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 the current release of one of Spain’s most distinctive wines, a still white made by one the Penedes region’s top sparkling producer’s Raventos i Blanc. They make two still white wines from the same primary grape used in their sparkling wine (Xarel lo) and both are excellent, though I think I give a slight edge to this “Silencis” bottling. Incidentally, at $21 it’s a helluva deal if you’re looking for something to go with your oysters.
I’ve also got a very nice Chardonnay from Big Table Farm, a little biodynamic-focused family winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Moving into reds, I’ve got a couple of nicely restrained Pinots from the Carmel Valley, each offering fruit instead of oak flavors.
Next, you might take a look at the Cabernet from Kita Vineyards, a winery project run by the Chumash indians in Santa Barbara County. Their wines keep getting better, and I think this Cabernet may be one of the best wines they produce.
Finally, I’ve got a couple of the current releases from Ridge Vineyards, among which the 50th Anniversary edition of their Geyserville field blend positively shines. This is a stunner of a wine that may well be California’s most iconic wine. Yes, even more than it’s cousin, Montebello. This wine, you see, is made in the mold of the mixed-black field blends that kicked off California viticulture in the 19th Century. It literally tastes of history. And the 2015 vintage is as good as I’ve ever tasted (yes, even as good as the 2013). Don’t miss it.
All these and more below.
2015 Martin Ray Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of slightly yeasty lime and green apples. In the mouth, crisp green apple flavors are somewhat one dimensional but still quite tasty. Notes of lime and candied green apple linger in the finish. Great acidity. 13.8% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2016 Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of wet stone and lemon pith. In the mouth, delicate flavors of lemon pith, lemon juice, and green apple have a silky aspect, despite being fermented 85% in stainless steel. Decent acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2015 Raptor Ridge “Gran Moraine Vineyard” Chardonnay, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and apples. In the mouth, crisp and lean flavors of lemon juice, lemon pith, and yellow apples has a wonderful snap thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of pink grapefruit and citrus pith linger in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2015 Raptor Ridge “Estate” Grüner Veltliner, Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light blonde in the glass, this wine smells of pear, lemongrass and cream. In the mouth, flavors of pear and sweet cream are tinged slightly with lemongrass and quince. Excellent acidity and brightness, with a nice silky quality. 13.2% alcohol. Closed with screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $17. click to buy.
2015 Raventos i Blanc “Silencis” Xarel lo, Penedes, Spain
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, lemon pith and a touch of honey. In the mouth beautifully crisp flavors of lemon pith and pomelo zest mix with a deep chalky crushed-stone minerality. Fantastic, mouthwatering acidity. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $21 click to buy.
2015 Big Table Farm Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light gold in color, this wine smells of lemon and chamomile. In the mouth, gorgeous lemon juice and chamomile flavors have a crystalline aspect that is very charming. Gorgeous acidity makes the wine flow effortlessly across the palate. Delicious. 13.3% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2013 Albatross Ridge “Estate Reserve” Pinot Noir, Carmel Valley, Monterey, California
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry jam and brown sugar. In the mouth, slightly sweet flavors of sour cherry and raspberry fruit have a nice red apple skin quality that speaks of this wine’s longer aging. A low percentage (33% to be exact) of new oak lets the fruit shine. Excellent acidity keeps things fresh and bright. The faintest of tannins linger in the finish with a candied fruit quality. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $55 click to buy.
2013 Albatross Ridge “Cuvee Vivienne” Pinot Noir, Carmel Valley, Monterey, California
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of red apple skin and raspberry jam. In the mouth, bright raspberry and red apple skin flavors mix with a touch of cedar and dried flowers. Nicely restrained (read: imperceptible) use of wood, with great acidity and good balance. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $40 click to buy.
2013 Kita Winery “Camp 4 Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth and cherries and a touch of wet redwood bark. In the mouth, black cherry, earth and wet wood flavors have a very nice bright acid backbone and a fleecy blanket of tannins around the core of fruit. Very well integrated oak is almost imperceptible. Tasty. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $40 click to buy.
2015 Ridge Vineyards “Benito Dusi Ranch” Zinfandel, Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and black pepper. In the mouth, blackberry, licorice, and pink peppercorn flavors have a nice brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $35 click to buy.
2014 Ridge Vineyards “Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, crushed nuts, and American oak. In the mouth, beautiful cherry and green herb notes are touched with the whiskey barrel note of American oak, but in comparison to the Merlot from the same site, this Cabernet holds it quite well, letting it turn minty and chocolatey as it moves across the palate. Powdery, fine grained tannins. Includes 14% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc. 13.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60 click to buy.
2015 Ridge Vineyards “East Bench” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of freshly plucked blackberries and violets. In the mouth, juicy blackberry and wet earth and dried flowers mix with the faintest touch of Mexican chocolate and licorice. There’s a nice savory note in the finish that soars thanks in part to the exquisite acidity in play here. Nice. 14.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $31 click to buy.
2015 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville “50th Vintage” Red Blend, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and blackberry and cocoa powder. In the mouth, delicious flavors of cherry, blackberry, and cassis vibrate with excellent acidity. Gorgeous, plush tannins float cloud-like around the mouthwatering fruit, beautifully balancing the package out. Totally gulpable and delicious, with a nice savory note hanging underneath the bright purple fruit in the finish. A blend of 70% Zinfandel, 15% Carignane, 12% Petite Sirah and 3% Alicante Bouschet. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $40 click to buy.