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 all sorts of goodies, all of them red.
Let’s start with what might be one of the best wines made by cult Pinot producer Williams Selyem, their Rochioli Riverblock bottling. Just down the road from Rochioli, Williams Selyem has been buying fruit from this legendary Pinot vineyard for decades, and makes a select few bottles of it each year. This site tends to get pretty ripe so this bottling ends up being on the richer side, but it’s always beautiful, and in my experience, very age-worthy.
Moving on, I’ve got a couple of wines from Chappellet vineyards, a stalwart producer up on Pritchard Hill above Napa. This week I’ve got their flagship Cabernet bottling, which comes in an obnoxiously heavy bottle, but which, as usual is rich and delicious. It’s bound to satisfy anyone who pursues the upper end of Napa Cabernet. For those who want tasty Napa Cab but without the tariff, you’d do well to consider Chappellet’s Mountain Cuvee, which can be found for as little as $25 online, and offers a pretty tasty package for the price.
I’ve also got a few wines this week from Domaine Terre Rouge in the Sierra foothills. A very meaty Syrah, a tasty zinfandel, and then my favorite of the three, a Grenache-dominated blend called “l’Autre” that is aging beautifully into its second phase of life.
A couple other wines of note this week. First, the irrepressible Randall Grahm sent his 2013 Cigare Volant, which predictably satisfies with its dark fruit and floral notes.
And lastly, an unusual interpretation of Merlot from Grace Vineyards, which is the star producer of Japan’s Yamanashi prefecture, a grape growing region on the skirts of Mount Fuji. Known for its stone fruit as well as grapes, Yamanashi has been producing wine continuously since the late 1800s, making it one of the more storied wine producing regions in the world. It is better known for Koshu, an ancient variety of grape that is grown on huge pergola vines there, but this Merlot is quite interesting.
Notes on all these wines below.
2016 Williams Selyem “Rochioli Riverblock Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
A medium, hazy garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries and cherries and flowers. In the mouth, gorgeously silky raspberry and cherry flavors are tinged with flowers and dried herbs. Citrus notes linger in the finish. Excellent acidity and balance. Fantastic. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $140. click to buy.
2013 Bonny Doon Vineyard “Le Cigare Volant” Red Blend, Central Coast, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and mulberry fruit. In the mouth, black cherry and mulberry and a touch of blueberry swirl juicily, thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of blackberry and dried flowers emerge on the finish. Tasty. A blend of 55% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre and 4% Cinsault. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2011 Domaine Terre Rouge “DTR Ranch” Syrah, Fiddletown, Sierra Foothills, California
Medium ruby in color, this wine smells of blackberry jam and bloody meat. In the mouth, black cherry and strawberry notes mix with cedar and a lovely wet stone minerality. Hints of leather and cocoa powder emerge on the finish. Aging nicely. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $34. click to buy.
2014 Grace Vineyard Merlot, Yamanashi, Japan
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of roasted chestnuts, oak, and burnt meat. In the mouth, smoky notes of red fruit and roasted nuts swirl across the palate with faintly muscular tannins. Decent acidity and quite an unusual character. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $46.
2014 Chappellet Vineyard “Pritchard Hill” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Inky, opaque garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, cherry, cassis, and the espresso notes of oak meld in a smooth seamless whole as suede-like tannins flex their muscles around the edges of the mouth. Powerful and rich, but with decent acidity. Just a bit much for me. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $235. click to buy.
2014 Easton Wines Zinfandel, Amador County, Sierra Foothills, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of licorice and blackberry pie. In the mouth, licorice and blackberries mix with notes of dried flowers. Muscular tannins swoop in behind the fruit and put the squeeze on the palate. Time to drink this one up. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2016 Chappellet Vineyard “Mountain Cuvee” Red Blend, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry. In the mouth, cassis and black cherry flavors are shot through with the vanilla of oak, even as they are grasped in a suede glove of tannins. Dark and rich, but with enough acidity to make the wine quite drinkable. A blend of fruit from both Sonoma and Napa Counties, made up of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 13% Malbec, 9% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2011 Domaine Terre Rouge “L’Autre” Red Blend, Sierra Foothills, California
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of strawberries and herbs. In the mouth, exotic woods, strawberry, and herbal notes still possess a juicy aspect thanks to excellent acidity, even as they begin to cloak themselves in the smoky, herbal notes of age. Faint tannins provide some texture, and linger with savory chicory and meaty notes in the finish. A blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre and 15% Syrah. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.