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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 6/7/20

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 past week included a bunch of new releases from Sojourn Cellars, a boutique producer in Sonoma County, mostly focused on Pinot Noir with a little bit of Chardonnay and Cabernet thrown in. Owners Craig Haserot and Erich Bradley bonded over their love of wine and tennis, and for 20 years they’ve been making small quantities of wine from some of Sonoma County’s top vineyard sites.

Two of the standout wines from Sojourn were the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Reuling Vineyard, planted with cuttings smuggled back from Burgundy in the early 2000s, and both are fantastic examples of the form. The Pinot in particular is a stunner, delicate, intense, gorgeously textured. Run don’t walk to find yourself some of that if you like California Pinot Noir.

Despite Cabernet Sauvignon being the wine that inspired Haserot and Bradley to start their project together, I don’t think I’ve ever actually had one of their Cabs, as I’ve always known Sojourn as a Pinot Noir project. The Oakville Cabernet I tasted this past week was quite pretty and very accessible for early drinking, but with the complexity that suggests it would also improve with age. I was pretty impressed.

I’ve also got a tranche of wines this week from Sonoma producer Dutton-Goldfield, including their Angel Camp Vineyard Pinot Noir which was my favorite among the group that I tasted this week.

One of the more unusual and exciting wines this week is a white Pinot Noir made by Emeritus Vineyards called “Hallberg Blanc” which is made in the blanc-de-noir method by pressing the Pinot grapes immediately and then fermenting the juice in concrete and neutral oak where it loses whatever little tinge of color it has and becomes a vibrant white wine that is as delicious as it is mysterious.

Sticking with Pinot Noir for just a little longer, I’ve got two wines from Oregon pioneer Sokol Blosser – their standard Estate cuvée and then their Orchard Block, which was far superior to my taste and a wonderful example of the finesse and delicacy that Willamette Valley Pinot Noir can have in the right hands. It’s definitely a very pretty wine.

Finally, after all that Pinot, I’ve got something darker and smokier to finish the list — a classic Amarone della Valpolicella from Famiglia Pasqua, a somewhat brash producer that’s been making wine in the Veneto since 1925 and more recently trying to be a bit more adventurous in their marketing. This wine, however is on the traditional side, made with dried Corvina grapes and quite well balanced despite its intensity.

All these and more below.

Tasting Notes:

2018 Sojourn Cellars “Reuling Vineyard” Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass this wine smells of cold cream and lemon curd. In the mouth, flavors of lemon curd, cold cream and candied grapefruit have a bright zing thanks to excellent acidity. Great persistence and length. Super yummy. The vineyard is planted with cuttings smuggled back from Montrachet in the early 2000s. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $69. click to buy.

2017 Emeritus “Hallberg Blanc” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale blonde in color, this wine smells of cherry and citrus. In the mouth, juicy bright citrusy lemon and grapefruit flavors have a fantastic zing thanks to excellent acidity. Hints of orange peel linger in the finish. Made from Pinot Noir in the blanc-de-noir style: pressed immediately off its skins and then fermented in concrete tanks and neutral barrels. Outstanding and delicious. 13.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2018 Sojourn Cellars “Rodgers Creek Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry and cranberry compote. In the mouth, wonderfully bright and juicy flavors of cherry and cranberry and pomegranate have an intense aromatic sweetness even as the wine finishes beautiful and dry, with a hint of dried herbs in the finish. Silky and gorgeous. 15% whole-cluster fermentation. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $48 . click to buy.

2018 Sojourn Cellars “Reuling Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dusty roads and bright cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, gorgeous raspberry pastille and cherry fruit have an intense brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Fantastic silkiness and an effortless soaring finish. Outstanding. This Pinot vineyard is planted with cuttings DRC and La Tache as well as the Calera clone of Pinot Noir. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $69. click to buy.

2018 Sojourn Cellars “Gap’s Crown Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cedar. In the mouth, the wine has a bright and juicy core thanks to excellent acidity, but there’s a faint hint of alcoholic heat on the wine. A touch of tannin. Cherry compote lingers in the finish. 10% whole-cluster fermentation. 14.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $69. click to buy.

2017 Sokol Blosser “Estate” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells faintly of struck match and leather along with red berries. In the mouth, flavors of red berries are tinged with a hint of leather and earth, with notes of dried herbs lingering in the finish. Decent acidity. Faint tannins. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $42. click to buy.

2017 Sokol Blosser “Orchard Block” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and hibiscus. In the mouth, delicate raspberry and floral flavors have a wonderful lacy acidity to them and notes of citrus and herbs that linger through the finish with faintly muscular tannins adding structure and grip. Very pretty and distinctive. 13.5% alcohol. 400 cases made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $72. click to buy.

2017 Dutton Goldfield “Docker Hill Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mendocino County, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cranberries. In the mouth, cherry and cedar flavors are bright with juicy acidity and linger with hints of dried herbs in a finish dusted with faint tannins. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $68. click to buy.

2017 Dutton Goldfield “Deviate” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cherry pie. In the mouth, sweet cherry flavors are shot through with oak and vanilla. Decent acidity but a bit too rich for my taste. Some will like the sweet fruit density here, however. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $72. click to buy.

2017 Dutton Goldfield “Angel Camp Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and dried flowers. In the mouth, raspberry and cherry flavors have a snappy brightness thanks to excellent acidity and a nice dusty road and dried herb underbelly that is very pretty. Faint, grippy tannins add structure to the wine and linger in the finish with a hint of citrus peel. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2017 Dutton Goldfield “Emerald Ridge Vineyard – Dutton Ranch” Pinot Noir, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry compote. In the mouth, cranberry and cherry fruit is shot through with orange peel citrus notes and comes across as zippy thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a cedary, earthy backdrop to the fruit that is pleasant and a touch dark. Faint tannins linger in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $64. click to buy.

2017 Emeritus “Pinot Hill” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry jam. In the mouth, juicy raspberry and cherry flavors have slightly softer acidity than I would like, but very pretty texture thanks to powdery tannins that drape like gauze over the core of fruit. A faint citrus note lingers in the finish. 13.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2016 Sojourn Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco and a touch of oak. In the mouth, very smooth cherry and tobacco notes mix with cola nut and very restrained tannins. Very smooth, and silky, with a mocha finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $79. click to buy.

2015 Famiglia Pasqua Amarone della Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy
Dark ruby in color with a touch of brick to it, this wine smells of cocoa powder and black cherries with a hint of smoke. In the mouth, intense black cherry, cassis and smoky herbs are gripped by fine-grained tannins even as they burst with vibrant acidity. Hints of chocolate-covered raisins linger in the finish. Made in the classic apassimento style with the (mostly Corvina) grapes dried for three months before fermentation. 15% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.