Vinography Unboxed: Week of 12/9/18

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 big reds from here, there, and everywhere.

Let’s start farthest from home in the rolling hills of Australia’s McLaren Vale, where Hickenbotham Clarendon vineyard has a couple of their flagship wines to offer. Their first, a Shiraz, is in classic McLaren Vale form, and other than a bit too much oak, offers a juicy, tasty mouthful of fruit. Their second wine leans a little more savory, but the plummy flavors of Merlot are quite pleasing, albeit with that same surfeit of oak to contend with.

While many may know that Virginia grows grapes, few are aware that it’s been growing the vitis vinifera grape vine since 1619. In celebration of the upcoming 400th anniversary of the planting of French grapes on American soil, 16 different wineries in Virginia have collaborated to make a wine they’re calling Virginia’s Heritage, a blend of mostly 2016 wines in a quantity of no more or less than 10,000 bottles, one for each of the grapevines initially planted by colonists in their attempts to make a home in the New World so long ago. It’s a cool little project, and a fun little wine to try, especially if you’ve not had wines from Virginia.

Closer to home I’ve got two more wines from Bill Easton, one of the original Rhone Rangers, who plies his craft in the Sierra Foothills with consistently pleasing results. Here we’ve got a well-aged example of his Barbera and a very nice Zinfandel as well.

Finally, from Napa, I’ve got the remaining two wines in the Acumen portfolio that I’ve been tasting over the past few weeks, and they, like the rest of that producer’s wines, are worth seeking out, especially as these are somewhere around half the price of their single-vineyard cousins.

All these and more this week. Enjoy!

2015 Hickenbotham Clarendon Vineyard “Brooks Road” Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Inky, opaque garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry pie and a touch of earth. In the mouth, rich and deep blackberry and boysenberry flavors have a touch of woody vanilla that accompanies the muscular tannins that grip the palate. Significant wood. Decent acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $81. click to buy.

2015 Hickenbotham Clarendon Vineyard “The Revivalist” Merlot, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of plummy, minty chocolate. In the mouth, plum and cherry flavors mix with a touch of black olive and oak, whose stiff tannins firmly grip the edges of the palate. Good acidity but somewhat woody for my taste. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $81. click to buy.

2011 Easton “Cooper Ranch” Barbera, Shenandoah Valley, Sierra Foothills, California
Medium garnet in color but headed towards ruby, this wine smells of leather and raisins and a touch of candied citrus. In the mouth, brown sugar, candied orange peel and dried berries mix with a velvety smooth texture. Tastes a bit ripe and raisined. But decent acidity makes it easy to drink. A hint of herbs emerges on the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $ 28. click to buy.

2012 Easton “Rinaldi Vineyard Old Vine” Zinfandel, Fiddletown, Sierra Foothills, California
Medium to dark ruby in color with a hint of garnet still left in it, this wine smells of blackberries and black pepper. In the mouth, beautiful black pepper and licorice and blackberry fruit mix with a hint of cedar and camphor wood. Faint, tacky tannins still flex their muscles as notes of brown sugar linger in the finish. Delicious and perfectly aged. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $31. click to buy.

2016 Troon Vineyard “Cuvee Pyrenees” Red Blend, Applegate Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of leather and violets and blueberries. In the mouth, bright blueberry and cassis fruit mix with floral notes and are lifted by excellent, juicy acidity. Barely perceptible tannins strengthen through the finish, and a wonderful rocky aspect lingers on the palate. A blend of 62% Tannat and 28% Malbec. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

NV Virginia’s Heritage Red Blend, Virginia
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and a touch of lamb’s wool. In the mouth, that lanolin quality continues with cherry and cedar notes. Bits of licorice and oak linger in the finish. Fine tannins. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. 10,000 bottles made from a blend of wines donated by 16 Virginia wineries, in commemoration of the first vitis vinifera vines planted in Virginia, 400 years ago in 1619. Mostly from the 2016 vintage. Alcohol not stated. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2016 Ramey Wine Cellars “Claret” Red Blend, Napa Valley, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco leaf and cola. In the mouth, cherry cola and cocoa powder mix with boysenberry and a faint hint of citrus peel. Muscular tannins emerge on the finish. Good acidity and length. A blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 12% Malbec, 8% Syrah, and 2% Petit Verdot. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $36. click to buy.

2014 Acumen “Mountainside” Red Blend, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich cherry fruit. In the mouth, cherry and cola nut flavors mix with a touch of hazelnut spread as fine grained tannins coat the mouth. Excellent acidity and incredibly well-integrated wood. The tannins gain strength as the finish lingers with hints of roasted coffee. A blend of 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Malbec, 14% Cabernet Franc and 6% Petit Verdot. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2014 Acumen “Mountainside” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet, pure cherry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit is juicy with acidity and mixes with notes of plum skin and a touch of cedar. Lovely balance and very aromatic. Contains 7% Merlot, 6% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2015 Gratus Red Blend, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and toffee. In the mouth, sweet cherry fruit mixes with cola and licorice notes. Decent acidity keeps the fruit bright, and a gauzy wrap of tannins surrounds the bright core. Well integrated wood doesn’t poke out from the seamless whole. High-toned, but pleasant. Big heavy bottle, etched label, and back label written (pretentiously and entirely) in Latin round out the package. 14.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $75.