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 bunch of gems. Let’s start with an incredible value — the Leitz single vineyard Klosterlay Riesling from Germany’s Rheingau region, with just a touch of sugar and a gorgeous bright acidity that is crying for some spicy Thai food to give you an excuse to gulp it down. Then there’s the rosé from one of the world’s most environmentally friendly winery (the winery is made of hemp – no kidding), Chateau Maris in France’s Languedoc.
The folks from Presqu’ile sent me a few of their new releases as well, and the Pinot Noirs are predictably fantastic, with their Steiner Creek Vineyard bottling showing beautifully.
Finally, stalwart producer Ridge Vineyards also sent along a couple current releases — siblings, in fact — from their estate Monte Bello vineyard. The Merlot is a bit too oak inflected, but the Cabernet is a stunner, and a must buy for anyone who hankers for the Ridge Montebello but doesn’t want to pay the three figure price tag. This is one hell of a little brother.
All these and more below!
2015 Tablelands Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough, New Zealand
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, green apple skin and gooseberries. In the mouth, flavors of gooseberry and green apple are snappy and tart, with good acidity and decent length. A very typical flavor profile for a NZ Sav Blanc, but perhaps missing a bit of the sappiness and liveliness I’d want. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $12. click to buy.
2014 Leitz “Rüdesheimer Klosterlay Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau, Germany
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of mandarin orange zest and green apple candy. In the mouth, mandarine orange and grapefruit flavors have a nice zip to them thanks to excellent acidity. A faint sweetness lingers with notes of white flowers and citrus in the finish. Tasty with a nice mineral backbone. 10.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $17. click to buy.
2015 Chateau Maris “Nymphe Emue Rosé” Red Blend, Vin de Pays D’oc, Languedoc, France
Pale baby pink in the glass, this wine smells of rosehips, citrus peel and red berries. In the mouth, the wine is exceedingly silky in texture with flavors of strawberry, rosehip, and hibiscus that seem to only acquire the zip and tang I want after 20 seconds or so of a berry scented finish. The acidity just creeps up on you, but before them, the wine offers something of a creamy berry texture. Quite tasty. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a glass stopper. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??
2014 Presqu’ile Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Near colorless in the glass with a faint shade of gold, this wine smells of banana and cold cream. In the mouth, bright and slightly sour green apple and citrus flavors mix with a butterscotch creamy aspect that is somewhat unexpected from this producer. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $35 click to buy.
2014 Presqu’ile Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of forest floor, redcurrants and raspberries. In the mouth, beautifully textured flavors of raspberry, green wood and cherry are silky on the tongue and bright with juicy acidity. Herbal and dried flower notes float above the fruit, and barely perceptible tannins gently brush the back of the mouth. Great finish. 12.9% alcohol. Score: between 9. Cost: $42
2014 Presqu’ile “Steiner Creek Vineyard” Pinot Noir, San Luis Obispo, Central Coast, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of dried flowers, river mud, and crushed berries. In the mouth, silky flavors of raspberry, dried flowers, and redcurrant have a wonderful aromatic sweetness to them. Gorgeous dried flower and raspberry notes linger in the finish. Quite tasty. Great acidity and length. Faint, fleecy tannins. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $48 click to buy.
2013 Presqu’ile Syrah, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of white pepper, doused campfire, and blackberries. In the mouth, that smoky quality persists, with flavors of blackberry and cassis shot through with woodsmoke. Notes of green herbs creep about the fruit, along with faint tannins. The finish tastes like nothing so much as purple SweetTarts. 12.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $35 click to buy.
2014 Knudsen Vineyards Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cranberries and raspberry pastilles with a hint of herbs. In the mouth, bright cherry and raspberry fruit flavors mix with a hint of dried herbs. There’s a candied quality to the fruit, but it is bright and tasty thanks to excellent acidity. The faintest of tannins linger in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2013 Ridge Vineyards “Estate – Monte Bello Vineyard” Merlot, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sunscreen and black cherry fruit. In the mouth, the distinctly coconut and whisky barrel flavors of American oak somewhat obscure plum and cherry fruit that is quite tasty. Excellent acidity and suede-like tannins. I just wish I tasted more fruit and less oak. Give this 10 years, though…. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $55. click to buy.
2013 Ridge Vineyards “Estate – Monte Bello Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, tobacco, and a whiff of American oak. In the mouth, juicy flavors of black cherry, plum, and even a hint of balsamic drizzled strawberries are gorgeously juicy with fantastic acidity. Hints of pencil lead, chocolate covered nuts and pine duff float around in the back of the mouth while smooth, muscular tannins provide support to the fruit. This wine will definitely reward aging, but it is delicious as it stands. Think of this as the baby brother to Ridge’s Monte Bello, and you’ll about have the right idea. Fantastic. Despite being labeled as a Cabernet, this is really a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 3% Petite Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $55 click to buy.