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 wide range of wines, with a nice handful from Italy. While not the tastiest, certainly the most interesting bottle was made from a grape I’ve never had the chance to taste, and may not again for a long while. The Susmaniello grape is rare even in its home region of Puglia, Italy. But what an interesting mix of nutty dark fruit tinged with exotic herbs and spices.
Perhaps the most pleasurable Italian wine I opened this week was the red blend from Monteverro, and this despite its somewhat insistent tightness. While tasty enough, this wine with the name “Tinata” needs a few more years to really blossom.
They’re much less rare than they used to be, but still most people haven’t yet tasted a Pinot Noir from Germany, but that traditionally white wine country is increasingly making some serious reds. The Gutzler isn’t the pinnacle of the form, but it’s tasty enough.
Finally, I discovered another overlooked bottle in the pile that I should have tasted a while back, but the Stoller SV Estate Pinot was holding up nicely at 10 years of age.
All these and more below.
2012 Gutzler “Morstein – Grosse Lage” Pinot Noir, Rheinhessen, Germany
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, raspberry and cranberry flavors are shot through with green herbs and a touch of jalapeño flavor that lingers in the finish with bitter orange peel notes. Good acidity. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2015 Dutton Goldfield “Dutton Ranch” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cranberry and cherry. In the mouth, cherry and cranberry fruit has a bright, crystalline purity that is cut with the sweet vanilla and nuttiness of oak. The wood stays well integrated, however, lending its sweetness to the wine, which finishes long and floral in the mouth with a hint of herbs. Faint tannins and excellent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $44. click to buy.
2012 Lynmar Estate “Quail Hill Vineyard – Block 10” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, rich, sweet cherry and raspberry fruit has the vanilla inflection of oak and the faint grippy tannins to match. There’s no denying the sensuousness of the cherry core of this wine, however, so it will turn heads for sure. Decent acidity but some heat on the finish thanks to its rich, 14.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??
2007 Stoller “SV Estate” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light ruby in color, this wine smells of red apple skin, leather, and roasted figs. In the mouth, red apple skin and leather have an aromatic sweetness and a whiff of damp campfire that quickly takes a back seat to cedar and redcurrant. Excellent acidity and length. I’d say this wine is entering its optimal drinking window. 13.6% alcohol. 1950 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $33 click to buy.
2015 Masseria Li Veli Susmaniello, Salento, Puglia, Italy
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of dried flowers and black cherry. In the mouth, crushed walnuts and black cherries and cassis mix with a hint of green herbs and a touch of saffron. Unusual and exotic with bright acidity and velvety soft, but muscular tannins. Made from the Susmaniello grape, a rare native to the Puglia region of Italy. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $23. click to buy.
2015 Masseria Li Veli “Orion” Primitivo, Salento, Puglia, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and black cherry fruit. In the mouth, leathery tannins grip a core of black cherry and blackberry fruit with notes of plum lingering in the finish along with the bitter tannin of plum skin. Excellent acidity. Somewhat rustic in quality. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $14. click to buy.
2014 Masseria Li Veli “Passamante” Negroamaro, Salice Salentino, Puglia, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of lavender and rosemary layered over cassis and blackberry. In the mouth, gorgeous blackberry fruit is wedged in a sandwich of leathery tannins and dusted with gorgeous, piney herb flavors of lavender, rosemary, and thyme. Distinct and quite striking in its herbal aromatics and rustic fruitiness. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2011 Monteverro “Tinata” Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and sandalwood. In the mouth, beautifully bright cherry flavors are wrapped tightly in a sheaf of drying tannins that put the squeeze on the fruit. Mercifully, the oak used in this wine is quite restrained, letting the fruit shine through, but the fierce tannins suggest that this wine is still not quite yet ready to drink. Give it another couple of years and then, watch out. 15% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $85. click to buy.
2014 Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and licorice and a hint of nicoise olives. In the mouth, cherry and cassis and nicoise olives mix with a touch of oak and leather. Muscular tannins surround the core of fruit, but excellent acidity keeps things fresh and lively. Quite savory, almost salty. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $68. click to buy.
2012 Audax Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raisins, chocolate and oak. In the mouth, the fruit is fresher than the nose would suggest, with cherry and cola and tobacco flavors tinged with oak and surrounded by a suede blanket of tannins. Decent acidity makes for that fresher quality, and the oak is more restrained than it first appears. 14.8% alcohol. 7680 obscenely heavy bottles adorned with a glued-on metal badge were produced. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $120. click to buy.
2014 Shafer Vineyards “One Point Five” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and espresso and oak. In the mouth, sweet cherry and sweet oak flavors have a lively bounce thanks to excellent acidity, and the tannins are quite smooth and restrained. There’s just too much oak in this wine. But it remains relatively well balanced for its prodigious 15.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $90. click to buy.
2014 Chappellet Vineyard “Signature – Donn Chappellet” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and cherry and tobacco leaf. In the mouth, cherry cola flavors are wrapped in a suede blanket of tannins. Good acidity and length, but a bit high-toned with some bitterness on the finish as the tannins intensify. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $65 click to buy.