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 got a couple of wines from New York this week, which is always a pleasure, especially when they’re from storied estates like Hermann J. Wiemer, whose pioneering work in the Finger Lakes basically helped start the modern industry there. Wiemer’s Rieslings are textbook renditions of the grape variety, and this one is no exception, with its citrus pith and honeysuckle qualities.
More New York wines in a moment, but while we’re still on the topic of white wines, I’ve got the latest edition of Flora Springs‘ Soliloquy, which is their “proprietary” clone of Sauvignon Blanc. This is a showy wine, with highly floral and tropical aromas, that tastes delightful when cold, which accentuates its acidity and makes for a very refreshing experience. Fifty bucks is pretty pricey for Sauvignon Blanc, but Napa is Napa.
I’ve got three more Pinots for you this week from the prolific Dutton-Goldfield winery, including one of my perennial favorites, the Devil’s Gulch Pinot Noir from chilly Marin County. This one is zippy and tangy and juicy and all things good in coastal Pinot Noir. The other two Pinots are worth looking at as well.
Back to New York, let’s look at two very different renditions of Cabernet Franc, one from the North Fork of Long Island that positively glimmers with charm and confidence without being flashy. Lieb Cellars has been around since Mark Lieb bought a 14-acre Pinot Blanc vineyard in 1992, and has grown it into something of a small empire since. This is a great example of how well Cabernet Franc does out on the North Fork.
Our other rendition of this grape is a little more esoteric, being made Lamoreaux Landing in a sort of glou-glou style with no oak used, and probably early picking. Nonetheless, the wine has bright berry fruit to accompany the more herbal tones you’d expect from a 12.7% alcohol Cabernet Franc. Drunk with a bit of chill on it, this is a very attractive wine. Especially at $15 a bottle.
Closer to home I’ve got two of Cornerstone Cellars‘ Cabernets, one from what I think is their best site, on Howell Mountain, the other from the vineyard at Oakville Station, which once might have been called To Kalon, but which now cannot be. Both of these wines are done in the more modern, very ripe style, but for those who enjoy broad-shouldered, deep Cabernets, these might be just the ticket.
Lastly, I’ve got the red counterpart to Flora Springs’ white wine, their much more famous red named Trilogy. One of the early proprietary red blends in Napa, Trilogy has been a dependable expression of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon for decades, and continues to be made with a consistently confident hand. While it’s not my style of Napa Cabernet, it’s impeccably made, and (sad to say) a relative value in Napa at $85.
That’s all for this week. Notes on all these wines below.
2019 Herman J. Wiemer “HJW Bio” Riesling, Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, New York
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith, bergamot, and other citrus oils. In the mouth, lightly sweet and juicy flavors of Asian pair, tangerine, and honeysuckle have a wonderful brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity, while a faintly chalky citrus pith texture and flavor lingers in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $39. click to buy.
2020 Flora Springs Winery “Soliloquy” Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of passionfruit and honeydew melon, and candied guava. In the mouth, ever-so-faintly sweet flavors of passionfruit, guava, and lemon blossom have a nice brightness to them thanks to decent acidity. Very floral and bright. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2019 Dutton-Goldfield “Devil’s Gulch Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Marin County, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and sour cherry. In the mouth, raspberry, sour cherry, redcurrant, and dried herbs have a zingy juicy quality thanks to fantastic acidity. Hints of brown sugar and cedar linger in the finish along with citrus peel and raspberry pastilles. Barely perceptible tannins. Silky texture. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $72. click to buy.
2019 Dutton-Goldfield “Docker Hill Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mendocino County, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of toasted oak, cherry, and cranberry. In the mouth, flavors of oak mix with cherry and cranberry and raspberry fruit, but the wood sticks out a bit too much here. Decent acidity and length. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.
2019 Dutton-Goldfield “Redwood Ridge” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry and pomegranate juice. In the mouth, juicy cranberry and raspberry fruit flavors have a nice bright zing to them and a faint tannic texture. Excellent acidity brings notes of citrus peel to the finish along with hints of herbs and forest floor 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $68. click to buy.
2019 Lieb Cellars “Estate” Cabernet Franc, North Fork of Long Island, New York
Medium ruby in the glass with garnet highlights this wine smells of roasted hazelnuts, leather, and plums. In the mouth, bright cherry and cocoa powder flavors mix with nut skin and a tang of sour cherry and plum. Juicy acidity and a nice herbal tone lingers in the finish with a hint of Mexican chocolate. Distinctive and delicious. Aged for 10 months in Hungarian oak. 12.8% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2020 Lamoreaux Landing “T23 – Unoaked” Cabernet Franc, Finger Lakes, New York
A light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of plum and green herbs and a touch of green bell pepper. In the mouth, bright and crunchy flavors of plum and cherry are shot through with green bell pepper and just a faint grip of tannins. Excellent acidity makes this wine juicy and even crunchy. A light-bodied interpretation of Cabernet Franc that is quite tasty. Fermented and aged in steel. 12.7% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2018 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry, tobacco, and earth. In the mouth, black cherry, tobacco leaf, cola nut, and a touch of smokiness, which may just be the oak. Tight, muscular tannins. Decent acidity. Dark and rich and brawny, which will appeal to some. 14.6% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $120. click to buy.
2018 Cornerstone Cellars “Oakville Station” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis. In the mouth, rich black cherry and blackcurrant flavors have decent acidity and a dark richness that leans sweetish in the finish. Ripe and rich and dark. For those who like such things. Too much for me. 15.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $120. click to buy.
2019 Flora Springs Winery “Trilogy” Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry, cassis, and blackberry. In the mouth, juicy and faintly sweet blackberry, black cherry and cassis flavors have light powdery tannins and notes of mocha and toasted oak that linger in the finish. Very good acidity helps with the quite ripe fruit, but the wine is ultimately a bit rich for me. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $85. click to buy.