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 nice white wines, starting with a very nice Viognier from Anaba in Sonoma Valley. California Viogniers often end up too syrupy and ripe, but this wine avoids that trap nicely.
The Smith-Madrone Chardonnay also breaks the stereotypical mold, and offers juicy bright citrus fruit without overt oak.
On the red end of the spectrum I was quite pleased to taste the first release of a collaboration between Raymond Vineyards and musician John Legend called LVE. It’s quite a crowd-pleaser of a wine.
I also enjoyed the much leaner style of the Smith-Madrone Cabernet, whose more savory qualities make for a restrained and elegant mouthful.
Also of note this week was the Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon, which represents a pretty great value for anyone needing a food friendly wine with character.
All this and more below. Enjoy!
2013 Anaba Wines “Landa Vineyard” Viognier, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of ripe apricots and lemon zest. In the mouth apricot, grapefruit, and lemon curd flavors mix in a shimmery bright fabric of flavor thanks to excellent acidity. Decent finish. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $28. click to buy.
2013 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Pale, bright greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, and a hint of melted butter. In the mouth, lemon zest, lemon curd, and pink grapefruit flavors mix with a hint of cold cream and fennel. There’s a woody fennel seed note in the finish. Excellent acidity and length. 14.1% alcohol. 806 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.
2013 LVE Wines “LVE” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, bright juicy black cherry and chocolate flavors nestle into a suede blanket of tannins even as they are bouncy with excellent acidity. Supple and plush, this wine has a great presence and betrays little of its prodigious 15% alcohol. Nice finish. Score: around 9. Cost: $95. click to buy.
2013 Bila-Haut “Occultum Lapidem” Red Blend, Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France, Languedoc, France
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and cassis. In the mouth, savory flavors of blackberry, black cherry, and wet earth mix with green herbs and wet wood. Excellent acidity and fine grained tannins that gently buff the edges of the mouth. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2012 Shafer Vineyards “One Point Five” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass this wine smells of sweet black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, faintly sweet black cherry, mocha, and vanilla notes swirl under a lacy veil of tannins that seem to solidify through the finish. Oak emerges with time to play a bigger (less pleasant) role in the wine’s complexion. 15.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $90. click to buy.
2012 Grgich Hills Estate Merlot, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of slightly stewed plums. In the mouth, black cherry and plum skin flavors mix with bitter dark chocolate and black tea. Faint, plush tannins wrap the core of the fruit, and a distinctly dusty, savory note lingers in the finish. 14.9% alcohol. 5040 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $36. click to buy.
2013 Buena Vista “Aristocrat” Red Blend, Calistoga, Napa, California
Dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis layered over with new oak. In the mouth, black cherry, plum, and cassis flavors are wrapped in a dusty sheath of tannins. Good acidity keeps the fruit bright, and only a modest touch of wood emerges from the black-tea-stained finish. The wine is missing some depth that would take it to the next level. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $85. click to buy.
2011 Montes “Montes Folly” Syrah, Santa Cruz, Colchagua, Chile
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of dark blueberry and blackberry fruit. In the mouth faintly sweet and candied flavors of blueberry and cassis are wrapped in gauzy tannins and the sweet vanilla of new oak. Decent acidity keeps the fruit bright, but the wine overall has a confectionary quality that won’t hold my interest for long. 15% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $70. click to buy.
2012 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry, green herbs, and pipe tobacco. In the mouth, black cherry, crushed green herbs, black pepper, and carob flavors turn decidedly earthy as leathery tannins enclose the fruit. Very good acidity keeps the fruit lifted and juicy through the long, earthy finish. 14.2% alcohol. 1815 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.