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 cracker of a Chardonnay and then a bunch of reds. The single white in question (subconsciously leaning towards richer reds as the temperature drops here in the Bay Area?) was the single-vineyard effort from Williams Selyem‘s Lewis MacGregor Estate, and it was tingling with electric acidity. While it leans a touch ripe (clocking in at 14.8% alcohol) there was so much acidity in this wine to balance out the rich fruit that it still managed full refreshment and deliciousness. If you’re seeking high-end California Chardonnay (and willing to pay the tariff that goes with it) this is a wine for you.
This week, a number of us said a fond goodbye to Eileen Crane, who is stepping away from her long post as CEO of Domaine Carneros, and as part of that celebration I received a couple vintages of that Taittinger-owned sparkling estate’s Pinot Noir, both of which were distinctive and tasty.
I also received a number of wines from Aridus Wine Company, based in Arizona.
Yes, Arizona, and yes, they’re good.
The three Aridus I liked the best were their very pale and aromatic Grenache, their savory and citrusy Petite Sirah, and their admirably stony Tempranillo. Those seeking the wines will find them available for sale on their web site.
Somewhat randomly I have an aged McLaren Vale red blend from Wirra Wirra this week, which has that herbal minty quality that offers some freshness amidst ripe fruit.
And finally I’ve got two luxury blends from up on Napa’s famed Pritchard Hill courtesy of Brand Napa Valley. The first is their “Brio” red blend and the second is their flagship Proprietary Red. Both are admirable for their freshness and vivacity, though they lean a bit high-octane for my tastes. Nonetheless, they are well-balanced and will likely please those hunting top-tier Napa wines.
Notes on all these below.
2018 Williams Selyem “Lewis MacGregor Estate Vineyard” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and pineapple. In the mouth, gorgeously bright lemon curd and a hint of pineapple zing with excellent acidity. Notes of marmalade linger in the mouthwatering finish with just a hint of toasty oak. 14.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $90. click to buy.
2017 Domaine Carneros “Estate” Pinot Noir, Carneros, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry jam. In the mouth, rich cherry and cranberry compote flavors have a nice zip thanks to excellent acidity. On the richer side but with a nice brightness. The faintest powdery tannins ghost the edges of the palate while a touch of cedar lingers in the finish. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.
2018 Domaine Carneros “Estate” Pinot Noir, Carneros, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry and dried herbs. In the mouth, cherry and cranberry flavors have a nice savory herbal note to them with bright acidity that keeps the mouth-watering as notes of orange peel and cedar linger in the finish. Barely perceptible tannins.14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $49. click to buy.
2016 Aridus “Limited Production” Grenache, Arizona
Light ruby in the glass, almost to the point of being a rosé, this wine smells of strawberry jam. In the mouth, strawberry fruit and a touch of green olive juice make for a wonderfully savory berry quality that is compelling. Faint hints of dried herbs linger in the finish. Good acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $37.
2017 Aridus “Limited Production” Tempranillo, Arizona
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and a hint of bergamot. In the mouth, cherry and earth flavors have a tight, stony quality, as hints of herbs and dried citrus peel add to the mix. Excellent acidity. This wine feels a bit tightly wound and can do with both some aging in the bottle as well as some air upon opening. 13.3% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $40.
2017 Aridus “Limited Production” Petite Sirah, Arizona
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of toasted nuts and black plums. In the mouth, dark dried plum and black cherry flavors have a nice muscular, fine-grained tannic backbone and wonderfully bright orange-peel acidity. That roasted nut quality lingers in the finish along with stony minerality. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40.
2014 Wirra Wirra “Church Block” Red Blend, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and a touch of chocolate and mint. In the mouth, black cherry and black plum flavors mix with a touch of blackberry and fresh herbs. Excellent acidity keeps this wine fresh while faint tannins dust the edges of the mouth. A blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Shiraz, and 12% Merlot. 14.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $28. click to buy.
2016 Brand Napa Valley “Brio” Red Blend, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis. In the mouth, very polished flavors of black cherry and blackberry have a brightness thanks to excellent acidity and very restrained, powdery tannins that flex their muscles a bit during the finish. There’s a pretty remarkable freshness to this wine despite its substantial 15.4% alcohol, which shows up only as a faint evaporative spirit quality in the mouth. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $166. click to buy.
2017 Brand Napa Valley Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, wonderfully bright flavors of cherry, plum, tobacco, and herbs mix with hints of licorice and cocoa powder. Excellent acidity and balance despite the prodigious 15.4% alcohol, which leaves only the slightest heat in the finish. A blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Cabernet Franc. Score: around 9. Cost: $250. click to buy.