Hello and welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. 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.
Let’s start of this week’s lineup with a very nice rendition of a grape that is quite easy to make poorly. Too much wood, not enough acidity, too ripe, and Sauvignon Blanc can be just insipid. Thankfully Sutro Wines in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley does it quite well.
I’ve got a few more wines from Nicolas Potel in Burgundy. He’s got two companies, a negociant named Roche de Bellene, where he makes wines from grapes he doesn’t grow, and an estate winery called Domaine Bellene, where he makes wines from grapes he does grow. The second white wine this week is his negociant-bottled Saint-Veran, a Chardonnay from the Mâconnais region of Burgundy. It’s quite zippy and a pretty good bargain as far as white burgundies go these days.
Since I’m talking about Bellene, I’ve also got two really excellent red Burgundies from them as well, an old-vines Savigny-Les-Beaune, and a Premier Cru from Beane, also from fairly old vines. Both are quite lovely and not that hard to find, though the Premier Cru version comes with a bit of a stiff tariff.
Before I get into other reds, I suggest checking out the latest rosé from Peter Mathis, who was a winemaker at Ravenswood for a number of years, and has a personal label under which he makes wines from his 7.5-acre vineyard in Sonoma Valley. If you’re looking for something tasty in a shade of pink, his Grenache-based rosé is a good bet.
I’ve got a few domestic Pinot Noirs to recommend to you this week, in addition to the Burgundies. I’ve got the basic Bryn Mawr Pinot, as well as two from Sokol Blosser, including their “Old Vineyard Block” bottling, which has been relabeled for their 50th anniversary, so it might not look like you’re expecting. Of course, it will taste like you’re expecting it to, so go find yourself a bottle!
Notes on everything below.
2020 Sutro Wines “Warnecke Ranch” Sauvignon Blanc, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of unripe apples and ripe golden delicious apples. In the mouth, zingy lemon and grapefruit flavors are electric with excellent acidity. A light alfalfa herbal note lingers with citrus pith in the finish. Very nice. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35.
2018 Maison Roche de Bellene Saint-Veran Blanc, Mâconnais, Burgundy, France
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of white flowers and lemon oil. In the mouth, silky-textured flavors of lemon juice, lemon oil, and white flowers mix with a lovely wet chalkboard minerality. Excellent acidity. 40-year-old Chardonnay vines, fermented with native yeasts and aged in old oak barrels. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.
2020 Mathis “Rosé de Grenache” Grenache Rosé, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest baby pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon candy. In the mouth, watermelon and strawberry fruit flavors are silky and juicy thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a faint sweetness here but coupled with the mouthwatering acidity, this makes for a very pretty and dangerously gulpable package.13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $23. click to buy.
2019 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, cranberry and black cherry flavors have a bright purity to them, with hints of cedar and chopped herbs emerging on the finish. There’s a lovely freshness to this wine thanks to excellent acidity and a touch of mineral undertone. There’s a whisper of new oak flavor in the finish, but generally it is well-integrated. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $80. click to buy.
2018 Bryn Mawr Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of wet earth, cherries, and dried herbs. In the mouth, flavors of cherry and herbs and river mud are tasty but not particularly dynamic. Decent acidity, but there’s some vibrancy missing here. 14.1% alcohol. 1900 cases made. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2018 Sokol Blosser “Estate” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, raspberry and dried herbs mix with a wonderfully stony quality as fine grained tannins give a tautness to the wine. Excellent acidity and length. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2018 Sokol Blosser “Old Vineyard Block – 50th Anniversary” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and earth. In the mouth, wet dirt, raspberries and redcurrants mix with dried herbs and a touch of cedar. Excellent acidity and wonderfully savory herbal notes that linger in the finish with the faintest texture of tannin. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2018 Domaine de Bellene “Vielles Vignes” Savigny-Les-Beaune Rouge, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, raspberry, and earth. In the mouth, beautifully bright cherry and earth and raspberry flavors have a nice sour cherry tang and lovely dried herb notes. Excellent acidity and very fine-grained tannins. Expansive and long. The average vine age here is 66 years old. Fermented with native yeast and aged in 25% new French oak. Bottled unfined but it has been filtered. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $53. click to buy.
2018 Domaine de Bellene “Hommage à Françoise Potel – Vielles Vignes” Beaune Premier Cru Rouge, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet earth and dried flowers. In the mouth, beautifully floral cherry and earth flavors mix with raspberries and are fitted into a suede glove of tannins. Hints of flowers linger in the finish. Made from 5 different parcels of Pinot Noir ranging in vine age from 39 to 59 years. Fermented with native yeasts and aged in 50% new French oak. Wonderful and delicious. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.
2016 Turnbull Wine Cellars “Leopoldina Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry, black currant, and cola. In the mouth, black cherry and cola flavors mix with a touch of cassis and tobacco. Good acidity keeps the wine bright, even as the flavors are rich and opulent. The oak influence here is well-integrated and while I might want more acidity, this will likely please a lot of Napa Cab lovers. Tannins are plush and well managed. 14.9% alcohol. 850 cases of embarrassingly heavy (1.77 kg when full) bottles made. Score: around 9. Cost: $135. click to buy.