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 the latest in a collaboration between longtime winemaking partners Doug Shafer and Elias Fernandez, who have been making wine together at Shafer Vineyards since 1984. A couple of years ago they started a side project making anything but Cabernet. They bottle lesser known grapes throughout Napa. The wines are made in the Shafer style, which is to say on the richer side, but but this Albariño is pretty despite being a bit heftier than you’d expect.
I’ve reviewed Troon Vineyard wines before here, and was recently sent one of their latest wines which is called Granito. They’ve made Vermentino for a while, but this one got a new protocol — fermenting and aging in French oak barrels for a richer mouthfeel and deeper complexity. I like it quite a bit. As with all their wines it’s made with minimal intervention.
Let’s take a brief detour to Italy. I’ve got two wines from the north of the country, in the Südtirol – Alto Adige region. The first is from a producer that has been making wine in the region since 1893, and probably has been making Gewürztraminer since then as well. It’s hard to make a Gewürztraminer that is light on its feet, but this one comes close.
Also nearby, St. Pauls offered an aged Pinot Grigio that proves this grape variety isn’t just for easy drinking wines from the latest vintage. With 4 years of age, it’s beginning to show some interesting secondary aromas and nuttier characteristics that are really appealing.
This week also saw the appearance of a bunch of wines from a brand new producer named Minus Tide. Started by three friends — Kyle Jeffrey, Brad Jonas, and Miriam Pitt — this is a small estate-less winery making cool climate wines in small quantities. Miriam Pitt works in the wine PR business, and is responsible for sending me a bunch of the wines that you see reviewed here on Vinography, so it was quite charming to get some wines that she had a hand in making. They’re all tasty. I particularly like the Carignan in both its rosé form and its full red incarnation (which benefits from some air before drinking).
Lastly I’ve got wines from two favorite producers. The earlier-drinking less expensive Lyndenhurst Cabernet from Spottswoode which was in stellar form, and the North Coast Cabernet Franc from Franc-focused Lang & Reed, which was tasty, if perhaps not quite up to its usual Francness.
Notes on all these and more below.
2018 Eighty-Four Albariño, Carneros, Napa, California
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of candied green apple. In the mouth, candied green apple and faintly grassy flavors have a nice snap thanks to excellent acidity. Tart green apple and unripe pear flavors linger in the finish. Not as brisk as I expect from an Albariño, but tasty. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $ click to buy.
2016 Troon Vineyard “Granito” Vermentino, Applegate Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of wet stone and pears and white flowers. In the mouth, flavors of pear, pastry cream and a faint hint of nutmeg spice all shiver with brisk acidity. Notes of poached pear linger in the finish along with a faint floral quality. Tasty. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $ click to buy.
2018 Cantina Terlan “Tradition” Gewürztraminer, Alto Adige, Italy
Medium yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of rose petals and orange peel. In the mouth, exceedingly silky flavors of orange peel and flower petals have enough acidity to keep from being cloying. I do, however, wish it were a bit snappier. The flavors are pure, and escape the bitterness that can sometimes be associated with this grape variety. A wine that is pretty for an aperitif, but I would be hard pressed to drink more than one glass. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $ click to buy.
2015 Kellerei St. Pauls “Ruländer” Pinot Grigio, Südtirol – Alto Adige, Italy
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of honey and quince and freshly baked shortbread cookies. In the mouth, beautifully silky flavors of poached pear, sarsaparilla, and chamomile mix with floral and honey notes. While I suspect this wine is dry, it is so aromatically sweet that it leaves a sensation of faint sweetness in the mouth. Doing quite well after 4 years in the bottle. Distinctive and appealing. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $ click to buy.
2017 Minus Tide Wines “Mariah Vineyard” Chardonnay, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of freshly cut apples and white flowers. In the mouth, flavors of lemon curd, Fuji apples and white flowers have a brisk brightness to them thanks to very good acidity. Crisp and fruity, with a hint of butterscotch emerging on the finish. 13.4% alcohol. Score:between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $36 click to buy.
2018 Minus Tide Wines “Feliz Creek Vineyard” Rosé of Carignan, Mendocino, California
A pale coppery salmon color in the glass, this wine smells of strawberries and raspberries. In the mouth, beautifully silky flavors of green strawberry, raspberry and watermelon have a citrusy acidity that makes the mouth water. Fantastic and bright, and utterly delicious with hints of watermelon rind lingering in the finish along with a faint sweetness. Happiness Creek, indeed. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $24 click to buy.
2017 Minus Tide Wines “Feliz Creek Vineyard” Carignan, Mendocino County, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of distinctly sweet boysenberry fruit. In the mouth, intense boysenberry flavors have a faint tannic texture to them and a nice acidity that keeps the mouth watering as the lush fruit flavors move across the palate. Juicy and fruity, but perhaps lacking some complexity. This is fairly well made up for with charm, however. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $29 click to buy.
2015 Minus Tide Wines “Alder Springs Vineyard” Malbec, Mendocino, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and cola. In the mouth, rich, ripe black cherry fruit is intense, with juicy acidity that makes for a mouthwatering package. Hints of espresso back up the black cherry and blueberry fruit. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32 click to buy.
2016 Spottswoode “Lyndenhurst” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and black cherry and a touch of herbs. In the mouth, bright cherry and cola and tobacco leaf notes are gushing with fantastic acidity. Hints of cedar and earth rumble beneath the bright fruit. Delicious. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $85 click to buy.
2015 Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc, North Coast, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of herbs and green olives and plums. In the mouth, flavors of plums, roasted hazelnuts and a touch of green herbs and green bell pepper have a bright acidity to them but also a little funk. Notes of sultana creep into the finish. 14.1% alcohol. 2865 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $27 click to buy.