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 included a set of new releases from what may be the world’s most environmentally friendly winery, Chateau Maris, a fully biodynamic estate in the Languedoc with a winery built from hemp, vineyards worked by horses, and all manner of ecologically friendly approaches to how they make wine. I’ve been tasting these wines with some regularity over the years, and whether due to vintage variation or simply evolution in winemaking style, these are the best wines I’ve had from this little producer, and they’re definitely worth seeking out.
Added to the mix this week were also some current wines from DuMOL, a winery in the Russian River Valley that has long employed the talented Andy Smith as winemaker. Smith makes excellent Pinot, Chardonnay and Syrah, but apparently also Cabernet, as I learned this week.
Finally, I’ve got a Pinot from Oregon and a Crozes-Hermitage from the Rhone valley to round out the selections this week.
2015 DuMOL Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd, golden apples, and a touch of honey. In the mouth, juicy flavors of lemon curd, apple and oatmeal have a snappy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Toasty notes of oak sneak into the finish, along with a charming saline character. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $57. click to buy.
2015 Knudsen Vineyards Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cherry fruit with a hint of blueberry. In the mouth, bright and uncomplicated flavors of cherry and cranberry build some complexity as they move across the palate and scents of cedar and dried herbs begin to emerge. Good acidity and length. 14.1% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $55. click to buy.
2015 DuMOL Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry and wet redwood bark. In the mouth, rich cherry and cedar flavors have a nice zip to them thanks to excellent acidity. Hints of wood emerge on the finish, with highlights of vanilla and scents of dried herb. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $69. click to buy.
2015 Chateau Maris “Les Planels” Syrah, Minervois La Liviniere, Languedoc, France
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of wet earth, raisins, and cherry cordials. In the mouth, savory flavors of woodsmoke, cassis, and blackberry have a rusty nail, iodine character that is as distinct as it is compelling. Decent acidity, and only the faintest of tannins. Moderate finish. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $23 click to buy.
2015 Chateau Maris “Les Amandiers” Red Blend, Minervois La Liviniere, Languedoc, France
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of struck match, blackberry pie, and earth. In the mouth, silky flavors of cassis, blackberry and wet earth have an exotic smoky quality to them that is very compelling. Deliciously savory, with notes of dried herbs and dried grasses lingering in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $55. click to buy.
2015 Chateau Maris “Dynamic” Red Blend, Minervois La Liviniere, Languedoc, France
Inky purple in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and wet cement and dried flowers. In the mouth, savory notes of blackberry and cassis are nestled into a suede glove of tannins that gradually increase their grip on the palate as the wine finishes with earth and smoke and herbs. Good acidity. 14.5% Score: around 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2015 DuMOL Syrah, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis and blueberries. In the mouth, gorgeous blackberry and blueberry flavors have a smoky and floral quality, along with a juicy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Faint, powdery tannins leave a putty-like texture as notes of cassis and blueberry syrup linger in the finish. Quite pretty. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2014 DuMOL Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco and earth. In the mouth, rich cherry and espresso notes mix with a deeper earthiness and hints of cedar. Excellent acidity and muscular tannins round out the package. Tasty, and will benefit from a few years of bottle age. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5 . Cost: $90. click to buy.
2015 Ferraton Pere et Fils “La Matiniere” Syrah, Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone, France
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of raw steak, cassis and dried flowers. In the mouth, cassis and blackberry flavors mix with wet earth and an iodine meaty quality that adds a nice savory note to the fruit. Very faint, fine grained tannins linger in the finish with some sour cherry aromas. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $21 click to buy.