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.
The cold weather we’re getting in California has me in a red wine mood. This week’s tasting included mostly robust red wines of various pedigrees.
The one to single out for starters is most certainly the wine that I had never heard of until I got a bottle in the mail recently. But one look at the back label told me everything I needed to know, at least once I noticed the last name of the winemaker, Helene Seillan. While it cannot be taken as a given that the child of a great winemaker will also herself be a great winemaker, the fact that the daughter of Pierre Seillan, the man behind Verité, has become a winemaker would be about as close to a sure bet as there is in the business of fine Sonoma red wines. This 2010 bottling is a stunner, beautifully balanced, restrained, and delicious. It also carries a gorgeous label (see below). I highly recommend it.
Onward, then. I don’t think there’s ever been a bad vintage of Cardinale, the prestige Cabernet made by Chris Carpenter in Napa, so the 2012 is expectedly gorgeous. Same goes for the Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet, which gets the most TLC of all Beringer’s wines.
On the opposite end of the pricing spectrum, don’t pass up the opportunity to try a bottle of the Bodega Vistalba Corte C, which punches well above its weight for $16.
Finally, I also suggest keeping a lookout for the Bordeaux blend made by the Chumash tribe down in Santa Ynez Valley. I’m not sure the price, but their wines tend to be quite reasonable, and this wine will satisfy most lovers of nicely balanced California Cabernet.
All these and more below. Enjoy!
2014 Velenosi “Villa Angela” Pecorino, Falerio, Marche, Italy
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of banana and other tropical fruits mixed with white flowers. In the mouth, lemon and grapefruit pith mix with zingy banana and pineapple flavors. Excellent acidity keeps this wine crisp and bright. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2013 Dutton Goldfield “Azaya Ranch Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Marin County, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dark cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully pure cherry flavors mix with a note of darker earth. Juicy and bright, with a hint of saltiness that is quite appealing, this wine has very fine grained tannins and a long finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $65.
2012 Stony Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich black cherry, dried flowers and mulberries. In the mouth, bright and savory flavors of black cherry, fresh green herbs, and crushed stone mix with a deeper earthy note. Wonderful depth and clarity, with fantastic acidity. The whole wine tastes as if it were strained through granite. Delicious, especially for those who like their Cabs old school. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2010 Cenyth Red Blend, Sonoma County, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of pencil lead, black cherry, tobacco, and crushed green herbs. In the mouth, wonderfully deep and stony black cherry and cassis flavors mix with dark earth and crushed greenery. Fantastic acidity keeps everything fresh, and ever-so-faint tannins are so powdery they contribute to the crushed stone quality of the wine. Excellent. A blend of 54% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5% alcohol. 4359 cases produced. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2013 Kitá “Kalaš” Red Blend, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich black cherry, tobacco, and cassis. In the mouth, black cherry and cassis mix with tobacco and dark earth in a very pleasing rich blend of fruit and spice. A hint of cedar shavings and graphite are the only trace of oak influence in this wine, apart from the lovely texture and powdery tannins. Excellent acidity and length. A blend of 54% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, 18% Petit Verdot, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $??
2012 Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of rich black cherry, espresso, and dark chocolate. In the mouth, rich black cherry and cola flavors are nestled into a bed of velvety tannins. Fantastic acidity keeps the fruit juicy and bright while dusty cocoa powder accompanies notes of dried herbs through a long finish. Polished and gorgeous with beautifully integrated wood. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $250. click to buy.
2012 Los Vascos “Le Dix de Los Vascos” Red Blend, Colchagua, Chile
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of meaty and rich black cherry with a hint of oak. In the mouth, cherry, chocolate, smoked meats, and new oak flavors mix in a sumptuous swirl. Good acidity keeps the fruit bright, but the oak is quite present, especially in the drying tannins of the wine. That said, this isn’t a hit-you-over-the-head serving of wood, and with some time, it will mellow beautifully. A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Carmenere, and 5% Syrah. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $55. click to buy.
2014 Bodega Vistalba “Corte C” Red Blend, Mendoza, Argentina
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries and blackberries and black cherry. In the mouth, blueberries and black cherry flavors have a juicy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. There’s also a deep smoky character from the oak that is nicely layered into the fruit. Tacky, muscular tannins wrap around the edges of the mouth, pliant and supportive. A blend of 80% Malbec and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2012 Dry Creek Vineyard “The Mariner” Meritage, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, tobacco and graphite. In the mouth, juicy cherry, cola, and espresso flavors have a fantastic lift to them thanks to excellent acidity. A fleecy blanket of tannins settles around the fruit as the cherry sings through the finish. Excellent. A blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 8% Malbec, 8% Petit Verdot, and 3% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2013 Flora Springs “All Hallow’s Eve” Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black plum and roasted nuts. In the mouth, leather, plum, and cocoa powder mix with a hint of nutmeg. The fruit is lifted and juicy thanks to great acidity, and powdery tannins coat the roof of the mouth. Needs to mellow a bit, but the core of deliciousness is there. Nicely integrated wood. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??.
2012 Beringer “Private Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of ripe black cherry, raisins, and dark chocolate. In the mouth, rich black cherry, cassis and raisins make for a tasty if slightly overripe character with powdery, muscular tannins that linger with a hint of bitterness in the finish. Good acidity and length. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $125. click to buy.