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 snappy Savvies from Napa. My favorite among them was the nervy Sauvignon Blanc from Gamble Family, which showcases the best characteristics of California-style Sauvignon Blanc, so to speak. Next up, the Cliff Lede interpretation has some distinctive personality thanks in part to the high dose of Semillon and a touch of Muscadelle, though I wish it had a touch more verve. The Girard Sauvignon Blanc has plenty of acidity but doesn’t quite achieve what it could.
Before we move on to red wines, I’ll point out the Pinot Gris from Smith Story, which offers a textbook dose of pear and pastry cream for those who enjoy such flavors.
Our first red this week is a noble one — one of the top bottlings from Poliziano, the storied estate in the city of Montepulciano in the center of Tuscany. This gorgeous rendition of Sangiovese lives up to its regal moniker, but like many of its brethren, will be better with another 5-10 years of age.
Closer to home, I’ve got notes on a few of Napa’s more royal wines.
The Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet is rich, and will satisfy those who like their Napa Cabernets on the brawny side.
Better for me was the Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de la Tour Private Reserve with its cherry cola brightness.
And tops this week were perhaps unsurprisingly, two of the most predictably excellent bottlings of Napa Cabernet on the market. Let’s begin with the Stag’s Leap SLV bottling, with its vibrant fruit, gauzy tannins and surprising intensity. This too is a wine to lay down for a few years to get the best of what it has to offer.
The Spottswoode Cabernet from 2014 is in typical mouthwatering form, with a wonderful balance between brightness and raw power that makes for somewhat of a breathtaking experience on the palate, with more of a medium-bodied feel than the other Cabernets this week, thanks in part to its lower, 14.2% alcohol. Age-worthy to be sure, but definitely still pleasing at the moment.
All these and more below.
2016 Gamble Family Vineyards “Gamble Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc, Yountville, Napa, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers, melon, and lemon oil. In the mouth, the wine is wonderfully juicy and bright with green apple, passionfruit, kiwi, and white flowers bouncing around the palate with fantastic acidity. Mouthwatering and delicious. 70% fermented and aged on the lees with periodic battonage. Delicious. 13.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2017 Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apple and honey. In the mouth, green apple and green melon flavors mix with white flowers and a touch of vanilla. Good acidity, but I would like more. Silky texture. Includes 12% Semillon and 2% Sauvignon Vert (Muscadelle). 5% fermented in concrete, 58% in neutral barrels, and 27% in stainless. 14.5% alcohol. 8428 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2016 Girard Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apple and cut grass. In the mouth, green apple, cut grass and a faint yeasty quality have a bright juiciness thanks to excellent acidity, and a nice wet pavement minerality, but also something of a bitter taste as the wine finishes. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $19. click to buy.
2017 Smith Story “Filigreen Farms” Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light blonde in color, this wine smells of pear and pastry cream. In the mouth, pear and the vanilla of pastry cream mix with a woody, almost yeasty note reminiscent of pear skin and parchment. Silky texture, good acidity. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $32. click to buy.
2014 Poliziano “Asinone” Sangiovese, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of nutty cherry and dried flowers. In the mouth, vibrant acidity makes cherry and spice flavors come alive while muscular tannins lightly grip the edge of the palate. Hints of mocha and crushed nuts linger on the palate along with cocoa powder as the wine finishes bright and juicy. Young yet, and not fully blossomed. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2014 Beringer “Private Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this swine smells of black cherry and tobacco with a hint of dried flowers. In the mouth, rich black cherry and cassis flavors are faintly sweet and draped in gauzy fine-grained tannins. Rich and powerful, velvety and broad, with decent acidity but some heat in the finish, thanks to 15% alcohol. Contains 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Merlot. Score: around 9. Cost: $140. click to buy.
2014 Beaulieu “Georges de Latour Private Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and espresso and cola. In the mouth, cherry cola and mocha flavors are nestled into a fleecy bed of tannins. Plush with excellent acidity which makes the fruit juicy and delicious. Betrays little of its 14.9% alcohol. Very tasty. Contains 4% Petite Verdot, and 3% Merlot. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $145. click to buy.
2014 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and chopped herbs and dried flowers. In the mouth, cherry, chopped herbs, wet earth and dried flowers are clasped firmly in a supple fist of tannins. Excellent acidity makes the mouth water. Lithe and elegant, and built for the long haul. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $180. click to buy.
2015 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “S.L.V.” Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry with a hint of violets. In the mouth, bright cassis and blackberry fruit mix with dark cherry and a touch of cedar. Faint tannins drape the fruit, as excellent acidity makes it juicy and bright. Very primary and young at this point, but with a few years, this will blossom into a beauty. Damn tasty at the moment, nonetheless. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.