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Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 27th, 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. And, oh yes, Happy New Year!

This week included some of the latest releases from Nickel & Nickel winery that continue that winery’s trend towards making less oak influenced wines, which to my palate, means they are making some of the best wines they have ever produced. This duo of Cabernets and a Merlot are wonderfully bright and juicy, and have successfully avoided a trap that some 2012 Napa reds have fallen into: ripe flabbiness. These wines have great acidity and excellent balance.

Speaking of balance, if you’re looking for a stunner of a Pinot Noir from Oregon, you’d do well to pay attention to the Elizabeth’s Reserve bottling from Adelsheim Vineyards. It’s not their priciest bottling, but the 2011 vintage is fabulous.

Also, if you’re in the mood for a white wine that isn’t your normal Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, check out the Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc, a great blend of Grenache Blanc and Roussanne that has a great personality.

Finally, I have to give special mention to the Chardonnay from Whitcraft Winery that comes from one of my favorite vineyards in Santa Barbara: Presqu’ile Vineyard. This is an excellent rendition of that site’s steely minerality and bright citrus qualities. None of your tropical California Chardonnay here.

All these and more below!

2012 Bonny Doon Vineyard “Rancho Solo – Cuvee R.” Grenache, Monterey, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberry jam. In the mouth, slightly spicy flavors of strawberry and cherry mix with a faint earthy tannin and bright acidity. There’s a light bitterness that lingers in the finish, like bitter cacao nut. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??

2011 Bonny Doon Vineyard “Reserve – En Bonbonne Le Cigare Blanc” White Blend, Arroyo Seco, Central Coast, California
Light cloudy gold in color, this wine smells of chamomile, bee pollen, unripe pears and wet stones. In the mouth, slightly spicy notes of unripe pear, wet chalkboard, toasted nuts, chamomile and other herbs linger in a very stony finish. Great acidity makes this quite snappy and refreshing. A blend of 62% Grenache Blanc and 38% Roussanne. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $54 click to buy.

2012 Nickel & Nickel “Suscol Ranch” Merlot, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry and plum fruit. In the mouth, juicy cherry, plum, and cocoa powder flavors have an electric brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Hints of new oak float through the finish but mostly this is just a pure exhuberance of fruit. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $53 click to buy.

2012 Nickel & Nickel “John C. Sullenger Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, a mix of deeply earthy cherry, chocolate, and licorice flavors are draped in a blanket of suede tannins and spiced with the faintest hint of new oak. Good acidity and length, with the tannins gaining strength in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $80. click to buy.

2012 Nickel & Nickel “C.C. Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, plum, and cola. In the mouth, cherry cola flavors have a juicy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Muscular tannins flex and clasp the fruit tightly, lingering through the finish along with the mouthwatering juicy acidity. Needs some time, but likely to be a lovely wine for many years to come. Extremely well-integrated oak. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $95. click to buy.

2011 Adelsheim Vineyard “Elizabeth’s Reserve” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of peeled willow bark, dried citrus peel, raspberries, and dried flowers. In the mouth faint powdery tannins hang like a gauze over exotic flavors of dried flowers, citrus peel, raspberries, and dried herbs. Juicy acidity and a lovely silky texture. Gorgeous. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.

2009 Trione Vineyards Red Blend, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich cherry, tobacco, and blueberry jam. In the mouth, juicy and rich blueberry and cherry flavors are heavily tinged with the sweetness of new oak. Excellent acidity makes the wine quite tasty, though I wish there were slightly less oak signature. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2011 Cornerstone Cellars “Stepping Stone” Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of crushed nuts, violets, and a hint of sautéed green vegetables. In the mouth very plummy, cherry and violet flavors have a nice silkiness to them, with faint, fine-grained tannins. Good acidity and long finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2009 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of smoky cherry, tobacco, and espresso. In the mouth, rich cherry, espresso, and cassis flavors mix with tobacco and a bit of wet earth. Excellent acidity keeps the wine bright, and thick powdery tannins coat the mouth and provide structure to the rich fruit. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $80 click to buy.

2013 Whitcraft Winery “Presqu’ile Vineyard” Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Pale gold in the glass with a slight greenish hue, this wine smells of green apple and white flowers. In the mouth, green apple and lemon juice lean towards pink grapefruit in the finish. Bright, zippy acidity makes this wine a bracing mouthful, with no trace of oak influence to get in the way of the crisp green fruit. 12.6% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60

2011 Trione Vineyards Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of brown sugar and raspberry jam. In the mouth, very ripe flavors of raspberries and cherry have a very pretty complexion, with good acidity and a faint tannic grip. On the rich side, but quite rewarding for anyone who likes that style of Pinot Noir. 14.5% alcohol. 1284 cases produced Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $37. click to buy.

2011 Greg Norman Estates “Shark Red” Red Blend, Central Coast, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis. In the mouth, juicy flavors of cherry and blackberry have a nice texture and bright acidity to them. There’s a nice easy-going roundness to this wine that makes it quite pleasant to drink. Simple, but quite tasty. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16 click to buy.