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 get started with a lovely wine that I’ve now had a couple of times, which is a “side-project” of winemaker Marty Mathis, who makes the wines at Kathryn Kennedy Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The “M. Mathis Winegrower” Grüner Veltliner is one of the better renditions of that variety in California, and a lovely expression of the Alfaro Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
I’ve also got notes on the latest Jordan Chardonnay and Cabernet for you this week, both of which continue to do what Jordan has done so well for decades, which is to deliver consistently tasty wines at reasonable prices.
It’s rare that I get sent wines from Texas, but I got a couple recently from C.L. Butaud that were worth sharing. The Pinot Gris Ramato in particular, was quite tasty and well done, as was their Tempranillo, though it must be said for a winery that claims to produce “sustainably” their choice of packaging for the red is completely deplorable, representing one of the single heaviest dry-red wine bottles I’ve encountered. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. Choosing lightweight bottles is literally the single easiest and highest impact thing a winery can do to reduce its carbon footprint almost overnight.
OK, now that I’ve stepped down off my soapbox, let’s not overlook the very pretty rendition of Pais, by the J. Bouchon winery in Chile’s Maule Valley. This wine is made from 100+ year-old vines of dry-farmed Pais. For my money, it’s one of the highest quality-to-price-ratio wines on the market.
Speaking of high QPR, you could do a lot worse than the 2019 Firesteed Pinot Noir I opened this week that, even with a little age on it, was still delivering excellent bright fruit that will satisfy a lot of folks, and at $15, it’s a helluva deal, especially for Pinot Noir, which is getting a lot harder to find at that price at all, let alone in decent quality.
Two slightly more expensive renditions of Pinot also satisfied this week: the Emeritus Hallberg Ranch Pinot from the Russian River Valley, and the Dutton-Goldfield from the Van Der Kamp Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain.
For many years I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that some of the best value red wines on the planet are the dry reds from the Douro Valley, and this week I got a couple of bottles from the Prats and Symington family that continue to deliver on that promise. Whether it’s the $18 Prazo de Roriz or the $27 slightly more complex Post Scriptum, both of these wines are delicious and punch well above their weight class.
Notes on all of these below.
2020 M.Mathis Winegrower “Alfaro Vineyard” Grüner Veltliner, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Light gold in color, this wine smells of wet chalkboard and citrus pith with a hint of yellow herbs. In the mouth, bright pear, lemon peel, and wet pavement minerality all have a nice briskness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Crisp and juicy and easy to drink. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $ . click to buy.
2019 Jordan Winery Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
A pale yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and grapefruit. In the mouth, bright lemon pith and pink grapefruit flavors are mild and juicy, with a nice crispness and no overt oak character. Pleasantly tasty. 13.7% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $36. click to buy.
2020 C.L. Butaud “Ramato” Pinot Gris, Hill Country, Texas
A pale, coppery peach color in the glass, this wine smells of citrus peel and yellow plums. In the mouth, flavors of yellow plum, citrus, and a faint berry note are all juicy and crisp with a faint chalky tannic grip. Good acidity. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $22.
2018 J. Bouchon “Pais Viejo” Pais, Maule, Chile
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of berries and wet pavement. In the mouth, bright juicy berry flavors mix with wet pavement and a touch of flowers. Hints of strawberry linger in the finish. Faint, but muscular tannins. Great acidity. Made from 100+-year-old, dry-farmed vines of Pais. Aged for 4 months in concrete before bottling. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $17. click to buy.
2019 Firesteed Pinot Noir, Oregon
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry compote. In the mouth, sweetish cherry and cranberry flavors are simple and straightforward, if slightly confectionery in quality. But at this price, that’s more than acceptable. Faint tannins and decent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $13. click to buy.
2017 Emeritus Vineyards “Hallberg Ranch” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of faintly meaty red apple skin and raspberry jam. In the mouth, bright sour cherry and raspberry flavors mix with a nice saline umami character that, along with faint dried flowers, lingers in the finish with citrus peel brightness. Excellent acidity, and a nice resonant depth to the wine. Quite delicious. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2019 Prats & Symington “Post Scriptum de Chryseia” Red Blend, Douro, Portugal
A very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, black currant, and chocolate. In the mouth, black cherry, blackberry, and cocoa powder flavors also have a hint of cola nut to them, along with a faint, fine-grained tannic structure. Good acidity and length, with just the faintest of heat on the finish. Quite tasty. A blend of 56% Touriga Franca, 33% Touriga Nacional, 7% Tinta Roriz, and 4% Tinta Barroca. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $27. click to buy.
2018 Prats & Symington “Prazo de Roriz” Red Blend, Douro, Portugal
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and boysenberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy blackberry and boysenberry flavors are dusted with fine tannins and a touch of mulling spices in the finish. Excellent acidity keeps things quite fresh in the mouth, making this a very easy wine to drink. A blend of 35% Touriga Franca, 25% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinta Roriz, and 20% of many other red varieties. Ages for 6 months in large old oak casks. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2017 Jordan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry with a hint of espresso and the barest whisper of green herbs. In the mouth, juicy and bright black cherry and cola notes mix with a boysenberry quality, as somewhat muscular tannins flex and tense around the edges of the palate. Hints of dried herbs linger with a touch of licorice root in the finish. Very good acidity keeps things fresh. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $ 59 . click to buy.
2018 C.L. Butaud Tempranillo, High Plains, Texas
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of red fruits and toasted oak. In the mouth, cherry and boysenberry fruit flavors are shot through with toasted oak and faint, putty-like tannins. Good acidity makes this wine quite drinkable, and the oak, while perhaps stronger a presence than I would like, has a refined character. 14.1% alcohol. 250 cases of obscenely heavy bottles made. And when I say obscene, I mean obscene. These bottles are like the Hummer H2 of wine packaging, some of the heaviest I have ever seen. Each full bottle weighs almost 2 kg, or over 4.5 pounds. Shame, shame, shame. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $54.