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 the samples stacked up with just a couple of producers.
Let’s start with Troon Vineyard from a little corner of Oregon known as the Applegate Valley. They’ve been producing several styles of Vermentino for a few years and this week we feature two of them, one a bit more ripe and lush, the other more lean and angular. I preferred the sharper, more savory of the two, their Cuvée Rolle, but they’re both worthy wines.
The next group of wines comes from Feudi di San Gregorio, one of the top wineries of Italy’s Campania region. Feudi makes a number of excellent wines, and this week I’m featuring four of them. The first is their utterly drinkable and delicious Fiano di Avellino, which was frankly crying out for some seafood. In addition to this white, I’ve got notes on two of their Aglianico-based wines, which are siblings of a sort. Their Rubrato is their bottling from Irpina vibrant and a bit brash in its youthfulness. The other is their elder statesman of an Aglianico, their Piano di Montevergine from Taurasi, which is one of the most elegant Aglianico’s around. The 2011 vintage is ready to drink in my opinion. Finally, we’ve got their Patrimo and its obscenely heavy bottle (tsk tsk), a Merlot that the estate has been producing for a while. It’s tasty, but hard to get super excited about when you’re tasting it next to the Piano di Montevergine.
Finally, closer to home, we’ve got a Pinot Noir and a red blend from the little producer Blue Rock in Sonoma. The Pinot is a bit on the ripe side, but the Baby Blue red blend hits all the right notes going down.
There are also a couple of Napa Cabernets on offer this week, both modern in styling, but one curiously blended with 50% Syrah which makes for a very distinctive wine, if a bit sweet.
2016 Troon Vineyard Vermentino, Applegate Valley, Oregon
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers, pears and white peaches. In the mouth, intense peach and pear flavors have a nice brightness thanks to excellent acidity, and a faint sweetness that lingers with slightly bitter floral notes in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2016 Troon Vineyard “Cuvée Rolle” Vermentino, Applegate Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, white flowers, and Asian pears. In the mouth, beautifully crisp flavors of Asian pear and pear skin mix with white flowers and a tingly crushed stone minerality. Hints of kumquat linger in the finish. Zippy and delicious. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $18 click to buy.
2016 Feudi di San Gregorio Fiano di Avellino, Campania, Italy
Palest blonde in color, this wine smells of unripe apples, wet chalkboard and a hint of peach. In the mouth, wonderfully crisp and zingy flavors of unripe apples, Asian pear, and citrus pith mix with grapefruit notes that linger for a long time in the finish. Deliciously light and delicate. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2014 Feudi di San Gregorio “Rubrato” Aglianico, Irpinia, Campania
Italy Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of boysenberry and black raspberries. In the mouth, brambly black raspberry and mulberry flavors mix with notes of earth and herbs. Tacky tannins grip the edges of the mouth even as bright acidity adds a citrus edge to the wine’s finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $21. click to buy.
2011 Feudi di San Gregorio “Piano di Montevergine” Aglianico, Taurasi, Campania, Italy
Dark ruby in color with a hint of purple still shining through, this wine smells of dried flowers, blackberries, black cherry and leather. In the mouth, blackberry and leather flavors are wrapped in suede-like tannins and dance with grace notes of dried flowers and incense across the palate. Excellent acidity and balance give this nicely aged Aglianico a regal bearing. Outstanding. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $58. click to buy.
2013 Feudi di San Gregorio “Patrimo” Merlot, Campania, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of plum and cherry. In the mouth, deliciously juicy flavors of plum and cherry mix with the nutty flavors of oak and darker, dustier notes of earth. The wood is fairly well integrated into the wine, and excellent acidity keeps the fruit flavors fresh and mouthwatering. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2015 Blue Rock Vineyards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry compote and raspberry jam. In the mouth, sweet ripe cranberry and raspberry jam flavors are kissed with the nutty vanilla of oak. Lush and ripe, the fruit flavors will appeal to those who want riper, bolder characteristics in their Pinot Noirs. For me it is a little too in-your-face. Good acidity keeps the wine from being too overwhelming. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $60
2015 Blue Rock Vineyards “Baby Blue” Red Blend, Sonoma County, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich cherry and dark chocolate. In the mouth, ripe cherry, cola, and cocoa powder flavors have a nutty hint of oak. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit lively as notes of cola and mocha linger in the finish. The tannins are restrained and fine grained. Distinctive and interesting. A blend of 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 11% Syrah, 10% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Malbec. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9 . Cost: $30. click to buy.
2014 Ghost Dog Red Blend, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and freshly baked chocolate croissants. In the mouth, distinctly sweet flavors of blackberry and black cherry are bright with acidity and wrapped in a fleecy layer of fine grained tannins. The oak usage in this wine seems thankfully restrained, leaving the sweet fruit to charm the palate with notes of licorice lingering in the finish. If not for the overt sweetness of the wine, which will no doubt appeal to many, this would have been a very tasty blend for me. A blend of 50% Petite Sirah, and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.1% alcohol. 150 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $125. click to buy.
2014 Kata “Beckstoffer Bourn Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cola. In the mouth, slightly sweet cherry cola flavors mix with the nutty vanilla of oak and hints of tobacco leaf. Fine grained tannins are powdery and gauzy, leaving room for the lush fruit to soak the palate. Good acidity keeps things lively, and the overall effect is of a very polished wine. A touch sweet for my taste. 14.3% alcohol. 400 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $165. click to buy.