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.
This week included a few excellent white wines, some of them quite unusual.
Let’s begin with the blend of white Rhône grapes called “Ingénue” from Lodi producer and Rhône specialist Acquiesce Winery. Founded in 2008 Acquiesce farms 18 acres of mostly white Rhône varieties planted in Lodi’s deep sandy loam soils. They have the country’s first planting of Bourboulenc and a mix of other varieties that let them make a bunch of white and pink wines. This one has a wonderful balance between richness and crispness, and alluring complexity.
I’ve got another Roche de Bellene white Burgundy this week as well—their old vines Meursault, which has that pretty, resinous quality that makes Meursault so lip smacking good.
Migration, a sub-brand of the Duckhorn Vineyards portfolio, offered their Sonoma Coast Chardonnay this week as well, which has a mix of tropical and citrus flavors that are appealing.
Perhaps the standout wine this week, though, was the Troon Vineyard Vermentino from Oregon’s Applegate Valley. This may well be the single best wine I’ve had yet from this biodynamically-farmed estate, and at $25 it might be some of the highest quality wine for the price on the West Coast of California. The barrel fermentation adds a touch of richness to the crisp citrus and herbs, and the overall package is just brimming with vibrancy and deliciousness.
Sticking with Troon, for a moment, I’ve also got the latest incarnation of their orange wine, or as they call it, “Kubli Bench Amber.” An unusual blend of Riesling, Vermentino, and Viognier, this is a refreshing, fruity wine with a lovely deeper earthy tone to it, and having eaten some Cape gooseberries recently (something perhaps not a lot of people have tasted), I was struck by the similarity in flavor.
I recently received a shipment of what can only be described as glamour rosé. In case you’ve been living under a rock, rosé wines are hot now, and the world has fully bought into the Provençal rosé as the pinnacle of the form. As a result, we’re seeing crazy things, like $100+ rosés from Provence, and perhaps, like these bottles that were sent to me from the Provence Rosé Group, which look like they belong on a back-lit glass bar shelf at a fancy nightclub. As dubious as I was about the packaging, I have to say that the wines were quite drinkable. The Ultimate Provence Rosé and Chateau Berne Rosé weren’t fine wines, per se, but they will certainly satisfy most people looking for a nice pink wine in their price point (which is somewhere between $18 and $20). And, to some, the bottles might actually seem pretty cool.
Eden Rift recently sent along a bunch of their wines, including this week’s 2018 Estate Pinot Noir, which demonstrates a continued increase in quality and distinctiveness from this producer in the slightly obscure Cienega Valley south of Gilroy, California.
Returning for a moment to the Nicolas Potel-run project of Roche de Bellene, I tasted their Côte de Nuits-Villages and their old-vine Gevrey-Chambertin this week, the latter offering an exceptionally complex and tasty flavor profile.
Most wine aficionados are familiar with Ornellaia, the Frescobaldi-family’s project in the Bolgheri region of Tuscany. Most people can’t afford the winery’s flagship red blend, which will set you back $185 or so. Which is why the family produces Le Volte dell’Ornellaia, which is a Merlot-dominant red blend that you can buy for around $25 (SRP is $34). It doesn’t have the gravitas of its namesake, but it’s a decent wine for the price, especially if you can give it some time to age a bit in the bottle.
I’ve got two more reds for you to close out this week. The first is the estate Cabernet from Sutro Wines in Alexander Valley, a nicely balanced wine that will satisfy most people looking for an excellent California Cab.
And finally, the 15th-anniversary bottling of Blackbird Vineyards‘ Arise, a Merlot and Cab Franc blend that offers a predictably tasty mouthful of plum and black cherry.
2018 Acquiesce Winery “Ingénue” White Blend, Lodi, Central Valley, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of pomelo pith, golden delicious apples, and herbs. In the mouth, juicy and bright flavors of unripe apple, citrus pith, peach, and pear have a wonderful bounce thanks to excellent acidity, plus a nice ripe richness backed by a silk texture. Very pretty. A blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Bourboulenc, and Picpoul Blanc. 13% alcohol. Comes in an unusual, amphora-shaped bottle. Score: around 9. Cost: $34. click to buy.
2018 Maison Roche de Bellene “Vielles Vignes” Meursault, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones, lemon curd, and lemon flower with just a hint of gunflint. In the mouth, zippy flavors of lemon juice, lemon pith, and a touch of grapefruit also have a slight resinous note. Silky texture and a nice pithy finish. Made from vines with an average age of 55 years. Fermented with native yeasts and aged in 20% new French oak. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $79. click to buy.
2018 Migration Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California
Light greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of pineapple and lemon curd. In the mouth, silky flavors of lemon curd, pineapple, and dried mango have decent acidity but could use some more lift. Notes of papaya linger in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. 2511 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2020 Troon Vineyard Vermentino, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon blossoms, bee pollen, and lemon pith. In the mouth, gorgeous lemon pith, lemon zest, and white floral notes mix with a hint of chamomile and hay. Fantastic acidity and a wonderful energetic quality pervade this wine. Outstanding. Barrel fermented in old oak barrels. 12.8% alcohol. 450 cases made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2020 Troon Vineyard “Kubli Bench Amber” White Blend, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon
A hazy, dark gold in color with hints of orange and chunks of sediment, this wine smells of wet leaves, dried citrus peel, canteloupe, and floral aromas. In the mouth, papaya, canteloupe, citrus, and other floral notes have a nice briskness thanks to excellent acidity, along with a tangy sour note like Cape gooseberries (aka golden berries). There’s a lightly saline kick in the finish. Quite delicious. A blend of 64% Riesling, 27% Vermentino and 9% Viognier. 13.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2020 Ultimate Provence Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France
Pale peachy pink in color, this wine smells of peaches and strawberries and sweet cream. In the mouth, strawberry and peach flavors are fairly basic, with decent acidity to back them up. Nothing wrong with this, but it isn’t particularly dynamic. Hints of citrus zest linger in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. Comes in a ribbed and stamped glass bottle and is closed with a technical (plastic) cork. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2020 Chateau Berne “Inspiration” Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France
Pale peachy pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon rind and strawberries. In the mouth, strawberry and watermelon flavors are crisp and bright thanks to very good acidity. Silky and straightforward. This is what most people think of when they think of Provence Rosé. Does the trick. 12.5% alcohol. Comes in a tapered rectangular bottle you’d expect to see holding vodka. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2018 Eden Rift “Estate” Pinot Noir, Cienega Valley, Central Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully bright cherry and cranberry fruit is tinged with chopped green herbs and floral scents. Faint, powdery tannins float in the background. This is definitely the best Pinot I’ve had from this recently reincarnated wine estate. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2018 Maison Roche de Bellene “Vielles Vignes” Côte de Nuits-Villages, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy, France
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries, wet sawdust, and a touch of oiled leather. In the mouth, silky flavors of earth, dried herbs, and a hint of manure mix with redcurrant and raspberry fruit. Notes of dried herbs and that barnyard quality linger in the finish. Made from vines between 40 and 60 years of age. Fermented with native yeasts and aged in used oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2018 Maison Roche de Bellene “Vielles Vignes” Gevrey-Chambertin, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy, France
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of flowers, raspberries, and redcurrants. In the mouth, gorgeously silky flavors of raspberry, redcurrant, dried flowers, and herbs have a faint tannic backbone and a long soaring finish. Fantastic acidity and lovely weightlessness on the palate. Made from vines between 45 and 60 years old. Fermented with native yeasts and aged in 10% new French oak. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $90. click to buy.
2019 Ornellaia “Le Volte dell’Ornellaia” Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet dried flowers, cedar, and a touch of camphorwood. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit mixes with cedar and incense notes along with a citrus peel brightness thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a faint bitterness in the finish. Faint tannins. Somewhat high-toned, but quite pretty, if a bit young yet. A couple more years in the bottle will do this wine wonders. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2018 Sutro Wines “Warnecke Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet black cherry and plum. In the mouth, rich black cherry, cola, and plum flavors are juicy with excellent acidity. Faint tannins and hints of cedar and licorice root linger in the finish with little trace of the wine’s 15% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2017 Blackbird Vineyards “Arise – 15th Anniversary Bottling” Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and licorice. In the mouth, juicy bright plum and black cherry notes are kissed with the sweet vanilla of new oak, which leaves an expansive, high-toned sensation on the palate. A blend of 43% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.