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 few more German Rieslings, including some from Rheingau producer Robert Weil, whose vineyards are shown above in a view from the terrace of their estate in Kiedrich. I’ve got three different incarnations of Riesling from Weil, beginning with their “off-dry” rendition of the grape that they bottle under the name “Tradition,” and then the traditional Kabinett and Spätlese versions as well, each progressively sweeter than the other. All three are worthy of your attention, but for me the Kabinett version just hit all the right marks with perfect balance and a near weightlessness in the glass.
I’ve also got a dry Riesling from Villa Wolf in Germany’s Pfalz region, and a single-vineyard Kabinett from Fritz Haag in the Mosel, which is excellent.
Closer to home I’ve got a Chardonnay that I almost didn’t review, so offensive is its packaging, but I’ve decided to review it both because the wine is decent and because I’d like to make the point that buying 1 kilogram thick glass bottles and then gluing a 3/8″ thick, three-dimensional metal label on it is both the height of tackiness and the nadir of environmental stewardship. I shudder to think what a case of The Calling Chardonnay might weigh, but it’s likely to give some poor warehouse worker a hernia, and singlehandedly raise the temperature of the planet, so deep is its carbon footprint. The Calling is a joint project between former CBS sports commentator Jim Nantz and Peter Deutsch, founder and CEO of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits. This bottle is part of their “Platinum Teir” of wines (insert eyeroll here). Guys, there are plenty of ways to connote luxury without quadrupling your carbon footprint. Please make it stop.
Stepping back off the soap box, I’ve got two nice Syrahs for you—one from Qupé, an estate that put Syrah on the map in California, and one from a little producer in Marin named Kendrick vineyards. Both are worthy of attention.
Finally this week I’ve got one of the more affordable wines made by the popular Washington State producer Quilceda Creek. This mostly Cabernet Sauvignon wine is juicy and dark and delicious, not to mention about half the price of many of their other wines.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy.
2018 Robert Weil “Tradition” Riesling, Rheingau, Germany
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of star fruit and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, juicy flavors of Asian pear and tangerine oil mix with white flowers and a wonderful wet chalkboard minerality. Only faintly sweet. 10.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2018 Robert Weil Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau, Germany
Palest, near colorless greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apples, Asian pears and citrus pith. In the mouth, beautifully floral flavors of honeysuckle have a weightlessness to them that is quite arresting, as the lightly sweet flavors seem to billow away across the palate in a cloud. Lovely. 9.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $26. click to buy.
2018 Robert Weil Riesling Spätlese, Rheingau, Germany
Palest greenish gold, near colorless in the glass, this wine smells of sweet star fruit and celery with a hint of white flowers. In the mouth, silky flavors of Asian pear, white flowers and honey have a more delicate acidity than I would like. Lightly sweet with a distinct wet chalkboard minerality that creeps into the finish. 9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $38. click to buy.
2018 Villa Wolf “Wachenheimer Dry” Riesling, Pfalz, Germany
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of sweet white flowers and star fruit. In the mouth, a slight petillance prickles the front of the tongue as flavors of white flowers and green apples slide silkily across the palate. The acidity is delicate and slightly less bright than I would like. No real trace of sweetness. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2018 Fritz Haag “Brauneberger Juffer” Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of citrus oil, white flowers, and a hint of paraffin. In the mouth, lightly sweet flavors of honeysuckle, Asian pear and mandarin oranges in syrup are backed by a chalky, wet pavement minerality that lingers through an airy, floral finish. Excellent. 9% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $28. click to buy.
2017 The Calling “Platinum Series – Sullivan Vineyard – Dutton Ranch” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of cold cream and pineapple and white flowers. In the mouth, flavors of lemon curd and cold cream have a nice silky complexion and well-integrated oak signature. I wish there was a bit more acidity but other than that, it’s a competent California Chardonnay, but for the bottle. 13.5% alcohol. 500 cases of obnoxiously heavy bottles with horribly grotesque and ostentatious 3D metal labels made. Please stop that shit. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $51. click to buy.
2017 Kendric Vineyards Syrah, Petaluma Gap, Marin County, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of meaty cassis and blackberries with an herbal brambly note on top. In the mouth, powdery tannins clasp flavors of blackberry and black cherry and ever so gradually put on the squeeze as the wine finishes with herbal and floral notes. Excellent acidity. 13.7% alcohol. 125 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $28.
2018 Qupé Syrah, Central Coast, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of white pepper, blueberries and blackberries. In the mouth, a touch of woodsmoke mixes with earth and blue and black fruits. Faint, powdery tannins give the wine some muscle, but they are supple and smooth. Decent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. 5050 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $22 . click to buy.
2017 Quilceda Creek “CVR” Red Blend, Columbia Valley, Washington
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of plum and black cherry with a faint nuttiness. In the mouth, rich black cherry and plum flavors have a beautiful supple tannin musculature. Excellent acidity and silky texture round out a fairly sensual wine. Contains 3% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc. 14.8% alcohol Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.