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.
I’ve got a few more Williams Selyem wines to share with you this week, including their rich and bright Estate Vineyard Chardonnay, which threads the needle between old-school California tropicality and zingy, leaner styles of Chardonnay. It was good, but not as great as the various Pinots I tasted from them this week, the best of which was their Lewis MacGregor Vineyard Pinot Noir, which had a wonderful crystalline purity and incredibly perfumed aromatics. These wines are more easily purchased than ever before (you can even find them at wine.com) but they ain’t cheap. If you’re in the habit of buying $100+ California Pinot Noirs, you’ll enjoy these for sure.
Veteran winemaker Bob Lindquist sold his famed Qupé winery in 2018, but he hasn’t stopped making wine. This week I tasted a fun little number of his that is an equal blend of Chardonnay and Viognier, which makes for a weighty, fruity wine that fans of richer whites will enjoy.
Regular readers will know that I recently posted one of the most comprehensive articles ever written on the Anderson Valley here on Vinogaphy. I tried to review as many Anderson Valley wines as I could get my hands on for that article. There were a few producers who, for various reasons, I was unable to get wines from. One of those was LIOCO, but I’m happy to share my thoughts on their Anderson Valley wines with you this week. And they’re pretty damn good. Their Chardonnay from the Skycrest vineyard is lean and bright, but almost brighter is their blush rosé, named Ojo de Perdiz, which is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and a positive delight to drink.
Of the three Pinot Noirs that LIOCO sent through, my favorite was the La Selva, which had (thanks to whole cluster fermentation, I suspect) a lovely toasted-brown-rice-tea flavor that was quite compelling. But all three wines are worth seeking out for sure.
I opened a Syrah this week from the Central Coast producer Timbre Winery, whose music-themed wines include this one called “The Hook.” It’s got a very nice black-olive savoriness along with its blackberry fruit that some people will love.
And last but not least, I’ve got the latest Cabernet Sauvignon from Bella Union, another brand under the Far Niente group of wineries that is focused on more moderately-priced wines sourced from vineyards across the Napa Valley. The 2018 Cabernets from Napa are excellent, but are tightly wound as a rule, and need a bit of time. This bottle will be singing in 3-5 years.
Notes on all these below!
2019 Williams Selyem “Williams Selyem Estate Vineyard” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
A slightly hazy yellow gold in the glass with green highlights, this wine smells of pineapple and candied lemon peel. In the mouth, pineapple, lemon peel, grapefruit, and lemon curd flavors have a nice bite to them thanks to very good acidity. Lemon pith and pomelo linger in the finish. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.
2020 Lindquist Family Wines White Blend, Central Coast, California
Light greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and peach jam. In the mouth, rich and silky flavors of peach, crème anglaise, and candied citrus peel have a soft acidity. An unusual blend of 50% Viognier and 50% Chardonnay that is fairly tasty, if a bit rich. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2018 LIOCO “Skycrest Vineyard” Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light gold with a hint of green, this wine smells of pastry cream and lemon zest. In the mouth, bright silky flavors of lemon curd, pink grapefruit, and citrus pith have a zippy quality thanks to excellent acidity. Floral notes linger in the finish. 12.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.
2020 LIOCO “Ojo de Perdiz” Rosé Blend, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
The palest peachy blonde in color it could easily be mistaken for a white, this wine smells of watermelon rind, apricot skin, and green strawberries. In the mouth, green strawberries, watermelon rind, and a nice citrus pith quality have a fantastic bright snap to them, thanks to excellent acidity. Mouthwatering, with just a hint of salinity in the finish. A blend of 77% Pinot Noir and 23% Chardonnay co-fermented with native yeast and aged in neutral oak for 8 months. Bottled unfined, unfiltered. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $38. click to buy.
2019 LIOCO “Edmeades Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of wood shavings and raspberry bramble with hints of dried herbs. In the mouth, faint tannins grip the edges of the mouth, and flavors of raspberry, cranberry, and redcurrant swirl with dried herbs and toasted brown rice flavors. Excellent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??
2019 LIOCO “La Selva” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of hojicha – brown rice tea – with hints of raspberry and dried herbs. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy citrus-peel acidity mixes with black raspberry and redcurrant flavors. Lean and bright and faintly saline. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $52. click to buy.
2019 LIOCO “Kiser” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried flowers, redcurrant, and sour cherry. In the mouth, sour cherry, redcurrant, and raspberry fruit are lean and mouthwateringly bright with citrus peel tang in the finish. Juicy and sour and ever-so-tasty. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $82. click to buy.
2019 Williams Selyem “Williams Selyem Estate Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry and cranberry flavors are shot through with dried herbs and a hint of cedar. Faint tannins ghost the edges of the palate. Excellent acidity and wonderful purity. 13.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.
2019 Williams Selyem “Lewis MacGregor Estate Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry and pomegranate and a hint of cocoa-dusted almonds. In the mouth, juicy flavors of cranberry, cherry, and raspberry have a fantastic sour-cherry kick to them along with a hint of citrus peel. Outstanding acidity and brightness. 13.6% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $130. click to buy.
2019 Williams Selyem “Eastside Road Neighbors” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry jam and raspberry leaf. In the mouth, pure, crystalline raspberry flavors mix with raspberry leaf and a touch of tomato leaf and other dried herbs. Excellent acidity with a hint of citrus peel keeps this wine fresh and bright, even stony on the palate. Quite tasty. 13.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.
2018 Timbre Winery “The Hook – Donati Vineyard” Syrah, Edna Valley, Central Coast, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberries, kalamata olives, and a hint of oak. In the mouth, rich, but savory blackberry, black olive, and a touch of earth are bright with decent acidity. There’s a faint orange peel note that lingers in the finish. Aged for 18 months in 20% new French oak. 14.% alcohol. 75 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??
2018 Bella Union Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and blackberry fruit with a hint of oak. In the mouth, tightly wound, fine-grained tannins wrap around a core of black cherry and cassis tinged with earth. Tight and somewhat compact on the palate, this wine would do better with a couple of years of age in the bottle. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.