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 one of the best California Chardonnays I’ve had in recent memory, and it was no surprise to have come from Thomas Fogarty Winery. Winemaker Nathan Kandler is crafting some of the most extraordinary Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This single vineyard bottling from one of their oldest, steepest, and most difficult to work vineyards is a stunner, once it opens up and gets cracking. It will live for decades.
Speaking of the Santa Cruz Mountains, I also popped the cork on a bunch of samples from Ridge Vineyards this week. Not surprisingly their Geyserville bottling was the star of the show, but there were a few others that are worth paying attention to.
Finally, I love the name of the winery Love & Squalor, and their two Rieslings from Oregon’s Willamette Valley are worth paying attention to, though they each could use a little bottle age.
All these and more below. Enjoy!
2012 Thomas Fogarty Winery Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon zest and grapefruit pith and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, juicy lemon curd has a silky texture and pink grapefruit kick on the finish, with a nice underlying minerality. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $24 click to buy.
2012 Thomas Fogarty Winery “Portola Springs Vineyard” Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Light yellow gold in color, this wine opens tight and narrow on day one, smelling of little more than crushed stones and lemon pith, and tasting much the same. On day two, however, this wine has broadened and blossomed into a Puligny-like sappy lemon curd and lemon pith electric brightness of yellow SweetTart tanginess. Mouthwatering acidity and fantastic grapefruit and grapefruit pith flavors linger in the finish. Hang onto this until 2016 and then drink it by the case. A staggering amount of flavor at 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $60 click to buy.
2013 Love & Squalor Riesling, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Near colorless in the glass, this wine smells of green apple and wet chalkboard and a hint of linoleum. In the mouth, tart green apple crackles neon green and juicy-as-all-hell on the palate thanks to electric acidity. Young, crisp, and full of sass this is one tangy son-of-a-gun. Give it a year or two. Slightly sweet / off-dry. 10.6% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $18 click to buy.
2011 Love & Squalor “Antsy Pants” Riesling, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of pear, green apple, and a hint of petrol. In the mouth, lean tangerine zest and citrus oil flavors are layered over very sour, but mouthwatering pink grapefruit flavors that literally have the taste buds gushing through the finish. Somewhat austere but with some redeeming qualities, chief among which is the fantastic acidity. 9.9% alcohol Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25 click to buy.
2012 Ridge Vineyards “Estate – Monte Bello Vineyard” Merlot, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dark earth, black plum and black cherry. In the mouth powdery tannins wrap around a core of black cherry and black plum tinged with new oak. The wood sticks out a bit from the dark fruit which has a creamy loamy quality to it that is quite compelling. I just wish I wasn’t tasting so much wood. 13.5% alcohol. Score:between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50 click to buy.
2012 Ridge Vineyards “Estate – Monte Bello Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, coconut, and tobacco. In the mouth, juicy pure bing cherry, cocoa powder, and tobacco flavors are clasped in a muscular fist of tannins and brushed with a coconut and vanilla note of oak. Fantastic acidity makes the fruit positively juicy, and the wood is relatively well integrated into the wine. Give it 3 years and this will be a seriously awesome wine. Contains 24% Merlot. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50 click to buy.
2013 Ridge Vineyards “Paso Robles – Benito Dusi Ranch” Zinfandel, Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of freshly baked blackberry pie. In the mouth sweetish flavors of blackberry and serviceberry and blueberry have a powdery tannic backdrop against which they can pop on the palate. Peppery notes linger in the finish. A bit rich for my taste, but there’s an earthy note in the finish that keeps it from being over the top. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $28 click to buy.
2013 Ridge Vineyards “East Bench” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blueberries and boysenberries. In the mouth, rich boysenberry flavors have a nice muscular tannic backbone and a wet wood and forest floor savory component that lingers in the finish with the tannic chalky texture. Excellent acidity. A serious Zinfandel. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25 click to buy.
2013 Ridge Vineyards “Geyserville” Red Blend, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dark cherry and boysenberries. In the mouth, rich flavors of boysenberry, dark chocolate, blueberries, and cola mix under a thick blanket of tannins that grip the tongue and sides of the mouth with some force. Excellent acidity and a beautiful texture round out this powerful and serious wine. Tasty now, but give it 5 years. A blend of 73% Zinfandel, 17% Carignane, 9% Petite Sirah, and 1% Mataro (Mourvedre). 14.7% alcohol. Score: between9 and 9.5. Cost: $35 click to buy.