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 an interesting mix of wines, from a fancy (and very pricey) Sauvignon Blanc from Chalk Hill in Sonoma to a tasty white from off the beaten path in the Southern Rhône Valley. The latter was a very pretty mix of grapes from Chapoutier that delivers impressive flavor and quality for $17.
Not to be outdone, the Paul Jaboulet Aîné Condrieu offers Northern Rhône flavors without succumbing to the overt richness that sometimes characterizes Viognier.
Closer to home, the Dutton-Goldfield Chardonnay from Walker Hill Vineyard offers a nice expression of the foggy climes of Green Valley. I really enjoy its floral lightness and what seems like a mineral-driven commitment to stay a long ways away from rich butteriness.
Adding a little color, I have two rosés to recommend this week. One from Rosemary Cakebread’s Gallica label in Napa, which unites Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon in a surprisingly crisp combination, the other a more classic Mourvèdre and Syrah combination from VITAL in Washington. VITAL is a very interesting wine brand, created to fund social justice and equity programs for vineyard workers in the state, combining worthy cause and deliciousness neatly in one package.
I’ve got a couple of Pinots this week, a unapoligetically rich rendition of the Sonoma Coast from Paul Hobbs, and a leaner interpretation of the grape from the Macedon Ranges in Australia, courtesy of Shadowfax.
Last but not least, I’ve got a juicy Zinfandel from Dutton-Goldfield, a nice Grenache from Gallica, and a Merlot from Sutro Wines in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley.
Notes on all these below.
2021 Chalk Hill Estate Winery “Windy Ridge” Sauvignon Blanc, Chalk Hill, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of passionfruit and green apple. In the mouth, the wine is silky and rich with enough acidity to keep it from being flabby, but this is definitely on the ripe end of Sauvignon Blanc. There’s a touch of heat in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $52. click to buy.
2021 M. Chapoutier “La Ciboise” Luberon Blanc, Rhône Valley, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of apples, pears, and white flowers. In the mouth, bright apple and pear flavors are shot through with a hint of lemon pith and chamomile. Brisk, bright, and pleasant. A blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Ugni Blanc and Roussanne. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $17. click to buy.
2020 Paul Jaboulet Aîné “Les Cassines” Condrieu, Rhône Valley, France
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of white peaches and honeysuckle. In the mouth, pink grapefruit, white peaches, and a hint of apricot have a wonderfully light, ethereal quality, with excellent acidity and very little of the weight that the Viognier grape variety can take on when harvested very ripe. Cheerful and tasty. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2020 Dutton-Goldfield “Walker Hill Vineyard – Dutton Ranch” Chardonnay, Green Valley, Russian River Valley, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, lemon pith, and white flowers. In the mouth, lovely floral and citrus pith flavors have a nice weightlessness on the palate, with just a touch of toasted oak, vanilla, and lemon curd that emerge in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2022 Gallica Wine Rosé, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California
Palest baby pink in color, this wine smells of candied strawberries and cherries. In the mouth, silky flavors of strawberry, watermelon, and citrus peel have a delicate acidity that is just enough to keep this wine lively on the palate. That said, it manages to avoid feeling flat. Chill it down and enjoy. A blend of Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon picked early. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $28. click to buy.
MV VITAL “Valdemar Estates” Rosé Blend, Walla Walla Valley, Washington
Pale pink in the glass, this wine smells of strawberries and other mixed berries. In the mouth, bright berry flavors mix with a touch of herbs and a nice snappy acidity that has a citrus peel cast to it. A faint hint of salinity creeps in adding to the mouthwatering nature of the wine. Excellent. This wine brand has been created as a social justice and equity project to benefit vineyard workers and their families. A blend of 80% Mourvèdre and 20% Syrah. 12.9% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2021 Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir, West Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and black cherry. In the mouth, rich black cherry and raspberry flavors are tinged with the mocha and vanilla of oak. Good acidity but a little dark and rich for my taste. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $70. click to buy.
2020 Shadowfax Wines Pinot Noir, Macedon Ranges, Victoria, Australia
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of red apple skin, dried cherries, and dried herbs. In the mouth, dried cherry, raspberry jam, dried herbs, and a touch of cedar mix with the faintest of gauzy tannins. Missing just a bit of freshness. Fermented with native yeasts. Aged in large barrels. 13.0% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.
2021 Gallica Wine Grenache, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of strawberries and dried herbs. In the mouth, juicy strawberry flavors are shot through with dried herbs and wrapped in a fleecy blanket of tannins. Good acidity that has an orange peel quality keeps things bright. Earthier flavors emerge in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $52. click to buy.
2020 Dutton-Goldfield “Morelli Lane Vineyard – Dutton Ranch” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry pie and fresh flowers. In the mouth, bright blackberry and blueberry flavors mix with a hint of fresh herbs and a touch of licorice that emerges in the finish. Faint muscular tannins build over time. Excellent acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2020 Sutro Wine Merlot, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black plums and mocha. In the mouth, plum and earth, mocha and dried herbs flavors have a nice freshness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Soft, gauzy tannins caress the palate. Notes of cedar and cherry linger in the finish. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.