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 few new releases from Aperture Cellars, the Sonoma-focused brand started by young winemaker Jesse Katz and his photographer father, Andy Katz (whose images I’ve featured regularly here on the site). The Sauvignon Blanc they sent through was incredibly intense and expressive and bound to impress anyone who’s looking for fruit in their Sauvignon Blanc, while at the same time keeping us acid freaks happy with its zippy crispness. We’ll come back to Aperture again below as we get into the big reds.
In the meantime, let’s spend a little time in the hammock with three tasty bottles of rosé. The first two are made by the same winery, Center of Effort located in Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo County. COE, as they are sometimes known, is the reincarnation of Lawrence Vineyards, one of the first major vineyard sites to be planted in the region. The current owners, Bill and Cheryl Swanson, have basically made COE their retirement project, elevating it to new heights with a talented team, including winemaker Nathan Carlson. These two rosés are quite similar in style and expression. The estate wine, named “Effort” is slightly silkier and more refined, but the Fossil Point delivers wonderful bright, juicy crispness that will please the perennial pink drinker.
The third rosé on offer is the work of a tiny little project between three young college friends named Minus Tide. Recently begun, this little label is making some lovely, restrained wines that showcase fruit from Mendocino County. Their rosé of Carignan has a lovely sour-cherry tanginess that I really enjoyed. The trio also sent through their Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir, which was quite tasty, especially for anyone (like me) who enjoys some of Pinot Noir’s more secondary aromas that emerge with some time.
Perhaps on the opposite end of the Pinot spectrum, the latest release from EnRoute (part of the Far Niente family of brands) is all about primary, ripe fruit, bursting as it is with cherry and raspberry.
When people ask which wineries to visit near Healdsburg, I often send them to two wineries, right across the road from each other and as different as night and day.
Acorn Winery has been run for decades by husband and wife Bill and Betsy Nachbaur. They make reasonably priced, old-school field blends that have little adornment, and offer a winery and tasting room that exudes down-to-earth charm and hospitality. I tasted their Sangiovese (which is really a field blend) and their Axiom Syrah this week and can recommend both, especially the Syrah which will appeal to anyone who enjoys the more savory side of the grape.
Just across the road, lies the sleek, modern winery of Aperture Cellars, with gorgeous architecture, lighting, landscaping, and decorated with the stunning photographs of Andy Katz. In addition to the Sauvignon Blanc above, I tasted their Sonoma “Soil Specific” Red Wine this week, which is plush and juicy, as well as their pricier, allocated SJ Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon.
Notes on all these below.
2020 Aperture “Soil Specific” Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California
Light yellow-gold in the glass with a hint of green, this wine smells of lemon rind and cape gooseberries. In the mouth, intense passionfruit, citrus zest, and candied green apple flavors have a bright aromatic sweetness and excellent acidity. Quite intense and mouthwatering. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost : $40. click to buy.
2021 Center of Effort “Effort” Rosé of Grenache, Edna Valley, Central Coast, California
Pale peachy pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon rind and unripe strawberries. In the mouth, juicy and bright watermelon and berry flavors are silky but also crisp and zingy thanks to excellent acidity. A quintessential example of a Grenache rosé. Which means: quite delicious. Made with 100% estate fruit. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2021 Fossil Point Rosé of Grenache, San Luis Obispo, Central Coast, California
Pale peachy pink in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones and watermelon rind. In the mouth, watermelon flesh and rind flavors mix with a bit of citrus peel and a hint of herbal bitterness that lingers in the finish along with citrus oil. Made by Center of Effort with fruit from friends and neighbors. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2021 Minus Tide “Feliz Creek Vineyard” Rosé of Carignan, Mendocino County, California
Light coppery pink in the glass, this wine smells of sour cherry and citrus peel. In the mouth, silky flavors of sour cherry and strawberry have a nice snappy brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Ripe cherry flavors linger in the finish. Pretty. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $26. click to buy.
2019 Minus Tide “Manchester Ridge Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mendocino Ridge, California
A faintly hazy medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of wet redwood bark, red apple skins, earth, and raspberries. In the mouth, raspberry and red apple skin flavors mix with cedar and dried flowers as gauzy tannins float wispily in the corners of the mouth. Excellent, orange peel acidity. Tastes fairly evolved, as if it got a lot of air before bottling. 13.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2019 EnRoute “Les Pommiers” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry and raspberry jam. In the mouth, sweetish raspberry and cherry flavors have a silky texture and faint cotton-ball tannins that buff the edges of the mouth. Good acidity and length, just more on the riper side than I’d like, with just a hair too much oak influence, though it is relatively well integrated. Many will appreciate the richness of fruit, however. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2018 Acorn Winery “Alegría Vineyards” Sangiovese, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth and cherry and cocoa powder. In the mouth, cherry and cocoa powder mix with the sweetness of oak. Muscular tannins have a leathery grip and the wine finishes with a hint of wood. Good acidity. A field blend of 26 different clones of Sangiovese co-fermented with Canaiolo and Mammolo. 14.1% alcohol. 240 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $42. click to buy.
2018 Acorn Winery “Alegría Vineyards – Axiom” Syrah, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Very dark garnet with purple highlights, this wine smells of wet metal, blackberry, and blueberries. In the mouth, flavors of iodine and rust mix with dark berries and deeper earth notes. Very savory and deep, with a faint note of incense. Brooding. Includes a small amount of Viognier. 14.2% alcohol. 310 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2018 Aperture “SJ Ranch Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
An inky, opaque garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and cola. In the mouth, powdery tannins hang in a haze around a core of cherry cola fruit, tightening over time. Excellent acidity kicks in midway across the palate and flavors of cocoa powder and cola linger in the finish with a hint of salty black licorice. Ripe. Aged for 22 months in 90% new French oak. 14.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost : $150.
2019 Aperture “Soil Specific” Red Blend, Sonoma County, California
Opaque dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries and black cherries. In the mouth, juicy boysenberry and black cherry flavors have a bright acidity and a very supple, velvety tannic backdrop. Fruit forward but not massively ripe, this is a lush expression of fruit, for those who are looking for such things. There’s just a tiny bit of heat in the finish. A blend of 40% Malbec, 32% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot. Aged for 18 months in 45% new French oak. 14.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost : $60. click to buy.