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’s wines included a couple of stellar new releases from one of my favorite Pinot producers in California, Cobb wines. These two single-vineyard expressions of Pinot (and one, a single clone expression at that) positively vibrate with energy and are packed with flavor despite their lean 12%-and-change alcohol levels.
I also dug out one of my favorite obscure wines from Napa that never fails to delight — the Grignolino from Heitz Cellars, which is bound to put a smile on anyone’s face, so light and flavorful and summery as it is.
In a more serious vein, there are a few red blends from Portugal worth looking at this week, my favorite among them being a wine simply known as Passagem from the old vines in the Douro river valley terraces.
Finally there are a couple more wines from Troon, the little winery in Oregon’s Applegate valley, and a couple of reliable Cabernets from Napa and from Washington State.
2015 Ridge Vineyards “Estate” Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and toasted coconut. In the mouth, bright toasty oak and coconut flavors surround a core of lemon curd and lemon juice that has a wonderful aromatic sweetness to it. Vanilla and caramel linger in the finish along with a note of white flowers. Excellent acidity. Just a bit too much oak for my tastes. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2014 Cobb Wines “Emmaline Ann Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and fresh crushed herbs and dried flowers. In the mouth, silky flavors of sour cherry and raspberry have a sinsemilla aspect to them, with this resinous note continuing through the finish with lovely sweet floral notes. Bright, juicy and delicious thanks to excellent acidity. 12.8% alcohol. 310 cases produced. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.
2014 Cobb Wines “Coastlands Vineyard – 1906 Block Pommard Clone” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of bright cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth silky cherry and cedar notes have a sour, explosive brightness on the palate that is incredibly compelling. Delicious bright fruit with a nice herbal tinge. 12.5% alcohol. 200 cases made. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $80. click to buy.
2014 Heitz Cellars Grignolino, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet flowers and mulberries. In the mouth, juicy mulberry, cassis, and blueberry flavors have a stony zing to them thanks to excellent acidity. Unusual and boisterous in quality. Not horribly complex, but extra fun. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.
2011 Quinta da Ponte Pedrinha “Reserva” Red Blend, Dão, Portugal
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherries, mulberries and cedar. In the mouth, dried black cherry and cassis flavors mix with a touch of cedar and brown sugar. Rich and ripe but with excellent acidity and a nice underlying minerality and earthiness. Comes across as sun-kissed. A blend of Touriga-Nacional, Alfrochiero, Tinta-Roriz and other unknown varieties. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30.
2013 Passagem Red Blend, Douro, Portugal
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of forest floor, tobacco leaf and dark cherry fruit. In the mouth, cherry, cassis, and blackberry flavors have the rich vanilla and espresso of oak well in hand. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit bright, while leathery tannins grip the edges of the mouth. Grapey, mulberry notes that have a SweetTart quality linger in the finish. Tasty. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30.
2012 Clavis Aurea “Reserva” Red Blend, Tejo, Portugal
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of green herbs and earth and red fruit. In the mouth, juicy blackberry and blueberry fruit has a nice savory note to it and green herbal undercurrent. Earthy, wet wood notes linger in the finish. Excellent acidity and well integrated wood. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??
2014 Troon Vineyard “GSM Blend” Red Blend, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of woodsmoke, oak and dark berry fruit. In the mouth, excellent acidity makes flavors of blackberry, cherry, and strawberry quite juicy across the palate. Notes of brown sugar and oak blend nicely into the fruit, and the faintest of tannins dust the edges of the mouth. A blend of 4.2% Grenache, 45.2% Syrah and 50.6% Mourvedre. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $47. click to buy.
2014 Troon Vineyard “Reserve” Syrah, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and cassis. In the mouth, brambly herbal notes of blackberry and cassis have a very nice savory aspect to them and excellent acidity. Quite rustic and pretty for all its leafy earthiness. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2013 Trinafour “Niemi Vineyard” Petite Sirah, Mendocino County, California
Inky purple in color, this wine smells of cassis and woodsmoke. In the mouth, dark blackberry and cassis flavors have a nice wet pavement minerality and great acidity with almost no trace of wood to them. Powdery, thick tannins wrap around the core of fruit and linger, black-tea-like in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $27.
2012 Cadaretta Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, black cherry and tobacco and chocolate flavors have a hint of oak and a hint of mint. Lovely, fine grained tannins wrap around the fruit which is juicy with excellent acidity. Notes of espresso linger in the finish. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2014 Far Niente Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, tobacco, and flowers. In the mouth, very pretty cherry cola flavors are wrapped in a gauzy haze of fine grained tannins. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit very fresh and lively across the palate. There’s a slight bit of heat on the finish, but otherwise this is a very pleasurable wine. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $140. click to buy.