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 precious sample bottle of one of the world’s greatest Cabernets, the Ridge Monte Bello. It’s current release vintage, the 2013 is simply a knockout, and those willing to cellar it for the proper 10 years or more will enjoy one of the finest modern vintages of this wine in a long time. Those of you who had kids in 2013 really ought to consider buying a few bottles to open in 17 years when they turn 21.
There were a couple of Sauvignon Blancs on offer this week, plus a nice rosé from a producer who manages to consistenly churn out very drinkable pink stuff each year, the mother and daughter team behind Lorenza.
Chehalem offered a reserve Pinot that really needs a few years to blossom in the bottle, and Gundlach Bundschu sent over the latest vintage of the extremely high value Mountain Cuvee, which at $17 is a pretty killer deal any way you look at it. So, too, is the Lopez de Haro Rioja Riserva at $13.
All these and more below.
2012 Storm Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of green apple and gooseberries. In the mouth, bright green apple, cut grass and gooseberry flavors have a nice greenish zing to them thanks to very good acidity. 13.5% alcohol. 550 cases produced. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $23. click to buy.
2014 Kingston Family Vineyards “Cariblanco” Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile
Palest blonde in color, this wine smells of the famous cat pee on a gooseberry bush that so perfectly describes the aroma of some Sauvignon Blanc. In the mouth, tart, even sour lemon and lime notes mix with a hint of saline and wet stone. Zingy and bright, with herbal notes on the finish. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $19 click to buy.
2015 Gundlach Bundschu Gewürztraminer, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of lychee and rose petals. In the mouth, orange peel and lychee flavors have a nice zingy brightness thanks to excellent acidity, but a tiny bit of alcoholic heat creeps into the finish. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16 click to buy.
2015 Lorenza Rosé, California
Palest baby pink in the glass, this wine smells of rosehips, watermelon rind, and unripe strawberries. In the mouth, silky smooth flavors of strawberry and watermelon have a nice juicy quality, though not perhaps as much kick as I would like. Very delicious, though. Perfect for a hot summer’s day. 11.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $19 click to buy.
2012 Chehalem “Reserve – Ridgecrest Vineyards” Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and black raspberry. In the mouth, cherry flavors mix with earth and pine duff in a tightly wound skein of fine tannins. Excellent acidity and wet chalkboard character, with notes of dried flowers lingering in the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $53 click to buy.
2009 Lopez de Haro “Reserva” Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain
Medium to dark ruby in color, this wine smells of fresh and dried cherries. In the mouth, notes of mint and cherry and a bit of leather and earth have a nice sharp snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of mushroom emerge on the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $13 click to buy.
2013 Ridge Vineyards “Monte Bello” Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of crushed nuts, coconut, and whiskey barrel. In the mouth, beautifully billowy tannins provide a bed for gorgeous flavors of cherry and cedar and earth, overshadowed at first by the strong coconut and whisky barrel flavors of American Oak, which lessen with some air in the glass, revealing the sweet gorgeous fruit and earth. The wine is tremendous, but will improve for the next 10 years of cellaring, especially as the American oak melds into the wine. The harmony and balance of fruit, earth, and acidity is undeniably fine and mouthwatering in its current state. Perhaps one of my favorite vintages of this wine in recent memory. A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Merlot. 13.6% alcohol. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $185 click to buy.
2013 Gundlach Bundschu “Mountain Cuvee” Red Blend, Sonoma County, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and blackberries. In the mouth, black cherry and blackberry flavors are juicy and bright and wrapped in a leathery blanket of tannins. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit bursting with flavor. Comes across as slightly high octane, but it’s hard to argue with the friendly fruit. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $17 click to buy.
2014 Flora Springs “Ghost Winery” Malbec, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blueberry and black cherry. In the mouth, black cherry fruit mixes with blueberry and dark chocolate shavings under a gauzy haze of tannins. Lovely stuff. Restrained and delicious. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $55 click to buy.
2007 Stone Edge Farm Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark ruby in color, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco and graphite. In the mouth, pencil shavings and bright cherry fruit are caressed by suede-like tannins that wrap around the core of the fruit and persist through the moderate finish with notes of tobacco leaf. In a very pretty place right now. Drink up! 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $85 click to buy.