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 all sorts of goodies, but let’s start with the star of the show, which was undeniably the latest vintage from Tim Mondavi’s project Continuum estate. I’ve tasted every single vintage of these wines since they began releasing them commercially in 2005, and they just keep getting better and better. Both the 2013 and this vintage, the 2014 are stunning, and among the very best coming out of the famed Pritchard Hill terroir on the eastern slopes of Napa.
Moving on, there were a couple of fun red blends from Allegrini this week, both their more expensive Amarone and their less expensive Palazzo blend, which, for the money, is a better buy.
While we’re talking Italy, don’t overlook the Nebbiolo from Roero by producer Daniele Pelassa, which is quite nice and a steal at $25.
Returning to the domestic side of things, a bottle of The Prisoner showed up in the pile this week. I haven’t tasted the wine in quite some time, but it remained true to form — very masterfully blended, and just what the average consumer seems to want in California red wine. Rich, ripe, dark and slightly sweet.
Another highlight this week was the reserve Malbec-Tannat bottling from Troon Vineyard in Southern Oregon. These two grapes, not often found together, have made a beautiful and surprising marriage in this wine, leading me to believe that they’re really destined for each other. This is a really lovely bottling, and one I look forward to tasting future vintages of, especially as the winery continues to see the influence of general manager Craig Camp.
Finally, Beauregard Vineyards had a Pinot to offer this week from the chilly valleys of the Santa Cruz Mountains, rapidly approaching its peak, and drinking well.
All these and more below.
2012 Daniele Pelassa “Antaniolo – Riserva” Nebbiolo, Roero, Piedmont, Italy
Light ruby in color, this wine smells of dried flowers and forest berries. In the mouth, strawberry and cranberry flavors have a nice dried herbal note to them. Excellent acidity makes the wine lively and brisk on the palate. Barely perceptible tannins linger as the wine finishes with a berry and floral note. Delicious. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2012 Allegrini Red Blend, Amarone de Valpolicella Classico, Veneto, Italy
Medium to dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and blackberry. In the mouth, black cherry, cocoa powder and licorice flavors have a wonderful brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Faint tannins leave a dusty impression on the edges of the mouth as the fruit finishes slightly sweet on the palate. 15.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $85. click to buy.
2013 Allegrini “Palazzo della Torre” Red Blend, Veneto, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of roasted figs and chocolate. In the mouth, chocolate and fig and raisin flavors have a nice bouncy quality to them thanks to excellent acidity. Putty-like tannins coat the edges of the mouth. I wish the fruit wasn’t so raisined, but generally tasty. Nice finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $23. click to buy.
2015 Dry Creek Vineyard “Heritage Vines” Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California
Medium to dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of blackberries and blueberries. In the mouth, blackberry and blueberry flavors mix with black cherry and a hint of licorice. Muscular tannins grip the edges of the tongue. Excellent acidity. Contains 20% Petite Sirah and 1% Carignane. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $17, click to buy.
2014 The Prisoner Red Blend, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, blackberry and oak. In the mouth, sweet blackberry, black cherry, and cocoa powder flavors mix with cola nut and cassis under a haze of powdery tannin. Dark and rich, with less acidity than I’d like, but the oak — quite prominent in the aroma — is well integrated into the body of the wine. If you don’t mind some serious sweetness this is a rich mouthful. 15.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2014 Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, black cherry and green herbs mix with cocoa powder and a hint of cola nut. Suede-like tannins buff the edges of the mouth. Decent, but could be more complex. 14.2% alcohol. Closed with screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $22. click to buy.
2013 Dry Creek Vineyard “Endeavor” Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry. In the mouth cassis and black cherry mix with the vanilla of oak and a nice cola nut flavor that lingers with the scent of oak into the finish. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit fresh, and the powdery tannins are surprisingly restrained. 14.5% alcohol. 995 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.
2014 Aperture Cellars “Devil Proof” Malbec, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky, opaque purple in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries and cassis. In the mouth dark blueberry and black cherry fruit has a rich cocoa quality to it. Decent acidity keeps the fruit fresh, while a silky cloud of tannin billows through the mouth. Rich, ripe, and voluptuous. 14.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $150. click to buy.
2014 Continuum Estate “Sage Mountain Vineyard” Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco and a hint of oak. In the mouth, rich cherry, espresso and blackberry flavors have a fabulously juicy aspect thanks to excellent acidity. Fine grained, muscular tannins wrap around the core of fruit while notes of oak and cherry linger in the finish. The wood is present here, but very well integrated, and I would think in 2-4 years will be subsumed into what is a spectacular wine. If you can hang onto this one, you’ll be rewarded. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 9.5 . Cost: $220. click to buy.
2012 Poggio al Tesoro “Sondraia” Red Blend, Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of green bell pepper and green herbs layered over red fruit. In the mouth, that greenness takes on mostly a minty aspect as cherry and chocolate and mint leave a cool set of flavors on the palate, while extremely fine grained, silky tannins offer body and support. Tasty, but only for those who don’t mind a bit of greenness in their Cabs. A blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5 and 9. Cost: $55. click to buy.
2014 Troon Vineyard “M&T Reserve” Red Blend, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine has something of a shy nose, with only faint aromas of dark berries. In the mouth, however, the wine proves deliciously juicy with dark black cherry and blackberry flavors as these two grapes make a marriage that is more than the sum of its parts. Excellent acidity and length. Quite surprising and good. A blend of 39.9% Malbec and 60.1% Tannat. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2014 Beauregard Vineyards “Beauregard Ranch” Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Light ruby in the glass and fading a touch at the edges, this wine smells of raspberry pastilles, red apple skin, and cedar. In the mouth, juicy flavors of red apple skin, brown sugar, and raspberry jam give the wine a much older/aged aspect than I would expect for a 2014 wine, suggest the wine got a bit of air as it was made and aged. Don’t let that dissuade you, however, as the wine is tasty, despite a bit of oak peeking through in the finish along with orange peel. 12.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2014 Patel Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cola. In the mouth, bright cherry cola flavors have a juicy aspect to them thanks to excellent acidity. A light herbal bitterness creeps into the wine as the tannins strengthen in the finish. A little high-toned, but pretty, and the oak doesn’t offend. 14.2% alcohol. 125 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $150. click to buy.