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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/4/19

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 Pinot and Cab week, it seems.

For starters, I was very happy to taste a couple of bottles from Waits-Mast Cellars, a tiny husband-and-wife operation in San Francisco who have been making North Coast Pinot Noir for some time. These two bottles were both delicious, though I preferred the Wentzel Vineyard for its brightness and freshness. It seemed a bit more youthful than its sibling from the Oppenlander Vineyard, but both represented the region quite well with red fruit and earthiness.

The next set of Pinots were a traunch of single vineyard bottlings from Dutton Goldfield, which is of course, the collaboration between Steve Dutton and Dan Goldfield through which the pair makes wines from many of the different sites that Dutton farms all over Sonoma, Marin, and Mendocino Counties. I think my favorite of the ones I opened this week were the Angel Camp Vineyard from Anderson Valley which showed lovely herbal notes, along with the Devil’s Gulch bottling from Marin County, which is always a favorite. The Dutton Ranch bottling was also showing well.

Moving on to Cabernet, we’ll start in Lake County, where Steele wines offered their standard Cabernet Sauvignon which was nice and slightly spicy — and their Writers Block Cabernet Franc, which offered some nice varietal character.

This week I’ve also got two tiny production individual block Cabernet Sauvignons from Jericho Canyon Vineyard in Napa, just outside of Calistoga. These are wines that are sold only at the winery because they’re made in miniscule quantities, but both are interesting, and quite different from each other. The West Wall bottling was particularly demonstrative, and will command the attention and admiration of any classic Napa Cabernet lover.

From the other side of the hills comes the Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet bottling. Nestled up in the Mayacamas mountains above Sonoma Valley, Laurel Glen has been quietly making age-worthy Cabernet for decades. The 2014 was in nice shape, and clearly showing it could go for another decade, easily.

And last but not least, Morgan Winery had a small production Syrah from the Santa Lucia Highlands to offer which was delicious and a superb value at just $22.

All these and more below.

2014 Waits-Mast Cellars “Oppenlander Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cedar, orange peel, and red apple skin. In the mouth, velvety flavors of sawdust, dried cherries and dried herbs have a nice faint tannic backbone and decent acidity. Aging nicely. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2014 Waits-Mast Cellars “Wentzel Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light ruby in color, this wine smells of dried cherries and cranberries. In the mouth, cherry and cranberry flavors mix with cedar and orange peel backed by zippy bright acidity. Notes of red apple skin, dried herbs and a touch of sawdust linger in the finish. Complex and dynamic. Very tasty. 13.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2016 Dutton Goldfield “Devil’s Gulch Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Marin County, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and wet earth. In the mouth, raspberry and cherry flavors mix with freshly cut herbs and a touch of wet earth. Excellent acidity and very faint tannins make for a complex and lively package. Dried herbs linger in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2016 Dutton Goldfield “Angel Camp Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, cherry and raspberry flavors mix with the green herbaceousness of raspberry leaf and dried herbs. Faint, powdery tannins emerge with a touch of the herbal bitterness in the finish. Good acidity. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $58. click to buy.

2016 Dutton Goldfield “Dutton Ranch” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, citrusy flavors of raspberry, orange peel and cedar have a bright, electric acidity. Faint tannins. Nice length. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2016 Steele Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Hills, Lake County, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and ripe cherry fruit. In the mouth, plush flavors of cherry and black cherry have a touch of black pepper and earth to them. Faint, muscular tannins creep around the edges of the palate. Good acidity and length. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.

2016 Writer’s Block Cabernet Franc, Lake County, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of roasted nuts and cherries. In the mouth, nutty cherry and plum flavors have a nice brightness thanks to excellent acidity. The flavors are straightforward here, the tannins moderate, and the overall package, tasty. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2016 Jericho Canyon Vineyard “East Elevation” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco leaf. In the mouth, bright cherry and tobacco notes mix with cedar and green herbs. Excellent acidity keeps the wine bright and fresh and a touch of menthol lingers in the finish. Faint, powdery tannins hang in a gauzy haze around the palate and squeeze slightly through the finish. 14.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??

2016 Jericho Canyon Vineyard “West Wall” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of chocolate and black cherries. In the mouth, rich black cherry and cola flavors are juicy thanks to excellent acidity. Powdery tannins coat the mouth and notes of violets linger in the finish. A rich and powerful wine, but not over the top, and thankfully not slaked in oak either. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $??

2014 Laurel Glen “Sonoma Mountain Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of gunpowder, black tea, and black fruits. In the mouth, black cherry and earth are draped in a fleece blanket of tannins. Good acidity and length. Nutty notes linger in the finish. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $ 75. click to buy.

2015 Morgan “G17” Syrah, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of smoky blackberry and cola. In the mouth, faintly salty notes of blackberry and black cherry have a wonderful brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Juicy and delicious with smoky notes lingering in the finish 14.4% alcohol. 1192 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $ 22. click to buy.