Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 18, 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 most unusual trio of rosés. Now I’m generally not a fan of most California rosés, which tend to be made by simply bleeding off juice from a red wine early in the fermentation process and then fermenting that to something slightly less than dryness. They tend to be a little sweet, a bit bitter, and a lot clumsy. These three rosés instantly distinguish themselves by being the complete opposite of that description. They’re made properly, from grapes picked early and explicitly for rosé, and are light, crisp and totally delicious. What’s perhaps even more unusual is the fact that they are all made by the same producer. I can’t think of any winery in California that has three rosés in their portfolio. What a delicious outrage! At $25 a pop, you can’t go wrong with Ousterhout.

The fourth rosé this week (yes, I am drinking and reviewing rosé in mid-winter) comes from the Lasseter Family Winery, a name familiar to every fan of Pixar films. Their rosé is in a similar style to the Ousterhouts, and quite tasty. Their red blend is a little more heavy-handed, but ends up with several redeeming qualities.

Finally, we can go abroad a little and sample a great value Malbec from Carlos Pulenta’s Vistalba estate in Mendoza, and a very young but pleasant Barolo from well-known Damilano in Italy’s Piedmont region.

All these and more below!

2013 Ousterhout Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest peachy pink in color, this wine smells of citrus rind, watermelon rind and alpine strawberries. In the mouth, the wine is equally citrus rind and forest berry, both running with mountain stream water. Wonderfully mineral and juicy, with a lovely silky texture. 13.4% alcohol. 360 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $25 click to buy.

2013 Ousterhout “Woods Vineyard” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest baby pink in the glass, this wine smells of mixed citrus rind and kumquats. In the mouth, flavors of tangerine, raspberry and unripe strawberry have a brisk, crisp brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Wonderfully stony mineral notes sit below the citrusy fruit and make for a truly refreshing package. If only all California rosé could be like this. 13% alcohol. 379 cases produced. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2013 Ousterhout “800 Vines Vineyard” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest baby pink in color, this wine smells of citrus peel, white flowers, and alpine strawberries. In the mouth crisp alpine strawberry and watermelon flavors have the added zing of citrus zest, as the wine buzzes with electric acidity. Juicy, bright and utterly refreshing. Excellent. 13.2% alcohol. 124 cases produced. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2009 Damilano “Cannubi” Nebbiolo, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberries, dried flowers, and licorice. In the mouth, powdery, muscular tannins wrap around a core of strawberry and cherry fruit dusted with cedar shavings and tobacco. Nice balance, and good acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $85. click to buy.

2012 Signaterra by Benziger “Bella Luna Vineyards” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of bright raspberry fruit with a hint of orange peel. In the mouth, juicy raspberry and redcurrant fruit has a bright zing to it thanks to excellent acidity. The faintest of tannins wrap around the core of forest berries, and linger with an earthiness in the finish. Quite pretty. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $49. click to buy.

2012 Bodega Vistalba Carlos Pulenta “Corte C” Red Blend, Mendoza, Argentina
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of mocha and boysenberries. In the mouth, cherry and boysenberry flavors have a hint of cola and tobacco to them, as they wind their way through a landscape of dusty tannin. Good acidity keeps the fruit fresh and bright through a long finish. A blend of 80% Malbec and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2012 Trivento “Golden Reserve” Malbec, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries and cassis and cherry cola. In the mouth, blueberry and cherry cola flavors mix under a fleecy blanket of tannins. Notes of earth and leather emerge in the finish along with the faintest bit of alcoholic heat.14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2011 Lasseter Family Winery “Paysage” Red Blend, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of candied cherry and black cherry fruit. In the mouth cherry and black cherry fruit have a nice brightness thanks to excellent acidity, but that brightness pushes into a high-toned, candied realm that lacks some gravitas. Thick powdery tannins don’t do much to bring the flavors down to earth. A blend of 42% Merlot, 20$ Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Malbec, and 3% Cabernet Franc. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $52. click to buy.

2013 Lasseter Family Winery “Enjoué” Rosé, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California
A bright baby pink in the glass, this wine smells of strawberries, watermelon, and watermelon rind. In the mouth, rosehip, strawberry, and orange peel have a tight brightness and a faint petillance that pricks the front of the tongue. An herbal note emerges on the finish, but this is a very pretty and crisp rosé. Excellent acidity. A blend of 72% Syrah, 22% Grenache, and 6% Mourvedre. 13.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2011 South Coast Winery “GVR” White Blend, Temecula Valley, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of ripe peaches and honeysuckle. In the mouth, faintly sweet peach, honey, and Asian pear flavors swirl beautifully on the palate. Good acidity keeps the wine from being too dense on the tongue, but the texture is quite silky and smooth. A blend of 44% Grenache Blanc, 28% Viognier, and 28% Roussanne. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.