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 handful of wines from a winery that prefers to be known by its initials, RG|NY. RG stands for Rivero Gonzáles, a winemaking family from Mexico that in 2019 purchased a vineyard on the North Fork of Long Island in New York. Their early releases are interesting. My favorite among them was the very lean, citrusy Viognier, but both the sparkling riesling and very light-bodied Cabernet Franc had merits as well.
I also received an Argentinian Malbec recently that is grown at one of the highest-altitude vineyards in the world. The Hess Family has long been a pioneer in the region of Salta, and their Bodega Colomé brand is one of the better wine values in Argentina. Their “El Arenal” Malbec is a single-vineyard expression of a sandy site with more than 8000 feet of elevation and sings with a rich, robust, and powerful voice.
The real star—nay, scene-stealer—this week, were the latest releases from Corison Winery in Napa. I’ve been writing about Cathy Corison and her wines for years, as I’m a fan of her old-school, low alcohol, restrained interpretation of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Her wines rarely exceed 14% in alcohol, yet they never lack for perfume or flavor, and they age exquisitely.
I don’t know what to say about her 2019 vintage effort other than it blew me away. Her 2019 St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon may well be the best-tasting new release I’ve ever had from the winery. It offers an incredible aromatic landscape in the glass while delivering a spectacular level of elegance and finesse on the palate. The companion Cabernet from the Sunbasket Vineyard doesn’t quite have the finesse of her standard St. Helena bottling…. yet. It has a more youthful expression that is perhaps not fully resolved. The Cabernet Franc that she calls “Helios” from the same vineyard is more settled in its identity, and positively delicious.
These wines aren’t cheap, but they are among the best that Napa Valley has to offer, and compared to other top Napa wines that are 4 to 6 times their price, they are positively a bargain. Put a few bottles away for 10 years and prepare to have your mind blown.
2020 RG|NY Viognier, North Fork of Long Island, New York
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of apples, lemon, and apricots. In the mouth, juicy and bright flavors of Asian pear, apricot, and citrus pith have a nice tangy juiciness to them thanks to excellent acidity. It might be hard for me to peg this as Viognier if tasted blind, so lean and citrusy as it is, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t tasty. 12.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $ . click to buy.
2020 RG|NY “Scielo” Sparkling Riesling, North Fork of Long Island, New York
Light cloudy yellow-gold with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of mandarin orange pith and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, a soft mousse delivers flavors of lemon oil, citrus pith, and winter melon. Lightly tart, with good acidity. My guess is that this is an un-disgorged bottle-fermented wine. No information is available on the bottle or the website about its winemaking, however. 10% alcohol. Closed with a crown cap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $ . click to buy.
2020 RG|NY Cabernet Franc, North Fork of Long Island, New York
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and a hint of nut skin. In the mouth, faintly candied flavors of cherry, green herbs, and caramel have a nice silky texture and good acidity. This is a somewhat simpler incarnation of Cabernet Franc but not an unappealing one, especially if you think of it as a dark rosé, which it nearly resembles. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $ . click to buy.
2019 Corison Winery “Sunbasket Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackcurrant, cocoa powder, and black cherry. In the mouth, black cherry and cola flavors are surrounded by fleecy tannins as bright cassis and blackberry notes linger in the finish with a hint of citrus peel. Excellent acidity. Brimming with youthful energy and a spring in its step. Not fully knit together yet, I don’t think. Needs a little time. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $225. Not yet released.
2019 Corison Winery “Helios – Sunbasket Vineyard” Cabernet Franc, St. Helena, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of plums, cherries, and crushed hazelnuts. In the mouth, bright plummy flavors mix with cherry and cola as fantastic citrusy acidity electrifies the palate. Tight muscular tannins grip the edges of the tongue and the sides of the mouth, as the wine finishes juicy with hints of aromatic herbs. Excellent. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $100. Not yet released.
2019 Corison Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of flowers, dark ripe plums, and blackcurrants. In the mouth, gorgeously supple, velvety tannins wrap around a core of black cherry and cassis fruit that has a wonderful purity to it. Hints of graphite and dried flowers float across the palate, as bright acidity keeps the fruit juicy and the saliva flowing. Outstanding. The incarnation of elegance, and largely untouchable by most other Napa Cabernet. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $110. Not yet released.
2019 Colomé “El Arenal” Malbec, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and blackberries. In the mouth, rich blackberry and blueberry fruit is wrapped in a massive fleecy blanket of tannins. Excellent acidity keeps things juicy as rich earth and notes of citrus and cola linger in the finish. Grown at the jaw-dropping altitude of 8530 feet above sea level in extremely sandy soils, this wine comes from the El Arenal vineyard. 4.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $ . click to buy.