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 very pleasant white wine from Portugal’s Symington Family, who run the Quinta da Fonte Souto in the Alentejo region. This blend of Arinto and Verdelho offers flavors that might be a nice change from your usual white wine.
I’ve also got a couple more canned wines from Maker Wine to recommend, their Chardonnay from Handley Cellars and their red blend from Gilbert Cellars in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills appellation. Both are straightforward and pleasant and deliver good flavor for the price.
Quigley Family Wines is a small, estateless wine brand run by winemaker Patrick Quigley, his brother, and father. Buying fruit from a number of vineyards, the Quigleys are making small lots of wine in a restrained style, with lower ripeness, old oak, native yeasts, and low sulfur additions. They sent along their Syrah from the famed Alder Springs Vineyard (not just famous because of the name), and it’s a lovely cool-climate rendition of the grape that will appeal to those who like the wines of the northern Rhône.
Lastly, but certainly not least this week, I’ve got three more recent releases from Aperture Cellars, including what I think is the best of their 2019 Cabernets, the SJ Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemaker Jesse Katz (son of my friend and photographic collaborator Andy Katz) makes rich, powerful wines that at their best have a remarkable finesse and grace. The 2019 SJ Ranch bottling is a perfect example of this phenomenon.
The other two wines, the less expensive “Soil Specific” Cabernet, and the Del Rio single vineyard bottling are also excellent, and worth your attention if you’re in the market for these kinds of wines.
Notes on all these below.
2020 Quinta da Fonte Souto White Blend, Alentejo, Portugal
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of green apple, star fruit, and lemon cucumber. In the mouth, green apple, lemon cucumber, and a touch of greengage plum have a nice bright acidity and a faint mineral quality. Fresh and bright, though with a tiny bit of heat in the finish. A blend of 75% Arinto and 25% Verdelho. 60% of the blend was fermented in oak barrels, the rest in stainless steel. Post fermentation, the wine was aged in a mix of new and used oak. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $26. click to buy.
2021 Maker Wines “Handley Cellars” Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of apple and a touch of melted butter. In the mouth, lemon juice, golden apple, and pastry cream flavors have a nice filigreed acidity and just the faintest hint of tannic texture to them. Straightforward and pleasant Chardonnay for those who want to taste the grape and not any wood. 13% alcohol. Packaged in a 250ml can Score: around 8.5 . Cost: $10.
2019 Maker Wines “Gilbert Cellars” Red Blend, Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley, Washington
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, blackberry and oak. In the mouth, rich black cherry flavors mix with black plum. Very good acidity keeps the salivary glands cranking, while faint muscular tannins grip the edges of the palate. The oak appears on the finish as well, though it doesn’t hit you over the head. 14% alcohol. Packaged in a 250ml can Score: around 8.5. Cost: $12.
2019 Quigley Family Wines “Alder Springs Vineyard” Syrah, Mendocino County, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberries, iodine, and a touch of woodsmoke. In the mouth, rich blackberry and earth flavors have a savory herbal note to them as well. Powdery tannins coat the mouth and flex their muscles as the wine finishes with notes of licorice and black cherry. Savory and deep, with just a hint of salinity. 13.1% alcohol. 69 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2019 Aperture Vineyards “Soil Specific” Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California
Inky, opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and cola. In the mouth, cherry and cola flavors have a bright sweetish complexion and supple, suede-like tannins. Excellent acidity keeps the mouth watering, and there’s only a faint hint of heat in the finish that betrays the 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.
2019 Aperture Vineyards “Del Rio Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky, opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and blackberries. In the mouth, juicy bright cherry fruit has a fantastic weightlessness on the palate as excellent acidity and gauzy, ghostlike tannins float through the mouth. Juicy and bright with notes of cola lingering with blackberry in the finish. Exceptional. 14.7% alcohol. Comes in a nasty, heavy bottle weighing 1.8 kg when full. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.
2019 Aperture Vineyards “SJ Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Inky opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry, tobacco and a hint of licorice. In the mouth, gorgeously juicy flavors of cherry and cola mix with plum and a touch of pipe tobacco. Fantastic acidity and power with very little weight. Elegant, even majestic. No trace of the 14.9% alcohol. Comes in a nasty, heavy bottle weighing 1.8 kg when full. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $150.