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 pretty Sauvignon Blanc from Spottswoode in Napa which was refreshingly free of the oak signature that plagues some Napa Sauvignon Blancs. This one is crisp and fruity and pretty much what you want from a Sauvignon Blanc.
Speaking of crisp, it’s hard to get more crisp than Greco di Tufo, which usually has a searing crisp minerality to it, provided it was picked at the right time, and this week’s bottle from Feudi di San Gregorio doesn’t disappoint. Just add oysters!
Moving into reds, it’s been a while since I got samples from Cooper Mountain Vineyards, a biodynamic producer in Oregon that has been marching to their own beat from their very first vintage. This week I tasted their “Life” Pinot Noir, a blend from different vineyard sites, and it reminded me just how earth-driven most of their wines are.
Spottswoode also had a red in the mix this week — their (relatively) less expensive Lyndenhurst Cabernet which offered surprisingly lean and muscular fruit, that may need a little time to come ’round, but will be very pretty when the tannins mellow a bit.
It’s not all that uncommon for samples to arrive out of nowhere, but most are domestic. This week I pulled a couple of French wines out of the pile that I know nothing about other than they’re pretty tasty, and excellent values. The Chateau Lamothe Castera Bordeaux is classically styled for those who want a more savory aspect to Cabernet, and the Domaine Chateaumar Cotes-du-Rhone offers stony dark fruit with a lot of nice minerality. Both are around $15 and worth seeking out.
Finally, I’ve got three wines this week from a tiny producer based in Point Reyes Station in western Marin County called Absentee Winery. Essentially a one man operation, Avi Deixler makes a tiny quantity of wines in the natural philosophy/genre — his back labels read “Ingredients: grapes” — and somewhat unusually, are mostly unspecified red blends of one sort or another, as are these three wines this week. They’re distinctive and despite one’s (doubtless ironic) name “flaws,” cleanly done.
2016 Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of sweet gooseberries and passionfruit. In the mouth, passionfruit and gooseberry flavors have a nice edge to them thanks to excellent acidity. A touch of herbal bitterness sneaks into the finish, along with a note of cut grass. Tasty. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.
2015 Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo, Campania, Italy
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of crushed seashells and lemon pith. In the mouth, tart and angular flavors of citrus pith and unripe stone fruit are mouthwateringly tangy and faintly salty. Wet chalkboard minerality lingers for a long time in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2016 Cooper Mountain Vineyards “Life” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of wet leaves, doused campfire, and a touch of meatiness. In the mouth, wet leaves, raspberry and earth flavors swirl under a gauzy film of tannins, and leave savory green herb, earth, and forest floor flavors lingering through the finish. This is a wine that tastes like Autumn. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2014 Spottswoode “Lyndenhurst” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, tobacco leaf and cola. In the mouth, cherry and cola flavors have a deeply earthy aspect to them with hints of herbs and tobacco that linger in the finish. Suede-like tannins grip the palate firmly and suggest perhaps a couple of years of aging would do this wine some good. Excellent acidity and length. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $83. click to buy.
2015 Chateau Lamothe Castera “Cuvee Margaux” Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, France
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet earth and cherry and leather. In the mouth, bright cherry and earth are clasped in a fist of fine-grained tannins. The fruit is cool and ripe on the tongue thanks to excellent acidity, and notes of cocoa powder lingers in the finish with savory notes of herbs and stone. For those who enjoy leaner Cabernet, this won’t disappoint. Contains 15% Merlot. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2015 Domaine de Chateaumar “Cuvee Vincent” Cotes-du-Rhone, Rhone Valley, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of meaty blueberry and blackberry bramble. In the mouth, wonderfully stony notes of dark cherry and blackberry have a savory, iodine edge to them and a nice wet pavement minerality. Perhaps not overly complex, but tasty for what it is. Excellent acidity. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2016 Absentee Winery “NMWD” Red Blend, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and raspberry and the grapey signature of carbonic maceration. In the mouth, earthy, stony flavors of blackberry and blueberry have a nice fine-grained tannic backbone and a SweetTart tangy finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $39
2016 Absentee Winery “FLAWS” Red Blend, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of slightly smoky black cherry and boysenberry fruit. In the mouth, muscular, stony tannins surround the black cherry and blackberry fruit and excellent acidity leaves a stony wet chalkboard minerality lingering in the finish along with the cottonmouth texture of the tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $49. click to buy.
2016 Absentee Winery “Quest Marin” Red Blend, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and blueberry fruit. In the mouth, tangy blackberry and blueberry flavors have a SweetTart juiciness to them, thanks to excellent acidity. Wet chalkboard minerality and fine grained tannins round out the package. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $59