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 couple of killer whites from Friuli, the first of which is a perfect example of why I fell in love with the whites of this region. With a little age on it, this blend of Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Blanc, and Tocai Friulano from Marco Felluga has an absurdly high deliciousness quotient. Fruity, savory, and saline, it hits all the notes.
Russiz Superiore, despite sounding like the name of an appellation, is actually the name of an ancient estate that Marco Felluga purchased in 1966 not far from his own winery. Opting to keep the estate’s name, the Felluga family now makes a separate set of wines there, including this Sauvignon Blanc, which is a decidedly different character than Californian or New Zealand wines made from the same grape. It’s got a lightness to it that is rather compelling.
Next, I’ve got a pair of Vermentinos from Troon Vineyard in Oregon, one made fresh and straightforward, the other with extended skin contact. Both are quite delicious in their own ways.
Moving on to reds, I’ve got a bright, if slightly oaky Pinot from Dutton-Goldfield that will be lovely when the wood is a bit better integrated into the wine, allowing its cherry and cranberry fruit to shine.
Lastly, I’ve got three red wines from the tiny producer Abel Mendoza in Spain’s Rioja region who makes wines that are deliberately outside the region’s established classification system. Each offers really lovely and distinct fruit and savory flavors wrapped in a disarming, honest package unmediated by wood flavors or fancy winemaking. I think my favorite of the three is the salty, juicy combination of Graciano and Garnacha that is simply a delight to drink. The Tempranillo (don’t call it a Rioja) is also a winner. These wines can be tough to find, but snap them up if you see them.
Notes on all these below.
2015 Marco Felluga “Molamatta” White Blend, Collio, Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Italy
Light yellow-gold in the glass with green highlights, this wine smells of lemon pith, bee pollen, and chamomile. In the mouth, salty flavors of lemon zest, bee pollen, butterscotch, and apples have a juicy bright quality thanks to excellent acidity. Silky, with a nice overall creaminess to the wine, but the overall impression is neon lemon and herbs all the way down. Excellent. A blend of Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Blanc, and Tocai Friulano. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2013 Russiz Superiore “Riserva” Sauvignon Blanc, Collio, Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Italy
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of candied lemon peel and white flowers. In the mouth, bright lemon and lemon zest flavors mix with a hint of green apple and lime. Bright, juicy, and quite delicious. Excellent acidity and balance. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $33
2020 Troon Vineyard “Estate Vineyard – Kubli Bench” Vermentino, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon pith and wet chalkboards. In the mouth, juicy bright apple, pear, and lemon flavors have a salty, silky brightness and a delicious candied lemon finish. Lovely. Biodynamic grapes fermented and aged in old oak barrels with minimal sulfite additions. 12.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30 click to buy.
2020 Troon Vineyard “Amphora Amber” Vermentino, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon
A light bronze gold in the glass, this wine is not nearly as orange as I would have expected given the almost year-long maceration time. It smells of candle wax, yellow herbs, exotic citrus, and pear skin. In the mouth, wonderfully bright flavors of citrus pith, pound cake, and stone fruits have a faint tannic texture and excellent acidity. Biodynamic grapes fermented with native yeasts and aged on their skins in terra cotta amphorae for almost a year before bottling with minimal sulfite additions. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30 click to buy.
2019 Dutton-Goldfield “Fox Den Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Green Valley, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of oak and bright cherry fruit. In the mouth, lightly salty oak flavors mix with cherry and cranberry fruit that is quite bright and pure. Excellent acidity and faint tannins, but I wish I tasted less wood. Wait a couple of years on this one before opening. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2018 Abel Mendoza “Grano a Grano” Graciano, Rioja, Spain
Medium to dark garnet in the glass with purple highlights, this wine smells of blackberries and huckleberries. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy blackberry and cherry flavors mix with a hint of dried herbs and a touch of cedar. Boisterous. Wonderfully aromatic but with a touch of savoriness that I like, along with a faint salinity in the finish and barely perceptible tannins. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $100.
2018 Abel Mendoza “Grano a Grano” Red Bled, Rioja, Spain
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry, black cherry, and a touch of earth. In the mouth, strawberry and blackberry flavors have a nice lean savoriness to them, with excellent citrusy acidity and a faint tannic backbone that adds some seriousness to the wine. Quite delicious with a hint of salinity in the finish. A blend of Graciano and Garnacha. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100.
2018 Abel Mendoza “Grano a Grano” Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain
Dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry with hints of bergamot and blackberry. In the mouth, dark cherry flavors mix with blackberry and cedar as hints of dark earth and dried flowers enter the picture. Excellent acidity and suede-like tannins. Quite pretty and refined despite its youth. I bet it will age beautifully. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100.