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 some really excellent Pinot Noirs among other things, but let’s start on the lighter side, shall we?
Last time I posted on social media about a really lousy California Sauvignon Blanc sample I received, all manner of people chimed in to poo-poo the entire category, which I think is unfair. There is some excellent California Sauvignon Blanc out there, as our first entry this week proves. The Sutro Wine Co. version from Alexander Valley is crisp and bright and quite delicious.
If you’re looking for something a bit more austere and mineral, you might consider the 2019 Perocorino Colline Pescaresi, which is just as fun to drink as it is to say. With its citrus pith and wet pavement crispness it’s a delightful wine to accompany many foods.
Let’s be honest. There aren’t many good rosés made in Napa. Or one might say that good Napa rosé is the exception rather than the rule. If so, then one of those exceptions is the Sullivan rosé of Malbec, which, while perhaps slightly less zippy than I would like, is nonetheless an excellent example of the form.
But, this week’s focus must certainly be Pinot Noir, the superstars of which are the two DuMOL bottling I’ve got notes for below. The Joy Road Single Vineyard Pinot Noir was the absolute star of the week and is a spectacular example of what that bit of the Sonoma Coast is capable of producing. It’s not cheap, and not easy to get your hands on, but if you’re in the habit of buying top tier California Pinot Noir, you can’t go wrong with this bottle.
In addition to Pinot, I’ve got a Tannat from Troon Vineyard in Oregon, which has a distinctive personality that can liven up anyone’s evening, especially if you’re tired of the same old red wine you’ve been drinking.
Scattered Peaks is a project put together by two wine industry veterans Derek Benham and Joel Aiken. Joel, who made wine at BV for many years, crafts the Scattered Peaks wines, which I’ve had several times, but this Small Lots bottling that I tasted this week is the best I’ve had from this project.
Finally, if you’re in the habit of supporting small producers, you might give a look at the Trotter 1/16 winery, run by another industry veteran Stephanie Trotter Zacharia, who is the only one of her 16 brothers and sisters who makes wine, hence the name of the winery. Zacharia has worked in the Napa wine industry for a long time, and finally saved up enough money to start her own little project and she’s getting good fruit from Coombsville to make her wines. Check them out.
Notes on all these and more below.
2019 Sutro Wine Co. “Warnecke Ranch” Sauvignon Blanc, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of apples and lemon pith. In the mouth, grapefruit and lemon and green apple flavors have a nice tart sweetness to them, beautifully balanced and tasty. Excellent acidity and decent length, this is what I think of when I think of good California Sauvignon Blanc. 13.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??
2019 La Valentina Pecorino Colline Pescaresi, Abruzzi, Italy
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells strongly of wet chalkboard and petrichor layered on top of lemon and lemon pith. In the mouth, lemon rind, citrus pith, and white flowers sit on top of a wonderfully chalky wet-pavement minerality that is quite compelling. Delicious. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2019 Sullivan Rosé of Malbec, Rutherford, Napa, California
Palest baby pink in color, this wine smells of sweet red berries. In the mouth, wonderfully bright flavors of cherry and redcurrant have a nice citrus kick to them. Silky textured despite not having quite as much acidity as it should, this is one of the better rosés I’ve had from Napa in recent memory. A breath of fresh air. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??
2018 Alma de Cattleya Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit has a faint sweetness to it. Notes of herbs and raspberry jam linger in the finish. Faintest tannins whisper in the background. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $28. click to buy.
2018 DuMOL “Joy Road Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of mountain raspberries and dried herbs and flowers. In the mouth, the wine has a crystalline brightness like raspberry icicles tinkling off a roof on a sunny day. Juicy with fantastic acidity, raspberry, raspberry leaf and herbal flavors soar through a long finish above the whisps of faintly billowing tannins. Killer. 14.1% alcohol. 420 cases produced. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $120. click to buy.
2018 DuMOL “Wester Reach” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry and raspberry fruit have a hint of cedar and brown sugar to it along with a dried herbal quality that emerges in the finish. Excellent acidity leaves citrusy notes lingering along with the faintest whisper of tannins. 14.1% alcohol. 4043 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.
2018 Beacon Hill Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and pomegranate with hints of dried herbs. In the mouth, juicy cherry and raspberry fruit have a nice herbal note to them even as the bright core takes on an almost candied aspect. Quite pretty, with well-integrated oak that peeks out from the finish. Excellent acidity and faint dusty tannins. 13.8% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $28.
2017 Troon Vineyard Tannat, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of forest floor, smoky leather and cherry. In the mouth, dark cherry and peaty or smoky notes give the wine both an earthy as well as a spicy, exotic wood quality. Chances are you’ve never had a wine that tastes like this. Quite distinctive. Very fine, powdery tannins hang at the edges of the mouth. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2017 Sutro Wine Co. “Warnecke Ranch” Merlot, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, plum and cola. In the mouth, flavors of black cherry and espresso also have a faint hint of gunflint to them. Leathery tannins grip the palate with moderate intensity as the juicy, plummy fruit lingers through a long finish. Excellent acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2017 Scattered Peaks “Small Lot” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Very dark garnet, even purple, in the glass, this wine smells of sweet black cherry fruit and kirsch. In the mouth, intense black cherry fruit has a wonderful minty cola quality that makes the wine quite expansive in the mouth, but also slightly high-toned and high-octane. Beautifully integrated wood and really powdery refined tannins. Excellent acidity. Give this wine a couple of years and it will really be singing. 14.8% alcohol. 450 cases made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $125. click to buy.
2016 Trotter 1/16 Winery “Oak Canyon Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville, Napa, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, juicy and bright cherry and tobacco notes mix with green herbs that lean towards almost minty in quality. There’s a touch of sweet oak that’s beautifully integrated into the wine. Medium-bodied and very nicely balanced with excellent acidity. Faint tannins. There’s a touch of heat from the 14.7% alcohol, but that doesn’t keep this from being damn tasty. 47 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $90. click to buy.