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.
Let’s start with a very pretty Albariño from the folks at Artesa in Carneros, who have been playing with the grape since the late 1990s and are one of the main (and few) producers in the state. This one is distinctly Californian, but also quite varietally true, and worth seeking out for its refreshing green brightness.
I get occasional bottles of German Riesling here and there, but it’s rare to get a nicely aged one. This week I got a very pretty 2004 bottling from Max Ferdinand Richter that was firing on all cylinders, and delivering exactly what a good aged Riesling can — fruit, brightness, secondary flavors and aromas, and utter deliciousness.
This week I also have a study in two Roussannes, one from the Sierra Foothills, and one from Sonoma’s Bennett Valley.
As an exotic treat, I also received a couple of wines that are a collaboration between veteran winemaking legend Paul Hobbs and a wine producer in Armenia. Both feature the indigenous variety Areni Noir, which is something like a cross between Zinfandel and Pinot Noir, if you’ve never had it. Both of these wines are very pretty and excellent examples of the potential in both the grape and the country of Armenia. In the event you didn’t know, Armenia plays host to the oldest archeological evidence of winemaking on the planet, and most DNA analysis points to the region as the likely site of wine grapes being first domesticated. Check out these wines and drink a little bit of the past.
Finally this week, I’ve got three incarnations of the Rhone Valley for you, courtesy of the reliably excellent E. Guigal, and then a couple of California Rhone blends from one of the original Rhone Rangers, William Easton up at Domaine Terre Rouge in the Sierra Foothills.
All these and more this week. Enjoy!
2017 Artesa Albariño, Carneros, California
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of sappy green apple, unripe nectarine and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, green apple and white peach and lime flavors are bright and juicy with excellent acidity. Notes of lime zest and lime juice linger in the finish. 3% of the wine was fermented in neutral puncheon. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $28. click to buy.
2016 Oremus “Mandolas” Furmint, Tokaj, Hungary
Light blonde in color, this wine smells of pears and unripe apples with hints of lemon pith. In the mouth, citrus pith and pear flesh mix with a nice underlying minerality that has a wet pavement quality. Excellent acidity and length. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2004 Max Ferdinand Richter “Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Spätlese” Riesling, Mosel, Germany
Light to medium gold in color this wine smells of mandarine orange zest and honeysuckle. In the mouth, wonderfully mineral flavors of mandarine orange, honey and asian pear have only the faintest trace of sweetness to them, with a deep wet-chalkboard minerality. Notes of lychee linger in the finish. 8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $34. click to buy.
2013 Domaine Terre Rouge “Monarch Mine Vineyard” Roussanne, Sierra Foothills, California
Light gold in color, this wine smells of golden delicious apples, quince and chamomile. In the mouth, silky-textured flavors of bee pollen, chamomile and baked apples mix with a hint of candle wax. Notes of herbs and dried yellow flowers linger in the finish. Soft acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2015 Sosie “Vivio Vineyard” Roussanne, Bennett Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of quince and pears poached in cream. In the mouth, silky flavors of unripe pear and golden apple mix with a hint of yellow flowers. There’s a nice underlying wet chalkboard minerality, though the acidity is delicate and softer than I would like. Finishes clean with hints of chamomile. 12.9% alcohol. 100 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??
2015 Yacoubian-Hobbs “Sarpina” Areni, Armenia
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of forest berries and flowers. In the mouth, forest berries and herbs and flowers have an aromatic sweetness to them that suggests some deft use of oak. Excellent acidity and length, with gorgeous floral and berry scents lingering sweet through the finish. Polished and refined, perhaps a little more than it should be, but undeniably tasty. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45 click to buy.
2015 Yacoubian-Hobbs “Rind” Areni, Armenia
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of flowers, huckleberries, and fresh herbs. In the mouth, juicy huckleberry and mulberry flavors are shot through with fresh thyme and other herbs. Excellent acidity and fine-grained tannins linger in the long finish. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $34. click to buy.
2015 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone, Rhone, France
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberry and cherry fruit with hints of cedar. In the mouth, strawberry and cedar flavors mix with dried herbs and a touch of river mud. Powdery tannins flex their muscles as the wine lingers long. Excellent acidity and balance. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2015 E. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone, France
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of brambly herbs and blackberries. In the mouth, spicy notes of blackberry and herbs and flowers have a stark, stony minerality to them, enlivened with excellent acidity and caressed by fleecy tannins. Nice floral notes linger in the finish. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $27. click to buy.
2015 E. Guigal Saint-Joseph, Rhone, France
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and forest floor. In the mouth, earthy notes of blackberry and cassis mix with a touch of leather as beautifully bright acidity and powdery, muscular tannins caress the fruit. There’s a nice wet-pavement minerality underlying everything, and a sweetness of fruit that lingers in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2012 Domaine Terre Rouge Mourvedre, Sierra Foothills, California
Dark ruby in color, this wine smells of gamey huckleberry and cherry. In the mouth, the wine has fantastically bright acidity and gorgeous cherry and dried cherry fruit mixed with dried herbs and a touch of meatiness. There’s a wonderful saline quality to this wine that, balancing the sweetness of of the fruit makes for a mouthwatering experience. Powdery tannins seem to coalesce through the long finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $32. click to buy.
2013 Domaine Terre Rouge “Tete-a-Tete” Red Blend, Sierra Foothills, California
Medium to dark ruby in the glass with a little hint of purple remaining in the core, this wine smells of strawberry and cherry fruit with a hint of cedar. In the mouth, aromatically sweet flavors of strawberry jam and dried sour cherries have a bright, juiciness thanks to excellent acidity. Gauzy tannins drape the palate, and the wine lingers long in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.