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 is deep in deliciousness of many kinds. Let’s start with three more new wines from Two Shepherds Winery, which seems to be firing on all cylinders these days. They’ve got two different renditions of Vermentino, one from an excellent site in the little-heard-of Yolo County and one from a storied vineyard in Lodi. Both are tasty in their own way and worth seeking out.
It’s probably safe to say I’ve never met a Trousseau Gris I haven’t liked, and that’s certainly true of the one from Two Shepherds, which marries stone fruits like plum and nectarine to a bright citrusy backbone and just the faintest grip from tannins thanks to some skin contact during fermentation. If you’re tired of your usual rosés, give this a whirl and let your mind get blown.
I got a couple of wines this week from Tooth & Nail Winery in Paso Robles. They’ve got several brand names under which they make wines, one of which is a newer line called Destinata, which focuses on a “noveau” style, with shorter aging and a fresher, brighter profile. Their Destinata Syrah certainly seemed to offer a nice dose of freshness, along with more savory characteristics. Their “Stasis” bottling of carbonically macerated Zinfandel also doesn’t lack for freshness.
How about a random Oregon Tempranillo to liven things up. I have a feeling that the Coventina Vineyards Reserve Tempranillo will be even better in a few years, but I have a serious bone to pick with the winery with regards to the weight of their bottles. This is one of the heaviest bottles of wine I’ve come across in months. The damn thing weighs 4 and a half pounds. That’s utterly ridiculous and totally offensive to those of us who know that the single largest portion of any winery’s carbon footprint is their packaging. Coventina claims to have a “covenant with the earth” but this bottle says “disregard” much more than it says covenant. Shame, shame, shame.
The Serres family has been in Sonoma County for generations. Six, to be precise. Their family ranch was established in 1924, and they’ve been growing things ever since, including grapes. Like many families with a long history of grape growing, it was only a matter of time before the Serres family decided to make some wine with their name on the bottle. I’ve got two of their Serres Ranch wines to share with you this week, a Merlot dominant red blend, and another that is a pretty even split between Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec. Both are worth seeking out.
The real stars this week, though, were the three Zinfandels that I opened from Limerick Lane Cellars. Each is from a heritage vineyard, more than 90 years old, and each has a fantastic story to tell in the bottle. My favorite, I think was the Banfield Vineyard bottling, from perhaps the oldest Zinfandel planting in the Russian River Valley, dating to 1880. These 139-year-old vines produced remarkable fruit in 2019, positively bursting with flavor and incredible acidity. The Carlisle and Estate 1910 block Zinfandels are no slouches either. If you count yourself a fan of Zinfandel, or if you’re looking to see what all the fuss is about, you’d be hard-pressed to find better examples than these.
Notes on all these wines below.
2020 Two Shepherds “Windmill Vineyards” Vermentino, Yolo County, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of poached pears, pastry cream, and lemon pith. In the mouth, lemon pith, ginger, poached pear, and a touch of grapefruit juice have a wonderfully bright acidity and juicy quality. There’s a faint chalkiness to this wine which adds some nice texture and a little grip to a very flavorful experience. Made with organically farmed grapes. Fermented with native yeasts in half stainless, half neutral barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. 11.5% alcohol. 175 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost : $26. click to buy.
2019 Two Shepherds “Centime – Fields Family Vineyard” Vermentino, Lodi, Central Valley, California
Dark gold in the glass with some chunky bits floating around, this wine smells of yellow plum and wet leaves. In the mouth, yellow plum, orange peel, Asian pear, and a faint touch of verbena have a lightly waxy texture, with faint tannins that buff the top of the mouth as the wine finishes with a nice Ranier cherry skin tang. Tasty. Fermented with native yeasts and left in contact with the skins for 10 days. Aged for 9 months in neutral oak. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal sulfur additions. 11.3% alcohol. 70 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost : $ .
2020 Two Shepherds “Fanucchi Vineyard – Skin Fermented” Trousseau Gris, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
A light coppery pink color in the glass, this wine smells of sour cherry, nectarine, and yellow plums. In the mouth, stone fruit and berry flavors mix with a nice bite of citrus peel and juicy, tangy acidity, plus a hint of tannic grip. Quite tasty. Made from 45-year-old vines, fermented with native yeasts and 5 days of skin contact before aging in a neutral barrel. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. 12.3% alcohol. 125 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost : $24. click to buy.
2020 Tooth & Nail “Destinata” Syrah, Santa Barbara County, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis, blackberry, and wet iron. In the mouth, cassis and blackberry flavors have a nice savory quality, with green herbs and a touch of iodine. Good acidity and faint, fine-grained tannins add a stony quality. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost : $29.
2020 Tooth & Nail “Stasis” Zinfandel, Willow Creek District Paso Robles Central Coast, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberries and maraschino cherries. In the mouth, juicy blackberry and black cherry flavors have a nice chalky tannic grip and excellent acidity. Boysenberry and black currants linger in the finish. Fermented carbonically. 14.6% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost : $??.
2015 Coventina “Reserve” Tempranillo, Rogue River Valley, Southern Oregon
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of new oak. In the mouth, cherry fruit and new oak fight for attention with the oak winning, leaving me wishing I could have tasted more of the fruit. Excellent acidity keeps the wine fresh and bright. Hints of incense and cinnamon in the finish. With half the amount of new oak, this wine would have been positively delicious. 13.5% alcohol. Comes in an offensively heavy bottle weighing almost 2kg when full. That’s 4 lbs, 6 ounces of “screw our carbon footprint” per bottle. Score: around 8.5. Cost : $50. click to buy.
2019 Limerick Lane Cellars “Banfield Vineyard” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of dried flowers, cherries, and partially ripe blackberries. In the mouth, fantastically bright, mouthwatering fruit tastes like those blackberries that have a bit of red on them, a little sourish, a little sweet, and perfectly flavored of summer idylls. Faint powdery tannins add texture to an explosively juicy mouthful. A technicolor taste experience in the glass. Wonderfully balanced, despite its 15.2% alcohol. This vineyard was planted in 1880. 250 cases made. Score: around 9.5. Cost : $62. click to buy.
2019 Limerick Lane Cellars “Carlisle Vineyard” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of freshly crushed boysenberries. In the mouth, exuberant boysenberry and black raspberry flavors are juicy and bright and beautifully light on their feet. There’s just a tiny faint tannic texture to the wine, as hints of candied dried fennel seed emerge in the finish. Phenomenally delicious, complex, and balanced despite 15.1% alcohol. This vineyard was planted in 1927. 100 cases made. Score: around 9.5. Cost : $62. click to buy.
2019 Limerick Lane Cellars “Estate 1910 Block ” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark purple in color, this wine smells of blackberry and black cherry. In the mouth, juicy blackberry and black cherry flavors have a nice sour cherry brightness in the finish, as powdery, muscular tannins coat the mouth. Excellent acidity keeps things quite fresh. Contains 2% Petite Sirah. Planted in 1910. 14.8% alcohol. 300 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost : $65.
2018 Serres Ranch “Buchanan” Merlot, Sonoma Valley, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of plum and black cherry. In the mouth, juicy plum and black cherry fruit is wrapped in a tight skein of tannins and shot through with hints of vanilla and oak. Excellent acidity keeps things fresh, and the wood is reasonably well-integrated. A blend of 75.5% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.5% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost : $65.
2018 Serres Ranch “Watriss” Red Blend, Sonoma Valley, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and dark toasted oak. In the mouth, black cherry, french roast coffee beans, toasted oak, and graphite flavors have decent acidity and a tight, muscular tannic backbone. This is wound up tight and needs some time to open up. More wood influence here than I would like. A blend of 33.5% Merlot, 30.5% Malbec, 28.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.5% Petit Verdot. Score: around 8.5. Cost : $65.