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 one of the most successful blends of Marsanne and Viognier I’ve ever had. These two white grapes, grown on either end of the Rhone river valley in France are not often blended together, and when they are, one or the other grape variety often sticks out like a sore thumb. This white blend from Troon Vineyards in Southern Oregon, however, was delicious and beautifully balanced between the characters of these two distinctive grapes.
Also in the white department I got a bottle of Riesling from one of the top producers in Germany’s Pfalz region, Müller-Catoir, which was beginning to show some of the characteristics that older Rieslings can offer.
Moving on to reds, Troon also offered a very nice Grenache this week, but the indisputable star of this week’s tasting was the 2014 Cabernet bottling from Spottswoode, which is one of my favorite producers in Napa. This bottle is everything a good Napa Cabernet can be, powerful, refined, and delicious. Give it 5 years and watch it sing.
I also tasted a couple more interesting samples from Chateau Picoron, a tiny 12 acre estate in the Cotes de Bordeaux Castillon Appellation. The estate has been producing wine since 1551, but the estate was recently purchased by a husband and wife from Australia.
All these and more below. Enjoy.
2016 Troon Vineyard “Kubli Bench Blanc – White Family Vineyard” White Blend, Southern Oregon
Light yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of fresh peaches and pears with a hint of vanilla caramel. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy pear and peach flavors mix with a bit of more exotic vanilla and herbs. Excellent acidity and length. A very successful blend of 55% Marsanne and 45% Viognier. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2013 Müller-Catoir Riesling Trocken, Pfalz, Germany
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of wet chalkboard and a touch of diesel fuel layered over top of mandarine orange peel. In the mouth, zingy flavors of mandarine orange, pear and wet chalkboard have a tart, mouth-tingling brightness thanks to fantastic acidity. The wine reads as dry, with very little sweetness perceptible on the palate. Refreshing and delicious. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2016 Troon Vineyard Grenache, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry jam and incense. In the mouth, faint powdery tannins wrap around a core of strawberry and cedar and a touch of earth. Good acidity and length. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2014 Chateau Picoron “Les Terrasses” Merlot, Castillon – Cotes de Bordeaux, France
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of bright cherry and plum flavors. In the mouth, gorgeously juicy flavors of plum and cherry have a touch of earthy woodiness to them and a hint of mocha. Fine grained tannins and excellent acidity round out this delicious mouthful. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20.
2015 Chateau Picoron Red Blend, Castillon – Cotes de Bordeaux, France
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried cherries and black cherry fruit. In the mouth, darker notes of raisins and black cherry nevertheless remain juicy thanks to excellent acidity. Faint but muscular tannins coat the mouth and linger with a touch of earth and cherry. Riper than other wines from this producer I’ve had, and perhaps less compelling for it. Alcohol level not on label. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20.
2014 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco leaf and a touch of pencil shavings. In the mouth, gorgeous and juicy flavors of cherry and tobacco and espresso are gripped in a muscular fist of fine-grained tannins. Fantastic acidity keeps the fruit juicy and the finish is long and aromatic with cedar and cocoa powder. Outstanding. Contains 10% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petite Verdot. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $ 190. click to buy.
2015 Bella Union Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of candied cherries and plums. In the mouth, very bright and juicy flavors of candied cherry and cola mix with cocoa powder and a touch of vanilla. Slightly confectionary in quality, but a crowd pleaser to be sure. The oak is quite well integrated and not overwhelming. Excellent acidity and length. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $80. click to buy.
2014 Sutro “Warnecke Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and oak and cassis. In the mouth, cherry, cassis and cola flavors are gripped tightly by muscular tannins and dusted with the sweet vanilla of oak. The wood, while present isn’t overwhelming, but does leave slightly drying tannins in its wake. Very good acidity. 14.8% alcohol Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2014 Ackerman Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis and violets. In the mouth, rich and slightly grapey black cherry and cassis flavors have an oaky sweetness that many will love, but which I find slightly overdone. Good acidity and fine grained tannins but overall a bit sweet and ripe for my tastes. 14.1% alcohol. 140 cases produced. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $85. click to buy.