Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/20/22

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 past week included a bunch of really excellent wines, some of them quite special. We can start off with the labor of love that is the estate of Mas de Serral, an ancient farm in the Penedes region of Spain that Pepe Raventos has been rehabilitating for several decades. This roughly 4.75-acre vineyard is studded with 16-million-year-old sea fossils and has only been worked with a horse. Raventos decided to make a single wine from the site, and age it for an impressive 100 months on the lees. The 2010 vintage I was sent is the current release of the wine, which demonstrates the power and longevity of the grapes that are better known for their role in cheap and cheerful Cava wines. Mas de Serral is quite the opposite, serious and contemplation-worthy.

Sticking with Raventos for a moment more, another of this family’s ambitious projects is the rehabilitation of the Can Sumoi property, high in the hills of Penedes. This ancient farm has a history of growing grapes going back to 1645, and is now the site of an organically farmed, low-intervention wine project that has been turning out some very impressive wines. I got the very latest (read: you might find their previous release still in stores) of their wines, and they’re all great. I’ve had the appropriately named Perfum white blend and their tasty blend of Sumoll and Garnatxa (which is just so much cooler in Catalan than in Spanish, no?) before. These latest vintages are great, too. But the real star of their recent releases is their rosé, which is a snappy and delicious mouthful but with some interesting personality that makes it quite intriguing. While these may be “natural” wines, they are all clean and bright and quite delicious, and I highly recommend them, especially because they’re relatively great values.

I’ve now clearly become a target for the folks in Moulin-à-Vent, who keep sending me wine. Not that I’m complaining about having to taste generally very good bottles of Gamay on a regular basis, mind you. I opened three bottles this week, one of which was sadly quite corked. But the remaining two were delicious, and coincidentally from the same single-vineyard site. I favored slightly the Domaine Merlin bottling, which had a cleaner brightness to it, the Maison Le Nid demonstrating a bit more obvious oak influence and a slightly riper character. Both, though are very tasty.

Let’s jump over to Italy now and spend some time with some young and accessible Nebbiolos. I opened a few Langhe Nebbiolos this week, my favorite of which was the ethereal and delicate Perbacco bottling from the venerable Vietti. Amazingly accessible in its youth, what this wine lacks in structure it more than makes up for in juicy exuberance. Both the Picotener from Enrico Serafino and the Martinenga from Marchesi di Gresy are more structured, tightly wound interpretations of Nebbiolo that are drinkable now, but will reward some more cellaring.

Sticking with Nebbiolo but heading west from Piedmont to the high-altitude valley of Valtellina, the Tenuta Scerscé Rosso di Valtellina from Cristina Scarpellini is a beautiful expression of mountain Nebbiolo, and has that alpine crunchiness that comes with an alcohol level of a mere 12%. Scarpellini is a relative newcomer to the region, having established her winery in 2008, but her wines are tremendous.

Lastly, I’ve got a bottle of proprietary red wine from Gamble Family Vineyards they call Paramount. The blend of Paramount changes a bit every year, as Tom Gamble and his winemaker Jim Close select parcels of fruit from the roughly 175 acres that Gamble farms sustainably across the Napa Valley. The 2018 vintage is a beautiful blend of the primary Bordeaux varieties, and shows great restraint both in ripeness and oak usage, making it very appealing from my perspective.

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes

2010 Mas Del Serral (Pepe Raventos) Cava Blend, Penedes, Spain
A light to medium bronze-gold in the glass with medium bubbles, this wine smells of butterscotch and pears. In the mouth, a velvety, but fading mousse delivers flavors of baked apple, citrus peel, and a hint of wet chalkboard. The finish is pithy with a hint of dried herbs. Good acidity and a nice savory complexion. This 4.75-acre vineyard was planted in 1954 and features deeply fossilized calcareous marl soils. It is a field blend of Xarel-lo and Bastard Negre. Disgorged in September 2021. 12.5% alcohol. Only 2047 bottles made. The wire cage and cork are wax-dipped, which is horribly annoying. I actually sliced my thumb open with my wine knife trying to get the damn stuff off. Grrrrrrr. Score: around 9. Cost: $160. click to buy.

2021 Can Sumoi “Perfum” White Blend, Penedes, Spain
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers, green melon, and green apples. In the mouth, green apple, lime flower, and citrus pith notes have a wonderful tangy brightness thanks to excellent acidity and are backed by the faint texture of wet stone. Crisp and delicious and deeply mineral. Made without added sulfites. A blend of 50% Moscatel, 30% Macabeo and 20% Parellada. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2021 Can Sumoi “La Rosa” Rosé, Penedes, Spain
Palest baby-pink in the glass with a hint of peach, this wine smells of watermelon rind and unripe berries. In the mouth, crisp and bright flavors of watermelon and watermelon rind, hibiscus, and a few light floral tones are fantastically mouthwatering thanks to excellent acidity, and after a very stony quality to the wine, there’s just a tiny hint of creaminess in the finish. Outstanding. A blend of 50% of the red grape Sumoll, and 30% of Parellada, and 20% Xarel-lo, both of which are white grapes. Made without added sulfites. 11.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2019 Can Sumoi “Sumoll Garnatxa” Red Blend, Penedes, Spain
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of boysenberries and dried flowers. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy boysenberry and huckleberry flavors are shot through with floral notes. Ethereal, barely perceptible tannins brush the edges of the palate, and excellent acidity keeps the fruit fresh and lively across the palate. Very pretty. A blend of the indigenous Sumoll red grape and Grenache. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2019 Domaine Merlin “La Rochelle” Moulin-á-Vent, Beaujolais, Burgundy, France
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of faintly meaty mulberries and cherries. In the mouth, faint, gauzy tannins wrap around a core of berry fruit shot through with dashi, for a delicious umami character. Good acidity and a faint saline character make this very drinkable. The La Rochelle vineyard was planted in 1937 and is worked exclusively with horses. This wine’s alcohol percentage was unreadable on the label and the producer’s website was not forthcoming. Score: around 9. Cost: $30.

2019 Maison Le Nid “La Rochelle” Moulin-á-Vent, Beaujolais, Burgundy, France
Medium to dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of crushed stone and cherry fruit. In the mouth, deeply stony cherry and mulberry fruit have a suede-like tannic texture and a remarkable citrus peel brightness that lingers in the finish, puckering the cheeks. There’s a lot to like about this wine, but it has an emerging, overt wood influence that can, unfortunately, be tasted in the back of the mouth. I think it will improve with time. The La Rochelle vineyard is planted with 75-year-old vines. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40.

2019 Tenuta Scerscé “Nettare” Nebbiolo, Rosso di Valtellina, Lombardy, Italy
Pale ruby in the glass with orange highlights, I’ve seen some rosés darker than this. The wine smells of struck match, orange peel, and strawberry jam. In the mouth, fantastic acidity keeps things quite fresh, as flavors of strawberry and herbs mix with citrus peel and red apple skin. Lovely, and delicious. This wine is grown in ancient stone-walled terraces at roughly 1300 feet above sea level. It is hand-harvested and aged in concrete tanks. A mere 12% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2019 Vietti “Perbacco” Nebbiolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of bright strawberry jam. In the mouth, flavors of strawberry, dried flowers, and dried herbs are wrapped a light flannel blanket of tannins. Excellent acidity and beautiful freshness. Not profound, but beautifully pleasurable with incredibly restrained tannins. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $29. click to buy.

2018 Enrico Serafino “Picotener” Nebbiolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cedar and juniper layered over red fruit. In the mouth, muscular tannins wrap around a core of orange peel, strawberry, and cedarwood. Good acidity and some fairly serious grip. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2019 Marchesi di Gresy “Martinenga” Nebbiolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light ruby in color, this wine smells of struck match and strawberry pastilles. In the mouth, tangy sour cherry and strawberry flavors are wrapped in a muscular skein of tannins that flex as the wine finishes with hints of woodsmoke and dried citrus peel. No shrinking violet, this wine has its share of brawn. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $27. click to buy.

2018 Gamble Family Vineyard “Paramount” Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of struck match, black cherry, and cola. In the mouth, black cherry, cola, plum, and a touch of smoked meat flavors have a nice brightness to them and a merciful lack of obvious wood flavor. Excellent acidity. A blend of 33% Cabernet Franc, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot. 707 cases produced. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $90. click to buy.