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 smorgasbord from around the world. We had a couple of Burgundies, including a nice Chablis from Drouhin Vaudon; a great entry-level Riesling from Schloss Vollrads in Germany’s Rheingau, and a couple of reds from Renato Ratti in Italy’s Piedmont region.
Two particular highlights this week, however, were a GSM blend from Fable Mountain Cellars in South Africa, which had a nice character to it, and the perpetually well-crafted Ridge Lytton Springs bottling, which has been giving Zinfandel a good name for decades.
All these and more below.
2014 Drouhin Vaudon “Vaudesir” Grand Cru Chablis, Burgundy, France
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of green apple and struck match. In the mouth, juicy green apple flavors mix with a little cut grass and cucumber that has a faint aromatic sweetness. Crisp acidity makes the wine quite gulpable and the silky texture adds some elegance to the overall package. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2014 Schloss Vollrads Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau, Germany
Near colorless in the glass, this wine smells of Asian pear and a whiff of paraffin. In the mouth, green apple and Asian pear flavors have a wonderful wet chalkboard minerality and snappy bright acidity. Very faint sweetness accompanies citrus pith in the finish. 11% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2014 Joseph Drouhin Côte de Beaune-Villages, Burgundy, France
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and forest berries. In the mouth, bright berry and herbal flavors have a fresh snappiness thanks to excellent acidity. Tasty, if a little uncomplicated. Faint tannins add some texture in the finish, but the wine is mostly an expression of fruit. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $27. click to buy.
2012 Ladd Cellars “Nash Mill Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and earth. In the mouth raspberry and forest floor flavors have a dark intensity and a light bitterness that lingers with a hint of sour cherry finish. Faint tannins linger with that sourness. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??
2013 Renato Ratti “Battaglione” Barbera D’Asti, Piedmont, Italy
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, tar, and hints of citrus peel. In the mouth, cherry, cassis and citrus peel mix with dark earth and muscular tannins. Excellent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2013 Renato Ratti “Ochetti” Nebbiolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberries and earth. In the mouth, dark strawberry fruit has a nice freshness thanks to great acidity. Notes of forest floor and herbs and light tannins linger in the finish with a faint chalkiness. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $23. click to buy.
2013 Tenuta Degli Dei “Le Redini” Red Blend, IGT, Tuscany, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of pencil lead and cherry fruit. In the mouth, cherry and pencil lead and forest floor flavors are juicy and bright thanks to excellent acidity which also brings a touch of citrus peel to the mix. Lightly muscular tannins wrap the fruit and linger through the long finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2013 La Pitchoune “Chenoweth Vineyard” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of unripe apples and pineapple. In the mouth cold cream and lemon curd mix with pineapple and a hint of other tropical fruits. Excellent acidity keeps things fresh, but there’s a hint of heat in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??
2013 La Pitchoune “VDK” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry and cherries. In the mouth, slightly sweet cranberry flavors mix with cherry and cedar, and are bright with acidity. Faint tannins abrade the edges of the palate, and the wine finishes sweetly. A bit candied, but pretty. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $108. click to buy.
2011 Fable Mountain Vineyards “Night Sky” Red Blend, Coastal Region, South Africa
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of mulberry and cherry and cedar. In the mouth, cherry and mulberry flavors mix with cocoa powder and mixed herbs. Notes of strawberry linger in the finish. A blend of 60% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre and 15% Grenache. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.
2014 Ridge Vineyards “Lytton Springs” Red Blend, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blueberry and blackberry fruit. In the mouth a gorgeous mix of blueberry, black pepper, licorice, and cassis mix with a hint of oak and a dash of jalapeño. Faint, powdery tannins coat the mouth, and the wine finishes long and languorously. Fantastic acidity and balance. A blend of 69% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah, 11% Carignan, 2% Mourvedre. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $33. click to buy.