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 few more new releases from Ridge Vineyards, including the inimitable Montebello Cabernet, which in the 2014 vintage, continues its reputation of one of the finest Cabernets made in America. I don’t think the 2014 is quite as good as the 2013, which was spectacular, but this is a mighty fine wine, indeed. Along with the Montebello, I tasted the Ponzo Zinfandel, and the surprisingly elegant Petite Sirah from the Lytton Estate, which will delight anyone who appreciates both power and grace.
There were a bunch of Italian samples this week as well, from the likes of Viticcio, whose Chianti in particular was worth paying attention to. From farther north, I also tasted Oddero’s Rocche di Castiglione Barolo, which needs some time to get out of its youthful tightness into a more relaxed state, but when it does, will be quite enjoyable.
Finally, I tasted the first vintage of a new Cabernet project named Cornell Vineyards. The first bottle I opened was disjointed and lopsided, and a second bottle proved that simply to be a faulty number. The wine is lovely, and will please any California Cabernet lover, especially those who don’t like to be hit over the head with oak.
All these and more below. Enjoy.
2014 Viticcio Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of dried cherries and dried flowers. In the mouth, beautifully earthy flavors of cherry and sandalwood mix with a touch of dried flowers. Excellent acidity and very fine grained tannins round out a lovely package. Good length. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $17 click to buy.
2013 Viticcio “Monile” Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and wet earth. In the mouth, a muscular fist of tannins tightly grips flavors of cherry and wet earth and wet wood. Somewhat narrow and tight, this wine needs some time to come into its own. Good acidity. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $44 click to buy.
2013 Viticcio “Riserva” Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of dark cherry, wood and wet earth. In the mouth notes of violets and black cherry mix with wet earth and a touch of citrus zest. Dark and brooding with that wonderful floral character shot throughout, this is an unusual and distinctive wine. Good acidity and great length. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $28. click to buy.
2014 Viticcio Morellino di Scansano, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of dark cherry fruit and cassis. In the mouth, juicy flavors of cherry and cassis have a hint of blueberry to them as tightly wound tannins grip the edges of the palate and lovely acidity makes the mouth water. Nicely balanced, with a touch of earth and citrus lingering in the finish, this wine will blossom in the coming 5 years. 14.5% alcohol Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??
2013 Oddero “Rocche di Castiglione” Barolo, Piedmont, Italy
Light brick red in color, this wine smells of wet wood, dried flowers, and dried berries. In the mouth, tightly wound, muscular tannins grip flavors of dried flowers, dried berries, leather and earth, squeezing them into a narrow expression on the palate. Orange peel citrus brightness keeps the wine lively. This wine needs 5 to 10 years at least to open up. Good length. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.
2014 Ridge Vineyards “Montebello” Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis, coconut, and green herbs. In the mouth, gorgeously smooth flavors of cherry, cassis, and green herbs are tinged with the coconut and whiskey barrel scents of American oak. Amazingly supple, fine grained tannins and fantastic acidity make this wine, as usual, quite regal. Still a baby, this wine will reward 10+ years of cellaring. A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $190. click to buy.
2015 Ridge Vineyards “Ponzo” Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of chocolate and blackberry pie. In the mouth, sweetish flavors of blackberry and blueberry mix with licorice and a touch of black pepper. Excellent acidity means the wine finishes without a trace of sugar on the palate, and faint tannins add backbone and complexity. There’s only a tiny bit of heat that betrays the 14.9% alcohol. Contains 3% Petite Sirah. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $36. click to buy.
2015 Ridge Vineyards “Lytton Estate” Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky purple in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and cassis. In the mouth, mouthwatering and smoky flavors of blackberry, blueberry and cassis have a nice wet chalkboard mineral undertone to them, and surprisingly fine grained tannins, which gain strength by the minute and double by the sip. At a mere 13% alcohol, this wine is remarkably light on its feet. Delicious. Score: around 9. Cost: $36. click to buy.
2014 Cornell Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of ripe cherry fruit and oak. In the mouth, dark black cherry fruit and oak have a rich, palate staining depth to them, with the oak strong but quite well integrated into the wine. Excellent acidity and fine grained tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.
2013 Monticello Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of ripe cherry and raisins. In the mouth, flavors of raisins, chocolate, dried cherries, and a touch of oak have a nice brightness thanks to excellent acidity, but turn slightly bitter in the finish, as muscular tannins grip the edges of the mouth and stain the teeth. I wish this were just slightly less ripe. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $70.