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 a couple of Chilean Chardonnays from the venerable and consistent producer Veramonte. Their “Ritual” Chardonnays are organically farmed and generally offer excellent value for the money. Both were in typical form offering a balance between citrus and buttery notes.
From a bit further afield came a nice bottle of Grillo from Sicilian producer Tasca D’Almerita. Grillo is the traditional grape used to make the fortified Marsala wine in Sicily, but it can also be a fresh and bright wine when picked on the earlier side and treated well, as this one has been. It offers pretty, green flavors with notes with white flowers and melon.
Whenever I drink pink Champagne, I think to myself, I really should drink more of this. And when I taste a good one, I kick myself for not owning more. The Bruno Paillard is a wonderful example of the form, offering crisp mineral flavors imbued with berries and citrus notes.
Merry Edwards has been known as California’s “Queen of Pinot” for a long time, and with good reason. She has been working with the grape for decades longer than many winemakers now famous for making the grape. Her Sonoma Coast bottling is on the richer side of California Pinot Noir, but if you like lush fruit in the glass, you’ll enjoy this bright cherry and cranberry expression of the Sonoma Coast.
As long as we’re talking about the old guard of California wine, Gary Farrell also belongs in that list, champion as he was of the Russian River Valley and its potential for Pinot Noir. These days the Gary Farrell wines are made by winemaker Theresa Heredia, and the two Pinots they sent through are bursting with flavor and juicy acidity. I recommend them both.
And finally, for those in a spendy mood, I opened the Cardinale Cabernet this week, an icon wine of Napa, and a jewel in the crown of the Kendall Jackson wine empire. This little estate on a knoll in Oakville makes a single wine each year under the steady hand of Chris Carpenter, who crafts highly polished wines that embody the quintessential power and elegance that people expect from Napa’s best wines. If you pay $300 or more for bottles of Napa wine, this is one to consider.
Notes on all these wines below.
2016 Veramonte “Ritual” Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of melted butter, butterscotch and candied lemon rind. In the mouth, butterscotch, candied lemon and citrus pith flavors have a distinct minerality and decent acidity. Average finish. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $21. click to buy.
2017 Veramonte “Ritual” Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of melted butter and lemon curd. In the mouth, lemon curd, citrus pith, and grapefruit notes mix with a touch of melted butter. Good acidity and length. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5 . Cost: $21. click to buy.
2018 Tasca d’Almerita “Mozia” Grillo, Sicily, Italy
Palest green-gold in the glass with a bright shine, this wine smells of green melon and white flowers. In the mouth, green apple, celery, star fruit and white floral flavors have a silky texture and a delicate acidity. Notes of honeydew melon linger in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $24. click to buy.
NV Bruno Paillard “Premiere Cuvee” Rosé, Champagne, France
Pale salmon pink in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of sea air, wet chalkboard, cherries and citrus pith. In the mouth, rosehips, citrus peel and wet pavement flavors mix with a nice cherry-berry backbone as laser precise acidity makes the mouth water through a long finish. Excellent. 12% alcohol. Disgorged July 2018. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $59. click to buy.
2017 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry pie and wet earth. In the mouth, sweet cherry and raspberry jam notes are juicy with very good acidity. Ripe and lush, with faint dusty tannins. Hints of herbs linger in the finish. This wine would have been in the middle of the pack when it came to ripeness 15 years ago, but now it seems awfully ripe compared to the leaner style of Pinot Noir being made on the Sonoma Coast. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2017 Gary Farrell “Russian River Selection” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cherry and cranberries. In the mouth, intense cherry and cranberry compote flavors have a bright aromatic sweetness to them even as a cedary, slightly bitter note lingers in the finish. Good acidity. 13.7% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $34. click to buy.
2016 Gary Farrell “Hallberg Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry compote and flowers. In the mouth, cranberry and cherry notes have a wonderful tangy snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. Very pretty citrus peel notes linger in the long finish. Juicy and delicious. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $54. click to buy.
2016 Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Inky purple in the glass, this wine smells of ripe black cherry and cassis and a hint of new oak. In the mouth, lush ripe black cherry and cassis flavors are quite light on their feet thanks to excellent acidity. Gorgeous tobacco and cola notes swirl amidst velvety tannins. There’s a faint heat in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $325. click to buy.