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 included a cheerful wine that has what might be longest name of any wine variety in the world: Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico. Whew. I’m exhausted just typing it. But thankfully it’s a refreshing bright mouthful of citrus and pear that does the job for 15 bucks.
Perhaps slightly more serious would be the newest Rhône-style white blend from Troon Vineyards in Oregon’s Applegate Valley. Their blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, and Viognier has a lovely complexity and great acidity. Farther down, I also review their red Rhône blend, which is equally pleasurable. So check them both out.
The venerable Williams Selyem estate sent along some current releases this week, including their Lewis MacGregor Vineyard Chardonnay, which does this interesting trick of somehow being rich and lean at the same time, and two of their top, single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, including the Weir Vineyard in the Yorkville Highlands and the famed Rochioli Riverblock in the Russian River Valley. The Weir bottling is spectacular and ready to drink now or to improve for another decade. The Riverblock bottling is characteristically rich, and inflected with that site’s signature orange-peel citrus quality, and could do with a few years (5 to 7, ideally) in the bottle before drinking.
I received an Argentine Malbec from Mendoza’s Uco Valley that I hadn’t heard of before, and was surprised at how savory it was, far more earthy, even mushroomy than the vibrant blueberry fruit you expect from Argentine Malbec. I’m not sure it’s totally successful, but it’s quite interesting.
Speaking of savory, the latest release from Smith-Madrone has got its usual quotient of umami-rich fruit for anyone who is interested in old-school Napa Cabernet.
For those looking for something more traditionally bold in the way of Napa, I’ve also got notes on the latest Cabernet from Faust, which will wrap you up in a cloak of darkness and flavor.
That’s all for this week. Notes on all these wines follow below.
2020 Garafoli “Serra del Conte” Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, Marche, Italy
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of lemon zest and chamomile tea. In the mouth, juicy and bright lemon and pink grapefruit flavors mix with a hint of Asian pear. Silky textured, with good acidity. 12% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $14. click to buy.
2020 Troon Vineyard “Côtes du Kubli Blanc – Cowhorn Vineyard” White Blend, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon
Light gold in the glass with tinges of green, this wine smells of lemon cucumber, white flowers, and star fruit. In the mouth, juicy flavors of lemon cucumber, peach, citrus pith, golden apples, and a hint of dried herbs have a nice faintly tannic grip to them, along with excellent acidity. A blend of 55% Roussanne, 25% Marsanne, and 20% Viognier farmed biodynamically. 12.6% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $35.
2019 Williams Selyem “Lewis MacGregor Estate Vineyard” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of pomelo pith and pastry cream. In the mouth, bright lemon curd and candied pink grapefruit flavors have a nice briskness thanks to excellent acidity, but also a lovely silky texture. There’s a richness here, but it’s nicely balanced by acid, making for a creamy, satisfying mouthful. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.
2019 Williams Selyem “Weir Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino, California
A medium hazy garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, gorgeously aromatic flavors of raspberry pastilles, raspberry leaf, and fresh flowers float across the palate with faint, powdery tannins coating the tongue. Outstanding acidity, balance, and complexity. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.
2019 Williams Selyem “Rochioli Riverblock Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and raspberry notes with hints of orange peel. In the mouth, rich cherry, raspberry, and orange peel flavors mix with a touch of cedar and earth. Notes of dried herbs linger with that orange zest note in the finish. Excellent acidity. Faint, grippy tannins. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $140. click to buy.
2019 Troon Vineyard “Côtes du Kubli Red” Red Blend, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of slightly meaty blackberry and boysenberry flavors. In the mouth, powdery tannins coat the mouth and gradually flex their muscles, tightening around a core of black cherry and blackberry fruit that is tinged with dried herbs. Excellent acidity and a bit of a tangy, sour cherry note in the finish. A blend of 84% Syrah and 16% Grenache farmed biodynamically. 12.7% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2019 Coen “Reserve” Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries and struck match. In the mouth, salty flavors of blueberry and iodine mix with black fruits, earth, leather, and bloody meat. Interesting in an umami sense, but not fully complete for me. Those who appreciate quite savory wines may enjoy this, however. Fermented in steel and then aged for 13 months in French oak. 13.9% alcohol. 2000 cases of obscenely heavy bottles made. Weighs 1.71kg when full. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $45.
2018 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Inky opaque garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis. In the mouth, thick and rich flavors of black cherry, cassis, and licorice are wrapped in a fleecy blanket of tannins. There’s enough acidity here to keep things moving, but the wine comes across as a massive black cloak thrown across the palate. With licorice root lingering in the finish. Big, brawny, and brooding. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $80. click to buy.
2018 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar, black cherries, tobacco, and earth. In the mouth, flavors of black cherry and forest floor have a wonderfully juicy acidity and a distinctly saline umami character that is quite compelling. Wonderfully earthy, with hints of graphite and espresso peeking around the edges, this is old-school Napa Cabernet in all its savory goodness, evoking times when wines were made in big redwood tanks. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.