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 few very nice, relatively inexpensive white wines I’m happy to recommend, beginning with a nice Sardinian Vermentino from Surrau, which offers a wonderful floral and citrus character.
Sticking with the floral theme, Sokol Blosser’s Estate Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley is also floral, with wonderful pear notes to complement the flowers, and most crucially, lots of acidity to keep the wine crisp and zingy.
A Pinot Blanc from the meticulously Biodynamic producer Alois Lageder rounds out the bright and crisp portion of this week’s reviews. Pinot Blanc is an underrated grape variety that can offer a lot of pleasure in the glass. Lageder’s is a pretty classical rendition.
Three Sticks Winery sent along a bunch of wines. I reviewed a few last week, and now a few more this week, including their mailing-list-only Alana Chardonnay, which did a perfectly poised balancing act between minerality and ripeness that I quite admired. The two Pinots I tasted from them this week were also excellent, both expressions of the eastern side of the sprawling Sonoma Coast AVA. There’s nothing particularly coastal about these two vineyards, but that shouldn’t detract from their ability to produce great fruit, which they have been doing for years. Both wines offer bright berry and cherry qualities, with excellent acidity.
I also received a German Pinot this week from August Kesseler, a well-known producer in the Rheingau, and it offered some bright, event boisterous fruit flavors that global warming has now made possible in the historically chilly area. At $25 it will satisfy Pinot Noir lovers looking for an inexpensive way to enjoy their favorite grape.
Lastly I received two special bottlings from Tom Gamble of Gamble Family Vineyards, one lovingly named after his dog Cairo, the other named after his family home in Napa. Both bottlings (one from the 2016 vintage and 2017) are nicely balanced between richness and restraint, offering slightly lower than average alcohols for Napa. I think I slightly preferred the Cairo, but that would really be splitting (dog) hairs.
Notes on all these below.
2021 Surrau “Branu” Vermentino di Gallura, Sardinia, Italy
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of orange blossom water and lemon curd. In the mouth, lightly salty flavors of orange peel, orange blossom water, and pomelo zest have a slight prickliness on the tongue and a nice crisp aspect thanks to very good acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2020 Sokol Blosser “Estate” Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of white flowers, pears, and unripe apples. In the mouth, juicy and bright lemon pith, Asian pear, daikon radish, and wet pavement minerality are bright and savory and very tasty. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2020 Alois Lageder “Versalto” Pinot Bianco, Dolomites, Italy
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and lemon pith. In the mouth, bright lemon pith and grapefruit juice have a zippy, tangy quality thanks to excellent acidity. Crisp, bright, and juicy, with a hint of sour tanginess in the finish. Demeter-certified biodynamic. 11.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $33. click to buy.
2020 Three Sticks “Alana Vineyard” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale yellow gold in the glass with green highlights, this wine smells of lemon curd and cold cream. In the mouth, lemon curd and melted butter mix with brighter apple and wet chalkboard flavors for a nice balance of rich and crisp. There’s a nice lemon zest note in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $75.
2020 Three Sticks “Durell Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
A hazy medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, cherry and cranberry flavors crackle with excellent acidity and hints of dried herbs and citrus peel linger in the finish. Barely perceptible tannins. Bright and juicy. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2020 Three Sticks “Gap’s Crown Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
A slightly hazy medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and pomegranate. In the mouth, bright raspberry and pomegranate flavors are juicy thanks to excellent acidity, and there’s a nice stony undercurrent to the wine, with faint tannins and a hint of dried herbs lingering in the finish along with citrus peel brightness. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.
2019 August Kesseler “The Daily August” Pinot Noir, Rheingau, Germany
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of boysenberries and raspberries. In the mouth, bright boysenberry and raspberry fruit flavors are shot through with hints of green herbs. Good acidity and brightness. There’s a hint of bitterness in the finish along with a faint tannic grip. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2017 Gamble Family Vineyards “Cairo” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, cola, and licorice. In the mouth, juicy flavors of black cherry, cola, licorice root, and wet earth have a nice freshness thanks to excellent acidity. Muscular tannins grip the edges of the mouth, as notes of oak and earth linger in the finish. Named after the owner’s dog. Spends 20 months in oak. 14.1% alcohol. 505 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.
2016 Gamble Family Vineyards “Family Home” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and blackcurrant. In the mouth, black cherry and blackcurrant flavors are fresh with excellent acidity and hints of dark chocolate and green herbs. Lightly muscular tannins and a touch of licorice root linger in the finish. Spends 20 months in oak. 14.2% alcohol. 698 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.