12752583.8dd5717.f9fa67b0364f4fe4afb3ae22e720ae58

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 12/8/19

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 we’re going to start with bubbles and end with bubbles, and sandwich a few things in between.

Let’s begin with a trio of Champagnes, all of which I can recommend highly. The first is the relatively entry-level bottling from Palmer and Company, which is pretty darn good for being less than $50. Likewise the basic non-vintage extra brut from Bruno Paillard is also excellent at a $45 tariff.

If you want to step it up a bit, however, I highly recommend the Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, which offers a wonderful balance between precision and richness with all the gorgeous biscuity tones that can come from Chardonnay treated well in Champagne.

And before we detour away from bubbles, I’ve got a cheap and cheerful rosé for you from Lombardy, which is a blend of the local grape Grasparossa and Pinot Noir and is pretty much strawberries and cream in the glass.

Moving on to red wines, we’re going to head up to Mendocino County and the Anderson Valley to check out some new releases from Maggie Hawk winery, which one of the brands under the Jackson Family Wines portfolio. All the wines are distinctive and interesting and worth tasting for sure.

Heading over the hills and a bit south to Napa, we can stop in and taste an experiment from Peju Province winery, which has added some American oak to their barrel regime for this wine (hence the name) and with somewhat predictable results. But it’s a fine example of Napa Cabernet.

And even though Napa is Cabernet Country, some folks still try other grapes. This week we can see what Sangiovese does in the hands of Pope Valley Winery.

Last but not least, let’s throw some bubbles into red wine shall we? I’ve got two Lambruscos to share this week from Cleto Chiarli, both offering the savory, wet chalkboard dryness that marks the higher quality bottlings of this cheerful Italian wine. Pizza anyone?

Notes for all these below.

NV Palmer & Co “Brut Reserve,” Champagne, France
Light yellow gold in the glass with moderately fine bubbles, this wine smells of toasted brioche, struck match, and sea air. In the mouth, toasty oak and baked apple flavors. Saline notes and citrus peel linger in the finish. 12% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $49. click to buy.

NV Bruno Paillard “Premiere Cuvee – Extra Brut,” Champagne, France
Light gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of baked apples, wet chalkboard, and sea air. In the mouth, a silky mousse delivers delicate flavors of baked apples, seawater, and a hint of citrus, all leavened with a deep wet pavement minerality. Wonderfully stony. Excellent acidity. Disgorged September 2017. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

NV Bruno Paillard “Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs” Chardonnay, Champagne, France
Light gold in the glass, with moderately fine bubbles, this wine smells of apples and sea air. In the mouth, a voluminous, soft mousse delivers flavors of toasted brioche, sea air, and crisp fuji apples lightly fried with a little butter. Wonderfully bright and crisp on the palate, with delicious salinity. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

NV Cleto Chiarli “Brut de Noir Rosé” Red Blend, Lombardy, Italy
A bright baby pink in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of strawberries and cream. In the mouth, an extremely creamy mousse delivers flavors of strawberries and cream that, frankly, I wish had more acidity, but which are nonetheless quite pleasant and pure. A blend of 85% Grasparossa and 15% Pinot Noir. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5 . Cost: $18. click to buy.

2017 Maggy Hawk “Jolie” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, raspberry and cherry flavors are bright and dusted with powdery tannins. Good acidity brings a citrus peel quality to the sour cherry in the finish. Decent acidity. The tannins grow in strength as the wine lingers with hints of cedar. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2017 Maggy Hawk “Stormin'” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of ripe cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, juicy cherry and cranberry flavors have a nice zing to them thanks to excellent acidity. Powdery tannins creep around the edges of the mouth and a note of black tea and cedar lingers in the finish. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2017 Maggy Hawk “Unforgettable” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of slightly sweaty socks and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, cranberry and raspberry flavors have a hint of barnyard to them and are wrapped in a gauzy but muscular skein of tannins. Good acidity. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2017 Maggy Hawk “Afleet” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, tightly wound tannins wrap flavors of cherry, cedar, and wet earth. There’s a hint of bitter orange as the wine finishes. This one needs a bit of time. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2016 Peju Province Winery “The Experiment” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of nutty cherry and cola. In the mouth, cherry and cola nut flavors mix with a hint of whiskey barrel. Muscular, fine grained tannins close the fruit in a tight and tightening fist, drying out the mouth slightly as they flex their muscles. But the cherry brightness shines through regardless. Give this one a couple of years in the cellar. Aged in 80% French, 20% American oak. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $110. click to buy.

2016 Pope Valley Winery Sangiovese, Napa Valley, California
Medium ruby in the glass with hints of orange or brick emerging at the rim, this wine smells of dried cherries and raisins. In the mouth, cherry and strawberry flavors are slightly towards the dried fruit end of the spectrum, but are still bright with acidity. Little trace of oak mars the wine which is a nice change of pace for California Sangiovese. Worth drinking for sure. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $36. click to buy.

NV Cleto Chiarli “Vigneto Cialdini” Red Blend, Grasparossa de Castelvetro Secco, Lambrusco, Lombardy, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in the glass with extremely fine bubbles, this wine smells of struck match and cassis. In the mouth, a soft mousse delivers flavors of cassis and blackberry in a wonderfully stony, wet chalkboard minerality and without a hint of sweetness. Wonderfully dry with savory herb notes lingering in the finish. 11% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2018 Cleto Chiarli “Vecchia Modena Premium” Red Blend, Lambrusco di Sorba Secco, Lambrusco, Lombardy, Italy
Light ruby in the glass with medium bubbles, this wine smells of cranberry and pomegranate. In the mouth, a course mousse delivers herbal flavors of pomegranate, rosemary and tart sour cherries. Dry and crisp, leaving a chalky note on the palate, this is a wine that stimulates thirst. Tasty. 11% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $17. click to buy.