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 number of gems, including a nice pair of French Colombards from the grape’s leading proponent in California Yannick Rousseau. He offers two bottlings, one fermented in steel, the other fermented in wood, and both are interesting and worth checking out.
Napa’s best Riesling was also on offer this week, in the form of the annual bottling from Smith-Madrone on Spring Mountain. This vintage is particularly charming.
I opened a clever bottle of Beaujolais this week, produced collectively by the village of Moulin-a-Vent as a way of demonstrating what their particular patch of Beaujolais tastes like. It’s a nice bit of marketing, and one that some other regions of the world would do well to emulate.
Moving on to richer stuff, the blockbuster wine of the week is The Bridge, produced by Jesse Katz Aperture cellars in conjunction with his long-time family friend, the south African winemaker Ken Forrester. This is their first collaborative effort and it’s a fantastic wine.
Finally, I also got around to opening the Troon Vineyard Tannat, which is definitely the best I’ve had outside of Uruguay, which is where the grape reaches its apogee.
All these and more below.
2014 Cadaretta “SBS” White Blend, Columbia Valley, Washington
Palest greenish gold, nearly colorless in the glass, this wine smells of candied green apples. In the mouth green apple candy and a hint of grassiness have a slightly sweet aspect to them, with sharp acidity prickling the tip of the tongue. Hints of lime emerge on the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $23 23. click to buy.
2016 Y. Rousseau “Old Vines” French Colombard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest blonde in the glass, this wine smells of unripe apples and citrus pith. In the mouth, unripe apple and pear flavors are bright with sharp acidity and somewhat austere against a wet chalkboard flavor that lingers long in the finish. Crisp and quite tasty, but needs some food. Oysters anyone? 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2015 Y. Rousseau “Old Vines – Barrel Fermented” French Colombard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and oak and a hint of yellow herbs. In the mouth, silky flavors of lemon and pear and apple have touches of oak but are mostly just bright and juicy thanks to excellent acidity. This wine was barrel fermented but I prefer the more austere rendition. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20.
2014 Beauregard Vineyards “Regan Vineyards – Skin Contact” Pinot Gris, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
A pale tawny ruby in color, this wine smells of Ranier cherries and wet leaves and candied redcurrants. In the mouth, flavors of orange peel, ranier cherries and a touch of butterscotch slide by on a silky texture bouyed by acidity that I wish were a bit fiercer. The faintest of tannins dust the mouth, but mostly the finish is left with a sweet berry character that is very charming. 21 days of skin contact. 11.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2014 Smith-Madrone Riesling, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of citrus pith, mandarin peel, and a touch of diesel. In the mouth, faintly sweet flavors of Asian pear, mandarin juice and pink grapefruit have a gorgeously bright aspect thanks to excellent acidity. The wine finishes quite long and regal on the palate. Delicious, as always. 12.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2015 Caveau de Moulin-a-Vent “Selection des Vignerons” Gamay, Moulin-a-Vent, Beaujolais, Burgundy, France
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and mulberry. In the mouth beautifully floral flavors of cherry and strawberry and mulberry have a brooding aspect, clasped as they are in a fist of supple tannins. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit lively, despite its darker turn and notes of flowers linger in the finish. This wine, unusually, is a blend constructed from juice provided by many different producers in an attempt to offer a lens on what this whole village tastes like. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??
2014 Troon Vineyard Tannat, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon, Oregon
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine doesn’t have much aroma initially, but in the mouth, dark mulberry and black cherry flavors shift towards blackberry as the acidity kicks in and makes the mouth water. Fine grained tannins are quite restrained (for Tannat) and the wine proves quite delicious and lithe. Almost certainly the single best rendition of Tannat I’ve ever had north of the Equator. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.
2014 Raymond Vineyard “40th Anniversary Red Velvet Label Reserve Selection” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dark cherry and tobacco aromas. In the mouth, cherry and cocoa powder and tobacco flavors have a nice velvety texture thanks to voluminous, soft tannins. While the wine could have more acidity, there’s enough lift here to make it lively on the palate. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2014 Seed Wine Company Red Blend, Mendoza, Argentina
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco with a hint of green herbs. In the mouth, a somewhat unusual cedary aspect leads flavors of cherry and tobacco and oak on the palate. Perhaps an unusual barrel is responsible for this quality of the wine, which is rich and ripe with decent acidity and leaves an incense-like note in the finish as well. A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Malbec, and 10% Cabernet Franc. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??
2014 The Bridge “Farrow Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky purple in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis. In the mouth, beautifully fresh black cherry and cassis flavors have a gorgeous stony quality to them, grasped firmly as they are in a fist of muscular tannins. Lovely floral and earth notes linger in the finish. Excellent acidity and brightness. 14.7% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $100.
2012 Amici Cellars “Morisoli Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco and a hint of raisins. In the mouth, rich, faintly sweet flavors of cherry, black cherry, cola and cocoa powder mix under a fleecy blanket of tannins. Decent acidity and length. Rich, ripe and powerful, but with reasonably well-integrated oak. 14.7% alcohol. 240 cases produced Score: around 9. Cost: $125. click to buy.
2012 Chappellet Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black plum and cherry. In the mouth, cherry and plum flavors mix with crushed nuts and a touch of green herbs. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit juicy and bright while suede-like tannins gently bump the palate. Long finish with just a touch of alcoholic heat. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.
2013 Martin Ray “Synthesis” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco and espresso. In the mouth, cherry and tobacco flavors are heavily suffused with the espresso notes of toasted oak, to the point that I taste more wood than wine. Good acidity keeps the fruit lively but the wood dominates a bit too much. Nonetheless, this is a solidly made wine. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.