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 couple of the current release Pinots from Saintsbury, though not from their Carneros vineyards, instead these hail from the Sonoma Coast, including a single-vineyard offering from the Pratt Vineyard. Both are quite tasty.
If you’re looking for something unusual and interesting, you’d do well to take a look at this very pretty red blend called Cauquenina from Chile, which brims with distinctive personality.
Reasonably priced Nebbiolo can be difficult to find, and “reasonable” means different things to different people, but the two wines from Beni di Batasiolo I tasted this week are pretty accessible, very tasty, and not massively expensive, especially given their quality.
All these and more below!
2012 Cornerstone Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of lemon and a hint of linalool. In the mouth, smoothly textured flavors of lemon, lime, and green apple are quite juicy and tasty. Crisp and slightly chalky in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2013 Saintsbury “Pratt Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of bright cranberry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth the wine has a gorgeous silkiness, and bright juicy flavors of cranberry and cherry that have a faint aromatic sweetness to them and the slight bitterness of wood. Nice earth tones linger with the finish, along with hints of cedar. A very pretty wine. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $53. click to buy.
2013 Saintsbury Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberries, crushed herbs, and cedar. In the mouth bright raspberry fruit has a nice earthy backbone and is nestled into a bed of fine grained tannins. Juicy and bright, and quite pleasurable to drink. 14.5% alcohol Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45.
2011 Alta Maria Vineyards Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries, dried flowers, and marijuana resin. In the mouth aromatically sweet forest berry flavors mix with suede-like tannins and a nice green herbal and dried flower note that is quite compelling. Excellent acidity makes this wine quite mouthwatering, as does a faint saline note. 12.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $28. click to buy.
2011 Clos des Fous “Cauquenina” Red Blend, Cauquenes, Chile
Dark purple in color, this wine smells of incredibly floral blueberry and boysenberry fruit tinged with eucalyptus. In the mouth, gorgeous boysenberry flavors mix with a deep gunpowder flintiness and a juicy, sharp sour cassis flavor that leaves the tongue tingling a bit. Excellent acidity and faint, creamy tannins round out an utterly distinctive and unique wine. 13.5% alcohol Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $26. click to buy.
2010 Beni di Batasiolo Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of dried flower petals and berries. In the mouth, muscular tannins wrap around delicate flavors of strawberry, dried flowers, rose petals, and a bit of forest floor pungency. Excellent acidity and a quite light body make this wine, though still quite young, very delicious. Decant before serving. 13.5% alcohol Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $43. click to buy.
2009 Beni di Batasiolo Barolo, Piedmont, Italy
Light ruby in color, this wine smells of cherry, cedar, and dried flowers. In the mouth, gorgeously juicy flavors of cherry and strawberry are enclosed in a muscular fist of tannins that linger along with smoky and floral notes through the finish. Still young, but quite delicious. The tannins need time to mellow a little, however. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $47. click to buy.
2013 Achaval Ferrer Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of juicy black cherry and sour cherry aromas. In the mouth, wonderfully tangy and bright flavors of cherry, sour cherry, and cassis mix with powdery tannins and great acidity. Quite drinkable. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2012 Merino Syrah, Limari, Chile
Dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and cassis. In the mouth, flavors of blackberry and cassis have a nice creaminess to them as scents of white pepper and violets waft across the palate. Decent acidity, but brighter acid would make the wine sing more. Suede-like tannins linger through the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $17. click to buy.
2008 Shafer Vineyards “One Point Five” Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, Napa, California
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet black cherry, mocha, and new oak. In the mouth sweet cherry, black cherry, cassis and new oak have an espresso and struck match smokiness to them. Excellent acidity and length. There’s a faint coconut vanilla aroma in the finish. While this wine has too much wood for my taste, it will likely please many others. 15.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $75. click to buy.
2008 Shafer Vineyards Merlot, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and black plum and new oak. In the mouth, juicy and bright black cherry and plum flavors are wrapped in a gauzy haze of powdery tannins. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit quite bright and vibrant on the palate. The wood, which lends a hint of vanilla to the overall package is fairly restrained, and the wine doesn’t show much trace of its 15.3% alcohol other than just the faintest heat in the finish. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.