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.
Let’s start this week with a couple of wines that rocked my world. Two whites from Lodi that are without a doubt two of the best white wines I’ve ever had from that region, including what’s most probably the single best Vermentino from California I’ve ever had. Fields Family Wines sent through their Vermentino and Grenache Blanc, both of which are crackling with acidity and are beautifully balanced and fresh. I felt like chugging both of them.
Also in the white department I’ve got a smattering of other things to recommend this week, from the delicate biodynamic Chardonnay from Cooper Mountain Vineyards in Oregon (a steal at $25) to David Ramey’s Sidebar Cellars Kerner, which also hails from Lodi.
Sidebar Rosé is worth checking out too, though I found myself wishing it had a bit more zip to it, tasty as it was.
Moving into the red department, Anthill Farms’ Sonoma Coast Pinot is worth checking out for sure, and if you like lighter reds and don’t mind a bit of funk, you could also check out Viña Bouchon’s rendition of Pais from the Maule Valley, which to my palate tastes like it might have gotten some carbonic maceration going on there.
On a more conventional note, the Stony Hill Cabernet from Napa was good but not as good as I was hoping it might be. There’s a tiny chance that there might have been something subtly off with the bottle I had, and without a duplicate to be sure, you should take my note with a grain of salt.
Finally, I’ve got a pair of Syrahs that represent two very appealing interpretations of the same grape. The Big Table Farm version is rich and ripe and gorgeous, while the Kingston Family Vineyards rendition is savory and lean and earthy. Both were delicious.
2014 Cooper Mountain Vineyards “Old Vines” Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of citrus pith and lemon zest. In the mouth, very clean, rainwater pure flavors of lemon pith and lemon juice have a wonderful crystalline minerality, but less intensity than I would expect. Pretty and crisp and refreshing, with excellent balance and good acidity. A killer value. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2016 Fields Family Wines “Delu Vineyard” Vermentino, Lodi, Central Valley, California
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of unripe pear and apples. In the mouth, wonderfully bright citrus and pear and unripe apples are welded to a deep and stony wet chalkboard minerality. A fantastic, mouthwatering balance of fruit, mineral, and zippy goodness. Delicious. Likely the best California Vermentino I’ve ever had. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $21. click to buy.
2016 Fields Family Wines “Delu Vineyard” Grenache Blanc, Lodi, Central Valley, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of citrus pith and pears and pastry cream. In the mouth, grapefruit pith, pastry cream, and Bosc pear flavors have a wonderful snap, thanks to excellent acidity, and a wet chalkboard minerality that lingers with a chalky texture in the finish with citrus pith notes. Excellent. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.
2017 Sidebar Cellars “Mokelumne Glen Vineyards” Kerner, Lodi Mokelumne River, Central Valley, California
Pale green in the glass, this wine smells of orange peel, nasturtium flowers and wet pavement. In the mouth, silky flavors of orange peel, kumquat and melon have a nice, crisp snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. A touch of bitterness creeps into the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2017 Sidebar Cellars Rosé of Syrah, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light coppery pink in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry and watermelon. In the mouth, strawberry and watermelon flavors have a nice aromatic sweetness to them, but not enough zing, thanks to slightly underwhelming acidity. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $19. click to buy.
2016 Anthill Farms Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of gorgeous, fresh raspberry fruit. In the mouth, juicy fresh and candied raspberry flavors mix with hints of dried herbs and a touch of dried flowers. Excellent acidity and length. 13.5% alcohol. 2800 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.
2017 Viña Bouchon “Pais Salvaje” Pais, Maule Valley, Chile
Light, cloudy garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bubble gum and dried flowers with a hint of sweaty socks. In the mouth, flavors of berries, wet dirt, and a musky, funky note are draped in a fleecy blanket of fine grained tannins. This wine definitely has a dose of weird, but isn’t short on charm. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2013 Stony Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Medium ruby in color, this wine smells of mint and dried cherries. In the mouth, flavors of dried cherries, earth, green herbs and dust are draped in a blanket of powdery tannins. Good acidity, but I wish the fruit tasted a bit more vibrant. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2014 Big Table Farm Syrah, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and blackberry pie. In the mouth, rich blackberry pie and cassis flavors have a faintly salty edge to them with juicy acidity and a nice floral quality. Rich and tasty, with savory notes of kalamata olives in the finish. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2016 Kingston Family Vineyards “Lucero” Syrah, Casablanca Valley, Chile
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of doused campfire and cassis. In the mouth, blackberry bramble, black olive and snuffed match flavors have a nice salty savoriness to them. Hints of white pepper linger in the finish. Excellent acidity and the faintest of powdery tannins. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.