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 pretty eclectic mix of wines as a way of changing it up from last week’s German Riesling extravaganza.
The first and most exciting wine I have to share with you this week is a fantastic white blend from an old farm in the Barraida region of Portugal, which sits on the Atlantic coast of the country, south of the town of Porto. Owned by the Guedes family that runs Aveleda winery, this old estate known as Quinta d’Aguieira is being rehabilitated to make higher-end wines, and if this white and the red they also sent along this week are any indication, it’s going to be an impressive project. In particular, the white wine, which is dominated by the traditional Portuguese variety Maria Gomes, tastes like very few white wines that most people encounter in the course of wine drinking. If you’re looking for something very much off the beaten path of flavor, I highly recommend it, though it is just hitting the market, and may not be easy to find for a little while. The family also sent along a library bottle of the estate’s traditional red wine, which I’ve also got notes on below.
As long as we’re in Portugal, it’s worth noting the other Portuguese wine I’ve got in the lineup this week, an Alicante-Bouschet-dominated blend from Carmim, a regional cooperative winery in the Alentejo region. If you’re looking for an excellent value red wine to change up your daily drinking, this might be an excellent bet.
Now let’s take a little trip to the weird side of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where Bree and Chad Stock have decided to start an exceedingly clever-named project called Limited Addition, which makes, yes, limited editions of wines made with limited additions, from not the usual suspects in the Willamette Valley. And thereby they win the natural winery naming contest for ever and ever.
Ltd+ FTW, eh? They’ve got three oddball wines in the lineup this week, a botrytized-but-completely-dry Chenin Blanc, a carbonically macerated glou-glou version of Cabernet Franc, and then a third wine that is sold under the label of David Hill Wines, which is something of an unholy blend of skin-macerated Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris that would have Jean-Michel Deiss dancing a jig naked in the rain with an amphora under each arm. All three are distinctive and quite interesting if you lean towards the geeky side of wine.
Staying with the theme of not-the-usual-suspects, let’s spend a moment with the wonderfully fresh skin-fermented Trousseau Gris from Two Shepherds Winery, a wine that I daresay Willam Allen has perfected at this point. If you have yet to experience the magic of this grape variety with a little time on the skins, do yourself the favor of finding a bottle. Allen also continues to expand away from the mainstream with his Pinot Meunier bottling, which is a wonderfully tangy treat.
And last, but not least, I’ve got a Pinot Noir from Woodenhead, a tiny producer run by Nik Stez and Zina Bower that seems to make all sorts of little bits and bobs of wine in addition to their core focus on Pinot Noir, and more recently, sparkling wines.
Notes on all these wines below.
2017 Aveleda “Arco d’Aguieira” White Blend, Bairrada, Portugal
Palest greenish-bronze in color, this wine smells of star fruit, sweet celery, and white flowers. In the mouth, finger lime, linalool, and star fruit flavors are silky on the tongue and lean heavily floral, as fantastic acidity makes the mouth water. Notes of jasmine flower linger in the finish along with finger lime and lemon cucumber. Exotic and distinctive, not to mention delicious. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $25
2019 Limited Addition “Eola Springs Vineyard – Noble Dry” Chenin Blanc, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light citrine in color, this wine smells of apricot and orange peel. In the mouth, intense dried apricot and candied orange peel flavors are silky on the tongue and leave the mouth coated in an intensely aromatic saffron and beeswax flavor but without a trace of sweetness. Notes of apricot linger in the finish. Idiosyncratic and intense. Made with late-harvested, botrytis-affected Chenin Blanc, fermented slowly outdoors with ambient yeasts for months, and aged in neutral oak. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.
2019 David Hill Winery “Wirtz Estate – 6000 BC” White Blend, Tulatin Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
A light peachy pink in color, this wine smells of orange peels, flower petals, pear, and a hint of bubble gum. In the mouth, the wine is silky, even heavy on the palate, but with enough acidity to give it lift. Flavors of citrus peel and stone fruit mix with a touch of wet leaves and creme anglaise. An unusual blend of 60% Gewürztraminer and 40% Pinot Gris fermented on the skins. Needs cheese. Aged in French oak for 10 months following fermentation. 13.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??
2019 Two Shepherds “Fanucchi Vineyard – Skin Fermented” Trousseau Gris, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
A light coppery-peach color in the glass, this wine smells of grapefruit zest, a touch of struck match, and cloudberries. In the mouth, flavors of cloudberry, peach, and blood orange are wonderfully bright with excellent acidity. Clean and crisp with a hint of herbal notes and citrus peel in the finish. Ferments on the skins for 5 days. 12.3% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2018 Two Shepherds “Hopkins Vineyard” Pinot Meunier, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry and tangerine peel. In the mouth, tart sour cherry and cranberry flavors mix with orange peel and kumquat. Excellent acidity and the barest wisp of tannins brush the edges of the mouth, as that kumquat note lingers through the finish. 12.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2016 Woodenhead “Wiley Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cedar and cranberry with chopped green herbs. In the mouth, roasted fig and red apple skin mix with raspberry jam and notes of wet earth. Good acidity leaves notes of orange peel in the finish, along with the faint suede of tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2019 Limited Addition “Eola Springs Vineyard Field Blend” Cabernet Franc, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of boysenberry and black cherry with that hint of banana that can come from carbonic maceration. In the mouth, the wine is bright and crunchy with black cherry and plum flavors mixed into a hint of herbs and spice. Fantastic acidity and faint tannins give lift and texture. Quite smashable, in modern somm parlance. The “field blend” here refers to three different clones of Cabernet Franc. 12% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2014 Carmim “Reguengos Garrafeira Dos Socios” Red Blend, Alentejo DOC, Portugal
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of boysenberry, black tea, and blackcurrant. In the mouth, fresh black currant, boysenberry, and cedar flavors have a nice freshness thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of black tea and forest floor linger with leathery tannins in the finish. A blend of 65% Alicante Bouschet, 20% Touriga Nacional and 15% Tinta Caiada. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $38.
2016 Aveleda “Arco d’Aguieira” Touriga Nacional, Bairrada, Portugal
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of struck match, black cherry, black plum, and mulling spices. In the mouth, rich black plum and black cherry flavors mix with a touch of citrus peel, black tea, and earth. Excellent acidity and faint, taut tannins. Contains 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Tina Roriz. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??
2007 Aveleda “Quinta D’Aguieira Estate” Red Blend, Bairrada, Portugal
Dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cigar box, forest floor, and dark fruits. In the mouth, pencil lead, licorice, and black cherry fruit mix with cedar and leather. Perhaps not quite as much acidity as I would like to keep the ripe fruit from feeling somewhat heavy on the palate. Notes of leather and cedar linger in the finish. Alcohol unknown, as the sample bottle was delivered without a label. Score: around 8.5. Cost: n/a