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, after several weeks of being a bit red heavy, lean towards the white end of the spectrum. Maybe it’s just getting hot in San Francisco and I wanted some refreshment.
Let’s start off with a couple of whites from Idaho, whose wine industry has been making strides in recent years. They’re still in their infancy as a region, but as they share the terroir of eastern Washington state, there’s no reason they can’t make great wine. This Sauvignon Blanc and dry Muscat are both well made.
Perhaps a bit more serious, though, is the Pinot Blanc from Lieb Cellars on the North Fork of New York’s Long Island, which is the first of that grape variety I’ve had from the region, but hope it’s not the last.
There are a couple of darn good Sauvignon Blancs in the mix this week as well, one from Napa, one from Chile. That same Chilean producer also made an excellent Chardonnay, which I note below along with an electric mineral version of the same grape from a little producer in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
If you must look for something red this week, check out that same producer, Beauregard Vineyard’s, Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains, or the reds from Patel winery in Napa, which will satisfy those looking for bigger, beefier wines.
Finally, circling back around to Idaho, by far the best wines I’ve had from the state have been Tempranillos, so take a look at the little number from Bitner Vineyards to get a sense of the potential there.
All these and more below.
2014 Cinder “Small Lot Series” Sauvignon Blanc, Snake River Valley, Idaho
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of apples and pears. In the mouth, lemon and pear and green apple flavors have a nice briskness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Zingy and bright.13.1% alcohol. 180 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??
2015 Hat Ranch Dry Moscato, Snake River Valley, Idaho
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of green melon rind and white flowers. In the mouth, crisp notes of green melon and melon rind mix with a light celery and cucumber note. Crisp and refreshing without any sweetness. A lime zest note lingers in the finish. Good acidity. 12.7% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2015 Galerie “Naissance” Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apple and celery and lime zest. In the mouth, lime zest and lime juice vibrate with searing acidity and the slight bitterness of citrus pith and green apple skin. Nice. 3500 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $30 click to buy.
2015 Kingston Family Vineyards “Cariblanco” Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of that good old cat pee and gooseberry scent that makes Sauvignon Blanc so distinctive sometimes. In the mouth, silky flavors of passionfruit and kiwi mix with a pink grapefruit and lime juice electricity that builds as the acidity penetrates the palate. After a few seconds the salivary glands kick into this one, even as it turns slightly salty in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2014 Lieb Cellars “Reserve” Pinot Blanc, North Fork of Long Island, New York
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of pear and peach and citrus pith. In the mouth, pomelo and quince mix with green apple skin and pink grapefruit. Good acidity and length. 11.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2016 Dutton Goldfield “Chileno Valley Vineyard” Riesling, Marin County, California
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of pears and pear skin mixed with white flowers. In the mouth, silky flavors of pear and white flowers have the faintest of sweetness to them, with filigreed acidity and a very nice pear and floral finish with a hint of wet chalkboard. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??
2016 Dutton Goldfield “Dutton Ranch – Green Valley Vineyard” Gewürztraminer, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of rose petals and orange peel. In the mouth, orange peel and a touch of lychee flavors have a nice crisp snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of dried orange peel and roses linger in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2015 Kingston Family Vineyards “Sabino” Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and cold cream. In the mouth, crystalline flavors of lemon and cold cream mix with a wonderful wet stone minerality. Notes of white flowers dance in the finish. Excellent acidity and length. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $??
2015 Beauregard Vineyards “Bald Mountain Vineyard” Chardonnay, Ben Lomond Mountain, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Palest green to the point of near colorlessness in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, wonderfully bright lemon juice and lemon pith flavors are fresh and floral and beautifully lacking overt oak influence. A nice sour pink grapefruit pith notes creeps into the finish. Excellent acidity. 12.6% alcohol. 429 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2014 Patel Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry cola. In the mouth, cherry cola and cassis flavors are juicy with excellent acidity and powdery tannins dust the edges of the mouth. While slightly high-toned, this wine is quite pure in its fruit expression and the oak is very well integrated. Delicious. 14.7% alcohol. 165 cases produced Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $??
2014 Patel Winery Red Blend, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco and black tea. In the mouth, darker cherry flavors mix with a touch of earth and smoky black tea notes. Leathery tannins buff the edges of the mouth, and black cherry and saddle leather notes linger in the finish with a touch of oak. Good acidity. 14.6% alcohol. 150 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $125 click to buy.
2014 Beauregard Vineyards “Coast Grade Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Ben Lomond Mountain, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of red apple skin and Red Vines licorice. In the mouth, flavors of red apple skin and orange peel mix with raspberry and dried cherry. Hints of cedar and incense layer on top of a faint skein of tannins. Good acidity and length. The finish is orange peel and dried herbs. 13.7% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60 click to buy.
2013 Bitner Vineyards “Erletxe” Tempranillo, Snake River Valley, Idaho
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and leather and earth. In the mouth, cherry and black olive flavors mix with earth and a touch of leather. Good acidity keeps the fruit fresh and a nice silky texture accompanies faint tannins around the edges of the mouth. There’s a light bitterness on the finish I don’t care for, but other than that, this is a very attractive wine. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5. Cost: $??