Vinography Unboxed: Week of 12/30/18

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 a bunch of Chardonnays from up and down California. Perhaps the most striking of these was from Talley Vineyards, whose Rosemary’s Vineyard Chardonnay from the Arroyo Grande Valley was lean and pithy and pretty racy for a wine that could have easily been made in a different style amidst that generous climate.

While we’re in the middle of the state, let’s also talk about the Chamisal Vineyards “Califa” Chardonnay, which is more of what you’d expect from that region of California, but it, too preserved some raciness with which to recommend itself.

Finally up closer to home, the predictably tasty Rued Vineyard bottling from Dutton Goldfield was pretty much what most people are expecting from California Chardonnay these days (provided they’re not looking for the butter bombs of yore).

Before we move on to red wines, let’s talk about two other whites. The first was a pretty Riesling from one of Michigan’s best producers, Chateau Grand Traverse. It will satisfy fans of very dry Riesling and at a price that is eye-poppingly low.

If you’d prefer just eye-popping acidity, you’ll enjoy the Albariño from Verdad, which is what might appear in the textbook next to “crisp white.”

Moving on to reds, let’s get the sole Grenache out of the way this week, but not off to the side. Stephen Ross’ “Bee Sweet Vineyard” Grenache lives up to its name with charm and finesse. If you like strawberry, then look no further.

Several Pinots round out the list this week, with a few from stalwart Dutton Goldfield, the best of which was their Freestone Hill bottling, hitting all the right notes.

In addition, the Sinor-La Vallee Bassi Vineyard Pinot had a lot to recommend itself as well, with wonderfully bright fruit and ample verve.

Notes on all these and more below.

2017 Chateau Grand Traverse “Dry” Riesling, Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of poached pears and mandarin oranges. In the mouth, citrus pith and Asian pear flavors mix with orange oil as the mineral-driven wine finishes crisp and dry. Excellent acidity. Lean and racy. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $13. click to buy.

2016 Verdad “Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard” Albariño, Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apple, lemon and candied grapefruit. In the mouth, lemon and grapefruit and honey flavors are electric with acidity and zingy across the palate. Crisp and bright and delicious. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $23. click to buy.    

2016 Talley Vineyards “Rosemary’s Vineyard” Chardonnay, Arroyo Grande Valley, Central Coast, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith and grapefruit juice. In the mouth, tart grapefruit juice, lemonade, and citrus pith flavors have a bright, chalky quality to them. Gorgeous acidity keeps the wine vibrating and electric. Excellent. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.    

2016 Chamisal Vineyards “Califa” Chardonnay, Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo, California
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of preserved pineapple and lemon curd. In the mouth, strong pineapple flavors are tinged with vanilla and a bitter note of citrus peel. Excellent acidity, but the bitterness persists in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.  

2016 Dutton Goldfield “Rued Vineyard” Chardonnay, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of pineapple and popcorn. In the mouth, buttered popcorn, lemon curd, and grapefruit juice flavors have a nice snap to them even as notes of vanilla and toasted oak waft by. The wood is well integrated, and the fruit quite crisp and delicious. Excellent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.    

2015 Sinor-La Vallee “White Label Bassi Vineyard” Pinot Noir, San Luis Obispo County, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry and raspberry flavors mix with green and dried herbs which linger with a faint bitterness in the finish like the tartness of plum skin. Faint tannins are barely perceptible as the acidity keeps the fruit fresh and bouncy across the palate. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $47. click to buy.    

2016 Dutton Goldfield “Dutton Ranch – Freestone Hill Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry. In the mouth, exceedingly bright cherry and cranberry flavors have the faintest touch of cedar and vanilla to them with faint powdery tannins that edge the palate while the fruit vibrates with excellent acidity. Fresh, juicy and delicious. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $72. click to buy.    

2016 Dutton Goldfield “McDougall Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry fruit with a light note of green herbs. In the mouth, bright raspberry fruit has a wonderful purity to it, with the faintest notes of pomegranate sneaking into the finish, along with the faint bitterness of pomegranate seeds and citrus peel. Excellent acidity and balance. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $68. click to buy.    

2016 Stephen Ross “Bee Sweet Vineyard” Grenache, Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberry jam and fresh herbs. In the mouth, wonderfully bright strawberry flavors are tinged with herbs and licorice notes. Excellent acidity and length. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.