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 couple of old favorites, as well as some new names.
Let’s start with the classic Napa interpretation of Riesling produced unerringly every year by Smith-Madrone up on Spring Mountain, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Stu and Charlie Smith (joined in 2010 by Stu’s son Sam) have been making this wine for decades, and thankfully haven’t stopped, despite the vines being planted in what some might consider prime Cabernet country. Varietally correct and wonderfully delicious, it’s a wine that will please the fussiest of Riesling lovers.
Eden Rift sent along some of their newer releases recently, and I continue to be impressed with the rising quality and attention to detail of these wines. Their two Chardonnays are excellent, with the less expensive Terraces bottling being a surprisingly old-world interpretation of the grape, albeit with a little new-world richness. And their Reserve Pinot Noir was one of the best things I tasted this week, sleek and sultry with wonderful balance and purity.
I’ve been a fan of Anne Amie Vineyards in the Willamette Valley for some time, and am happy to share a few of their wines this week, including their ever-pleasurable Pinot Noir Blanc, a white wine made from Pinot Noir. Harvested and immediately pressed, this much-paler-than-a-rose white wine (known in Champagne as a blanc de noirs) has a mysterious silkiness and an ineffable flavor profile. Their Two Estates and (one) Estate Pinot Noirs are also worthwhile, though I was somewhat dismayed to see them using heavy bottles for their Estate Pinot.
I’ve got a couple of other Pinots from Notre Vue and Dutton Goldfield reviewed this week as well.
But I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself, as I also have an entry-level rosé from Provence that is part of a snazzy portfolio of “designer” Provence rosés aimed at capturing some of the intense popularity these wines have seen in recent years. The wine isn’t spectacular, but it is wonderfully serviceable, and its price is on point.
Before moving on to richer and darker waters, I should note a bottle that I discovered somewhat lost in the pile of samples for who knows how long. Long-time readers will remember my appreciation for the wines of Kendric Vineyards, and so I was dismayed to move a box this week and find this 2015 Sangiovese sitting there forlornly. It is aging nicely and offers some nice charms if you can find yourself a bottle.
Flora Springs Winery is a well-known name in Napa, having been started by the Komes and Garvey family in 1978. Their “Trilogy” red blend has long been a popular icon wine in the valley. The 2018 vintage reviewed below has the polish you might expect in such a wine, along with its unfortunately heavy bottle. But at $85, it’s starting to look like a bargain in Napa Valley.
Notes on all these and more below.
2020 Sanna Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California
Palest greenish-gold in color, near colorless, this wine smells of candied green apple and gooseberries. In the mouth, green apple, lime, cut grass, and a touch of grapefruit have a nice brisk brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Fresh and juicy. 13.8% alcohol. 25 cases made. Closed with a glass stopper. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $38.
2017 Smith-Madrone Riesling, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Pale gold with a hint of green, this wine smells of melted candle wax, tangerine pith, and a touch of white flowers. In the mouth, that paraffin quality continues, along with flavors of Asian pear, mandarin oranges, grapefruit, and white flowers. Wonderfully balanced, with just the barest hint of sweetness amidst the racy, mouthwatering acidity. Quite delicious, as usual, with great aging potential. 12.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $34. click to buy.
2018 Eden Rift “Terraces” Chardonnay, Cienega Valley, Central Coast, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of pineapple, butterscotch, and melted butter. In the mouth, vaguely sappy flavors of melted butter and lemon curd have a hint of resin and butterscotch to them that echoes some traditionally Burgundian flavor signatures. Pretty tasty, with decent acidity and a nice texture. Barrel fermented with native yeasts and aged in 25% new French oak. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $54. click to buy.
2018 Eden Rift “Reserve” Chardonnay, Cienega Valley, Central Coast, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, white flowers, and a hint of pineapple. In the mouth, notes of lemon curd, grapefruit pith, and white flowers have a nice briskness to them thanks to excellent acidity, with hints of zest and pineapple lingering in the finish with just a whisper of sappy resin. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented with native yeasts, and aged for 10 months in 25% new French oak. 13.8% alcohol. 200 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2018 Anne Amie Vineyards “Prismé” Pinot Noir Blanc, Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Palest bronze in the glass, this wine smells of peachy citrus peel and berries. In the mouth, it has an alluring creamy silkiness to it, with juicy citrus and faint berry flavors mixed with a hint of stone fruit and floral notes. I wish it had slightly more acidity, but that doesn’t keep it from being an attractive and delicious mouthful. 13.9% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2020 Cheateau Berne “Romance” Red Blend, IGP Mediterranée, France
A pale salmon pink in the glass, this wine smells of strawberries and watermelon rind. In the mouth, watermelon and strawberry flavors have a nice crispness thanks to decent acidity and a hint of the greener, more vegetal watermelon rind as the wine finishes. Straightforward rosé, typical of the form. Nothing special, but also nothing wrong with it. Whaddya want for fourteen bucks?12.5% alcohol. Closed with a glass stopper in a designer dimpled glass bottle. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $14. click to buy.
2019 Notre Vue Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, cherry and raspberry flavors have a nice herbal tinge to them and decent acidity. Overall the flavor profile is slightly muted and not as dynamic as it could be, though the flavors are pleasant. Nicely restrained oak. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.
2018 Anne Amie Vineyards “Anne Amie Estate” Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and redcurrant with a hint of earth and sawdust. In the mouth, bright raspberry and cherry flavors have a bright purity to them, with faint tannins and juicy acidity. Notes of raspberry leaf join raspberry and cranberry in the finish. 13.8% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap in a heavier-than-it-needs-to-be bottle that weighs 1.59 kg when full. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2019 Anne Amie Vineyards “Two Estates” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of wet earth and forest floor with the faintest hint of red fruit layered over top. In the mouth, raspberry and cranberry fruit mix with potting soil and chopped herbs in a distinctly savory mélange of flavors. Notes of citrus peel linger in the finish with a hint of bitter root vegetable. 13.2% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2018 Eden Rift “Reserve” Pinot Noir, Cienega Valley, Central Coast, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry and cranberry fruit backed by a hint of peeled willow bark. In the mouth, bright cherry and cranberry fruit mix with chopped herbs, green wood, and a hint of cedar and brown sugar. Poised and beautifully balanced, with excellent acidity and length, and faint tannins that gain strength over time. Quite pretty. Fermented 50% whole-cluster with native yeasts, and aged 10 months in 30% new French oak. 13.8% alcohol. 250 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $72.
2018 Dutton-Goldfield “Deviate” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, cherry cranberry and oak flavors mix with herbs and a touch of earth. Tight tannins wrap around the core of fruit and put the squeeze on the palate as the wine finishes with herbs and a touch of oak. This needs a little time. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $72. click to buy.
2015 Kendric Vineyards “Reward Ranch” Sangiovese, Shenandoah Valley, Sierra Foothills, California
Light ruby in color with a hint of brick at the rim, this wine smells of dried apples, sawdust, and dried flowers. In the mouth, dried red apple skin, cedar, dried herbs, and a touch of citrus peel all have a nice mellow complexion. Good acidity remains, keeping the wine bright, and just the barest hint of tannins tighten the cheeks through the finish. 13.9% alcohol. 150 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.
2018 Flora Springs “Trilogy” Red Blend, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, tobacco, and cola. In the mouth, black cherry, cola, and tobacco mix with flavors of oak and dried herbs. Decent acidity keeps things fresh, and faint, tightly wound tannins hang back at the edges of the palate. Smooth, and somewhat polished, this wine will reward a few years of cellaring. 14.2% alcohol. Comes in a nasty, heavy bottle that weighs 1.67 kg when full. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $85. click to buy.
2018 Mettler Family Vineyards “Epicenter – Old Vine” Zinfandel, Lodi, Central Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass with purple highlights, this wine smells of blackberries and flowers. In the mouth, blackberry, raisin, and black cherry flavors are shot through with a woody, cedary note. Good acidity keeps things fresh on the palate, despite the dried fruit flavors. Somewhat bulky tannins emerge over time, like thugs stepping out of the shadows. 14.7% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.