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 incarnation of Randall Grahm’s “Le Cigare Blanc,” the white analogue to his “Le Cigare Volant” Red Wine. Grahm has recently revamped the Cigare Volant lineup to focus on three wines, one white, one red, and one rosé, with different blends and lower pricing, with the idea of simplifying what has been a complicated (and unfortunately unprofitable) lineup in recent years. This new white blend includes Vermentino along with the usual Grenache Blanc, and remains quite tasty.
Next I’ve got what might be one of the best value Chardonnays made in California — the entry-level Sonoma Coast bottling from Macrostie vineyards, which offers zippy brightness and fantastic flavors, all for just under twenty bucks.
I can also recommend a really nice Verdicchio from Garafoli in Italy’s Marche region, which will delight anyone looking for food friendly flavors that can help you get out of your Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay rut.
It’s still rosé season (for the next 364 days) so you’ll definitely want a bottle like the Domaine de Cala “Prestige” lying around. Juicy and bright, crisp and fruity, but not sweet, this is a pitch-perfect-Provence-porch-pounder.
Moving on to perhaps more serious bottles, I’ve got two more of the newest releases from Felton Road, their Calvert and Bannockburn Pinot Noirs, which are both outstanding. I also got a chance to taste a 2014 bottle of the Block 3 which is in lovely shape.
Two Chiantis from Selvapiana joined the lineup this week, their standard Chianti Rufina and their Riserva as well.
Lastly, I’ve got two single-vineyard Syrahs from David Ramey, who has made something of a name for himself with his Syrahs. These two felt a little on the ripe side to me, but are quite tasty and worthwhile nonetheless.
Notes for all these below.
2018 Bonny Doon Vineyard “Le Cigare Blanc” White Blend, Central Coast, California
Light gold in color, this wine smells of greengage plums, a hint of melon and a touch of wet chalkboard. In the mouth, green apple and pear flavors mix with a hint of melon and some floral notes. A light citrus pith bitterness lingers in the finish. A newly formulated blend of 54% Grenache Blanc and 46% Vermentino. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2017 Macrostie Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California
Light yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and white flowers with a hint of melted butter. In the mouth, wonderfully bright flavors of lemon curd, grapefruit juice and cold cream are sizzling with excellent acidity. Crisp and zippy but with some nice richness of fruit. 14.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $19. click to buy.
2016 Garofoli “Podium” Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore DOC, Marche, Italy
Light yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of poached pears and crème anglaise. In the mouth, beautiful pear and lemon flavors are spiced with lemongrass and chamomile. Electric acidity and a chalky minerality round out a delicious package. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $27. click to buy.
2018 Domaine de Cala “Prestige” Rosé, Coteaux Varois, Provence, France
Palest salmon pink in color, this wine smells of berries and watermelon rind. In the mouth, silky flavors of berries and melon rind have a cantaloupe and citrus note that lingers pleasantly in the finish. Crisp bright and perfectly balanced. A blend of 40% Grenache, 29% Syrah, 16% Rolle, and 15% Cinsault. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $28. click to buy.
2017 Felton Road “Calvert” Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dusty road and cherry and cranberry compote. In the mouth, silky flavors of bright cherry and raspberry fruit is dusted with a faint texture of tannins and shot through with a dried herb savory quality that lingers in the finish with hints of citrus peel. Excellent acidity. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2018 Felton Road “Bannockburn” Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of dried herbs and flowers, wet wood, and raspberries. In the mouth, flavors of herbs and pine duff mix with raspberry and sour cherry notes. Hints of dried licorice root linger in the finish with a touch of bitter orange. Excellent acidity and the faintest of tannins. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2014 Felton Road “Block 3” Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
A cloudy medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of red apple skin and red miso paste. In the mouth, cherry and raspberry fruit has notes of cedar, red apple skin and dried herbs. Faint dusty tannins brush the edges of the mouth and wonderful acidity keeps the wine brisk in the mouth. Hints of dried orange peel and potpourri linger in the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $132.
2016 Fattoria Selvapiana Chianti Rufina, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry and cherry fruit with a hint of cedar. In the mouth, juicy strawberry and cherry flavors are wrapped in a suede-like coat of tannins. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit fresh and bright through the long cedar-and-dry-herb-scented finish. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2015 Fattoria Selvapiana “Vigneto Bucerchiale Riserva” Chianti Rufina, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of dried cherries and sawdust. In the mouth, wonderfully herbal notes of dried cherries and cedar mix with dried flowers. Excellent, bright acidity keeps the wine fresh and leathery tannins buff the edges of the mouth. Notes of rosemary linger in the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.
2015 Ramey Wine Cellars “Cole Creek Vineyard” Syrah, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and blackberry. In the mouth, flavors of black cherry, blackberry and black olive have a faint white pepper smokiness to them. Nicely savory with decent-seeming, if slightly low acidity. Would like a bit more snap here, but the flavors are hard to dislike. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2015 Ramey Wine Cellars “Rodgers Creek Vineyard” Syrah, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich blackberry and black cherry fruit. In the mouth, rich black cherry and blackberry flavors emerge through a fine blizzard of powdery tannins that coat the mouth. Decent acidity that I wish was stronger to push the very tasty fruit into a brighter, juicier place. Has a dark, brooding aspect. Hints of dry herbs in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.