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.
Last week was all white wines, this week is all red, with some bits and pieces from California and Oregon.
Let’s start with a couple of Russian River Pinot Noirs from producer Anthill Farms, who specialize in making nervy, high quality Pinot from a number of sites. Both of these Russian River Pinots are worth recommending, but I definitely prefer the Tina Marie Vineyard rendition, but sadly this is the last year that Anthill will be making the wine. I assume they’ve lost access to the fruit.
I’ve got another pair of Pinots from a relatively new producer in Oregon known as Flaneur. They sent along several wines that I found somewhat heavy handed, especially for Oregon. These are two of the better ones, which are definitely on the richer side. To their credit, despite their richness, they show the lovely earth flavors of the Willamette Valley quite well.
Still in Oregon, I found a bottle of Montepulciano in the pile from the little, eclectic producer Troon in the Southern Applegate Valley. It’s worth hanging on to for a couple of years before drinking.
Finally, there’s a very nice Merlot and a couple of Napa Cabernets that represent perhaps either end of the current Napa Cab spectrum. On the one side, Cliff Lede with its massive brawn and extraction, and the other, Smith-Madrone in its lighter-weight verve and acidity. It’s not hard to see which is more appealing to me.
All these and more below.
2016 Anthill Farms “Tina Marie Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, silky flavors of raspberry, cherry and a touch of earth are caressed with gauzy tannins that hang at the edges of the mouth. Excellent acidity and a faint herbal and floral note linger in the finish. Very pretty. This is the final time Anthill will make this wine. 13.2% alcohol. 725 Cases made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $48 . click to buy.
2016 Anthill Farms “Balinard Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of slightly smoky aromas of earth, cherry and cranberry. In the mouth, cranberry, cherry and forest floor notes are draped in fleecy, delicate tannins and backed by zingy acidity. On the darker, more mysterious side, but thankfully with no trace of oak influence, perhaps but for that slightly smoky quality. 13.6% alcohol. 72 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48.
2016 Flaneur “La Belle Promenade” Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet earth and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, dark earthy flavors of raspberry and cherry have faint, fine grained tannins and juicy bright acidity. Brooding, thanks to its potting soil character. 487 cases made. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??.
2016 Flaneur “Cuvee Constantin” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of green willow bark, earth, and red fruit. In the mouth, dark, earthy flavors of cherry, cranberry, and raspberry have a nice herbal, raspberry leaf quality to them. Muscular, fine grained tannins creep around the edges of the mouth and gradually squeeze the palate. Rich and dark, with good acidity, but just a bit heavy for my taste. 602 cases made. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $45.
2016 Troon Vineyard “Kubli Bench – White Family Vineyard” Montepulciano, Applegate Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of boysenberries and dried flowers. In the mouth, stiff, leathery tannins grip flavors of blackberry bramble, raspberry leaf and earth. A citrusy acidity keeps things feeling fresh, and there’s a distinct wet chalkboard minerality beneath it all. This wine strikes me as needing a couple of years in the bottle. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2014 Sutro “Warnecke Ranch” Merlot, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of plummy cherry aromas. In the mouth, bright cherry and plum flavors have a nice tangy, juicy quality thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of cola and mocha linger in the finish. Delicious. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35.
2015 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich cherry and tobacco notes. In the mouth, deep teeth staining cherry and cocoa powder flavors have a thick, extracted quality, and not quite enough acidity to make them refreshing. A thick blanket of fleecy tannins drapes the edges of the mouth, and the wine finishes with notes of cinnamon bark and espresso. It’s just too much for me, but some will love its monolithic power. 15% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $70. click to buy.
2014 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of beautifully floral cherry and plum aromas. In the mouth, beautifully lithe flavors of cherry, plum, and dried flowers are juicy with acidity and wrapped in a cloak of muscular, fine grained tannins. Fantastic acidity makes the fruit fresh and mouthwatering. The acidity and tannic structure suggest this wine will be quite long lived. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.