Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 11, 2015

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 whole lotta Napa Cabernet, and some pretty damn good ones at that, headed up by what might be the best bottle of Spring Mountain’s Elivette blend I think I may have ever had. The 2011 vintage has added a mineral and herbal edge to this wine that I find irresistible.

Perhaps on the opposite end of the spectrum, the 2010 Shafer Hillside Select is a lush powerhouse of rich fruit, but quite good in its own right.

More in the rich camp than in the lean camp, you’ll also find some more new releases from Nickel & Nickel winery and their sister property Far Niente, all of which are excellent.

Seemingly in a completely different universe, I’ve also got a New Zealand Gewürztraminer to recommend, from one of the pioneering proponents of the grape in that country.

All these and more below!

2009 Vinoptima Bond Road Gewurztraminer, Gisborne, New Zealand
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of rose petals, candied orange peels and a touch of lychee. In the mouth candied orange peel and lychee flavors have a faint sweetness and enough bright zingy acidity to be refreshing. Bitter orange lingers faintly in the finish along with honeysuckle. Very pretty. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??.

2010 Shafer Vineyards “Hillside Select” Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet black cherry. In the mouth, juicy black cherry and chocolate flavors have a deep, ripe richness and a high toned vanilla and cocoa powder aromatic brightness. Dusty, fine grained tannins wrap around the core of the wine. Very long finish. Well integrated oak. 15.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $225 at release, $290 at retail. click to buy.

2011 Spring Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountan District, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco with a hint of crushed herbs. In the mouth, wonderfully lean flavors of cherry, mixed herbs, and tobacco sit on top of a dark rumbling earthiness that is accentuated by the fine grained muscular tannins that grip the edges of the mouth. Wonderfully balanced with excellent acidity. Moderate finish with very well integrated oak. 14.1% alcohol. 4000 cases produced. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60.

2011 Spring Mountain Vineyard “Elivette” Red Blend, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich cherry, espresso, and oak aromas. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy flavors of cherry, cocoa powder, cola, and graphite have a velvety texture thanks to extremely fine grained tannins that coat the mouth and carry with them a forest floor earthiness that is quite compelling. Wonderfully balanced and quite restrained (thanks no doubt to a very cool year), the oak is extremely well integrated to the point of being quite unnoticeable. Regal and poised. 14.1% alcohol. A blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Petite Verdot. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $125. click to buy.

2012 Nickel & Nickel “Hayne Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and sweet cassis. In the mouth, rich black cherry and black plum flavors have a faint touch of vanilla from oak. The wood, however, remains quite restrained, as do the fine grained tannins which sit at the back of the mouth, patiently waiting for the fruit to finish its dance on the palate. Excellent acidity and a wonderful balance pervade the wine. Juicy and lush. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $90. click to buy.

2012 Nickel & Nickel “State Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich black cherry fruit. In the mouth, juicy black cherry and espresso notes dance lithely on the palate thanks to fantastic, juicy acidity. Powdery tannins fill the mouth like chalk dust from clapped erasers in a classroom, while dried flowers and tobacco linger on the finish. Tasty. 14.5% alcohol Score: between elivette_2011.jpg9 and 9.5. Cost: $90.

2012 Nickel & Nickel “Martin Stelling Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, black plum and pipe tobacco. In the mouth, rich tobacco and cassis flavors are held firmly in a fist of muscular tannins that seems to squeeze tighter the longer the wine lingers in the mouth. Fruity violet aromas dance in the finish, along with an earthy rumble of humus. Nicely balanced and very dark with restrained oak influence. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 9 . Cost: $150 click to buy.

2012 Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Very dark purple in color, this wine smells of dark black cherry and cassis, with a grapey note on top. In the mouth, juicy black cherry and cassis flavors take on an almost blueberry quality. Wonderfully juicy acidity makes for a mouthwatering package, and thick muscular tannins let you know this wine isn’t going anywhere it doesn’t want to. Good length. Very young yet. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $110. click to buy.

2010 Bonny Doon Vineyard “Le Cigare Volant” Red Blend, Central Coast, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberry, cherry, and a slightly leathery aroma. In the mouth, strawberry, blueberry, and leather notes mix with earthier flavors and a hint of cedar. Good acidity and length. A blend of 28% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 17% Cinsault, 17% Mourvedre, and 16% Carignane. 13.3% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $36. click to buy.

2009 Bonny Doon Vineyard “Le Cigare Volant” Red Blend, Central Coast, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of meaty olives, cherry, and blackberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully savory blackberry and cherry flavors mix with smoked meats and tapenade for a mouthwatering blend of flavors enhanced by juicy acidity. Faint tacky tannins linger in a long and slightly floral finish. A blend of 36% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, and 19% Cinsault. 13.3% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $36. click to buy.

2009 Bonny Doon Vineyard “Le Cigare Volant Reserve en bonbonne” Red Blend, Central Coast, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of smoked meats, cherry, mulberries, and woodsmoke. In the mouth, smoky and meaty flavors of leather, cherry, and a hint of barnyard mix with a dark and mysterious earthiness. Quite pretty. A blend of 28% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 17% Cinsault, 17% Mourvedre, and 16% Carignane. 13.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $80. click to buy.