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 bunch of lovely white wines starting with an absolutely pitch perfect dry Riesling from Pewsey Vale in Australia’s Eden Valley. This Riesling is grown in a vineyard that was first planted to Riesling in 1847, the earliest such planting of the variety in the country. The estate now specializes in single-site Rieslings, and does a bang-up job of it. At $15, this Eden Valley bottling is a complete steal.
I’ve got a couple of wines from the little Oregon producer Big Table Farm this week, the first of which is their skin-macerated Pinot Gris which, like many orange wines, offers beautifully seasonal Autumn-like flavors with a lovely tannic grip to them that makes this a fantastic wine to drink with a meal.
This week also included Big Table’s Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay, which offers beautifully herbal and citrus qualities that will charm most drinkers.
In the Chardonnay category I’ve got a few more, including the bottling from Lange Estate Vineyards and Winery, which has a nice resinous note, and two Anderson Valley Chardonnays from cult producer Rhys Vineyards. The first is their regional bottling they call “Alesia” which is a blend of grapes from their various vineyards, which is quite nice. Rhys, of course, is best known for its single-vineyard bottling, like the Bearwallow Chardonnay, which has an elegant delicacy to it and intense lemon and floral qualities.
Lastly, before we move on to rosier things, I’ve got a Viognier from Yalumba, which has a wonderful orange-peel quality that is somewhat rare in the usually-peachy world of Viognier.
Many people are waking up to understand that Germany can produce excellent Pinot Noir, and that means that they can also produce excellent Pinot Noir rosé, as this entry-level bottling from Wittmann shows. It’s crisp and bright and perfect for any situation in which you’d want a rosé, which is to say, nearly everything.
Finally, let’s look at some Pinot Noir before we go this week, the first of which is the Sunnyside Pinot from Big Table Farm. This small biodynamic family farm has been producing some truly excellent wines from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and this most recent bottling of their Sunnyside Pinot is a perfect example of what makes them special: gorgeous, soaring aromatics, savory nuance, finesse, and balance. If you’re not familiar with the wines, they’re well worth seeking out.
I’ve also got the Pinot counterpart to Rhys’ Alesia Chardonnay above, which is just as worthy a bottling, plus Lange’s “Three Hills” blend of Pinot Noir from various sites around the Willamette Valley, which is also tasty.
2018 Pewsey Vale Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of green apple, wet chalkboard and a tiny hint of diesel. In the mouth, brilliant tangerine zest and lemon juice flavors shimmer crystalline on the palate. Bone dry and effortless. Quite delicious. This vineyard was first planted to Riesling in 1847. 12% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2019 Big Table Farm Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon
A beautifully coppery orange in the glass, this wine smells of wet autumn leaves and earth. In the mouth, wet leaves, dried citrus peel and pear flavors have a nice tannic backbone thanks to the time on the skins. 13% alcohol. 133 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $32. click to buy.
2018 Rhys Vineyards “Alesia” Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith and a touch of meyer lemon blossom. In the mouth, lemon juice, lemon pith and pink grapefruit flavors have a brisk zippiness thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of citrus pith linger in the finish. Mouthwatering. 12.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45.
2018 Rhys Vineyards “Bearwallow Vineyard” Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of bee pollen, lemon pith, and grapefruit pith. In the mouth, meyer lemon curd and pink grapefruit flavors are silky and suffused with notes of white flowers. Delicate acidity. Named after the shale soil series in the vineyard: Wolfey-Bearwallow). 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $90. click to buy.
2018 Big Table Farm Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and a hint of pineapple. In the mouth chamomile, lemon curd and grapefruit pith have a zingy, mouthwatering brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Wonderful herbal notes linger through the finish which has a slightly saline character. Lovely. 14.1% alcohol. 90 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2017 Lange Winery Chardonnay, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, pink grapefruit and a hint of pine resin. In the mouth, tangy lemon and grapefruit flavors have a hint of resinous salinity to them. Notes of bitter lemon and pomelo pith linger in the finish. Excellent acidity and a nice wet pavement minerality. 13.4% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2018 Yalumba “The Y Series” Viognier, South Australia
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of peaches and apricots with a hint of orange peel. In the mouth, apricot and orange peel flavors have a nice briskness thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a faint citrus peel bitterness in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2018 Wittmann “100 Hills” Rose of Pinot Noir, Rheinhessen, Germany
Pale baby pink in color, this wine smells of rosehips and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, crababpple and rosehip flavors have a tart dryness with notes of citrus pith. Bright and juicy thanks to excellent acidity with a chalky minerality lingering in the finish. 11.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??
2018 Big Table Farm “Sunnyside Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of the forest floor. In the mouth, wonderful cherry and cranberry notes mix with forest floor and citrusy dried herbs. Silky texture and great length. Faint, supple, powdery tannins. The aromatics on this wine are quite astonishing revealing layers of herbs and dried flowers. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.
2018 Rhys Vineyards “Alesia” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of redwood bark, cherry and cranberry. In the mouth, bright cranberry and raspberry flavors have a faintly candied note to them, but are enlivened with excellent acidity and shot through with a faint dried herbal note. Fresh and juicy. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2017 Lange Winery “Three Hills Cuvee” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry with a hint of green herbs. In the mouth, bright cherry and cranberry flavors are shot through with chopped herbs and a touch of cedar. Pretty, with faint tannins and excellent acidity. 14.2% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.