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 tasting unearthed a couple of excellent Chardonnays from producer Alta Maria Vineyards down in Santa Barbara County, which will celebrate its 10th harvest this year. Their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are excellent and worth seeking out, as these two demonstrate.
Grgich Hills joined the Chardonnay bandwagon this week as well, with predictable consistency and quality.
For those interested in something a little more exotic, you might seek out these two wines from Turkey, the red blend from Selendi and the Emir from Turasan. Emir is a light, floral, crisp grape that makes easy-drinking whites that go very well with just about any food, but especially Mediterranean cuisine.
Finally, it’s worth noting the Chenin Blanc from Dry Creek Vineyards, which was perfectly on point for varietal character, and a great introduction to the grape for anyone who hasn’t tasted its charms.
All these and more below!
2013 Dry Creek Vineyard “Dry” Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, Central Valley, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of white flowers, asian pears, and cooked quince. In the mouth, juicy flavors of apple and quince mix with a faint lemony pith quality that is echoed in the slightly chalky texture the wine leaves in the mouth, along with a slightly spicy quality. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $10. click to buy.
2012 Stoller Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberries, cherries, and cedar. In the mouth, bright raspberry and cedar flavors mix with a nice herbal underbrush quality that morphs to wet earth as the wine finishes. Faint, tacky tannins buff the top of the mouth. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2011 Selendi “Artist Series” Red Blend, Turkey
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, cassis, and wet earth. In the mouth, the wine is dark and intense, but quite earthy at the same time, sporting deep black cherry and cassis flavors mixed with wet dirt. Good acidity. Somewhat brooding, but thankfully absent too much of oak, perhaps not any wood at all? A blend of 34% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Syrah and 19% Cabernet Franc. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2013 Turasan Emir, Turkey
Near colorless in the glass, this wine smells of delicate white flowers and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, citrus pith and white flowers resolve to a deep wet chalkboard minerality and hints of grapefruit in the finish. Tasty if uncomplicated. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2012 Grgich Hills Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of buttered popcorn, lemon curd, and a hint of oak. In the mouth, melted butter, lemon curd, and a touch of vanilla from oak mix in a bright, juicy, and saline package that is quite delicious. Long finish. 13.5% alcohol. 30,832 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.
2012 Sojourn Cellars “Gap’s Crown” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries, strawberries, and a hint of green herbs. In the mouth, sweetish raspberry and strawberry flavors have a nice tannic grip to tham and a hint of green herbs, but ultimately lean towards the ripe end of the spectrum. Good acidity. 14.6% alcohol. Score:between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $54. click to buy.
2012 Dolin “Solomon Hills Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of peeled willow bark and strawberry jam. In the mouth, flavors of raspberry jam mix with green herbs and excellent acidity. A nice earthy note emerges in the finish. While the wine leans towards the overly sweet and candied, there’s enough earth and savory quality to pull it back from the edge of the cliff. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $43. click to buy.
2013 Bonny Doon Vineyard “A Proper Claret” Red Blend, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of crushed green herbs, tobacco, red fruits, and a hint of green bell pepper. In the mouth, tobacco, green pepper, and cherry flavors have a lean herbal quality to them. Savory and earthy. Probably not for everyone, especially those who like gobs of ripe fruit, but nicely balanced and nuanced. A blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 15% Tannat, 13% Petit Verdot, 8% Syrah, and 1% Petite Sirah. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2012 Alta Maria Vineyards Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon zest, green apples, and golden apples. In the mouth, juicy green apple, unripe peach and pink grapefruit flavors all have a tart, zingy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. A faint chalky sensation lingers in the finish. Crisp, clean, and quite mouthwatering. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.
2012 Alta Maria Vineyards “Rancho Viñedo” Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of ripe apples and a hint of buttered popcorn. In the mouth, juicy apple and pink grapefruit flavors have a zingy, zippy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Nicely poised between lean and steely and a little bit richer and riper, this wine has a very nice character. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??.