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 bunch of fun wines, starting with an unusual aged Riesling from California’s master of esoterica, Matthew Rorick at Forlorn Hope. I’ve described Rorick as the “crazy cat lady” of California winemakers, for his inability to pass up the opportunity to make a wine from the (often) obscure grapes he continues to come across. Riesling doesn’t qualify as an obscure grape, but Rorick chooses to age his in the barrel and bottle for a wee bit longer than most. This 2014 is his current release.
Speaking of white wines with a little age on them, I’ve also got a really lovely rendition of Grüner Veltliner from Santa Barbara pioneer Kathy Joseph at Fiddlehead Cellars. Joseph also has a habit of holding wines back and releasing them with a bit of age on them, which is true for this varietally-true Grüner, as well as the Pinot Noir I also tasted this week, which is named for the mile marker closest to her driveway in the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barbara.
I’ve also got a final couple of wines from the group sent to me by Burgundy producer Maison Eduoard Delaunay, including their Chassagne-Montrachet bottling, as well as a Premiere Cru Pommard, both of which are worth seeking out if you’re in the habit of paying three-figure prices for bottles.
Lastly this week I’m excited to have gotten the chance to taste the 2018 Chianti releases from the venerable Barone Ricasoli, which are all excellent, but especially their single-site wines highlighting some exceptional vineyards with distinct soil profiles. Ricasoli can trace its history back to the 11th Century, making it the oldest winery in Italy and one of the oldest in the world. They are undisputed masters of the Chianti form, and these top bottlings are worth seeking out as delicious reminders that Chianti deserves just as much attention as the more expensive Tuscan wines nearby that get far more attention and acclaim.
2014 Forlorn Hope “Amerikanischen Kobold – Kick On Ranch” Riesling, Santa Barbara, California
Light greenish-gold in the glass with a faint haze to it, this wine smells of unripe apples and mandarine orange pith. In the mouth, candle wax, wintersweet blossom, lemon oil, and a hint of diesel have a wonderful silky complexion and a delicate, filigreed acidity that sneaks up on you a bit, eventually leaving a very wet slate minerality lingering in the finish along with a touch of musk. Very distinctive and interesting. 11.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $36. click to buy.
2016 Fiddlehead Cellars “Fiddlestix Vineyard” Grüner Veltliner, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of honey and chamomile flowers. In the mouth, chamomile, lemongrass, and honeysuckle flavors have a nice purity and classic character, while hints of pear skin and citrus linger in the finish. Excellent acidity and brightness. This is one of the more varietally correct renditions of Grüner I’ve had from California. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2018 Edouard Delaunay “Le Village” Chassagne-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France
Light greenish-gold in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers and lemon pith. In the mouth, lemon curd, butterscotch, and vanilla all layer together with a hint of citrus oil over the top of a nice wet-pavement minerality. Good acidity, but could be better. 13% alcohol. 2088 bottles made. Score: around 9. Cost: $105. click to buy.
2021 Troon Vineyard “Kubli Bench” Rosé, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon, Oregon
A pale, faintly hazy peach color in the glass, this wine smells of watermelon rind and strawberries. In the mouth, silky flavors of berries, watermelon, and citrus peel have a nice crisp bite to them thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a faint creaminess to the wine, but that doesn’t keep it from being refreshing and bright. A blend of 55% Malbec, 35% Tinta Roriz, and 10% Cunoise all biodynamically grown and organic. The grapes are whole-cluster pressed and then ferment and age in neutral oak barrels. 11.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2018 Edouard Delaunay “Les Fremiers” Pommard Premier Cru, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of flowers and forest berries. In the mouth, gauzy tannins wrap around a core of raspberry and violets with hints of fresh herbs and a touch of earth. Very pretty, with excellent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. 1481 bottles made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $120. click to buy.
2015 Fiddlehead Cellars “Seven Twenty Eight – Fiddlestix Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
Medium ruby in the glass with a faint haze, this wine smells of raspberries and orange peel. In the mouth, juicy raspberry, red apple skin, citrus peel, and dried herb flavors have a nice bright juiciness thanks to excellent acidity. Faint wispy tannins stay mostly at the edges of perception, as bright raspberry and citrus peel notes linger in the finish. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $46. click to buy.
2018 Ricasoli “Castello di Brolio” Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of woodsmoke, soy sauce, red berries, and a hint of dried herbs. In the mouth, leather, cherries, dried flowers, and red apple skin have a light leathery tannic texture and excellent acidity that leans towards citrus peel. A nice stony backdrop to the tasty fruit and herbs. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2018 Ricasoli “CeniPrimo Gran Selezione Castello di Brolio” Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of grilled meat and dried flowers and cherries. In the mouth, salty flavors of cherry and raspberry mix with dried herbs, dried flowers, and bacon. Powdery suede-like tannins coat the mouth. Grown in ancient Pliocene-Pliestocine fluvial soils. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $165. click to buy.
2018 Ricasoli “Roncicone Gran Selezione Castello di Brolio” Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of bacon fat and incense. In the mouth, faintly salty flavors of cherry, grilled pancetta, red miso, and dried flowers are bursting with acidity and have a lovely freshness. Hints of fresh herbs linger in the finish, along with that gorgeous saline character. Faint tannins. Quite delicious. Grown on ancient sandy Pliocene marine deposits. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $78. click to buy.
2018 Ricasoli “Colledilà Gran Selezione Castello di Brolio” Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of cherry and strawberry fruit shot through with a hint of grilled meat. In the mouth, salty, extremely juicy flavors of citrus peel, cherry, raspberry, and dried herbs have an incredible citrus tang thanks to electric acidity that keeps the mouth watering along with the natural salinity of this wine. Outstanding. Faint tannins. Grown on higher-elevation calcareous clay loam sedimentary soils. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.