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 couple of new releases from Clare Carver and Brian Marcy at Big Table Farm. Their biodynamically produced wines, adorned with labels mostly drawn by Carver, are invariably excellent. This week I opened their “Wild Bee” Chardonnay which was fantastic, and notably features a beautiful drawing by another artist, April Coppini. It was stunning in its youth, and promises to age quite well, if you can possibly resist the temptation to drink it all now. They also sent along their perennially tasty Laughing Pig rosé of Pinot Noir (unusually, for them, bottled in a Bordeaux bottle – thank you supply-chain crisis) as well as their “Funk Estate Vineyard” Syrah, from the Rocks District. All are worth checking out.
I also opened couple of wines from Dutton-Goldfield, both of which were suitable for the warm weather we seem to be having in California. Their Pinot Blanc was crisp and bright and wonderfully refreshing, and their rosé of Pinot Noir was lean and juicy and also quite tasty.
Lastly, I interviewed a winemaker in Michigan for an article I wrote recently, and he sent along a couple of his wines for me to try, which I thought I’d share with you this week. Black Star Farms operates a bit like a co-op, with a number of winegrowers as shareholders in the organization, providing their fruit each vintage for the winemaking team headed by Lee Lutes. For those unfamiliar with Michigan wine, it has a long history going back to the 1830s, and there are now close to 150 wineries operating in the state, farming more than 3000 acres of vineyards. As you might expect from its northerly position, the state farms a lot of cold-hardy hybrid grapes, but also makes some vinifera wines as well, from varieties such as the Riesling and the Gamay that I’m featuring from Black Star Farms below. These are leaner interpretations of their respective varieties, but varietally true to form. If you haven’t experienced Michigan wines, they might be a good place to start.
Notes on all these below.
2020 Big Table Farm “The Wild Bee” Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of grapefruit pith and aromatic herbs. In the mouth, wonderfully bright flavors of lemon pith, lemon peel, and lemon curd all crackle with excellent acidity. There’s just the barest hint of a resinous quality to the wine which adds an touch of salinity to the wine. Delicious. 12.6% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2021 Dutton Goldfield “Shop Block – Dutton Ranch” Pinot Blanc, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers and lemon pith. In the mouth, unripe apples, lemon pith, and pomelo flavors have a nice brisk brightness and a stony minerality. Decent acidity. 13.3% alcohol Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $33. click to buy.
2017 Black Star Farms “Tribute – Off Dry” Riesling, Leelenau Peninsula, Michigan
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of tangerine oil and honeysuckle. In the mouth, notes of honeysuckle, mandarin orange and Asian pear are all quite lean and stony, with notes of wet chalkboard and apple skin lingering in the finish. Just barely off-dry. 11% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $19. click to buy.
2021 Big Table Farm “Laughing Pig” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale hazy ruby in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry and crushed herbs. In the mouth, flavors of strawberry, hibiscus, and orange peel lean decidedly savory, with a hint of salt and flavors of dried orange peel lingering in the finish. Silky and ever-so-tasty, with good acidity. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.
2021 Dutton-Goldfield Rosé of Pinot Noir, North Coast, California
A pale baby pink in color, this wine smells of strawberry and watermelon rind. In the mouth, brisk flavors of watermelon rind, dried herbs, and citrus peel have a nice zip thanks to excellent acidity. Lean and bright and crisp. 14.1% alcohol Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $33. click to buy.
2020 Big Table Farm Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of barnyard, herbs and berries. In the mouth, flavors of wet earth, berries and dried herbs also have a faint manure note to them. Cherry lingers in the finish along with hints of sawdust. Those looking for more savory interpretations of Pinot Noir will enjoy this wine. I find myself wanting just a touch more fruit. 12.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2019 Black Star Farms “Arcturos” Gamay Noir, Leelenau Peninsula, Michigan
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of boysenberries and blood oranges. In the mouth, blood oranges and citrus zest flavors mix with faint berry notes and a hint of dried flowers. Savory, and light. Overall delicate, but with decent acidity. 12% alcohol. Closed with a technical cork. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $22. click to buy.
2019 Big Table Farm “Funk Estate Vineyard” Syrah, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, Oregon
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis. In the mouth, rich flavors of black cherry, blackberry, and cassis are shot through with a touch of espresso and oak, some more savory notes enter the finish, balancing the fruit with dried herbs and a hint of meatiness. There’s a touch of alcoholic heat in the finish. 14.6% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $68. click to buy.