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 bunch of excellent wines from some favorite producers.
Let’s start with the newest Chenin Blanc from Lang & Reed winery, whose Loire-focused Cabernet Franc portfolio was expanded a few years ago to include Chenin. Now John and Tracy Skupny are producing two Chenin Blancs, with this Mendocino sourced bottling being their newest project. It’s very classically styled and bound to make fans of the grape happy.
I’ve also got a couple of wines from they young Katy Wilson, who has proven to be one of California’s youngest superstar winemakers, and whose LaRue label (her Grandmother’s middle name) includes deftly made Pinot and Chardonnay. I’ve got one of each this week from her, a Charles Heintz vineyard Chardonnay that has great nerve, and a gorgeous, lithe bottling of Pinot Noir from the Rice Spivak vineyard from which her mentor Ross Cobb has been making excellent Pinot for years. Both wines are outstanding.
I got a few recent releases from Inglenook this week, including their unusual white blend of Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier that was surprisingly refreshing, and then their estate Cabernet which was beautifully restrained and fresh with excellent acidity.
Last, but certainly not least worth mentioning, was the 2017 rosé from Matthiasson which is among my absolute favorite California pink wines, and one that I purchase by the dozen every year. Lean, citrusy and crisp, its everything that California rosé can and should be.
All these and more below.
2017 Lang & Reed Chenin Blanc, Mendocino County, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet chalkboard and Asian pear. In the mouth, flavors of quince paste and applesauce have a nice citrus kick and the zing of excellent acidity. Faint pear skin notes linger in the finish with hints of white flowers. Classically styled and delicious. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2017 Dutton Goldfield “Dutton Ranch” Gewürztraminer, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of orange peel and rose petals. In the mouth silky flavors of orange blossom water and lychee mix with orange peel. Bright and crisp but just slightly less acidity than I would like. Very pretty with a hint of underlying minerality that emerges stealthily on the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2016 LaRue “Charles Heintz Vineyard” Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light gold in color, this wine smells of pineapple and lemon curd. In the mouth, lemon curd and pineapple flavors have a wonderful zip to them, thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of citrus peel with a hint of butterscotch linger in the finish. Very pretty. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2015 Inglenook “Blancaneaux” White Blend, Rutherford, Napa, California
Pale blonde in the glass, this wine smells of apricots and peaches. In the mouth, apricots, citrus peel, and grapefruit flavors mix with a touch of pear. Excellent, bright acidity makes for a delicious mouthful, with no trace of oak to be found anywhere. Lithe and delightful. A blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.
2017 Attems “Cicinis” Sauvignon Blanc, Collio, Friuli, Italy
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of apple and honey. In the mouth, bright citrusy apple and honeysuckle flavors are crisp thanks to very good acidity. Decent length, moderate complexity. More on the serviceable end of things than the delightful. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $36. click to buy.
2017 Matthiasson Rosé, California
Palest salmon pink in the glass, this wine smells of wet chalkboard and rosehips and citrus peel. In the mouth, silky flavors of strawberry and watermelon rind have a crisp snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of cucumber and strawberry linger in the finish with wet stone. Delicious. A blend of 40% Grenache, 34% Syrah, 16% Mourvèdre, 4% Counoise, and 6% mixed blacks from three different vineyards. 11.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2015 LaRue “Rice Spivak Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cherry and a touch of cedar. In the mouth, beautiful raspberry and cranberry flavors have a wonderful citrus kick to them thanks to excellent acidity and quite low alcohol (12.8%). Notes of green herbs and citrus linger in the finish with just the faintest hint of vanilla. Lovely. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.
2014 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of bright cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, gorgeously medium bodied cherry and cola flavors have a stunning gauzy tannic haze through them that adds complexity without any stiffness. Floral notes linger for a long time in the finish with cherry and a hint of herbs. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $80. click to buy.
2016 Troon Vineyard “Kubli Bench” Tannat, Applegate Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of berries and licorice root. In the mouth, black cherry and blackberry flavors mix with a touch of salty licorice and green herbs. Nice, fine grained tannins whisper at the edges of the mouth. Excellent acidity. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.