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 couple of Sauvignon Blancs firmly in the California style. The first, from Smith Story, is slightly leaner with more citrus qualities, while the Rombauer offers a bit more sweetness and green apple. Both are tasty.
The latest vintage of their Chardonnay proves that Chappellet Vineyards are trying to walk the very fine line between the more traditional (and popular) sensibility of California Chardonnay, while backing off the oak and aiming for more balance. They’ve done it quite well in my opinion, making a wine with broad appeal.
I’ve got three pink wines to offer you thoughts on this week, two of which hail from the Redwood Valley, an all-but-unknown wine appellation in Mendocino County in Northern California. Home to a long history of winegrowing, its fruit is sold to wineries in larger more famous regions, but there are also a few local producers, and those who farm vineyards there as well. Winemaker Faith Armstrong Foster has two wine brands that fall into the latter category, one called Onward, focused on specific sites and single varieties, and one called Farmstrong, which offers more regional blends. Both wines are worth your attention.
My third rosé this week comes from Big Table Farm in Oregon, whose tiny, biodynamic wines continue to impress me.
Finally this week we’ve got some heavier hitter Cabernets, starting with the two top bottlings from Charles Krug winery in St. Helena, and finishing with my favorite wine of the week, the Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet, which offers, in its usual medium-bodied style, a lot of balance and panache.
All these and more below.
2017 Smith Story Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apples and passionfruit. In the mouth, juicy passionfruit and green apple and kiwi flavors have a nice snap thanks to bright acidity. Clean and crisp, and quite refreshing. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2017 Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley, Napa, California
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of candied green apple. In the mouth, tart green apple and green melon flavors have a slight white flower quality and bright acidity. Only faintly sweet. Aged in 90% stainess steel, 10% neutral oak. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $22. click to buy.
2016 Chappellet Vineyard Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of pineapple and cold cream. In the mouth, juicy pineapple and lemon curd flavors have an electric glow on the palate thanks to excellent acidity. The oak, while present with a nice vanilla note, is well integrated letting the fruit take center stage. Tasty. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2017 Big Table Farm “Laughing Pig” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale baby pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon rind and redcurrant. In the mouth, bright strawberry and raspberry flavors have a faint sweetness to them and a nice crisp snap thanks to excellent acidity. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2017 Onward “Hawkeye Ranch” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Redwood Valley, California
Palest copper pink in the glass, this wine smells of citrus peel and unripe apples. In the mouth, flavors of watermelon rind, apples, redcurrants and a touch of orange peel have a wonderfully zippy aspect thanks to fantastic acidity. Crisp and delicious. 11.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $22.
2017 Farmstrong “Field Rosé” Red Blend, Redwood Valley, California
Palest copper pink in color, this wine smells of wet chalkboard and citrus pith. In the mouth, juicy citrus and crabapple flavors have a sourish tang that is wonderfully refreshing. Excellent acidity keeps the wine bright and mouthwatering. Excellent. A blend of Carignan and Zinfandel. 11.9% alcohol. 375 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2014 Charles Krug Winery “Vintage Selection” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry. In the mouth, the wine is extremely high-toned, and seems to float off the palate a bit, with bright floral and cassis flavors, but something lacking in the mid-palate. Faint, tacky tannins. 15.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $85. click to buy.
2014 Charles Krug Winery “Generations” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco and toasted oak. In the mouth, rich sweet cherry and cocoa powder flavors are draped in a gauzy haze of tannins. Relatively high octane at 15% alcohol, but reasonably well balanced. Hints of cedar and vanilla on the finish. Acid slightly softer than I would like. A blend of 84% Cabernet with 9% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot and 3% Malbec. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $54. click to buy.
2012 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, black cherry and dried flowers. In the mouth, beautiful sweet cherry and cassis fruit has a wonderful elegance thanks to excellent acidity and gauzy tannins that gradually stiffen to show some muscle in the finish. Seamless and very pretty. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5 Cost: $150. click to buy.