Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 3, 2016

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 included a couple of the most exceptional Cabernets from the 2012 vintage I’ve had the pleasure of tasting, the always-impeccable Spottswoode and the really excellent black label blend from Viader Vineyards. If you’re in the market for wines like these, run, don’t walk to the nearest fine wine store and snap them up.

Other wines of note this week included the pair of Cabernets from the other side of the mountains in Sonoma’s Knights Valley from Galerie, as well as the latest Grenache from Randall Grahm, and more.

All this and more below. Enjoy, and happy new year!

2014 Karamolegos “Feredini” Assyrtiko, Cyclades, Greece
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of lemon cucumber and white flowers. In the mouth, flavors of lemon curd, wet chalkboard, and crushed stones have a wonderfully airy minerality to them, and delicate acidity. Good length, and a powerful lemon core that lingers for a long time in the finish. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2013 Spell Winery “Alder Springs Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mendocino County, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of forest berries and dried flowers. In the mouth, flavors of raspberries and mulberries mix with a nice underlying minerality and earthiness, and are juicy with excellent acidity. The flavors lean towards the high toned, and there’s a hint of bitterness in the finish. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2013 Stoller Family Estate “Nancy’s” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and forest floor with a hint of oak. In the mouth, bright raspberry and redcurrant fruit is juicy and bright and wrapped in sandpapery tannins. Notes of oak linger in the finish with a light herbal touch. Mostly whole-cluster fermented. 13% alcohol. Obnoxiously heavy bottle. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

2013 Stoller Family Estate “Helen’s” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in color, this wine smells somewhat unusually of sweet white flowers, forest berries, and underbrush. In the mouth, silky and elegant raspberry and redcurrant fruit mixes with dried flowers and dried herbs. Faint powdery tannins float airily in the mouth. Long finish. 13% alcohol. Obnoxiously heavy bottle. Score: around 9. Cost: $70.

2012 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich black cherry and tobacco aromas. In the mouth, rich dark cherry and wet earth flavors mix with violets and cassis as they are draped in a fleecy, fine grained blanket of tannins. Lush and beautiful but with plenty of kick thanks to excellent acidity. Gorgeous, balanced and poised. A stunning wine, and one of my favorites of the 2012 vintage. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.

2013 Viader “Black Label Estate Limited Edition” Red Blend, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberries and cassis and flowers. In the mouth, gorgeous blackberry and black cherry flavors have a deep mineral and earth aspect even as great acidity makes the fruit burst on the palate. A thick musculature of tannins wrap around the core of fruit, and these will benefit from a few years of softening in the bottle, but the fruit is so bright, it’s a shame to not taste it even at this point in its evolution. A blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Merlot. 15.1% alcohol. 650 cases produced. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2012 Cliff Lede Winery “Poetry” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherries, tobacco and wet earth. In the mouth, cassis and black cherry fruit has a high-toned, high-octane quality to it, with powdery tannins that linger with a bitter set of flavors in the finish. 15.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $200. click to buy.

2012 Galerie “Pleinair” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry cordials and chocolate. In the mouth, juicy black cherry, cola, and tobacco juice flavors are bright with zingy acidity. Suede like tannins back up the somewhat high-toned fruit, but I’m wishing for something a little bit more substantial in the middle. The appeal of the fruit is hard to deny, however. 14.5% alcohol. 1,100 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2012 Galerie “Latro” Cabernet Sauvignon, Knights Valley, Sonoma, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis. In the mouth, black cherry and cassis fruit is backed up by cocoa powder and hints of herbs. Cola notes linger in the finish along with tacky tannins. Excellent acidity. 14.5% alcohol. 1350 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2014 Bonny Doon Vineyards “Clos de Gilroy” Grenache, Monterey County, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberry jam and a hint of herbs. In the mouth strawberry and herbal flavors mix with a hint of cola and nutmeg. Good acidity and length. Includes 9% Mourvedre and 2% Syrah. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16. click to buy.