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 a lovely Roussanne from Truchard Vineyards in Napa’s Carneros district. Roussanne is not typically what you’d expect to be grown in this cooler region of Napa, but Truchard has long produced one, and this particular vintage is excellent.
Speaking of Carneros, the Cuvaison Estate Pinot Noir was a wonderfully pleasant surprise — a wine that anyone looking for a moderately priced Pinot Noir will enjoy. Yes, these days, moderately priced California Pinot Noir ends up around $30.
I also opened two more bottles of Riesling from Finger-Lakes producer Bellangelo, and really enjoyed both. At less than $20 per bottle, they’re steals if you can find them.
Finally, anyone looking to expand their California wine horizons would do well to pay attention to the wines of South Coast Winery in Temecula Valley. These two bottles, their un-oaked Chardonnay and Viognier are both quite good, and amazing values besides, though they are made in small quantities and may be difficult to track down.
All these and more below!
2011 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of green bell pepper, crushed herbs, freshly mowed grass, and pipe tobacco layered over a hint of red fruit. In the mouth, very herbal flavors of green bell pepper, mint, and crushed herbs dominate any red fruit that is present in the wine, and counterpoint the wet-dirt bass note of the wine. A nice forest floor and minty note lingers in the finish, along with fine grained, tacky tannins that coat the front of the mouth. Excellent acidity. What you might expect from a very cold, rainy year on the mountain, but perhaps more vegetal than many will appreciate. 14.3% alcohol. 1070 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2010 Weingut Franz Keller Schwarzer Adler “Franz Anton” Pinot Blanc, Baden, Germany
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of lemon juice and lemon pith. In the mouth, juicy lemon and grapefruit flavors have a bright simplicity to them that is quite disarming. Juicy and pleasant, without being over complicated. An easy-to-drink wine. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: ??
2012 Gundlach Bundschu “Estate Vineyard” Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of beeswax and lemon curd. In the mouth, bright lemon curd vanilla, and pineapple flavors have a juicy silkiness to them. Excellent acidity and very well integrated oak presence make for a quite pleasurable mouthful. Decent finish. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2012 Truchard Roussanne, Carneros, Napa, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of candle wax, white flowers, and asian pears. In the mouth, juicy asian pears, a hint of that waxy note, a faint sweetness, and a beautiful chamomile and dried flower quality pervades the wine. An aromatic sweetness lingers in the finish. Quite pretty and quaffable. Excellent acidity. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2012 Bellangelo “Gibson Vineyard” Riesling, Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, New York
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of paraffin, asian pears, and mandarine oranges. In the mouth, juicy mandarine orange zest and asian pear flavors have a wonderful delicate acidity and juiciness over a slightly stony underbelly. Lightly to moderately sweet. Nice, crisp and clean. 9.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9 . Cost: $20. click to buy.
2012 Cuvaison “Estate” Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa, California
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, bright raspberry and cherry flavors have a faint sweetness to them as they mix with a faint herbal note. Very pretty and juicy, thanks to excellent acidity, the flavors are quite pure and wonderful. A crowd-pleaser of a Pinot. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2012 South Coast Winery “Carter Estate Vineyards Sans Chene” Chardonnay, Temecula Valley, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and cold cream with a hint of yeastiness. In the mouth, notes of buttered popcorn mix with lemon curd and candied lemon rind with a hint of floral overtones. A faint yeasty note lingers in the finish. Fairly rich for no oak usage. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2012 Stoller Family Estate “Reserve” Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of cold cream and lemon juice and lemon pith. In the mouth, the wine is quite lean, with lemon pith and grapefruit pith flavors mixing with a pure lemon juice zinginess that is very compelling. Sourish grapefruit notes linger in the finish. This is a wine built for the long haul. Apropos of nothing, I find it odd that this wine has no geographical indication on either its front label or back label, other than the address of the winery, which I don’t think qualifies. Mystified how this got through TTB approval if it is indeed the commercial label. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $27. click to buy.
2012 South Coast Winery Viognier, Temecula Valley, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of bright green apple and white peaches. In the mouth, the wine is bright and juicy with green apple and unripe peach flavors. Had I not read Viognier on the label, I wouldn’t necessarily peg this wine as being made from that variety, as it lacks the heavy apricot and peach notes, as well as the often unpleasant thickness on the palate. This is crisp, refreshing and bright. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: ??.
2013 Bellangelo “Sem-Dry” Riesling, Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, New York
Palest blonde in color, this wine smells of honeysuckle, pears, and a hint of paraffin. In the mouth, crisp flavors of asian pear and white flowers have a faint sweetness to them that adds a very pretty complexion to this silky-but-crisp mouthful of fruit. Juicy and well balanced with filigreed acidity. 10.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2012 de Coelo by Benziger “Quintus” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of ripe raspberry and cherry fruit and wet stones. In the mouth, juicy raspberry and cherry flavors mix with a stony underbelly and a hint of dried herbs. Juicy and bright. Faint tannins and a long finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2010 Tin Barn “Coryelle Fields Vineyard” Syrah, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of white pepper, black cherry and strawberry. In the mouth, beautiful strawberry, cherry, and white pepper flavors have a nice bounciness thanks to excellent acidity. Muscular tannins grip the mouth and linger with hints of oak in the finish. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: ??
2010 Dierberg Vineyards Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, juicy cranberry, raspberry and cherry fruit has a very sharp acidity to it, and a sandpapery blanket of tannins. The fruit is pure but the wine is a bit angular at this point. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.