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 fun wines from near and far.
Starting on the white side of the spectrum, the Anaba Viognier is a very crisp and tasty rendition of a grape variety that is much abused in California, often made as an unctuous, bitter, peach-flavored syrup rather than the crisp and fruity wine it could be. This one has all the acidity it needs to escape that trap.
Speaking of escaping from a trap, the Airfield Estate’s “Donald” Chardonnay successfully avoided over-oaking its Chardonnay, much to my delight, and the delight of those who prefer their Chardonnays taste like fruit instead of wood.
Moving on to the reds, I’ve got a few of those from Anaba, from their Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir to their GSM red blend, to their dark Syrah from Sonoma’s Moon Mountain District. I think my favorites are their Turbine Red, which is always a good value, and their Pinot Noir, though it leans slightly candied in this rendition. All are well made and worth seeking out.
I’ve also got a trio from Nina Buty in Washington state this week, all different red blends at which Buty excels. My favorite I think was the Rockgarden Estate, which was a lithe and surprisingly delicate version of Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah that begged for a slight chill before downing half a bottle over the course of a warm afternoon.
From farther afield, I’ve got two Marchesi di Frescobaldi wines this week, their old vines Chianti Rufino and their Castelgiocondo Brunello, both nicely composed interpretations of Sangiovese that are aging beautifully.
Finally, I’ve got a couple more wines from Atlas Peak superstar Acumen wines — their flagship “Peak” bottling, and their less expensive “Mountainside” bottling. Both utterly delicious, slightly lower alcohol Cabernets made with finesse and restraint. Go get ’em!
Notes on all these wines below.
2017 Anaba Wines “Landa Vineyard” Viognier, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of peaches, apricots and a hint of white flowers. In the mouth, bright flavors of apricot mix with a hint of orange peel and lemon pith. Excellent acidity keeps the wine fresh, and well away from the unctuousness that can mark poorly made versions of this grape. Tasty and bright. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.
2017 Airfield Estates “Donald” Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, Washington
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and lemon curd. In the mouth, juicy lemon curd and grapefruit zest flavors have a shiny brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a faint buttered popcorn note on the finish, but other than that and the silky texture, the use of wood is subdued here. Delicious. 13.6% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40.
2016 Anaba Wines Pinot Nor, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar and cranberries. In the mouth sweet oak and candied raspberry flavors have a nice brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Hints of cedar and a touch of candied citrus linger in the finish with cotton-ball textured tannins. Tasty, if a bit flashy for my taste. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.
2016 Anaba Wines “Turbine Red” Red Blend, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and a touch of cedar. In the mouth, rich black cherry flavors are draped in a fleecy blanket of tannins as darker earth flavors emerge through the fruit. Excellent acidity and nice balance. 45% Syrah, 41% Grenache, 9% Mourvedre and 5% Petite Sirah. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $36. click to buy.
2015 Buty Winery “Columbia Rediviva – Phinny Hill Vineyard” Red Blend, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco and earth. In the mouth, black cherry and cola have a spicy kick to them, as well as a deep rumbling earthy bass note. Excellent acidity, with tight tannins and a hint of green herbs in the finish. A blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17% Syrah. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2015 Buty Winery “Redeviva of the Stones” Red Blend, Walla Walla Valley, Washington
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and forest floor. In the mouth, cherry and a deep spicy earth character mix together under a gauzy blanket of tannins. Good acidity, but the wine has a narrowness of flavor that may need some time to relax. A blend of 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Mourvedre and 78% Syrah. 14.6% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2016 Buty Winery “Rockgarden Estate” Red Blend, Walla Walla Valley, Washington
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cocoa powder and blackberries. In the mouth, a nice mix of cherry and blackberry flavors has a wonderful brightness to it thanks to excellent acidity. Bouncy and buoyant, the fruit careens about the tongue under a gauzy skein of tannins. Delicious and gulpable. 75% Mourvedre, 17% Grenache and 10% Syrah. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2013 Marchese di Frescobaldi “CastelGiocondo” Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of leather and cherry and mulling spices. In the mouth, cherry, sandalwood, incense and dried flowers have a juicy brightness thanks to fantastic acidity. Tight, muscular tannins are fine grained and give the wine great structure and poise. A hint of bitter orange and herbs lingers in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2013 Marchese di Frescobaldi “Nipozzano Vecchie Viti Riserva” Chianti Rufina, Chianti, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark ruby in the glass with just a hint of purple, this wine smells of raisins and black cherries and a touch of flowers. In the mouth, juicy cherry and black cherry flavors have a nice herbal undertone to them and are bursting with acidity and freshness. There’s a nice cool mineral quality that lingers in the finish with the faintest hint of tannin and orange peel. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2015 Acumen “Peak” Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and dark-chocolate-covered almonds. In the mouth, cherry and tobacco and cola flavors are draped in a heavy blanket of suede tannins. Excellent acidity and a nice deep fruit depth. Will reward a few years in the cellar. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.
2015 Acumen “Mountainside” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cherry and vanilla. In the mouth, bright and juicy cherry flavors have fantastic energy thanks to excellent acidity. Muscular, powdery tannins coat the mouth, as the pure fruit soars across the palate. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2016 Anaba Wines “Bismark” Syrah, Moon Mountain District, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of crushed peppercorns and cassis with a hint of violets. In the mouth, black cherry and cassis have a peppercorn spiciness to them that turns slightly bitter towards the finish. Good acidity and taut, slightly muscular tannins. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $48.