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 some really excellent Pinot Noir from an unsurprising source: Kutch Wines, whose whole cluster pressed, old school approach to Pinot has resulted in some truly extraordinary wines over the past few years. The current releases from this tiny producer are in fine form, but especially the Falstaff vineyard Pinot, which positively oozes earth and bramble.
Jamie Kutch is also experimenting with eliminating sulfur in his winemaking, and so this batch of samples also included his first “sans soufre” Pinot, which, to my palate, is a pretty unqualified success. Not as profound as his single-vineyard Pinots but quite tasty.
Elsewhere in the samples pile, I have to give props to the 2013 Napa Valley bottling from Long Meadow Ranch. I find their Cabernets usually a bit ordinary and unremarkable — good but not great. However this bottle is definitely one of the best wines I’ve had from this label, and is bound to please anyone who enjoys Napa Cabernet with a slightly lighter touch (it clocks in at a mere 13.5% alcohol).
Finally there are a couple of whites from Dry Creek Vineyard below as well, including a pretty nice Chenin, especially for the price.
2015 Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in color with a hint of green in the glass, this wine smells of lemonade and apples. In the mouth green apple and lemon flavors are brisk with very good acidity and a nice crisp snap to them. 8% of this wine ferments in oak barrels, the rest in stainless. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost $16 click to buy.
2015 Dry Creek Vineyard “Wilson Ranch” Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, California
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of freshly sliced pears and apples. In the mouth, juicy pear and apple flavors mix with a nice wet chalkboard quality. Fermented entirely in stainless steel. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost $12. click to buy.
2015 Kutch Wines Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of lemon and melted butter and herbs. In the mouth, electric sour lemon flavors tinged with pine resin and citrus oil have a wonderfully snappy juicy sourness. Delicious in its angular intensity. 12.72% Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost $42 click to buy.
2016 Y. Rousseau Rosé of Tannat, Solano County, California
Light coppery pink in the glass, this wine smells of watermelon rind and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, citrusy flavors are distinctly savory, with hints of watermelon rind, citrus peel and a touch of wet leaves mixing with herbs. Nice acidity and texture. There’s a light bitterness on the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost $24 click to buy.
2015 Kutch Wines “McDougall Ranch” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of berries and bramble and a touch of wet chalkboard. In the mouth, lightly leathery tannins wrap around a core of sour cherry and raspberry fruit shot through with dried herbs and dried flowers. The tannins intensify as the fruit vibrates across the palate thanks to great acidity. Decent finish. 12.78% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost $59 click to buy.
2015 Kutch Wines “Signal Ridge Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry fruit with a hint of earth. In the mouth, beautifully earthy flavors of cherry and raspberry are nestled into downy soft tannins and vibrating with juicy electricity. Silky textured and gorgeous, with notes of green herbs lingering in the finish. 13.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost $52.
2015 Kutch Wines “Falstaff Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet earth, wet wood, and crushed fresh herbs tinged with a hint of red fruit. In the mouth, gorgeously silky flavors of cherry are shot through with wet potting soil and caressed by suede-soft tannins. Excellent acidity and a nice green herb bitterness that plays a great foil to the cherry fruit. Outstanding character and depth. 12.3% alcohol Score: around 9.5 . Cost $62 click to buy.
2015 Kutch Wines Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet leaves, raspberry and raspberry leaf. In the mouth, leathery tannins wrap around a core of earth and raspberry fruit with a hint of green herbs. Juicy and bright with excellent acidity. 12.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost $39 click to buy.
2016 Kutch Wines “Sans Soufre” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Light garnet in the glass this wine smells of bright berry fruit and a hint of dried flowers. In the mouth, a powdery cloud of tannins wrap around a core of delicate raspberry and cherry fruit. Nicely filigreed acidity keeps the fruit lively, but lacks some of the complexity that the normal sulfured bottling brings to the table. A nice sour cherry note emerges on the finish with just a dash of acidophilus. 11.25% alcohol. Score: around 9 . Cost $ 35.
2013 Long Meadow Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and a touch of tobacco leaf. In the mouth, beautifully bright flavors of black cherry and tobacco and a touch of oak’s vanilla scent. Gorgeous acidity and supple tannins make this one of the best bottlings of this wine I’ve ever had. Excellent. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost $52 click to buy.