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 wide range of interesting wines. Let’s start with a couple of Napa Sauvignon Blancs, most notable of which was the Mondavi Reserve Fume Blanc which is the winery’s oak aged Sauvignon Blanc from their To Kalon vineyard. This year the wine has more Semillon than normal, lending the wine a wonderful lemony aspect that I really enjoyed.
I got a nice Riesling from Germany this week from the venerable Schloss Johannisberg in the Rheingau, and it proved a classic example of the form, with a couple of years on it to add a bit more aromatic complexity.
As long as I’m talking Germany, let me bring your attention to the Pinot Noir (known there as Spätburgunder) from Weingut Wittmann who farm some excellent vineyards in the Rheinhessen. This wine offers an exceptional value, delivering more flavor and complexity for $25 than many Pinots from California or France at twice the price.
Closer to home, the Smith Story Pinot Noir delivers a wonderfully pure, bright expression of fruit that is hard not to love. Their Merlot from Sonoma Mountain’s Pickberry Vineyard proves to be distinctive and spicy in a way that many will find irresistible.
In addition, I’ve got three Sangioveses from well-known producer Poliziano, ranging from their deliciously inexpensive Morellino di Scansano to their more regal Vino Nobile di Montalcino. Each is worthy of your attention.
And finally, last but hardly least, we’ve got the latest release of Cabernet from renowned producer Dalla Valle in Oakville. Impeccably balanced and gorgeous, this wine represents a textbook, classic Napa Cabernet, oozing with refinement and powerful elegance. If you’re in the habit of spending up into the three digits for Napa Cabernet, then this one should definitely be on your list.
All these and more below.
2015 Robert Mondavi “Reserve Fume Blanc -To Kalon Vineyard ” Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of melted butter and crisp apples. In the mouth, apples and lemon and a touch of salinity make for a delicious concoction thanks to excellent, bright acidity. The oak, while present in the texture and the saltiness of the wine, is quite well integrated and pleasing. 14.5% alcohol. Contains 6% Semillon, more than usual and much to its benefit, in my mind. Score: around 9. Cost: $52. click to buy.
2016 Stewart Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apple and kiwi fruit. In the mouth, green apple and white flowers mix with kiwi and a bit of gooseberry. There’s a faint chalky texture to the wine that is very appealing, though I would want slightly higher acidity. 50% fermented in neutral oak, the rest in stainless. 700 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2014 Schloss Johannisberg “Gelblack Feinherb” Riesling, Rheingau, Germany
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of paraffin and citrus oils. In the mouth, Asian pear, mandarin orange, and citrus pith flavors mix with the faintest of sweetness against a backdrop of wet pavement. Good acidity with a hint of zest in the finish. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2017 Calera “Flint Vineyard” Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, San Benito County, Central Coast, California
Pale baby pink in the glass, this wine smells of citrus peel and berries. In the mouth, bright cranberry and strawberry flavors have a nice zippy snap to them thanks to excellent, even searing acidity. Citrus peel and watermelon rind linger in the finish with a nice tartness. 13.9% alcohol. 1000 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.
2016 Smith Story “Helluva Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry pastilles and cherries. In the mouth, bright cherry and cranberry flavors have a juiciness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Hints of herbs and flowers hover around the edges of the palate, but this wine is fruit first, all the way through the finish. Quite delicious, if perhaps missing some deeper levels of complexity. 14% alcohol. 400 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2015 Wittmann Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Rheinhessen, Germany
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried flowers, berries and forest floor. In the mouth, beautifully floral flavors of forest berries mix with green herbs and moist earth. Notes of dried herbs linger in the finish with suede-like tannins. Excellent acidity. This wine is quite pretty and somewhat mysterious. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2015 Smith Story “Pickberry Vineyard” Merlot, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of plum, cherry, and potpourri. In the mouth, delicious flavors of plum and cola nut mix with a touch of mulling spice and cocoa powder. Nicely integrated oak and mocha notes linger through the finish. Excellent acidity and balance. Mouthwatering. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $54. click to buy.
2015 Poliziano “Lohsa” Morellino di Scansano (Sangiovese), Maremma, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberries and cherries. In the mouth, Faintly tacky tannins wrap around a core of cherry and dried herbs tinged with a hint of citrus peel. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit bright and mouthwatering. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2016 Poliziano Rosso di Montepulciano (Sangiovese), Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cedar. In the mouth, faint tannins wrap around a core of cherry fruit tinged with cedar and citrus peel. Excellent acidity and long finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2014 Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Sangiovese), Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and sandalwood and dried flowers. In the mouth, gorgeously supple, even silky tannins wrap around a core of cherry and sandalwood with a touch of graphite. Excellent acidity and a nice cement-like minerality linger in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.
2014 Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and chocolate. In the mouth, gorgeously silky flavors of black cherry, plum, cola and cocoa powder have a wonderful aromatic sweetness to them and a fantastic brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Supple, powdery tannins billow through the mouth like banks of fog, letting the fruit shine beautifully through the finish. What wood exists here is beautifully integrated. A stunningly composed and poised wine. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $225. click to buy.