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 release of the signature Vermentino from Troon Vineyard in Oregon’s Applegate valley, with its yellow herbs and tangy, bright acidity, it’s a fresh, individualistic expression of Vermentino.
I haven’t had a lot of Chardonnays from Germany, so it might not be grand praise to suggest that this one from Bernard Huber is the best I’ve had, but leaving all relative comparisons aside, it’s pretty damn good, and would never be pegged as German in any blind tasting lineup, thanks to its sappy and lemony expression.
Provence rosÉs are hot right now, and the entry level version from Domaine de Cala has most of the qualities people are enjoying in these pale crisp wines, albeit with a little more bitterness than I would like.
The real stars of this week’s sample tasting were the single-vineyard bottlings of Pinot Noir from Felton Road, one of New Zealand’s top Pinot Noir producers. These wines represent pinnacles of the Otago expression of Pinot Noir, and clearly demonstrate this producer’s mastery of their sites and farming in recent years.
Before leaving the Pinots behind, I’ve also got a German Pinot that is worthy of attention, from Gunther Steinmetz. It’s a bit evolved, but no less delicious for its aged qualities that give it a wonderful elegance.
On the way to more concentrated reds, Alois Lageder has some Schiava on offer this week, which was denied status to be labeled as Alto Adige as it supposedly did not conform to the tasting panels definition of Alto Adige Schiava. Henceforth it will be labeled as Vingeti delle Dolomiti.
I’ve got a couple of additional Italian reds to offer notes on this week, beginning with a very mellow Refosco that strikes me as a fantastic pizza wine, and a really lovely red that shows not all good wines from Chianti are always Sangiovese. In fact, the Villa Petrognano is a majority Sangiovese, but the inclusion of Merlot and Cabernet forces it into the lesser known Pomino IGT designation. But no matter, it’s delicious no matter where it’s from or how it’s labeled.
All these and more below.
2018 Troon Vineyard Vermentino, Applegate Valley, Oregon
Palest yellow gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and bee pollen. In the mouth, tangy acidophilus and lemon flavors are tinged with chamomile and other yellow herbal notes. Citrus pith and herbs linger in the finish. Excellent acidity and length. 12.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2016 Bernhard Huber “Malterdinger Alte Reben” Chardonnay, Baden, Germany
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and lemon zest. In the mouth, tangy, resinous flavors of lemon curd and lemon oil are electrically neon yellow thanks to fantastic acidity. Mouthwatering candied lemon and grapefruit linger in the finish. Outstanding. This might well be the best German Chardonnay I’ve ever had. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $32. click to buy.
2018 Domaine de Cala Rosé, Coteaux Varois, Provence, France
Palest salmon pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon rind and citrus peel. In the mouth, silky flavors of citrus peel and crabapples have a brisk snap thanks to excellent acidity. Hints of crabapple bitterness linger in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $17. click to buy.
2018 Felton Road “Block 3” Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully crystalline flavors of cherry and raspberry have a hint of cedar and floral perfume to them. Gorgeously textured and wonderfully long in the mouth. Excellent acidity. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $68. click to buy.
2018 Felton Road “Cornish Point” Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of lush cherry fruit and a hint of fresh cut herbs. In the mouth, wonderfully bright redcurrant and sour cherry flavors have a fantastic zing to them thanks to phenomenal acidity. Sour cherry and orange peel brightness linger in the finish with a floral raspberry top note that is gorgeous. Very faint tannins. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $52. click to buy.
2015 G&uum;nther Steinmetz “Unfiltered” Pinot Noir, Mosel, Germany
Pale orange-ruby in the glass, this wine smells of red apple skin, cedar and potpourri. In the mouth, dried cherry and cedar notes mix with mulling spices and dried cranberries. Wonderfully lithe, with excellent acidity, but quite evolved for only being three years old. Drink up now, with great enjoyment. 12% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2018 Alois Lageder Schiava, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Italy
Light ruby in color, this wine smells of beer and strawberries. In the mouth, tangy strawberry fruit continues to have a hoppy beer-like tang, as excellent acidity and crackling minerality make for a fresh and brisk finish to the wine. Easy to drink. 11% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2013 Valter Scarbolo Refosco, Venezia Giulia, Italy
Very dark ruby in color, this wine smells of roasted figs and black cherries. In the mouth, smooth flavors of fig, black cherry and prune have a tangy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. The faintest of powdery tannins linger in the finish with orange peel citrusy notes that are quite appealing. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $39. click to buy.
2014 Fattoria Selvapiana “Villa Petrognano – 300 Anni Edizione Speciale” Red Blend, Pomino, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of pencil shavings and cherry cola. In the mouth, cherry cola flavors are shot through with cedar and graphite notes. Excellent acidity brings a wonderful brisk freshness to the wine, along with a minty note that lingers faintly in the finish. Tasty. Mostly Sangiovese with added components of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. 14% alcohol and an excellent value. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.