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 nice values from Italy in the form of Inama Soave and Selvapiana Chianti Rufina. And, if not of the same blood, then certainly of the same persuasion, two wines from Palmina showed nicely this week, especially their Barbera, which is everything you want a Barbera to be.
Other wines of note include the current releases from father and son team Andy and Jesse Katz, whose Devil Proof Malbec and Aperture reds continue to be very high class wines. Dad takes the photos for the labels and helps with marketing, son makes the wines, and it’s a good combination (full disclosure: Andy Katz is an old friend and I have featured his photography here in the past).
Finally, it’s not going to be mistaken for Burgundy any time soon, but Gundlach Bundschu’s Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir will make any California Pinot lover happy, especially if they like sweet, ripe raspberries.
All these and more below.
2014 Inama Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy
Light blonde in color, this wine smells of unripe pears and white flowers. In the mouth, crisp pear and fuji apple flavors have a nice brightness thanks to excellent acidity. The fruit is backed by a wonderful wet chalkboard minerality. Snappy and delicious with a nice white floral aspect in the finish. 12% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $13. click to buy.
2014 Pfendler Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd, pineapple, toasted nuts, and a hint of melted butter. In the mouth, buttered popcorn, lemon curd, pineapple, and tropical fruit has a nice bright acidity and distinctly tropical aspect through the finish. There’s a lightly bitter note at the end. Feels slightly overwrought. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $38. click to buy.
2013 Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of toasted nuts, lemon curd, and melted butter. In the mouth, bright and juicy lemon curd and lemon zest mix with pink grapefruit and a touch of bitter wood. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit bright and mouthwatering through a zesty finish. 14.1% alcohol. 30,300 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $43. click to buy.
2013 Gundlach Bundschu “Estate Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cranberry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully aromatic candied raspberry fruit flavors mix with cranberry and a nice dusting of tannins. Juicy and bright thanks to excellent acidity, this is definitely a crowd pleaser, but it is missing some complexity for me. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $39. click to buy.
2009 Palmina Nebbiolo, Santa Barbara County, California
Medium ruby in the glass with a hint of orange at the rim, this wine smells of raisins and a hint of dried flowers. In the mouth, dried flowers and dried cherry flavors are blanketed with fine grained tannins and remain lively, thanks to bright acidity. A cedar and cocoa powder note lingers in the finish with a hint of citrus peel. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $38. click to buy.
2013 Palmina “Walker Vineyard” Barbera, Los Olivos District, Santa Barbara, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of licorice, cassis, and violets. In the mouth, boysenberry fruit collides with bright citrus notes on the palate as cassis soaked orange peels pucker the mouth. Nearly imperceptible tannins linger with the orange peel notes in the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $27. click to buy.
2013 Fattoria Selvapiana Chianti Rufina, Tuscany, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of dried flowers, cherries, and a hint of camphor wood. In the mouth, leathery tannins wrap around a core of cherry and dried flowers mixed with some wonderful earthy bits that linger in the finish. Excellent acidity. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2013 Devil Proof Malbec, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky, opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and a hint of camphor. In the mouth, rich and velvety flavors of dark cherry, cocoa powder, espresso, and just a hint of blueberry have a slightly bitter woody edge as they head towards a long finish. Muscular tannins hold the fruit and cocoa in a tight fist. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.
2013 Aperture Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, tobacco, and a touch of espresso. In the mouth, bright cherry, tobacco and cola flavors are juicy with acidity even as they flex with the muscles of tightly wound tannins that eventually turn powdery. This is a young wine that will blossom with time. Beautifully integrated oak barely surfaces in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.
2013 Aperture Red Blend, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry and cola. In the mouth, sweet cherry, cola, and cocoa powder have a boisterous quality thanks to fantastic acidity and relatively restrained tannins. A hint of earth lingers in the finish along with sweet cherry. A lovely wine. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $38. click to buy.