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 lovely brisk whites, including the Pinot Gris from Ponzi Vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Pinot Gris can be somewhat plain if not treated well, but this wine shows its best side, bursting with delicious fruit. Blue Rock’s “Baby Blue Blanc” is a Sauvignon Blanc with a few extra bits thrown in for extra juicy measure. And finally, Tascante’s bottling of Carricante from the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily doesn’t disappoint with its deeply stony aspect that is just crying out for some shellfish to go with it.
It’s been a long time since I tasted the rose that Feudi di San Gregorio makes from its Aglianico vineyards in Campania, Italy, so I forgot how delicious it is. Looking for a great rosé value? This is a great contender.
Staying in Italy for the moment, I also tasted the two Nerello Mascalese wines from Tascante this week, and like their white sibling, they offer what I’m always expecting from a good Etna red — deeply mineral notes under gorgeous berry flavors.
And finally this week, I have a couple of Napa Cabernets, representing something of opposites when it comes to Napa. The Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon is decidedly old school, clocking in at 14.1% alcohol and offering savory herbal notes in addition to its ration of cherry and tobacco. On the other end of the spectrum, so to speak, you’ll find the Far Niente Cabernet, polished and pretty, and just what most people expect from a modern Napa Cabernet, but perhaps with more sensitive barrel treatment than many, as its wood is quite well integrated.
2016 Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale blonde in the glass, this wine smells of poached pears and pastry cream. In the mouth, juicy apple and pear flavors are mixed with honey and pastry cream. Good acidity makes the wine refreshing and bouncy, and there’s a faint sweetness that lingers in the finish, though the wine is, I’m sure, quite dry. Very easy to drink. Closed with a screwcap. 13.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2016 Blue Rock Vineyards “Baby Blue Blanc” White Blend, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon rind, citrus pith and a touch of apricot. In the mouth, faintly sweet flavors of lemon, apricot, and grapefruit have a nice silky texture and lively bounce thanks to good acidity. A note of citrus pith lingers tantalizingly in the finish. A blend of 87% Sauvignon Blanc, 8.5% Viognier, and 4.5% Semillon. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $23. click to buy.
2016 Tascante “Buonora” Carricante, Etna Bianco, Sicily, Italy
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, lime zest, and unripe grapefruit. In the mouth, flavors of winter melon, lime zest, grapefruit and wet stones have a lean, angular edge to them thanks to razor sharp acidity. A light chalky sensation lingers through the finish with citrus pith sourness. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $19 click to buy.
2016 Feudi di San Gregorio “Ros’Aura” Aglianico Rosé, Campania, Italy
Pale copper pink in the glass, this wine smells of wet chalkboard and rosehips. In the mouth bright, citrusy berry and rosehip flavors have a delicious juiciness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Crisp, bright, and with a light savory edge that adds complexity to the strawberry and watermelon notes of the wine. Delicious. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2014 Tascante “Ghaia Nera” Nerello Mascalese, Sicily, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of berries, wet wood, and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, the wine gives the impression of pulverized rock dust as tannins coat the surface of the palate, and berries and dark earth flavors swirl about mixed with deep minerality. Lovely. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2014 Tascante “Il Tascante” Nerello Mascalese, Sicily, Italy
Medium ruby in color, this wine smells of crushed berries and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, deeply mineral flavors of pulverized rock, chalk dust, and forest berries have a wonderful supple tannic backbone and nice earthy bass rumble. Delicious. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2014 CVNE “Cune Crianza” Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and leather and incense. In the mouth, cherry and sawdust and a touch of leather have a nice texture to them, with faint, supple tannins. Good acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $11. click to buy.
2015 Trefethen Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, wine smells of cherry and roasted nuts and cocoa powder. In the mouth, wonderfully earthy notes of cherry and cocoa powder mix with tobacco leaf and a touch of other green herbs. Deliciously restrained with excellent acidity and supple, powdery tannins. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2015 Far Niente Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of freshly crushed cherries. In the mouth, cherry and cola flavors mix with a touch of espresso and cocoa powder. Wonderfully supple, powdery tannins coat the mouth, while excellent acidity keeps the fruit vibrant and juicy across the palate. Tasty. Nice finish with well integrated oak. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $155. click to buy.