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 week included a couple of pretty decent canned wines that are worth calling to your attention. I have reviewed wines from Maker Wine before, the company started by two Stanford Business School students as their final project. Their offerings, which continue to focus on smaller winemakers, continue to improve. This week I’m featuring two wines of theirs made by another Stanford student, Chris Christensen, whose Bodkin Wines label offered a tangy sparkling rosé (technically a blush, as it blends red and white wines) and (somewhat unusually) a dry Muscat Canelli. Both are extremely easy to drink, either straight from the can, or in a glass. The third Maker wine I’m highlighting this week is the latest vintage of Pinot Noir from Handley Cellars in Anderson Valley. It’s on the richer side of Pinot Noir, but pretty darned good out of a can.
Michael Brughelli has been farming grapes in Santa Barbara County for some time. Specifically, he spent seven years working for the Miller family, who own Bien Nacido Vineyards, selling grapes to some of the top wine labels in California. He was also one of the founding partners in the boutique label Scar of the Sea but has now moved on to work on his own project, Brvghelli Wine (yes, with a “v”) which he launched in 2018. Brughelli’s project is aimed at the uppermost echelons of Santa Barbara wine lovers. His Chardonnay is finely detailed and quite pretty, while his Pinot Noir offers some very nice savory qualities along with more evolved fruit flavors. At $200 per bottle, they are among the highest-priced wines made in Santa Barbara County.
Lastly, I’ve got three newer releases from Aperture Cellars, the father-son project by photographer Andy Katz (a friend whose images I feature here on Vinography from time to time) and his winemaker son Jesse Katz. I’m particularly excited about the first release of the wine that Jesse is calling his “1912 Estate,” which represents something rather new under the Aperture label. The swanky new(ish) Aperture Cellars winery and tasting room is located south of Healdsburg in Sonoma County, and the land they purchased for the cellar included 8 acres of an old “mixed black” vineyard planted with Zinfandel and a number of other grape varieties. The first release of a wine made from that vineyard is a pleasure to drink.
In addition to that, I can recommend the estate’s “Soil Specific” Bordeaux blend from Sonoma County, and the Oliver Ranch Cabernet from Alexander Valley, which is one of several single-vineyard Cabernets that Katz makes, showing off his skill at balancing power with finesse.
Notes on all these wines below.
2021 Maker Wines “Bodkin Wines” Sparkling Rosé, North Coast, California
A pale peachy pink in color with big bubbles, this wine smells of berries and citrus pith. In the mouth, a coarse mousse delivers tart citrus peel and redcurrant flavors that have hints of strawberry and watermelon. Mouthwatering and bright, even zippy. A blend of 60% Barbera, 20% Zinfandel, and 20% Chardonnay. 10% alcohol. Packaged in a 250ml can. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $8. click to buy.
2021 Maker Wines “Bodkin Wines” Muscat Canelli, Lake County, California
A bright yellow-green-gold in the glass, this wine smells of candied lemon, candle wax, and star fruit. In the mouth, candied citrus, melon, and pomelo flavors have a nice bright acidity that sneaks up on you. There’s a faint chalky texture in the finish. Very well done for Muscat Canelli, exceptionally well done for canned wine. 10% alcohol. Packaged in a 250ml can. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $8.
2018 Brvghelli Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of white flowers, lemon curd, and lemon pith with a whiff of struck flint. In the mouth, silky flavors of lemon curd, white flowers, and a hint of butterscotch have a nice saline quality and excellent acidity. Aromatic and dynamic. Notes of toasted, honey-roasted nuts linger in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $250. click to buy.
2018 Brvghelli Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Light to medium ruby in the glass with some garnet highlights, this wine smells of red apple skin, cedar, and dried flowers. In the mouth, flavors of redcurrant, raspberry, and red apple skin are silky and wrapped in gauzy tannins that have a beautiful powdery grain to them. Earthier, forest floor notes emerge in the finish. Very good acidity. This wine is slightly more developed than I would think it should be for the age, but its flavors are quite compelling. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $250. click to buy.
2021 Maker Wines “Handley Cellars” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of bruised apple and dark berries. In the mouth, richer plummy, cherry flavors make for a fairly dark complexion on this Pinot Noir. It’s about fruit, not about subtlety, that’s for sure. But the flavors are clean and there’s a faint tannic grip in the finish. 13% alcohol. Packaged in a 250ml can. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $11. click to buy.
2018 Aperture Vineyards “Estate 1912 Vineyard” Red Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of boysenberries, blackberries, and candied blueberries. In the mouth, juicy boysenberry, licorice, black pepper, and black cherry flavors are wrapped in a sheath of leathery tannins. Excellent acidity keeps the wine fresh and bright through a long finish that has hints of brown sugar. A co-fermented field blend from the vineyard behind the winery that was planted in 1912. 14.4% alcohol. Comes in an unnecessarily heavy bottle weighing 1.66 kg when full. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $85
2019 Aperture Vineyards “Soil Specific” Red Blend, Sonoma County, California
Inky, opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, tobacco, and plum. In the mouth, flavors of plum and cherry, and blueberries are aromatically sweet and backed by supple, fleecy tannins. Excellent acidity and balance. Rich and accessible. A blend of 40% Malbec, 32% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot. 14.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2019 Aperture Vineyards “Oliver Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry fruit. In the mouth, the wine has an exuberant cherry complexion with bright juicy fruit and fleecy tannins that coat the mouth. This is cherry cordial but without a lot of weight or sweetness. There is a hint of the prodigious 15.5% alcohol, but all things considered, it is pretty balanced. Comes in a nasty, heavy bottle weighing 1.8 kg when full. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.