tinged with toasty oak. Excellent acidity. Unfortunately the oak is the dominant flavor in the finish. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $32 click to buy.

2010 Dutton Goldfield “Angel Camp Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cranberry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, faint velvety tannins wrap ghost-like around a core of black raspberry and cranberry fruit tinged with a hint of woody earthiness. Nice acidity, balance and length. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $55

2010 Alpha Estate “Hedgehog Vineyard” Xinomavro, Amyndeon, Greece
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of bright cherry and mulberry aromas. In the mouth, lean and slightly tart flavors of cherry, mulberry and blackberry mix beautifully under a gauzy throw of powdery tannins. Gorgeous acidity and length. A very, very fine rendition of this grape. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $20 click to buy.

2010 Clos du Val Merlot, Napa Valley, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of plums, cherries, and mixed green herbs. In the mouth, cherry and plum flavors are tinged with green bell pepper and a hint of graphite. Nice acidity and finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $22 click to buy.

2011 Blackbird Vineyards “Illustration” Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cocoa powder, nutmeg, and dark cherry fruit. In the mouth, cherry, cocoa powder, cola, and an herbal note merge nicely while being edged by faint leathery tannins. A blend of 75% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $115 click to buy.

2010 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, plum and tobacco. In the mouth, juicy and bright plum and cherry flavors have a nice cola and cocoa powder high note to them. Fantastic acidity and length. Juicy and very light on its feet. Faint earthy tannins linger in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5 . Cost: $55 click to buy.

2012 Clos du Val Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Near colorless in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers, lemon pith and golden delicious apples. In the mouth, a lovely combination of lemon and golden apple flavors has a zingy brightness to it thanks to phenomenal acidity. Crisp, bright, and with just a hint of saline savoriness on the finish. Excellent. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $18 click to buy.

2010 Trefethen Dry Riesling, Oak Knoll District, Napa, California
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of paraffin, green apples, and exotic citrus. In the mouth, bright appley lemon flavors have a simple, cherry brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Lean and juicy, but without a lot of complexity, this wine is quite easy to drink and tasty. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20 click to buy.

2012 Two Shepherds “Saarloos Vineyard” Grenache Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of pears, apples, and Rainier cherries. In the mouth flavors of ranier cherry, peach and green apple have a silky brightness to them as well as a hint of saline. Great acidity makes the wine quite mouthwatering. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25 click to buy.

2008 Vinoptima “Ormond Reserve” Gewürztraminer, Gisborne, New Zealand
Medium gold in the glass, this wine smells of honey and lychee fruit mixed with candied orange peel. In the mouth, candied orange peel mixes with dried mango and other dried tropical fruit flavors that have a faint sweetness. The acidity is good, but this wine is definitely made in the richer Alsace style. Bergamot and orange peel linger in the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $38

2012 Fourth Estate “La Cruz Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberries and cherries. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit and raspberry fruit has a slight spiciness to it that turns to a bit of alcoholic heat in the finish. Decent acidity keeps the wine fresh and lively in the mouth, but the flavors lean slightly towards the jammy side of life, and lack some complexity. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $38

2010 Fourth Estate “La Cruz Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright raspberry and strawberry fruit. In the mouth, bright raspberry fruit has a sweetish complexion with good acidity and length. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $38