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 couple of supremely good Napa Cabernets.
Let’s start with the Spottswoode Lyndenhurst, which is that small estate’s “second label” wine — less expensive and generally a little more open and accessible upon release than the estate’s flagship Cabernet. But don’t let that lull you into thinking it’s a frivolous bottling. This is serious and seriously good Cabernet. While we’re talking Spottswoode, they also sent through their Sauvignon Blanc, which is a blend of fruit from Napa and Sonoma Counties, and pretty much everything you want a California Sauvignon Blanc to be, but without the surfeit of oak that often accompanies such wines. It’s fantastic.
Speaking of fantastic, I continue to be extremely impressed with the wines from Acumen, in particular their single vineyard bottlings of which this Attelas Vineyard is my favorite. Made up on Atlas Peak, these wines are beginning to set a standard for that AVA in a big way.
Moving on to some other reds, I’ve got two from the Symington Family in Portugal, who own the Quinta do Ataíde, where they make dry red wines from the steep hillsides of the Douro. One is almost entirely Touriga Nacional, while the other is a blend of the traditional grapes grown in that region. Both are worth seeking out, especially given their prices.
Lastly, I’ve got two wines from Washington state. One from Nina Buty and her eponymous winery — a single-vineyard red blend of Cabernet and Syrah, and the other a Merlot from 14 Hands in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Both are tasty examples of what Washington has to offer.
Notes on all these wines below.
2013 Marchese di Frescobaldi “Montesodi” Sangiovese, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark ruby in color, this wine smells of cherry and leather and dried flowers. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy cherry and leather and sandalwood flavors have a nice stony bass note beneath them. Excellent acidity, and lightly leathery tannins. A touch of citrus in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2017 Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc, California
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of candied green apple and honeysuckle. In the mouth, electrically bright green apple and kiwi flavors are shot through with lime juice and honeysuckle. Fantastic acidity and a nice floral note linger through the finish. Delicious. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $42. click to buy.
2015 Quinta do Ataíde “Vinho do Arco” Touriga Nacional, Douro, Portugal
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of mulberry and blackberry fruit with a hint of bergamot. In the mouth, juicy, bouncy flavors of mulberry and cherry and plum have a nice earthy dryness to them. Powdery tannins coat the mouth and linger with a striking hint of mineral dust in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $21.
2015 Quinta do Ataíde “Vinho do Arco” Red Blend, Douro, Portugal
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and blackberry fruit. In the mouth, blackberry flavors mix with chopped herbs and a darker, stony earthiness. The fruit leans a bit towards the raisined end of the spectrum, and indeed, flavors of chocolate covered raisins linger in the finish. Powdery, but muscular tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $21.
2015 Spottswoode “Lyndenhurst” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich, ripe cherry fruit and exotic flowers. In the mouth, juicy cherry and cola flavors have a mouthwatering complexion, with excellent acidity, fine grained tannins, and wonderful earthy notes that linger with a touch of licorice in the finish. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $85. click to buy.
2015 Acumen “Peak – Attelas Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cherry and flowers. In the mouth, gorgeously bright cherry and tobacco and cola flavors are nestled into a suede-glove of tannins, which slowly closes its fist as the sweet fruit lingers on the palate. Fantastic acidity and balance. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.
2016 Buty Winery “Connor Lee Vineyard” Red Blend, Columbia Valley, Washington
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet earth and dark fruit. In the mouth, plum and green herbs mix with a touch of crushed nuts and earth. Excellent acidity and a remarkable green olive note in the finish round out a surprisingly savory wine. A blend of 59% Merlot and 41% Cabernet Franc. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2015 14 Hands “The Reserve” Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of a bit of barnyard and struck match. In the mouth, plummy, cherry flavors mix with espresso notes and a touch of herbal bitterness that creeps into the finish. Good acidity. 14.9% alcohol. 794 cases produced. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.