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 three recent releases from one of my favorite Pinot Noir producers in California, Ross Cobb. His nervy wines are usually jam packed with bright acidity, so it’s no surprise that his 2012s are very nice, indeed, and that he’s avoided the flab-trap that some producers fell into during this generous, easygoing vintage.
Speaking of acid, is there anything more crisp that comes in a wine bottle than a good Assyrtiko? I was pleased as punch to open and sample this bottling from Argyros, one of the oldest and most prestigious producers on the tiny little island of Santorini in Greece. Want to help the Greeks? Drink Greek wine!
Finally, I’ve got to give props to the monks. They new what they were doing when they established the Abbey of Novacella in the mountains of Northern Italy and planted some seriously awesome aromatic whites. Pretty much everything these guys do is liquid gold, and the Kerner and Sylvaner I opened this week are no exception.
All these and more below. Enjoy!
2014 Argyros Assyrtiko, Santorini, Greece
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of lime and cucumber and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, steely bright flavors of lime, grapefruit, and wet stone have a chalky tannic quality and a wonderfully bright saline quality in the finish. Zingy and zippy, lean and bright thanks to excellent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20 click to buy.
2011 Roccolo Grassi “La Broia” Soave Superiore, Veneto, Italy
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells beautifully of crystallized honey and wintersweet blossoms with a touch of green herbs. In the mouth, the wine has a fantastic poise and balance between richness of lemon curd and butterscotch flavors and the lean brittle brightness of grapefruit pith and wet stone.The year this wine spent in used oak casks has added texture and richness. A stunner. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $20 click to buy.
2013 Abbazia di Novacella Sylvaner, Valle Isarco, Alto Adige, Italy
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of fennel pollen, honeysuckle, and candied lemon peel. In the mouth, the wine has a rich chamomile, honeysuckle, and lemon curd quality that is quite compelling and unusual. Notes of dried herbs and flowers linger in the finish. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $23 click to buy.
2013 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner, Valle Isarco, Alto Adige, Italy
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon zest, creme caramel, and chamomile. In the mouth, chamomile and chrysanthemum mix with lemon peel and grapefruit brightness. Excellent acidity and a deep wet stone minerality round out a perfectly wonderful mouthful. Long finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $18 click to buy.
2012 Cobb Wines “Emmaline Ann Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Pale garnet in color, almost to the point of looking like a dark rosé, this wine smells of redcurrant, juniper berries, and marijuana resin. In the mouth, a phenomenally silky texture gives way to flavors of redcurrant and raspberries and liquid stone tinged with crushed green herbs and dried flowers. Barely perceptible tannins linger after the finish at the top of the mouth. Incredibly delicate, with filigreed acidity, but perhaps not the complexity of previous vintages. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $68 click to buy.
2012 Cobb Wines “Diane Cobb: Coastlands Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries, raspberry leaf, and crushed herbs including tarragon and oregano. In the mouth, wonderfully bright flavors of raspberry and redcurrant mix with a smoky note and crushed garden herbs. A faint citrus quality lingers in the finish thanks to fantastic acidity. Great length and depth. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $75 click to buy.
2012 Cobb Wines “Rice-Spivak Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Very light garnet in color, this wine smells of marijuana resin, redcurrants, and pine duff. In the mouth, incredibly bright flavors of redcurrant and orange peel and dried herbs mix with a darker forest floor and crushed stone quality that is quite compelling. Positively juicy with acidity, this wine leans decidedly citrus in the finish along with crushed green herbs. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $68 click to buy.
2012 Cadaretta “Windthrow” Red Blend, Columbia Valley, Washington
Very dark purple in color, this wine smells of cassis, black cherry, and cola. In the mouth black cherry, cola, and a touch of strawberry jam blend nicely in a sweetish package of pure dark fruit. Faint tannins nudge the underside of the tongue and back edges of the mouth as juicy acidity carries the dark fruit across the palate. Juicy and rich. A blend of 56% Syrah, 25% Grenache, and 19% Mourvedre. 130 cases produced. 14.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35
2012 Arcudi “Black Sears Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, sweet dark cherry fruit is tinged with more than a little new oak. Rich and dark, with a thick blanket of muscular tannins thrown over the lot of it, this wine features a bit too much wood at the moment. Good acidity means it will last a while though, so perhaps in a few years the wood will have mellowed a bit. The fruit may be worth waiting for. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $150 click to buy.
2012 Kitá “Camp 4 Vineyard” Grenache, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar and brown sugar and strawberry jam. In the mouth, bright and slightly spicy strawberry and cherry fruit have a nice brown sugar complexion and sweetness to them. Fairly grippy tannins (for Grenache) linger through the finish along with forest floor notes. Excellent acidity. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $24 click to buy.
2012 Kitá “Spe’y – Camp 4 Vineyard” Red Blend, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry and a hint of blueberry. In the mouth, blueberry and cherry flavors mix with nicely integrated but still prominent new oak flavors. Lightly grippy tannins hug the edges of the mouth and flavors of oak, brown sugar, and cherry linger in the finish. A touch too much wood for my taste, and also a little ripe, but a very well made wine. A blend of 53% Grenache, 27% Syrah, and 20% Carignane. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30