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 some more new releases from Minus Tide, the tiny operation run by three college friends in Mendocino County. While their Chardonnay was decent I got more excited about their crunchy Carignan and their two distinctly cool-climate Syrahs, which both sported lovely white pepper spice aromatics.
In addition to those wines, this week continued last week’s theme of “neighbors” as I worked through the remaining wines from Aperture Cellars and Acorn Winery, which basically sit across the road from each other south of Healdsburg.
From Acorn, I can recommend their reliably tasty Acorn Hill field blend of many different varieties and their Heritage Zinfandel, which itself is also a field blend, though Zinfandel dominant. Both wines express admirable honesty and demonstrate the magic of co-fermented field blends in terms of creating harmonious complexity in the glass.
From Aperture, I can recommend the soil-specific Chenin Blanc which, while not singing with varietal character, is extremely tasty, along with several Cabernet Sauvignons. The first is the winery’s less expensive “Soil Specific” Cabernet, which offers bright fruit and a lovely buoyancy of character. The two single-vineyard-designated Cabernets are a bit more serious and powerful and demonstrate why people enjoy winemaker Jesse Katz’s wines so much. These two Cabernets pull off the great trick of being both powerful and elegant, juicy and rich without being too much of either. They’re outstanding expressions of what Sonoma’s Alexander Valley can deliver in terms of quality, and world-class incarnations of Cabernet Sauvignon. I just wish they came in lighter bottles, which would suggest the winery cared more about the environment than a luxury image.
Notes on all these below.
2020 Aperture “Soil Specific” Chenin Blanc, North Coast, California
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon peel and Asian pear. In the mouth, wonderfully bright lemon and pear, and grapefruit flavors are simultaneously ripe and racy, with an aromatic sweetness and a crackling, mouthwatering acidity. Very tasty. Made from vines planted in the 1940s. Barrel-fermented, then aged in 80% stainless, 20% neutral oak. 12.1% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $26. click to buy.
2019 Minus Tide “Manchester Ridge Vineyard” Chardonnay, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino, California
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of vanilla and grapefruit pith. In the mouth, flavors of lemon peel, butterscotch, and grapefruit juice have a nice silky texture and good brightness thanks to decent acidity. There’s a tiny hint of toasted, woody bread on the finish. 13.3% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $42. click to buy.
2019 Minus Tide “Feliz Creek Vineyard” Carignan, Mendocino County, California
Dark hazy garnet in the glass, this wine smells of boysenberry pie and ripe blueberries. In the mouth, juicy flavors of boysenberry, blueberry, and black cherry have a faint powdery tannic texture and a hint of green herbs shot through them. Made in a glou-glou style for easy drinking with-a-chill, there’s a sour cherry note on the finish. Excellent acidity. 14.1% alcohol. Closed with a synthetic cork. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.
2019 Minus Tide “Perli Vineyard” Syrah, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino, California
A hazy dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry, cassis, and white pepper. In the mouth, wonderfully spicy notes of white pepper mix with ripe and unripe blackberry, and notes of dried herbs. Faint powdery tannins gain stiffness as the wine heads to a long finish. I suspect this wine will blossom with some age. 13.6% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $39. click to buy.
2019 Minus Tide “Valenti Vineyard” Syrah, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of meaty black cherry and blackberry. In the mouth, smoked meats and dried flowers mix with blackberry and blueberry flavors that are shot through with green herbs. Decidedly savory and very aromatic with excellent acidity. On the lean side, but quite tasty. 13.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $39. click to buy.
2017 Acorn Winery “Alegría Vineyards – Acorn Hill” Red Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry, cedar, dried flowers, and a touch of earth. In the mouth, flavors of black cherry, cocoa powder, brown sugar, and dried herbs have a nice fleecy tannic texture and good acidity. Easy-drinking and delicious. Shows the magic of the field blend, in this case a cofermentation of Sangiovese, Syrah, Viognier, Canaiolo, and Mammolo. 14.3% alcohol. 192 cases made Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2018 Acorn Winery “Alegría Vineyards – Heritage Vines” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry, black cherry, and licorice. In the mouth, juicy black cherry, blackberry, Worcestershire sauce, and licorice flavors have a leathery tannic texture to them and excellent acidity that keeps the mouth watering, as the wine finishes with notes of sweet blackberry pie. There’s a touch of heat in the finish as well, but not enough to really bother. While this is labeled Zinfandel, it is really a traditional mixed-backs field blend of 78% Zinfandel. 11% Alicante Bouschet, 9% Petite Sirah, and 2% of a bunch of other varieties (Carignan, Trousseau, Sangiovese, Petit Bouschet, Negrette, Syrah, Black Muscat Cinsault, and Grenache all planted together in 1890. The grapes are all harvested together and fermented together. 14.7% alcohol. 295 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2019 Aperture “Soil Specific” Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry and blackberry fruit. In the mouth, extremely juicy cherry and blackberry flavors mix with a hint of cocoa powder and licorice. Faint, putty-like tannins stiffen through the finish and there’s a hint of plum skin that lingers in the finish as well with its characteristic sour tang. Quite tasty. Includes 3% Merlot and 1% Malbec, all aged for 18 months in 55% new French oak. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.
2018 Aperture “Oliver Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, tobacco leaf, and cocoa powder. In the mouth, rich cherry fruit is shot through with meatier, savory notes and hints of dried herbs and flowers, while wrapped in a fleecy blanket of tannins. Cocoa powder, licorice, and tobacco linger in the finish. Excellent acidity. Aged 22 months in 80% new French oak. 14.5% alcohol. Comes in a much heavier bottle than needed, weighing 1.75 kg when full. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.
2018 Aperture “Del Rio Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, cassis, and cola. In the mouth, rich black cherry and cola flavors are juicy with acidity and backed by gauzy wispy tannins that powder the inside of the mouth. Both rich and powerful but also juicy and supple, this wine walks a deliciously fine line. Aged 22 months in 100% new French oak. 14.7% alcohol. Comes in a much heavier bottle than needed, weighing 1.75 kg when full. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.