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 dive in with yet another truly excellent Chardonnay from the folks up at Walter Scott in Oregon. Like a previous bottling I tried, this wine is a dead-ringer for white Burgundy, with all the resinous, lemony, saline goodness that you’d get in a nice Meursault (and perhaps a price to match).
Perhaps on the opposite end of affordability, it’s pretty difficult to do anything than simply rush out and buy a case of the extremely floral and fruit Scaia rosé from Tenuta Sant’Antonio in the Veneto region of Italy. Made with the traditional blending grape Rondinella, this is an intensely perfumed rosé that has enough acidity to match its super-fruity core. And at $15 how can you go wrong?
Perhaps slightly more sophisticated, the Ashes and Diamonds “No. 5” rosé of Cabernet Franc is also a no-brainer of a wine, with wonderfully lean and racy flavors that accompany a luxurious textured experience on the palate.
The 2018 vintage was a truly excellent one around California, and it’s no surprise that reliable producers like Calera are making good wines from it. I’ve got a couple of their single-vineyard-designated Pinots to offer this week. They are pricey, but Calera fans will find them in line with their ageworthy predecessors.
I was introduced to a small wine label recently called Far Mountain, which is dedicated to finding remote and wild vineyard sites in Sonoma from which to make distinctive wines. It’s a project of the married couple Mai Errazuriz and Rodrigo Soto. Serious wine lovers will find both of those names familiar—Mai’s because she’s part of the Errazuriz Family of Chile with a winery of the same name, and Rodrigo’s because he’s been winemaker for many well known properties in Chile and Napa, including Veramonte and Quintessa among others. Their “Fission” Cabernet is a nice combination (perhaps hence the name) of ripe California fruit, and leaner, more traditional Cabernet flavors.
Sterling Vineyards needs no introduction to most fans of Napa wine, but what I’ve got to share with you this week is quite an obscure wine from them: a tiny production reserve Malbec that unfortunately is pretty tough to find out there in the world. Nonetheless, I wanted to share my notes on its lovely blueberry and black cherry brightness.
Lastly, I’ve got a single-vineyard Cabernet bottling from the Corley Family, who have been making wine in Napa for more than 50 years. They own a number of vineyards including a small vineyard on Ehler’s Lane just north of St. Helena in Napa, where they source fruit to make this, one of their top-tier Cabernets.
Notes on all these and more below.
2019 Walter Scott “X-Novo Vineyard” Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Palest greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon oil, white flowers, and resin. In the mouth, beautifully silky flavors of lemon pith and white flowers have a fabulous saline quality that makes this wine positively mouthwatering. Very Burgundian in style, and quite delicious. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $95. click to buy.
2016 Lavinea “Elton Vineyard” Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of pineapple and white flowers. In the mouth, pineapple, lemon, and white flowers have a nice brightness to them, and enough acidity to keep the flavors bouncing across the palate. Quite pleasant, but I’m missing some dynamism here. 13.6% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2020 Tenuta Sant’Antonio “Scaia” Rosato, Veneto, Italy
Light peachy pink in the glass, this wine smells of intense floral and watermelon aromas. In the mouth flavors of candied peach, candied orange and watermelon have bright floral notes as well as juicy acidity. There’s a perfumed intensity to this wine. Quite compelling. Made from 100% Rondinella, a grape typically blended with Corvina in Amarone wines. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a Vinolok glass stopper. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $14. click to buy.
2020 Ashes and Diamonds “Number 5” Rosé of Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Palest peachy pink, headed towards nearly colorless, this wine smells of cherries and floral notes. In the mouth, bright and juicy cherry and citrus peel flavors have fantastic acidity and a wonderful silky texture. Zingy and delicious. Made by Steve Matthiasson. Whole cluster pressed into steel barrels, where it ages for 8 months before bottling. 11.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $39.
2018 Calera Vineyards “de Villiers Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mt. Harlan, Central Coast, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, bright raspberry and cranberry fruit is juicy with excellent acidity. Hints of citrus peel and dried herbs linger in the finish with a hint of oak and spice. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $80. click to buy.
2018 Calera Vineyards “Jensen Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mt. Harlan, Central Coast, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherries, raspberries, and crushed herbs. In the mouth, notes of cedar accompany bright, ripe flavors of raspberry and cherry, with hints of redwood sawdust lingering in the finish. Fine powdery tannins add texture, and good acidity keeps things moving along, with a hint of stoniness underneath everything. 14.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.
2018 Ron Rubin Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium ruby in color, this wine smells of cherry compote and cedar. In the mouth, cherry and raspberry jam flavors have a nice juicy acidity to them and a faint hint of cedar. Dusty, dried herbs, and faint tannins linger in the finish. On the riper side of things, but reasonably balanced. 14.3% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2018 Marietta Cellars “Armé” Red Blend, North Coast, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and black plum. In the mouth, rich black cherry, blackberry, and cocoa powder flavors are backed by fine-grained tannins that build muscle as the wine moves across the palate. Slightly high-toned but mostly balanced, I wish there was a little bit more going on in the mid-palate. A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 4% Malbec, and 4% Petit Verdot. 14.6% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $23. click to buy.
2019 Far Mountain “Fission” Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and a hint of green bell pepper. In the mouth, juicy and bright flavors of black cherry, cassis, and cola mix with a hint of green bell pepper and a touch of licorice and alcoholic heat in the finish. Very good acidity and fine-grained tannins. 14.6% alcohol. 1500 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $75. click to buy.
2017 Sterling Vineyards “Reserve” Malbec, St. Helena, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and blueberries. In the mouth, rich blueberry and black cherry flavors have a nice bounce to them thanks to excellent acidity. Fine-grained tannins provide texture to the dark blue fruits and a hint of fresh herbs lingers in the finish along with notes of licorice and blueberry. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??
2016 Corley Family Wines “Yewell Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa, California
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and blackberry. In the mouth, blackberry and black cherry fruit is cushioned in plush, velvety tannins and shot through with notes of tobacco leaf, dried flowers, and dried herbs. Ripe, but not too jammy. 14.6% alcohol. The unfortunately heavy bottle weighs in at 1.77 kg when full. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.