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 whole lotta Pinot… but before we get to the red variety, let’s linger for a glass or two of the orange variety, courtesy of Two Shepherds Winery, which has been making excellent skin-contact Pinot Gris for a number of years. Their latest effort, which they refer to as the “love child between a rosé and an orange wine” is delicious and bright and will make a quick convert of anyone who isn’t sure what this orange wine thing is all about. If you’re looking for something darker, but also thirst quenching, you might also consider their carbonically macerated Carignan.
Martin Mackenzie grew up in New Zealand, and began his winemaking career there before moving to California. He currently works at Neal Family Vineyards on Napa’s Howell Mountain, but in 2016 he started a label called Three Furies with his wife Shauna. I gathere there will eventually be three wines, but for now they’ve sent along the first two furies, a Pinot from the Santa Lucia Highlands and another from the Sta. Rita Hills. Both show a nice amount of restraint in the winemaking, with a deft use of oak and excellent acidity.
Calera Winery probably needs little introduction to any Pinot Noir lover in Californa. These ageworthy Pinots have been excellent for years, and despite now being part of the Duckhorn portfolio, the quality of the wines continues to be excellent. Their Central Coast Pinot Noir represents, as usual, an excellent value, while their single vineyard Pinots from Jensen and de Villiers vineyards are outstanding.
I’ve been a fan of Acumen wines from their initial launch, so I was happy to taste their latest efforts from the Atlas Peak AVA in Napa. These are refined and sophisticated renditions of Cabernet Sauvignon, and worthy of collector attention. I just wish they’d switch to lighter bottles.
Lastly, I was happy to have my first taste of the Grieve Family’s “Double Eagle” Cabernet which, while made in a polished, modern style and packaged in a weighty bottle with a leather label, doesn’t fall prey to some of the typical excesses of its peers. It features well-integrated wood, and very plush tannins that make it pretty easy to drink at the moment, but with enough acidity to age a bit as well.
Notes on all these below!
2021 Two Shepherds Winery “Skin Fermented – Clarbec Vineyard” Pinot Gris, Sonoma Valley, California
A hazy pale ruby in color with a hint of orange, this wine smells of citrus peel and strawberries. In the mouth, tangy and bright orange peel and strawberry flavors have a nice snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. A faint tannic grip enters the finish along with some floral qualities. Fermented with native yeasts, unfined and unfiltered. 12.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $28. click to buy.
2021 Two Shepherds Winery “Wiley Carbonic – Trimble Vineyard” Carignan, Mendocino County, California
A medium bright purple in color, this wine smells of dried flowers and fresh flowers along with bright boysenberry fruit. In the mouth, powdery tannins coat the mouth and dust flavors of boysenberry and black cherry. Hints of herbs linger in the finish. Spends 2.5 weeks in tank for carbonic maceration and then pressed into stainless steel for 4 months before bottling. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2019 Three Furies Wine “The Angry One” Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, Central Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and pomegranate. In the mouth, raspberry, pomegranate, and cherry flavors have a nice citrus peel brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Faint tannins and notes of dried herbs linger in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $85.
2019 Three Furies Wine “Constant Vengeance” Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of slightly meaty cherry and cranberry aromas. In the mouth, cherry and raspberry flavors are wrapped in a lightly-leathery blanket of tannins, with orange-peel notes and dried herbs lingering in the finish. Excellent acidity. 14% alcohol. between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $85.
2019 Calera Vineyards Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, but headed towards ruby, this wine smells of red apple skin, cranberry, and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, raspberry and cranberry fruit have a candied quality and a faint note of dried herbs as gauzy tannins wrap around the juicy core of fruit. Excellent acidity, but a slight bit of heat on the finish. Otherwise very tasty. 14.5% alcohol. 2500 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $27. click to buy.
2019 Calera Vineyards “Jensen Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mt. Harlan, Central Coast, California
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of dried flowers, chopped green herbs, and berries. In the mouth, juicy raspberry and herb flavors are wrapped in a gauzy haze of tannins that gradually stiffens as the wine finishes with dried flowers, dried herbs, and citrus peel. Excellent acidity and length. Grown at 2200 feet of elevation on limestone soils. 14.5% alcohol. 720 cases made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $105. click to buy.
2019 Calera Vineyards “de Villiers Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mt. Harlan, Central Coast, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar and red apple skin, raspberries, and green herbs. In the mouth, faintly saline flavors of raspberry, dried herbs, cocoa powder, and cedar are wrapped in wispy tannins. Notes of citrus peel linger in the finish along with the very bright fruit. Excellent acidity makes everything juicy and delicious. Grown at 2200 feet of elevation on limestone soils. 14.5% alcohol. 1175 cases produced. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $85. click to buy.
2019 Acumen “PEAK – Attelas Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, cola, and chopped herbs. In the mouth, juicy black cherry, cola, and bright fresh cherry fruit are tinged with dried herbs and flowers. Excellent acidity and athletic tannins. There’s a nice freshness to this wine, and savory notes in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Bottle is heavier than it needs to be, weighing 1.69 kg when full. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $155. click to buy.
2019 Acumen “PEAK – Edcora Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth, black cherry, and cassis. In the mouth, cassis and black cherry fruit are wrapped in a thick fleecy blanket of tannins that seems to gain weight as the wine finishes. Notes of blueberry and blackcurrant linger in the finish with a hint of licorice. Excellent acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Bottle is heavier than it needs to be, weighing 1.69 kg when full. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $165. click to buy.
2018 Grieve Family “Double Eagle” Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, California
Opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth, juicy cherry and cola notes have a lovely powdery, fleecy tannic texture and a lovely brightness thanks to excellent acidity. The wine wears its wood well, with little overt flavor of oak, instead letting the plush and juicy, sweet cherry fruit take center stage. Very accessible, even in its youth. Spends 20 months in French oak barrels before bottling, in a heaver-than-it-needs-to-be bottle weighing 1.68 kg when full. 14.6% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $90. click to buy.