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 few really killer wines. In the white category, the two most impressive were the Macrostie rendition of the excellent Chardonnay from Kent Ritchie’s vineyard in the Russian River Valley. Highly sought after by many top producers, this Chardonnay is a great rendition, and one of the least expensive wines made from that vineyard. I highly recommend it to lovers of California Chardonnay.
Also excellent was the 2017 Cariblanco from Kingston Family Vineyards which offered everything one could want in a Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp, green, refreshing, zingy. The adjectives go on and on, but the bottle finishes quickly.
Before I move on to reds, there were two unusual whites of note this week from Trinafour cellars, who are seeking out grape varieties off the beaten path. Their Colombard and Semillon are both very young and slightly austere (especially the Semillon which was doing a great impression of a Hunter Valley Semillon from Australia) but interesting and worthy of attention.
Now, on to the reds.
The big pleasure this week came from two fairly expected sources. The first is what some people refer to as the Mini Monte Bello — the estate Cabernet from Ridge Vineyards. It’s elegant, poised, delicious, and very ageworthy. A regal wine without the price tag of its big brother. I highly recommend it.
Nina Buty has been making excellent wines for many years in Washington State, and so it was no surprise that her somewhat unusual blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc was bright and delicious and gulpable.
In addition to these two standouts, there was a good Zinfandel from Ridge, a Carmenere blend from Chile, and a couple more Cabernets worth looking at.
All these and more below.
2017 Trinafour “Lolonis Vineyard” Semillon, Mendocino County, California
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of unripe pear, celery and lemon cucumber with a hint of white flowers. In the mouth, flavors of lemon cucumber and crabapple are tart and sour with a distinctly grassy undertone. Somewhat severe in its youth, not unlike the Hunter Valley Semillons that this is doing a reasonable job impersonating. Needs a bit of time, but boy would this go well with some raw oysters…. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $23.
2017 Trinafour “Casa Verde Vineyard” French Colombard, Mendocino County, California
Near colorless in the glass, this wine smells of green apple and greengage plum. In the mouth, green apple and citrus pith flavors mix with grapefruit and a brisk wet chalkboard minerality that leaves a chalky texture in the mouth. High acid, snappy, and tasty for all that. 13.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5 . Cost: $23.
2015 Macrostie “Kent Ritchie Vineyard” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light gold with a hint of green in the glass, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, pomelo pith and pink grapefruit. In the mouth, juicy and bright lemon curd, candied grapefruit, and a hint of pineapple are wonderfully zippy thanks to excellent acidity. Gorgeous silky texture and wonderful length across the palate. A stunner of a Chardonnay. 13.9% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $46.
2017 Kingston Family Vineyards “Cariblanco” Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apples, white flowers, and star fruit. In the mouth, gorgeous tart flavors of lime pith, kiwi, and star fruit have a nice wet pavement minerality and a beautiful balance with bright acidity. Lovely and distinctive. 13.1% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $22. click to buy.
2015 Buty Winery “Connor Lee Vineyard” Red Blend, Columbia Valley, Washington
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, cola nut, and a touch of green tobacco. In the mouth, plum and cherry flavors are wonderfully bright with juicy acidity, as cola and some faint green herbal notes pinball around the palate. Mouthwatering and delicious. A blend of 67% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2015 Ridge Vineyards “Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, tobacco and a touch of coconut. In the mouth, a fine grained gauze of tannins drapes over flavors of cherry, sour cherry and a touch of sweet whiskey barrel. Wonderfully bright thanks to excellent acidity, and perfectly deserving of its “mini Monte Bello” moniker. Built for the long haul, but delicious today. A blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2016 Ridge Vineyards “Benito Dusi Ranch” Zinfandel, Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry pie and licorice. In the mouth, licorice, blackberry, and blueberry compote flavors have excellent bounce thanks to bright acidity. Muscular tannins creep round the edges of the mouth, while sour cherry and black cherry notes linger in the finish with a hint of licorice. 14.6% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.
2017 J. Bouchon “Canto Sur” Red Blend, Maule Valley, Chile
A bright medium purple in color, this wine smells of dried flowers, tomato leaf, and berries. In the mouth, a somewhat musky, gamey, smoky quality mixes with blackberry bramble and a hint of artichoke heart. An interesting, rustic composition that leaves notes of dusty road with leathery tannins in the finish. A blend of 45% Carmenere, 25% Carignan and 30% Pais. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $12. click to buy.
2015 Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry cola. In the mouth, flavors of cherry and tobacco and cola are nestled into a muscular bed of tannins that coat the mouth. Leans a bit high toned in the finish, but the wood is well integrated and good acidity keeps things fresh. A touch of green herbs lingers on the palate. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.
2015 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Washington
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of coffee and cocoa powder and dark fruit. In the mouth, cherry and black cherry are suffused with the espresso and vanilla notes of expensive oak. Rich on the palate, with a blanket of fleecy tannins thrown over the fruit, this wine has good acidity but too much wood influence at this point in its evolution to really wow me. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $99. click to buy.