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 great values from around the world, as well as some heavy hitters from down under.
Let’s start with some very pretty white wines from Southern Oregon, made by the natural-oriented producer Troon Vineyard. The latest vintage of their “whole grape ferment” Vermentino is the best I’ve tasted, with wonderful balance and vibrant fruit. Likewise their white “north-south” Rhone blend of Marsanne and Viognier has the best qualities of both grapes, and makes for an unusual and pleasing mouthful.
Still in the white category, this week also included two ever-reliable sources of tastiness: the Falanghina from Feudi di San Gregorio in Campania (ocean-air crisp and lean) and the Riesling from Spring Mountain producer Smith-Madrone, which, as usual is one of the best Rieslings made in California.
Moving on to red wines, let’s begin with the couple of wines from the Douro delivered this week by the Port house Prats & Symington. If these two reds don’t prove that Douro dry reds are among the best wine values in the world, I don’t know what would. They punch so far above their weight for $18 or $24 it’s not even funny. And luckily they’re made in quantities that make them pretty accessible to most folks with a web browser and reasonable inter-state wine shipping laws.
I got a few wines this week also from an old favorite producer in Chile, Odfjell, who I visited back in 2009 and who have continued to make really excellent Carignan, among other things. These two wines are dominated by that variety, and are deliciously different than your standard red as a result. Give them to someone who needs to drink outside the box a little.
Finally, I’ve got a couple of wines from the Hickenbotham Clarendon Vineyard in Australia’s McLaren Vale, known for their big beefy reds. These are both true to form, though the Cabernet definitely has some greenness to it that some drinkers won’t enjoy (and others will).
All these and more this week. Enjoy!
2017 Troon Vineyard “Whole Grape Ferment” Vermentino, Applegate Valley, Oregon
Light gold in color, this wine smells of pear and white flowers. In the mouth, pear and quince flavors mix with a very pretty grapefruit and lemon pith flavor that is very charming. Excellent acidity keeps the mouth watering as the wine finishes with floral notes. Extremely delicious. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9 and 9.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2017 Troon Vineyard “Kubli Bench Blanc” White Blend, Applegate Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of pears and peaches poached in cream. In the mouth, fresh peach and apricot flavors have a nice hint of chamomile and excellent minerality as they finish bright and crisp with a touch of citrus pith. Excellent acidity and length. A blend of 52% Marsanne and 28% Viognier. 11.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2015 Smith-Madrone Riesling, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of petrol and pear and honeysuckle. In the mouth, lemon and pear flavors have a hint of tangerine and a touch of butterscotch as they crackle with excellent acidity across the palate. Wet-chalkboard minerality leaves a clean dry feeling on the palate with only the whisper of aromatic sweetness. 12.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.
2017 Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina del Sannio, Campania, Italy
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of crushed seashells, wet chalkboard and grapefruit pith. In the mouth, grapefruit and grapefruit pith flavors mix with a saline, wet stone minerality that is bracing in conjunction with the almost searing acidity. Crying out for some shellfish to eat with it. Delicious. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $14. click to buy.
2015 Prats & Symington “Prazo de Roriz” Red Blend, Douro DOC, Portugal
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and herbs and a touch of saddle leather. In the mouth, dark cherry and berry flavors are lean and lithe thanks to excellent acidity. Faint powdery tannins coat the edges of the palate, while notes of dried herbs linger on the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2016 Prats & Symington “Post Scriptum de Chryseia” Red Blend, Douro, Portugal
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of boysenberry and dark chocolate and violets. In the mouth, rich blueberry and blackberry flavors are bright and stony thanks to excellent acidity. Deeply berry but at the same time lean and mineral, this is a delicious wine with excellent gulpability. Very fine, ethereal tannins hang back and let the fruit do the talking. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $27. click to buy.
2017 Odfjell “Orzada” Carignan, Maipo Valley, Chile
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry cola and a touch of nutmeg. In the mouth, cherry cola flavors are bright with juicy fruit thanks to excellent acidity. Lithe and bouncy on the palate with hints of floral notes in the finish, and a tiny bit of heat betraying the 15% alcohol. But generally very balanced and delicious. Score: around 9. Cost: $23. click to buy.
2013 Odfjell “Aliara” Red Blend, Central Valley, Chile
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of candied cassis and cherries with a hint of oak. In the mouth, flavors of wood blend pretty well with cherry and cassis and blueberries. Lightly tacky tannins grip the palate as the wood lingers more than I would like. A blend of 65% Carignan, 20% Syrah, and 15% Malbec. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $44. click to buy.
2015 Hickenbotham Clarendon Vineyard “Trueman” Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and green bell pepper. In the mouth, cherry and bell pepper mix with a touch of herbs and a faint bitter woodiness. Good acidity and tight, muscular tannins that have a drying sensation. Too much oak for my taste. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.
2015 Hickenbotham Clarendon Vineyard “The Peake” Red Blend, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich cherry and cola aromas. In the mouth, cherry cola with a touch of cassis and the toasty vanilla of oak blend together, livened up by bracing acidity that keeps the mouth watering. A touch too much wood for me, but an undeniably tasty wine. A blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon and 44% Shiraz. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $150. click to buy.