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 wine that made me very happy, my first taste of a California-grown Blaufränkisch from the quirky, little, Austrian-influenced producer, Solminer. Their Grüner Veltliner and rosé also made it into this week’s roundup, and all are worth seeking out if you can track them down.
Perennially favorite producer Lang & Reed’s latest Chenin Blanc is a winner, and Dutton Goldfield offered a textbook Chardonnay that might well characterize where much of California Chardonnay is headed — namely with higher acidity and a kiss of oak.
I found a couple of Cabernets to recommend as well this week, one from Grgich Hills (though it was showing more oak than past vintages) and another from a (new to me) small producer named Pine & Brown.
Finally, just for some variety, I dug out a red blend from Soave producer Inama, which proved to be unusual and charming in its own way.
All these and more below.
2015 Solminer “Delanda Vineyard” Grüner Veltliner, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of pears and honey and a hint of green herbs. In the mouth, citrusy flavors of lemon, pear, and crabapple have a nice sourish juiciness thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a slight bit of spice on the finish. 13.3% alcohol. 168 cases produced. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2014 Lang & Reed Chenin Blanc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of crème anglais and quince. In the mouth, apple, quince and pear flavors mix with a creamy, silky texture and a wonderful lemon kick in the finish. Delicate acidity could be stronger, but quite tasty nonetheless. 13.5% alcohol. 125 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $27. click to buy.
2015 Solminer “Honea Vineyard – Dry” Muscat, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Light gold in color, this wine smells of honeydew melon and rose petals. In the mouth, juicy citrus and melon flavors have a nice crispness thanks to excellent acidity, as well as a deep wet chalkboard minerality that underscores the floral nature of the wine. On a hot day, ice cold, on the front porch…. 13.3% alcohol. 24 cases produced. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $28. click to buy.
2013 Dutton Goldfield “Walker Hill Vineyard” Chardonnay, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and buttered popcorn. In the mouth, lemon curd, cold cream, and the vanilla of oak have a lively tug of war across the palate, with lemon curd and pink grapefruit ultimately prevailing in the finish. Great acidity. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2015 Gamling & McDuck “Feral Rosé” Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Pale baby pink in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry Jolly Rancher candy. In the mouth, slightly sweet watermelon and strawberry flavors are ever-so-slightly candied. Decent acidity keeps them from being cloying however. Escapes the bitter oily trap of many California rosés, even if it is a little sweet. Drink it ice cold and it’s hard not to like. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20.
2015 Solminer “Linus” Rosé of Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Pale ruby in color, this wine smells of wet leaves, red apple skin, and something I can’t quite put my finger on. In the mouth redcurrant and crabapple flavors are bright and zingy and leave grapefruit notes in the finish. Zippy, delightful, and distinctive, with great acidity and a nice touch of wet chalkboard minerality. 12.5% alcohol. 68 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.
2013 Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright black cherry and a hint of minty dark chocolate. In the mouth, dark cherry and chocolate flavors have a touch of menthol to them and a gauzy blanket of tannins. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit bright, and the oak doesn’t surface until the minty mocha finish. Juicy and quite tasty. 14.6% alcohol. 16,361 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $69. click to buy.
2013 Pine & Brown Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cherry and toasted nuts. In the mouth, bright cherry and graphite flavors are tinged with the mocha and espresso notes of new oak. The wood is relatively subdued in terms of flavor, but makes itself most felt in the drying tannins of the wine which leave the mouth a bit parched. Good acidity, however, and relatively nice balance makes me suggest laying this down for 3-5 years in the hopes of a more subtle expression. 14.3% alcohol. 200 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $75. click to buy.
2014 Solminer “Delanda Vineyard” Blaufränkisch, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis and boysenberry. In the mouth, juicy boysenberry, sour cherry, and unripe blackberry flavors are mouthwatering thanks to excellent acidity. The SweetTart profile sings through a long finish with a hint of green herbs at the very end. Boisterous and delicious. 13.4% alcohol. 900 bottles produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.
2013 Inama “Bradisismo” Red Blend, Veneto, Italy
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of comfrey leaf and black cherry. In the mouth, green bell pepper, black cherry, and licorice flavors mix with dried flowers. Excellent acidity and a nice powdery tannic muscle linger in the finish along with notes of violet. Very interesting. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $29. click to buy.