Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 4, 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 tasting included the latest entry-level malbec from superstar Argentine producer Achaval Ferrer, as well as an interesting red blend from Faugeres in France’s Languedoc region.

I also tasted through a few of the reds from Grgich Hills and Gundlach Bundschu that are currently on the market.

Finally, look for the two entry level wines from Pfendler Vineyards in the Petaluma Gap region of the Sonoma Coast.

All these and more below!

2012 Pfendler Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of pineapple and lemon curd and a hint of brewers yeast. In the mouth, pineapple and other tropical fruit flavors mix with a lemon and pink grapefruit. Bright acidity keeps the wine brisk in the mouth, but a faint bitterness creeps into the finish. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2012 Pfendler Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of melted brown sugar and cranberry compote. In the mouth bright flavors of cranberry and raspberry have a faint sweetness to them, as well as a nice velvety texture. On the rich side of the spectrum, but quite pleasurable in that mode. Decent acidity and finish.14.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $39. click to buy.

2011 Roth Estate Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright raspberry pie and cranberry compote. In the mouth, raspberry and brown sugar flavors have a nice brightness thanks to excellent acidity. A faint bitterness creeps into the finish of the wine, herbal and earthy. Faint tannins. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $28. click to buy.

2010 Grgich Hills Estate Merlot, Napa Valley, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich plum and black cherry aromas. In the mouth, bright plum and black cherry flavors are dusted with cocoa powder and dark licorice notes. Good acidity, but a little bit of heat on the finish. 14.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2010 Gundlach Bundschu Merlot, Sonoma Valley, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of dark black cherry and licorice. In the mouth, black cherry and licorice flavors have a fine grained dusting of tannins on them and a darker, earthier bitterness in their finish. Good acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $29. click to buy.

2010 Gundlach Bundschu “Mountain Cuvee” Red Blend, Sonoma County, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry, raisins, and licorice. In the mouth black cherry and licorice flavors are dusted with a fine powdery chalk dusting of tannins. A faint sweetness pervades the wine and makes it easy to drink, as does the nicely balanced acidity. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.

2012 Gundlach Bundschu “Mountain Cuvee” Red Blend, Sonoma County, California
Medium purple in color, this wine smells of boysenberry and black cherry with a hint of cocoa powder. In the mouth, rich boysenberry flavors are cradled in a fleece blanket of tannins, even as they spark and bubble with the zingy acidity. Juicy and delicious. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.

2013 Achaval Ferrer Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
Dark purple in color, this wine smells of blueberry and blackberry fruit. In the mouth, blueberry and boysenberry flavors have a faint saltiness to them that is quite compelling, along with an earthy undercurrent. Very young yet, with grippy faint tannins and excellent acidity. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2011 Abbaye Sylva Plana “Le Longe de l’Abbé” Red Blend, Faugeres, Languedoc, France
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of violets and black cherries. In the mouth, sweet boysenberry and strawberry flavors mix with a darker licorice quality and a silky smooth texture. Gorgeous flavors, but slightly too sweet for me, and not quite enough acidity to balance out the fruit lushness. A blend of organically certified 50% Carignan, 30% Cinsault, 10% Mourvedre, and 10% Grenache.13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??.

2010 Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, crushed herbs, and rubbing alcohol. In the mouth black cherry flavors mix with black olive flavors for a lovely savory package, dusted with powdery tannins. Decent length, with no trace of its 15.1% alcohol other than the slightly high-octane aroma. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2011 Cornerstone Vineyards “Stepping Stone” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and wet earth. In the mouth, black cherry and boysenberry flavors have a faint nicoise olive savoriness to them, along with an excellent bright acidity. Good length and balance.14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.