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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/11/19

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 was a second installment of all Pinot and Cab all the time, with a second tranche of vineyard designated wines from reliable producer Dutton Goldfield. My favorite of the group was probably the Emerald Ridge Vineyard, which is always one of my favorites in their lineup for its great acidity and bright fruit. There was also a new (to me) addition to their lineup this vintage, which was the Docker Hill Vineyard from Mendocino County. Planted in 2010 with a variety of Pinot clones, this pretty vineyard sits at 1000 feet of elevation above the Mendocino coast outside the minuscule town of Comptche, population 159.

And just for fun, we’ve also got a wine this week representing the other half of the Dutton agricultural empire, Dutton Estate. Their Karmen Isabella Pinot is a slightly richer interpretation of the grape from the Dutton Estate vineyards in the Russian River Valley.

Before we move on to bigger wines, there’s also a Pinot entry from an unlikely place this week — Lake County. Known for its stark volcanic landscapes that bake in the summer heat, it’s not a place associated with Pinot, but that hasn’t stopped Steele wines from making their Writer’s Block Pinot, and it’s a credible effort, especially at the price point.

Moving on to Cabernet, the folks at Laurel Glen are in the midst of an initiative to get a bit more attention for their long history of making age-worthy Cabernet in the mountains above Sonoma, so they’ve been sending out samples of wines new and old. This week I opened a couple of current releases plus a 2009 library selection. The wines are classically structured and feature restrained use of oak, both of which make them quite appealing.

Less expensive Napa Cabernet seems like a contradiction in terms, and most of the time it is, but the Edge brand tries to keep it close to reasonable, which makes their efforts pretty good taste for the money.

Lastly, I’ve got a nice Bordeaux style blend (Cab, Merlot, Petit Verdot) from Bolgheri, land of Ornellaia and Sassicaia. But this wine gets you the rich flavor of the region without the stratospheric price tags.

All these and more below.

2015 Dutton Goldfield “Redwood Ridge” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry fruit with a touch of herbs. In the mouth, herbs and raspberry fruit have a silky brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Faint grippy tannins hang around the edges of the mouth, while notes of dried herbs, citrus peel and raspberry linger through the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2016 Dutton Goldfield “Azaya Ranch Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry jam and cherries. In the mouth, bright raspberry and cranberry flavors have a nice zip to them thanks to excellent acidity. A touch of bitter herbs linger in the finish with a citrus peel note. Basically perceptible tannins. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2016 Dutton Goldfield “Emerald Ridge Vineyard – Dutton Ranch” Pinot Noir, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cranberries. In the mouth, cherry and cranberry fruit has a nice snappy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Citrus peel notes make for a bright and faintly bitter finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $68. click to buy.

2016 Dutton Goldfield “Docker Hill Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mendocino County, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry compote. In the mouth, cherry and cedar flavors mix with raspberry and cranberry notes. Lightly tacky tannins settle over notes of citrus peel and raspberry in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $68 click to buy.

2016 Dutton Estate “Karmen Isabella – Dutton Ranch” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cherry and cedar. In the mouth, sweetish cherry and cedar flavors mix with oak and touches of citrus. Good acidity and length. Notes of dried herbs emerge in the finish. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $46. click to buy.

2016 Writer’s Block Pinot Noir, Lake County, California
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of sweet raspberry jam. In the mouth, silky flavors of raspberry and redcurrant are bright and fresh thanks to excellent acidity, but somewhat simple and one dimensional. Still, this is a pleasant mouthful. Faint tannins linger in the finish with hints of citrus peel. 13.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.

2015 Laurel Glen “Sonoma Mountain Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and graphite. In the mouth, black cherry and cedar shavings are wrapped in a dusty blanket of tannins. Good acidity keeps the wine vibrant and fresh. Notes of salted licorice linger in the finish with a touch of herbs. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $90 click to buy.

2016 Laurel Glen “Counterpoint” Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and black plum. In the mouth, black cherry and cassis flavors have a bright, juicy acidity to them but also a touch of alcoholic heat in the back of the mouth. Tight, powdery tannins grip the edges of the palate. 14.6% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50 click to buy.

2015 Laurel Glen “Counterpoint” Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry fruit. In the mouth, flavors of sawdust and cherry have a nice fresh brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Tight muscular tannins hang back and let the fruit stay in front. Notes of herbs and licorice in the finish. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50 click to buy.

2009 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of pencil shavings and tobacco and cassis. In the mouth, black cherry and cassis flavors are buffed by leathery tannins that coat the mouth and linger through the dusty licorice scented finish. Good acidity and balance and showing very little of its age, even after 10 years. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2017 Edge Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet black cherry fruit. In the mouth, cherry and tobacco flavors have a powdery haze of tannins and good acidity to keep them fresh. The flavors are on the simpler side, with a slightly confectionary quality. I’d wait a year or two to drink this one. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $27. click to buy.

2015 Podere Sapaio “Volpolo” Red Blend, Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dusty roads, leather and black cherries. In the mouth, powdery tannins wrap around a core of black cherry and leather. Decent acidity keeps the wine tasting fresh. Notes of licorice linger in the finish. Not horribly complex, but tasty. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $26. click to buy.