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 I’ve got several interesting white wines to start with, including the lovely Derthona Timorasso from Vietti, which is a great example of why this once-obscure white grape from the Piedmont region is getting much more attention these days.
I’ve also got three white wines from a small, newer producer in Rioja named Abel Mendoza. I’ve reviewed a couple of their wines before, but I’m pretty excited about the ones they recently sent me. The most spectacular was the 5V white blend (named because a few of the grapes weren’t historically allowed to go onto labels in Rioja) which has a remarkable salinity that just begs for another sip. The Torrontes and Tempranillo Blanco are also both tasty.
Before moving onto reds, I should also highlight an unusual and worthy rendition of Chardonnay from the Trentino Alto Adige made by Alois Lageder. It doesn’t look like Chardonnay from the label, but if you can get over that fact, it’s a lovely floral rendition of the grape that is well worth your time.
Moving briefly on to reds, I’ve got a nice Pinot from Dutton-Goldfield that should be held for a little while before drinking, but will yield some lovely bright fruit when you do. There are a few other decent Pinots rated below, but the star of the reds this week was the Solari bottling by Larkmead, which is made from the oldest blocks of Cabernet on the historical estate, and made in an old-school, restrained style allowing for more savory flavors in addition to fruit. If you like that sort of thing you’re gonna love this bottle.
2019 Stone Edge Farm Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of candied green apple and passionfruit. In the mouth, green apple, passionfruit, and lime juice flavors have a faint bitterness to them. Decent acidity, and a nice silky texture. Not quite as vibrant as it could be, but the flavors are good. Contains 15% Semillon. 14.1% alcohol. 625 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50.
2019 Vietti “Derthona” Timorasso, Colli Tortonesi, Piedmont, Italy
Light gold in color, this wine smells of struck match, apricots, and lemon cucumber. In the mouth, faintly saline flavors of lemon cucumber, unripe peaches, and lemon pith have a bright acidity and a faint dried herbal note that lingers in the finish. Nice silky texture.14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.
2020 Abel Mendoza “5V” White Blend, Rioja, Spain
Pale gold in the glass with some green highlights, this wine smells of lemon pith and lemon cucumbers. In the mouth, faintly saline flavors of lemon juice, grapefruit juice, and Asian pears are positively mouthwatering thanks to excellent acidity and that salty kick that lingers with yellow herbs and lemon zest through the finish. Outstanding. A blend of 27% Viura, 20% Garnacha Blanca, 20% Tempranillo Blanco, 20% Torrontés, and 13% Malvasía. 14% alcohol. 3895 bottles made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2020 Abel Mendoza Torrontes, Rioja, Spain
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith, white flowers, and a touch of melon. In the mouth, bright lemon and faint melon flavors mix with grapefruit and white flowers. Excellent acidity, and much leaner than I typically find this grape variety. Pretty. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50.
2020 Abel Mendoza Tempranillo Blanco, Rioja, Spain
Palest greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of pink grapefruit and a touch of struck match. In the mouth, salty notes of melted butter, lemon oil, pink grapefruit, and that struck match smokiness make for a delicious, even mouthwatering package. Excellent acidity, that combined with the salty lemon kick in the finish, keeps the tastebuds tingling. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50.
2018 Alois Lageder “Löwengang” Chardonnay, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of white flowers and grapefruit pith. In the mouth, lemon and grapefruit pith mix with touches of lemon curd and white flowers for a delicate, bright, delicious mouthful of flavor. Very good acidity and balance. Biodynamically farmed. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $57. click to buy.
2019 Dutton-Goldfield “Azaya Ranch” Pinot Noir, Petaluma Gap, Marin, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry, and oak. In the mouth, bright and pure cherry, cranberry, and sweet oak flavors mix with a hint of mocha. Decent acidity, but needs a bit of time for the oak to mellow. 13.7% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.
2019 J. Bucher “Pommard Clone – Bucher Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of slightly smoky forest floor and red berries. In the mouth, cherry and forest floor mix with cedar and toasted oak flavors with hints of nutmeg and citrus zest. Very good acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.
2019 J. Bucher “Three Sixty – Bucher Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of forest floor and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, cherry, raspberry, and forest floor flavors have a rustic earthiness that lingers with hints of carob in to the finish. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2018 MacRostie Winery “Thale’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry. In the mouth, cherry, cedar, and raspberry flavors mix with earthier tones and hints of bitter wood. Good acidity, with a touch of citrus peel lingering in the finish. Faintest of tannins. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $58. click to buy.
2018 Larkmead “Solari” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of Niçoise olives, black cherries, and green herbs. In the mouth, somewhat saline flavors of black olives, black cherry, green herbs, molasses, and tobacco leaf are nestled into a suede blanket of tannins. Excellent acidity keeps this savory rendition of Cabernet quite mouthwatering. This is old-school Napa here. If you’re looking for fruit bombs, go elsewhere. Made from the oldest blocks of Cabernet on the historic estate. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $200. click to buy.