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Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 31, 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 some older wines that were rather fun to observe in their evolution. Ever had a nicely aged Zinfandel? A couple of examples from Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves showed off the qualities of older Zinfandel quite nicely.

Two major highlights this week would certainly be the wonderfully mature Cabernet blend from Craggy Range in New Zealand as well as the latest release from Star Lane Vineyards down near Santa Barbara. Star Lane has been producing excellent Bordeaux blends for several years, but this 2011 bottling is particularly great.

Finally, make sure to check out the Syrahs from Stephen Singer’s Baker Lane estate, which are wonderful examples of what cool-climate Syrah can do when planted in the right place and tended well. These wines are lean, smooth, and quite delicious.

All this and more below. Enjoy!

2011 Cornerstone Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of gooseberries, kiwi and green apples. In the mouth, gooseberry and passion fruit flavors mix with a juicy brightness that is quite delicious. The wonderfully excruciating pucker of passion fruit lingers in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2010 Cornerstone Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of gooseberries and white flowers. In the mouth, bright gooseberry and green apple flavors are tinged with a hint of cut grass. Juicy and bright with a lime note on the finish. 14.1% alcohol Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2007 Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves “Barrel 32 Lily Hill Estate” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of chocolate covered raisins, leather, and blackberry fruit. In the mouth, blackberry jam and licorice flavors mix with leather and cocoa powder and the dried raisin-like quality that lingers in the nose. The wine has a slightly sweet complexion, and is beautifully smooth and creamy at this stage in its evolution. 15.3% alcohol. 553 bottles produced. Too bad about the obnoxiously heavy bottle. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??

2007 Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves “Big River Ranch” Zinfandel, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of Mexican mole and blackberries. In the mouth the wine has wonderfully bright blackberry and black pepper flavors made juicy thanks to still beautifully vibrant acidity. This wine is aging quite gracefully and is in a place of great poise and deliciousness. Notes of nutmeg and cocoa powder linger in the finish along with the juicy blackberry. Dusty tannins coat the mouth. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2008 Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of raisins and roasted figs. In the mouth, cedar, red apple skin, cherry, and blackberry pie flavors are dusted with surprisingly muscular tannins. Excellent acidity still.14.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20.

2004 Trapio Monastrell, Yecla, Spain
Medium to dark cloudy ruby in color, this wine smells of leather, cherry, a dusty road, and cocoa powder. In the mouth, juicy cherry and raspberry fruit flavors are dusted with powdery tannins, velvety and smooth. Wonderful cedar and cinnamon notes linger in the finish. Bright acidity and length. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??

2009 Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich black cherry and cassis. In the mouth, cherry cola and cocoa powder flavors are shot through with the vanilla of new oak. The wood remains relatively balanced against the fruit, however, only really rearing its head in the form of very drying tannins that suck the moisture out of the mouth. Espresso and tobacco linger in the finish. Packaged in one of the most obscenely gratuitous bottles I’ve ever seen, weighing about 2 pounds. 14.7% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $140 click to buy.

2012 Nickel & Nickel Harris Vineyard Merlot, Oakville, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of plum and cedar and new oak. In the mouth, bright plum flavors have a juicy kick thanks to excellent acidity. The tannins are tightly wound around thebaker_lane_syrah.jpg core of fruit, which lingers with cedar and cola in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2012 Baker Lane Vineyards “Sonoma Coast Cuvee” Syrah, Sonoma Coast, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry, dried flowers, and white pepper. In the mouth, wonderfully fresh flavors of cassis, white pepper, dried flowers, and fresh violets swirl under a gauzy haze of tannins. Excellent acidity and length. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $28. click to buy.

2010 Baker Lane Vineyards “Estate Vineyard” Syrah, Sonoma Coast, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of tangy black plum and white pepper. In the mouth, cherry, white pepper, and dried herbs have a lively, lithe quality that is very charming. Muscular tannins wait in the wings, like well trained heavies, only evident when the room is cleared of its aromatic sour black cherry fruit finish. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2009 Baker Lane Vineyards “Estate Vineyard” Syrah Sonoma Coast, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of roasted figs wrapped in prosciutto, crushed black pepper and dried flowers. In the mouth, gorgeous cracked pepper, dried flowers, and cassis flavors have an airy, ethereal quality, enhanced by a dusting of very fine powdery tannins. Quite aromatic and soaring, lingering for minutes with a dried flower medley of aromas that is beautiful and delicious. 13.6% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2009 Craggy Range “Te Kahu” Proprietary Red, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of beautifully sweet cherry and plum fruit. In the mouth, juicy cherry and plum flavors are enclosed in a supple sheath of suede-like tannins. excellent acidity keeps the fruit still fresh after six years, with notes of cocoa powder and licorice root lingering in the finish along with the tannins. A blend of 80% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Malbec. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20 click to buy.

2011 Star Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Happy Canyon, Santa Barbara, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, smooth flavors of black cherry, cola, and cocoa powder have a beautiful texture and length on the palate. Good acidity balances the plush fruit and only the barest hint of vanilla from oak peeks through the ripe fruit. Nicely done. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $55. click to buy.