Vinography Unboxed: Week of March 4, 2018

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 some more wines from one of my favorite producers in Italy, Feudi di San Gregorio. I’ve been writing about these wines for more than a decade, and they just keep getting better. This week we’re looking at two Aglianicos — their entry level Taurasi bottling, and their more reserve Piano di Montevergine, both of which are worth getting your hands on, but the Piano is showing beautifully at the moment.

While still on that side of the Atlantic, we should note the ever-affordable Viña Real bottling from C.V.N.E. that represents their entry-level Rioja. At $16 it’s an easy house red.

Closer to home, this week features some prestigious producers of Pinot and Cabernet. I’ve got three single-vineyard bottlings from William-Selyem that are fairly true to the winery’s form, though one could have done with a little less oak.

On the Cabernet side, we’ve got three wines from the single-vineyard producer Nickel & Nickel, whose Cabernets are quite reliably polished and tasty. My favorite was the State Ranch Cabernet, which offered everything that you want from a traditionally modern Napa Cabernet.

Detailed notes below. Enjoy.

2015 Williams Selyem “Eastside Road Neighbors” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry. In the mouth, bright cherry and raspberry fruit is clearly oak inflected, but so boisterous with bright acidity that it’s hard not to enjoy the juiciness as it washes over the palate. Muscular tannins wait in the wings to add some stiffness to the wine and shepherd it through a long life. 13.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2015 Williams Selyem “Williams Selyem Estate Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and boysenberries. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit flavors are shot through with the flavors of oak, which stick out a bit much for my taste at this point in the wine’s evolution. Excellent acidity and underlying minerality, plus suede-like tannins that hang at the edges of the palate. Give it a bit of time and it will really sing. 13.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $200. click to buy.

2015 Williams Selyem “Rochioli Riverblock Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry, cherry and fresh cut herbs. In the mouth, aromatically sweet flavors of black raspberry and raspberry are tinged with dried herbs and the faintest sweetness of oak. Gorgeous, silky tannins hang at the edges of perception, and lovely acidity keeps the fruit bright and juicy across the palate. Delicious. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $135. click to buy.

2011 Feudi di San Gregorio Aglianico, Taurasi, Campania, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and leather and earth. In the mouth, supple, powdery tannins billow around a core of black cherry, leather, and earth. Good acidity and very nice structure, but very very drinkable. Excellent. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $39. click to buy.

2011 Feudi di San Gregorio “Piano di Montevergine” Aglianico, Taurasi, Campania, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and black cherry and leather. In the mouth, black cherry and sour cherry flavors have a wonderful brightness thanks to excellent acidity, and a tangy sourness that lingers pleasantly in the finish. Very fine grained tannins skirt the edges of the mouth. Smooth as silk. Almost regal in its bearing. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $58. click to buy.

2013 Viña Real “Crianza” Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherries and raisins. In the mouth, cherry and a faint raisin flavor mix with vanilla and leather. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit vibrant in the mouth despite being on the dried end of the spectrum, and the tannins are so light as to be imperceptible. Aged for 12 months in a mix of French and American oak. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2015 Nickel & Nickel “Element 28” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cola. In the mouth, cherry and cola flavors have a mouthwatering juiciness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Fine grained tannins add a little grip, but this wine is mostly about juicy fruit and a touch of caramelized oak smokiness that is quite appealing. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $??

2015 Nickel & Nickel “John C. Sullenger” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cassis. In the mouth, cassis and tobacco leaf flavors have a very grapey primary character, bursting with acidity. Fine grained but very muscular tannins aggressively grip the palate. This wine is quite young yet, and should be left alone for a year or two at least. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2015 Nickel & Nickel “State Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of ripe cherry fruit. In the mouth, cherry and cola flavors have a touch of cocoa powder to them even as they burble with bright acidity. Fine grained tannins flex their muscles as the wine finishes, gripping the palate firmly while notes of sour cherry and a touch of citrus linger in the finish. Very well integrated oak, and nice balance. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.