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 world-class values in addition to some tasty wines.
Let’s get started with the Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc, which you can find just about anywhere, and is as satisfying a Sav Blanc as you could ask for at 11 bucks, all green and zippy as you want.
Its partner in crime, so to speak is the Primus Red Blend, which has morphed a bit over the years as the folks at Veramonte play with the blend, but this Carmenere inflected Cabernet always punches way above its weight, and is about as good a wine as there is on this planet for $15 — (List price is 19 but you can find it everywhere cheaper than that).
Before we move on to some more expensive and serious reds, let’s pause for a moment in the sun with a super chilled bottle of Wente’s “Niki’s” rosé which is most of what you want from pink wine. Perhaps a little on the sweetish side for my taste, but delicious to be sure.
Let’s move into some serious territory with a couple of wines from Tenuta Carretta in Italy’s Piedmont region. Their 2012 Barbaresco is ripe and ready to drink now, and starting to show some signs of its age, while the Cannubi Barolo of the same vintage is asking for another 5 years or so before showing its best. I prefer the Barolo, even tight as it is right now, for its more brisk freshness and the more perfectly ripe fruit it shows.
Before we head back to these shores, let’s pause for a moment in the Northern Rhone, where Ferraton Pere et Fils makes this cracking Saint-Joseph — a mineral-driven Syrah from granite slopes with smoky, meaty goodness that makes you want another glass.
Closer to home, I opened up a couple of name-brand Napa Cabernets this week. The first, from Signorello is in its usual form — rich and plush and quite nicely done. The second, from La Jota Vineyard Co. is a little leaner, and consequently shows its wood a bit more at this point, making it tasty, but slightly overdone in my mind.
It was nice to be introduced to the Va Piano label this week with their Syrah from Washington’s Columbia Valley. Nicely restrained in its use of wood and slightly mysterious, I look forward to trying more of these wines.
Finally, I’m still scratching my head about being sent a 2012 vintage of the Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet (as if they’re still holding on to some of those?), but it’s doing pretty well for the big production wine that it is.
All these and more below.
2018 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of green apple and passionfruit. In the mouth, juicy passionfruit and green apple and lime flavors have a snappy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Pretty, straightforward and delicious. Made from organically grown grapes. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $11. click to buy.
2018 Wente “Niki’s” Roseé of Pinot Noir, Arroyo Seco, Central Coast, California
Palest salmon pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon rind and strawberry. In the mouth, berry and watermelon flavors have the faintest sweetness to them, as they slide, silky-textured across the palate. Good acidity and nice crisp cleanness. Peachy notes linger in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30.
2015 Veramonte “Primus The Blend” Red Blend, Apalta, Colchagua, Chile
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherries, green bell pepper and a touch of licorice. In the mouth, supple but muscular tannins wrap around a core of cherry, herbs, licorice and faint notes of dried flowers. Excellent acidity and balance. This wine remains one of the wine world’s great values. A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 24% Carmenere, 8% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16 . click to buy.
2012 Tenuta Carretta “Cascina Bordino Riserva” Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in color with distinctive brick-orange emerging at the rim, this wine smells of strawberry jam, quince paste, and brown sugar. In the mouth, flavors of raisins, brown sugar, and strawberry jam are grasped in a muscular fist of fine-grained tannins that relax a bit as the wine finishes with a hint of coffee and cedar. Spent 30 months in barrels. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??.
2012 Tenuta Carretta “Cannubi” Barolo, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass with a hint of orange at the rim, this wine smells of strawberry jam, forest floor and dried flowers. In the mouth, muscular, fine-grained tannins firmly grasp flavors of strawberry, smoky earth, and leather, and then squeeze them, leaving a tight, mineral quality in the finish with the squeakiness of wet skin against full-grain leather. Excellent acidity and freshness. Could do with a few more years of cellaring. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.
2016 Signorello Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of oak, cherries and dark chocolate. In the mouth, rich cherry and black cherry flavors mix with the vanilla and mocha of new oak that is strong but fairly well integrated. The fruit and wood combination lends a sweetness to the wine, and the plush tannins add to the richness. Excellent acidity and very good balance. Includes 9% Merlot and 1% Malbec. 14.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.
2015 La Jota Vineyard Co. Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis and mocha and licorice. In the mouth, black cherry and cassis flavors have a nice toasty oak and vanilla note that nicely pairs with the sweet fruit. Powdery, muscular tannins grip the edges of the mouth but show restraint as the wine finishes. The wood shows itself most in the way the mouth dries out through the finish, leaving me wishing for slightly more restraint on the new oak. Excellent acidity. 14.5% alcohol. 2362 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $125. click to buy.
2012 Colombia Crest “Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington
Very dark ruby in the glass with some purple still remaining, this wine smells of cherry and dark chocolate. In the mouth, muscular, leathery tannins wrap around a core of cherry and cedar and chocolate-covered raisins. RIch and plush, with perhaps less acidity than I would like, this is a wine that will please those looking for big and bold and brawny. Spent 26 months in 100% new oak. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $38. click to buy.
2013 Va Piano Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and blackberries. In the mouth, blackberry and cassis fruit is draped in a fleecy blanket of tannins. Good acidity and a nice earthy rumble beneath the fruit makes for a pretty package. There’s a brooding, smoky note that lingers in the finish. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2015 Ferraton Pere et Fils “La Source” Saint-Joseph, Rhone Valley, France
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and doused campfire. In the mouth, meaty flavors of blackberry and cassis and wood smoke are grasped firmly in a fist of fine-grained tannins. Notes of wet iron linger in the finish with a deeply mineral aspect. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $44. click to buy.