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 a bunch of completely knock-out wines. It’s hard to know where to begin, but let’s start with the three single vineyard Chardonnays from Thomas Fogarty winery which are literally some of the finest Chardonnays I’ve had from California in some time. Phenomenally bright, nervy, and completely mouthwatering, these wines are the work of the (relatively) young Nathan Kandler, who has completely transformed the Thomas Fogarty portfolio in the last few years. You must seek out these wines.
Then there are the pair of Super Tuscans from Tenuta di Arceno, a remarkable winery project outside of Siena, Italy that is the product of none other than Jackson Family Estates here in California. These wines are truly tremendous, displaying extraordinary restraint and refinement along with fantastically juicy fruit. They may not be the product of a fifth generation Tuscan farmer, but they are undeniably delicious.
Add to these a lovely Pinot Noir from the under-appreciated producer Macrostie, a nice rosé of Pinot Noir from Charles Heintz, and you’ve got a heck of a selection this week.
All these and more below!
2007 Donum Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa, California
Light to medium gold in the glass, this wine smells of dried pineapple and dried mango. In the mouth, butterscotch and pineapple flavors have a nice minerality behind them, even if they lack a little bit of the acidity and brightness that would make them more appealing at this point in the wine’s evolution. Caramelized flavors linger in the finish with a hint of toasted oak. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.
2013 En Route “Brumaire” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, cold cream, and a hint of vanilla. In the mouth, flavors of lemon juice, pomelo pith, and a hint of pineapple mix with a bright juiciness thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a hint of bitterness and heat on the finish, which leaves the wine feeling slightly unbalanced, but the flavors are pure and the wood mercifully restrained. 14.4% alcohol. Score :between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??.
2011 Thomas Fogarty Winery “Langley Hill Vineyard” Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of sea air, crushed shells, and lemon zest. In the mouth, gorgeously bright lemon and white floral flavors have an electric zing to them thanks to phenomenal acidity. A gorgeous mineral backbone sits behind the neon lemon glow of this wine that lingers for a long time in the finish. Outstanding. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $58. click to buy.
2011 Thomas Fogarty Winery “Albutom Vineyard” Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd, melted butter, and a hint of pine resin. In the mouth, wonderfully sappy and sour lemon and pink grapefruit flavors also have a resinous quality to them that is quite appealing. Gorgeously bright acidity and a silky texture round out a perfectly fantastic package. Delicious. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $70. click to buy.
2011 Thomas Fogarty Winery “Diamana Vineyard” Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, white flowers, and a hint of citrus zest. In the mouth the wine has a deep wet chalkboard and crushed stone minerality that is quite profound. Through this cistern-like stoniness filter flavors of lemon pith and white flowers, but the dominant character of the wine is stone, stone, stone. Gorgeous acidity and nice length. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $??.
2013 Charles Heintz Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Pale baby pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon and alpine strawberry. In the mouth, bright berries, fresh herbs, and citrus peel all mix in a very pleasing, crisp juiciness that is quite refreshing. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.
2007 Macrostie “Wildcat Mountain Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry fruit with a hint of beautiful soaring lilac blossom. In the mouth, juicy cranberry and cherry flavors are dusted with tacky tannins. Zingy acidity keeps the wine bouncy across the palate even as a dry, mineral, chalkiness lingers in the finish. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.
2009 Tenuta di Arceno “Valadorna” Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of licorice, dark chocolate, and black cherry fruit. In the mouth, gorgeously supple flavors of black cherry and plum have a juicy brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Wonderfully well-integrated oak hangs very much in the background, letting flavors of cherry cola, plum, and cocoa powder wash over the palate and linger for a long time in the finish with a touch of licorice root. Excellent. A blend of 85% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $78. click to buy.
2009 Tenuta di Arceno “Arcanum” Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, plum, and green herbs. In the mouth, gorgeously plummy flavors have a wonderful brightness and a gorgeous floral overtone of violets above a dark cherry and cocoa powder core of fruit. Thick, powdery tannins muscle in for some attention as the wine soars through the finish. The oak hangs nicely in the background letting the fruit and earth do its thing. A blend of 68% Cabernet Franc, 22% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.
2011 Mount Brave Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, plum and violets. In the mouth, the wine tastes of bright black cherry and cassis, with juicy pops of unripe blackberry thanks to excellent acidity. A gorgeous floral, herbal note lingers in the finish along with fine grained, muscular tannins. A very young wine that will resolve nicely with some time. 14.5% alcohol. 4333 cases made. Score :between 9 and 9.5 . Cost: $75. click to buy.