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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/30/23

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 few tasty wines from Edio Vineyards in the high-elevation Sierra Foothills of El Dorado County. Edio Vineyards is the brand name for wines produced by Delfino Farms, a family-run outfit where the younger generation have decided to make a go of things rather than sell off or let their family ranch fall into disrepair. To my palate, they’re doing an excellent job, making restrained, clean wines with excellent acidity and bright fruit expressions. I liked Robyn’s Blend, an unusual combination of Picpoul, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay, as well as their Mourvedre and Primitivo, both of which were very light on their feet.

I’ve reviewed the wines from Neely Wines in the Santa Cruz Mountains before, and this week I have their stone-inflected Home Block Chardonnay to recommend to you.

Sticking with the white genre for a moment longer, Gerard Bertrand is a somewhat larger-than-life figure, a former French national rugby star who returned to manage his family’s wine estate in the Languedoc after the death of his father. Quite admirably, he was an early adopter of organic viticulture and has gone more or less fully biodynamic for his entire production, loudly proclaiming both the environmental virtues as well as wine quality virtues of doing so. All of which makes it that much more ridiculous that his Cigalus Blanc wine is packaged in a dreadfully heavy glass bottle that weighs more than the wine inside it. Reducing bottle weight is one of the single biggest (and I would argue easiest to implement) change a winery can make to its carbon footprint. I find it utterly confounding that a winery focused on the environment and sustainability would continue to package its wines in such heavy glass. But like the expensive French oak used on this blend of Viognier and Chardonnay, I suppose Betrand thinks it conveys luxury. The wine would be better without either.

Josh Hammerling made a name for himself as an “indie” producer of sparkling wines, but he also produces still wines, some of them quite good, as evidenced by this delicate rosé of Merlot, named Summer Hum from San Benito County. It’s fresh and juicy and thankfully without some of the bitter weight that Merlot can bring to a rosé if not treated gently and picked at the right time.

From here we move into Pinot territory, with another tasty rendition of the grape, Petaluma-Gap-style, from Darling Wines, and a perennial favorite bottling of mine from Dutton-Goldfield, their Angel Camp Vineyard in Anderson Valley.

Moving a little farther north, I’ve got two more Pinot Noirs from Project M Wines, a single-vineyard bottling from the Eola-Amity Hills, and a regional blend called “Shadow,” both of which are compelling in their own way.

Last but not least I can recommend the “6” Syrah from biodynamic producer Cowhorn Vineyards, which hails from the Applegate Valley in Southern Oregon. This is an earthy-but-bright interpretation of the grape that will appeal to those who prefer their Syrah a bit leaner.

Notes on all these below. Quite a few wines this week were not in the Wine-Searcher database, but some Googling about for the producer web sites should get you what you need if you’re looking to buy.

Tasting Notes

2022 Edio Vineyards “Robyn’s Blend” White Blend, El Dorado, Sierra Foothills, California
Near colorless in the glass with just a faint hint of greenish gold, this wine smells of honeysuckle, lemon pith and ripe apples. In the mouth, silky flavors of Asian pear, apple, Meyer lemon pith, and grapefruit have a faint salinity that, combined with the nice acidity makes for a mouthwatering package. A blend of 47% Picpoul, 47% Chenin Blanc, 6% Chardonnay aged for 5 months in 20% new French oak. 12.5% alcohol. 297 cases made Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $34.

2020 Neely “Spring Ridge Vineyards – Home Block” Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Light to medium yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet stone, white flowers, and a hint of lemon pith. In the mouth, stony flavors of lemon pith, lemon juice, and white flowers are wonderfully knit together, but could use just a touch more acidity to keep them brisk. 12.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50.

2020 Gerard Bertrand “Cigalus Blanc” White Blend, Languedoc Roussillon, Vin de Pays d’Oc
Light yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon, peaches, and toasted oak. In the mouth, lemon curd and apricot flavors have almost a tobacco note to them thanks to the toasted oak influence. Somewhat overdone, but may appeal to those looking for a richer white wine. Decent acidity. A blend of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Viognier, 10% Sauvignon Blanc, all Certified Biodynamic. 14% alcohol. Comes in a shamefully heavy bottle weighing 1.694 kg when full (meaning that the glass weighs more than the wine it contains). This is completely at odds with the producer’s stated emphasis on environmental sensitivity. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2022 Hammerling Wines “Summer Hum – Gimelli Vineyard” Rosé of Merlot, San Benito County, Central Coast, California
Palest peachy pink in color, this wine smells of citrus peel and red berries. In the mouth, bright plum and berry flavors have a crisp stony quality along with a hint of herbs that linger in the finish. Could have more acidity, but quite tasty. 12.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2021 Darling Family Wines “Grand Vent Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of green herbs and woody stems mixed with berries. In the mouth, bright raspberry and pomegranate flavors mix with potting soil and dried herbs, as fine-grained tannins flex their muscles around the palate. Nice earthy finish with hints of citrus. Excellent acidity. Vineyard is 13 miles from the Pacific, planted on Steinbeck Loam with an elevation of 270 feet. 12.1% alcohol.  Score: around 9. Cost: $60.

2020 Dutton-Goldfied “Angel Camp Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, bright and juicy raspberry and cranberry flavors have fantastic acidity and a zippy boisterous quality, even as notes of dried herbs and citrus peel enter the finish. Delicious. 14.1% alcohol.  Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2021 Project M Wines “Kairos – Shadow” Pinot Noir, Williamette Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cedar. In the mouth, cherry and cranberry flavors are draped in a faint, gauzy tannic overlay, as notes of dried herbs linger in the finish. Very good acidity. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $ . click to buy.

2021 Project M Wines “Filament Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Williamette Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries and dried flowers. In the mouth, raspberry and cherry flavors are juicy with bright acidity and notes of dried herbs and flowers emerge in the long finish along with a hint of citrus peel. Silky and delicious with barely perceptible tannins. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.. Cost: $55. click to buy.

2016 Cowhorn “6” Syrah, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry, carob, and a hint of earth. In the mouth, earthy blackberry and black cherry flavors are wrapped in a muscular fist of fine-grained tannins. Hints of herbs linger in the finish. Excellent acidity. Biodynamically produced. 13.7% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9.. Cost: $45.

2020 Edio Vineyards “Estate Blend” Mourvèdre, El Dorado, Sierra Foothills, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass with purple highlights, this wine smells of blueberries and flowers and a hint of marijuana smoke. In the mouth, bright and juicy flavors of blueberry, black cherry, and huckleberry have fantastic acidity and a sour cherry tang that lingers mouthwateringly through the finish. Aged in 33% new oak. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $42.

2020 Edio Vineyards Primitivo, El Dorado, Sierra Foothills, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberries and blueberries. In the mouth, blackberry and blueberry flavors are bright and aromatic with floral overtones. Excellent, juicy acidity makes the salivary glands gush with delight. Hints of cedar and licorice linger with the bright fruit in the finish. Aged in 25% new oak. 14.3% alcohol. Comes in a bottle that is heavier than it needs to be, weighing 1.51 kg when full. Score: around 9. Cost: $42.

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