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 an unusual Japanese sake that represents the collaboration between Regis Camus, the chef du cave at Rare Champagne, and Urakasumi, a storied brewery in the Miyagi prefecture of Japan. Heavensake describes itself as the “world’s first sake lifestyle brand” and has recently released its second Junmai Daiginjo sake, named “Label Orange.” It doesn’t have the precision and delicacy I want from my Junmai Daiginjo sakes, but will appeal to anyone looking for more savory qualities in their sake.
I’ve got three Proseccos (Prosecci?) to recommend to you this week, each representing a different facet of the top end of Prosecco. The first is a beautiful expression of the limestone-rich Cartizze Hill that some call the Grand Cru of Prosecco, from producer Anna Spinato. It’s crisp and delicate and ethereal, with great aromatics.
The second is a single-vineyard expression of the Rive di San Pietro di Barbozza, from the cooperative winery Val d’Oca, also known as Cantine Produttori di Valdobiaddene. This wine has a lovely mineral expression to it, with great floral qualities.
The third is a sui lieviti Prosecco from famed producer Drusian. Sui lieviti Prosecco (as I explain in my lengthy article about them) are undisgorged, bottle-fermented versions of Prosecco that have more savory characters and the cloudy yeast sediments that characterize the pèt-nat wines that are so trendy these days. Sui lieviti wines have more variation to them than your standard Prosecco interpretation of the Glera grape. This one from Drusian is clean and bright with just a hint of the yeastiness you might expect from an undisgorged wine.
Let’s move on to a few crisp and delicious white wines from farther south in Italy. Fans of passionfruit will enjoy Marco Felluga’s Russiz Superiore Sauvignon from the Collio region of Fruili. Abruzzo is known for red wines, but it also produces lovely whites from the Pecorino grape, like the one I tasted this week from producer La Valentina, which is a steal at $19. A bit farther west, in the Marche, Gioacchino Garofoli makes a beautiful Verdicchio di Matelica that is an equally great deal at $16 a bottle.
Bouncing back to the US for a moment, if you don’t know the little winery with the truly excellent name of Limited Addition, you should look them up. Run by winemaker Chad Stock and his wife Bree (who’s a Master of Wine and wine consultant), Limited Addition makes low-intervention wines from little parcels of grapes from around the Willamette Valley. Their latest Trousseau is crunchy and lean and quite delicious.
I also recently received the 2015 vintage of Dolce, the winery in the Far Niente group that makes a Napa late-harvest dessert wine modeled after Sauternes. I always wish these wines had slightly more acidity, but the flavors are very compelling.
Lastly, I’ve got two more reds to share, a very polished and well-put-together Tempranillo from La Luz (a global brand that makes wines in Ribero del Duero among other places), and an Australian Shiraz from the far west of the country, by the family-run Frankland Estate. At $19, their Shiraz is an excellent buy.
Notes on all these below.
NV Heavensake “Label Orange” Junmai Daiginjo Sake, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan
Near colorless, with a hint of greenish haze to it, this sake smells of freshly opened copier paper, mushrooms, banana, and newly fallen snow. In the mouth, flavors of banana cream pie, mushroom, malted milk, and a faint woody note have a silky texture and a faint bite. 16.3% alcohol. A blend of sakes made with Kura No Hana and Yamada Nishiki rice varieties. Bottled December 2021. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.
NV Anna Spinato Brut Prosecco Superiore, Cartizze, Conegliano Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy
Palest gold in the glass with medium-sized bubbles, this wine smells of golden delicious apples and white flowers. In the mouth, the wine has a wonderful delicacy, with bright green apple and white flower notes borne on a soft mousse that mixes with pear and a nice wet-chalkboard minerality. Hints of grapefruit zest linger in the finish. 11% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??
2021 Val d’Oca “Rive di San Pietro di Barbozza” Prosecco Superiore, Conegliano Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy
Palest greenish gold in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of white flowers and Asian pear. In the mouth, white floral notes mix with Asian pear and winter melon flavors amidst a voluminous mousse. Clean and crisp, with a wet-chalkboard finish and just a hint of sweetness. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $37. click to buy.
2021 Drusian “Sui Lieviti – Brut Nature” Prosecco Superiore, Conegliano Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy
A pale, cloudy greenish gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of applesauce, cheese rind, and white flowers. In the mouth, a silky mousse delivers flavors of applesauce, Asian pear, white flowers, and a touch of yeasty levain bread. There’s a light tannic texture here as well. 11.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??
2021 Marco Felluga “Russiz Superiore” Sauvignon Blanc, Collio, Friuli, Italy
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of passionfruit and green apple. In the mouth, silky flavors of passionfruit and green apple have a delicate acidity and wonderful purity. Not quite as zippy as I would like, but it’s hard not to be charmed by the flavors. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $28. click to buy.
2021 La Valentina Pecorino, Colline Pescaresi, Abruzzo, Italy
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of peach, apple, and chamomile. In the mouth, zippy unripe peach, apple, and yellow herbs have a nice snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. Brisk and fresh, with just a hint of salinity in the finish. Made with organic grapes. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $19. click to buy.
2021 Garofoli “Supèra” Verdicchio di Matelica, Marche, Italy
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of peach, green apple, and a touch of lemon cucumber. In the mouth, lemon cucumber, peach, and Asian pear flavors have a bright juiciness to them thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a nice wet pavement minerality underneath the fruit. Notes of white flowers and citrus pith linger in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2021 Limited Addition Trousseau, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of forest berries, crushed rocks, and herbs. In the mouth, crunchy berry and wet earth notes mix with dried flowers and herbs as excellent acidity makes for a juicy, lightly savory concoction. Faint, powdery tannins round out the package. Excellent. 12.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2016 La Luz “Peñafiel Edición Limitada” Tempranillo Crianza, Ribera del Duero, Castilla y León, Spain
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and licorice. In the mouth, flavors of black cherry, licorice, and a touch of graphite are polished and fresh, thanks to excellent acidity. Hints of cedar and forest floor linger in the finish. Spends 18 months in French oak. 14.5% alcohol. 5327 bottles produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??
2020 Frankland Estate Shiraz, Frankland River Region, Western Australia
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and earth. In the mouth, savory notes of blackberry, iodine, earth, and dried flowers have a nice freshness thanks to excellent acidity. Faint, wispy tannins caress the edges of the palate. 14.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $19. click to buy.
2015 Dolce “Late Harvest” White Blend, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Light to medium gold in the glass, this wine smells of dried apricots, a touch of nail varnish, and honey. In the mouth, silky flavors of vanilla custard, honey, peach pie, and butterscotch drape sensually over the palate. Unfortunately, there’s not quite enough acidity here to keep the wine from being a bit syrupy, but the flavors are compelling. 13.5% alcohol. Tated from 375 ml. bottle. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.