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 samples included a trio of wines from one of California’s hottest rising star winemakers, Jesse Katz. The first was his 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from Lancaster Estate which is a beautiful study in balance, power, and elegance. The second and third wines are two new labels he has just begun, Devil Proof Vineyards and Aperture, both of which feature the photography of his father, Andy Katz on the label. Andy’s name is quite familiar to regular readers, who have enjoyed his photography every week under the Vinography Images series.
These three wines are tremendous, with my favorite probably being the Aperture, which has a vibrance and a juiciness that is hard not to love. Both the Aperture and Devil Proof wines are available by mailing list only, and are quite likely sold out.
I also received a couple of older vintages this week, an aged Sagrantino from the famous Arnaldo-Caprai, and a maturing bottle of Riesling from Dr. Pauly Bergweiler in Germany’s Mosel Valley.
Speaking of Riesling, I got a bottle of one of my favorite domestic Rieslings, the hard-to-find-but-worth-it 2013 release from Smith-Madrone.
All these and more below!
2009 Dr. Pauly Bergweiler “Wehlener Sonnenuhr” Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Germany
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of asian pears, honeysuckle and exotic citrus rind. In the mouth, clover honey, asian pear and mandarine juice mix with a brisk and crackling minerality. Juicy and delicious. Lightly to moderately sweet. 9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2013 Smith Madrone Riesling, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Pale blonde in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones, green apple, and white flowers. In the mouth zippy flavors of green apple, lemon juice, and asian pears have a crisp brightness to them and just the faintest hint of yeasty sweetness. Continues to vie for being one of the top Rieslings made in California. 12.6% alcohol. 1288 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $27. click to buy.
2012 Dutton Goldfield “Dutton Ranch Rued Vineyard” Chardonnay, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Light gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and pink grapefruit. In the mouth ripe apple and lemon rind flavors mix with a nice wet-stone minerality. Juicy and bright. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $43. click to buy.
2012 Devil Proof “Farrow Ranch” Malbec, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black plum and black cherry. In the mouth, deep black cherry, cassis, brown sugar, cola, and tobacco flavors mix in a seamless, faintly sweet, velvety texture over the palate. Notes of cocoa powder and cassis linger in the finish. Rich, smooth, with barely perceptible, fine grained tannins and excellent acidity. I don’t know that I would have guessed this to be a Malbec if served blind, but it’s tasty anyway. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $80.
2011 Aperture Red Blend, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry, tobacco, and wet earth. In the mouth, rich black cherry and espresso notes mix with dark chocolate and a deep wet earth quality that is quite compelling. Dark and brooding, with a bitter cocoa note on the finish, this wine has bright acidity and fine grained powdery tannins that faintly dust the mouth. Very impressive. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $55.
2011 Lancaster Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of crushed green herbs, green bell pepper, cola, and cherry fruit. In the mouth bright cola and cherry flavors have a lovely herbal note to them that blends beautifully with the cherry and tobacco notes in the body of the wine. Clearly from a cooler year, thanks to the herbal notes and fantastic acidity, but perfectly ripe and quite compelling with well integrated oak that is nearly imperceptible in the wine. Powdery, fine grained tannins. A knockout blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec, 9% Merlot, 3% Petite Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2007 Arnaldo-Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco, Umbria, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cocoa powder, dried flowers, licorice, and wet earth. In the mouth, juicy flavors of dried black cherries, licorice, wet earth, and cocoa powder have a wonderful richness to them, and a perfect balance between more savory leather notes and the vibrant fruit. Powdery tannins lightly dust the edges of the mouth. A light dried-pine-needle bitterness lingers in the finish. 15% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2011 Bodega Vistalba Carlos Pulenta “Corte B” Red Blend, Mendoza, Argentina
Dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of ripe black cherries, raisins, and chocolate. In the mouth, black cherries, chocolate, and raisin flavors have a wonderful juiciness to them thanks to excellent acidity, but there is also an alcoholic shrillness to the fruit, that translates to some heat in the finish along with a trace of oak. 15% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2012 Casey Flat Ranch “Estate Red Wine” Red Blend, Capay Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry and black cherry fruit. In the mouth, lush flavors of cherry and black cherry are clasped in a fist of muscular, fine-grained tannin. Flavors of new oak are fairly well integrated into the fruit of the wine, making for a relatively seamless, if ripe and modern complexion. An unusual blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 13% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Viognier. 14.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $27. click to buy.
2011 Cornerstone Cellars “The Cornerstone” Red Blend, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, tobacco leaf, and espresso. In the mouth, lean flavors of cherry, forest floor, tobacco and espresso bean have a juicy vibrancy thanks to excellent acidity. Nice savory herbal and anise notes linger in the finish. Faint, very fine-grained tannins add a nice structure to the wine. Quite tight at this point in its evolution, it is best left undisturbed in the cellar for a few years. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.
2010 Cornerstone Cellars “Stepping Stone” Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of crushed hazelnuts, green bell pepper and green herbs. In the mouth, juicy and slightly spicy flavors of cherry, tobacco, and cocoa powder mix with a wonderfully bright acidity that keeps the fruit lively on top of slightly woody, nutty flavors that linger in the finish. 14.6% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.