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 bunch of interesting wines from near and far. Let’s start with a pair from Terrazas de los Andes, located in the picturesque Lujan de Cuyo district of Mendoza, Argentina. Their Reserva Chardonnay is quite a steal for less than $20, and managed to walk a nice line between richness and leaner, stonier qualities. The Grand Malbec I also tasted this week was equally balanced, with a nice stony quality to offset its rich dark fruit.
I also tasted a couple of wines from Barnard Griffin, a long-standing winery in Washington that has grown slowly and steadily from its tiny, family-run beginnings to become a familiar name to most lovers of Washington wine. Their rosé of Sangiovese and their Cabernet are both solid, reasonably priced wines.
Further afield, I’ve also got two Italian Pinot Noirs (or Pinot Nero, if that’s your fancy) to share with you this week, both from the Alto Adige region of northern Italy. The first, from producer Nals Margreid, has a wonderful damp forest quality along with its berry fruit. The second, from storied producer Elena Walch, offers a more crystalline, stony quality along with its clutch of crushed berries.
Perhaps most exciting this week, however, were my first tastes of the wines from Newfound Wines, a small outfit based in the Sierra Foothills run by wine industry veterans Matt and Audra Naumann. They purchased a 40-acre property in the foothills in 2016, and are building their label with purchased fruit as they ramp up their plantings on their home ranch in El Dorado County.
Matt spent time working at Failla Wines and more recently as President of Wade Cellars, a label started by NBA player Dwayne Wade. Audra has worked primarily on the sales side of wine, at labels such as Hourglass. The two wines from Newfound are exciting in their freshness and restraint, featuring whole-cluster fermentation, used oak aging, lower alcohols and excellent acidity. I highly recommend them both.
Notes on all these below.
2021 Terrazas de los Andes “Reserva” Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, roasted hazelnuts, and an unusual camphor note. In the mouth, juicy lemon curd, and a touch of pineapple have a crisp brightness thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a touch of heat in the finish. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2021 Barnard Griffin Rose of Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, Washington
A bright light ruby color in the glass, this wine smells of maraschino cherries and strawberries. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit is juicy and crisp, with a hint of bitterness creeping into the finish. Good acidity. 12.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2020 Nals Margreid “Angra” Pinot Noir, Südtirol Alto Adige, Italy
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cedar with a hint of forest floor. In the mouth, flavors of forest floor, cherry, and raspberry have a nice herbal, savory undertone, with excellent acidity and faint, grippy tannins. There’s a note of citrus peel that lingers in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??
2019 Elena Walch “Ludwig” Pinot Noir, Südtirol Alto Adige, Italy
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry, flowers, and a touch of incense. In the mouth, relatively crystalline notes of raspberry, raspberry leaf, wet pavement, and savory green herbs have a fantastic brightness thanks to excellent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2019 Newfound Wines “Yount Mill Vineyard” Grenache, Napa Valley, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of berries and green herbs. In the mouth, the wine has a wonderful freshness, with brisk acidity that makes flavors of strawberry and redcurrant come alive. More savory herbal notes come into play, along with grippy tannins, thanks to roughly 50% whole cluster fermentation. Crunchy and quite gulpable. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2020 Newfound Wines “Shake Ridge Vineyard” Syrah, Amador County, Sierra Foothills, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of wet metal, blackberry, and blueberry fruit. In the mouth, meaty blackberry and blueberry notes mix with earth and green herbs as a faint salty kalamata olive note creeps into the finish. Delicious, with excellent acidity and muscular, fine-grained tannins. 13.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $55.
2020 Barnard Griffin Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, cassis, and a hint of green herbs. In the mouth, sweetish flavors of black cherry and blackcurrant are textured with faint, wispy tannins. Good acidity. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2019 Terrazas de los Andes “Grand Malbec” Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of struck match and blueberries. In the mouth, blueberry and blackberry fruit has a nice muscular tannic backbone, which is fine-grained and supple, lending complexity to the fruit. There’s a nice stony, earthy quality underneath that fruit which, accompanied by brisk acidity, makes for a nicely balanced experience. Notes of blueberries and licorice linger in the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.