Vinography Unboxed: Week of 7/30/23

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 week included a lot of refreshing wines of many colors, so let’s dive in!

Spottswoode Winery in Napa makes two Sauvignon Blancs, one from their estate that as fantastic as it is pricey, and another one that is more reasonably priced, easier to get ahold of, and sourced from various vineyards they don’t own. It also happens to be nearly as delicious as their estate wine, so I’m happy to recommend that this week.

I’ve also got three different Chenin Blancs to recommend from France’s Loire Valley. The first, a Savennières from Domaine du Closel is wonderfully bright and stony. The other two are Vouvrays from farther east in the Loire Valley, and are just slightly riper in character, though still deliver wonderful refreshment. Of the two, I liked the more brisk Domaine Sebastien Brunet (a steal at just $18) just slightly more than the Domaine Philippe Brisebarre, but I’d happily drink a bottle of both without thinking twice.

The Ribeira Sacra region of Spain is high on my bucket list of wine regions that I have yet to visit, so I was quite excited to see this Paul Hobbs and Antonio López Fernández collaboration wine, Alvaredos-Hobbs, show up in the samples pile. It was wonderfully bright and saline, but also with richer riper fruit flavors making it quite compelling.

When winemaker Stewart Johnson dropped off a bottle of his latest Kendric Vineyards Viognier on my porch, he said offhandedly, “Oh, you’re probably going to ding me for the bottle weight, so I should explain.” Johnson knows that I dislike heavy glass and its carbon footprint, and he went on to tell me that he was still unable to order his normal glass bottles thanks to continued pandemic-related supply chain issues, so he cast about for an alternative and found some surplus glass that someone else was reselling at half his usual bottle cost. “So when you think about it,” said Johnson, “I’m something of an environmental hero for putting their wastefulness to some use, right?” Unfortunately buying surplus glass doesn’t do anything about the carbon footprint of moving that glass around once it’s got wine in it, but Johnson gets points (and avoids castigation) for his secondhand sourcing, for sure. Oh, and the wine? It’s delicious, and easily one of the best renditions of the Viognier grape in California.

Troon Vineyard makes regular appearances here in my Unboxed feature both because they regularly send me wine and because the wines are very good. The latest set they sent were particularly tasty, one and all, from their palest-of-pale rosé, to their easygoing-but-clearly-in-form orange wine, to their crunchy porch-pounder version of Grenache. All, of course, bioynamically produced and grown with certified Regenerative Organic farming.

There’s another rosé in the lineup this week I can recommend, from the small producer Minus Tide Wines, it’s a rosé of Carignan from Mendocino County, and just what you might want on a hot day.

Lastly, I have one red wine to offer you this week, a blend of international grape varieties from the Bolgheri region of Tuscany by Podere Sapaio that is rich in flavor, while at the same time, nicely dry and herb inflected, and likely to satisfy those who enjoy big red wines but don’t want them sweetish at all.

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes

2022 Spottswoode Winery Sauvignon Blanc, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of passionfruit and green apples with a hint of white flowers. In the mouth, bright green apple and passionfruit flavors have a nice lemon-lime citrus note to them as well, with a silky texture and excellent acidity. Crisp, fresh, and delicious. A combination of fruit from Napa and Sonoma Counties with 2% Semillon in the blend. 13.9% alcohol.  Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $ 45 . click to buy.

2018 Domaine du Closel – Chateau des Vaults “La Jalousie” Savenniéres, Anjou, Loire Valley, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of pear skin and herbs. In the mouth, pear and lemon pith mix with a hint of acacia blossom. Excellent stony feel and great acidity. Faintly chalky quality. Harvested on the early side from slate and shale soils. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $46. click to buy.

2018 Domaine Philippe Brisebarre “Vignoble Brisebarre Sec” Vouvray, Touraine, Loire Valley, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of pear skin and lemon peel and a hint of vanilla. In the mouth, grapefruit and pear flavors have a tangy bright acidity and a hint of tannic grip. 13% alcohol. 6 g/l residual sugar. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $27. click to buy.

2016 Domaine Sebastien Brunet “Renaissance Sec” Vouvray, Touraine, Loire Valley, France
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and lemon pith and a hint of wet dog. In the mouth, bright and tart lemon pith and grapefruit pith have a dry chalkiness. Cutting acidity. 13.6% alcohol. 2.5 g/l residual sugar. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.

2020 Alvaredos-Hobbs Godello, Ribeira Sacra, Galicia, Spain
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers and lemon pith and guava. In the mouth, faintly saline flavors of lemon pith, guava, and white flowers have a stony, ethereal quality, where the richness of flavors has a weightlessness that is quite compelling. Very good acidity, with hints of tropical fruits and yellow herbs in the finish. 14% alcohol.  Score: around 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2022 Kendric Vineyards Viognier, Petaluma Gap, Marin County, California
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon oil, white peaches, and bee pollen. In the mouth, wonderfully bright and zippy flavors of lemon scented white peach and pink grapefruit dance on the palate. Quite delicious, and still one of my favorite renditions of this grape in California. 13.0% alcohol. 140 cases made Packaged in an overly heavy bottle weighing 1.62 kg when full, but, as the winemaker notes, purchased as secondhand surplus. Score: around 9. Cost: $28. click to buy.

2022 Troon Vineyard “Kubli Bench Amber” White Blend, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon
Light amber in the glass, this wine smells of wet leaves, dried citrus peel, and apricots. In the mouth, tangy apricot and citrus flavors add sweeter notes of peach and poached pear as the wine lingers long in the mouth with hints of herbs and bee pollen. Excellent acidity and a faint tannic grip round out a picture-perfect orange package. A blend of 70% Vermentino, 25% Viognier, and 5% Roussanne. Biodynamic. Regenerative Organic Certified. 12.6% alcohol. 300 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2022 Troon Vineyard “Kubli Bench Rosé” Red Blend, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon
Light to medium gold in the glass with just the hint of coppery pink hue, this wine smells of ranier cherries, apricots and just the hint of a yogurty tang. In the mouth, bright and tangy flavors of ranier cherries, peaches, cloudberries and citrus peel have a wonderful brightness and a wet-chalkboard dryness to them. Hints of dried herbs emerge on the finish. Quite pretty. A blend of 55% Mourvèdre, 25% Cinsault, 9% Counoise, 8% Carignan, and 3% Négrette. Whole-cluster pressed, barrel fermented with native yeasts, and then aged as long as it takes for malolactic to complete. Biodynamic. Regenerative Organic Certified. 11.9% alcohol. 250 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2022 Minus Tide Wines “Feliz Creek Vineyard” Rosé of Carignan, Mendocino County, California
Light baby pink in the glass, this wine smells of cherries and candied plums. In the mouth, silky flavors of cherry and plum mix with citrus peel and a touch of white flowers. Very good acidity. Crisp and clean. 13.1% alcohol.  Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $27.

2022 Troon Vineyard “Glou-Glou” Grenache, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry jam and herbs. In the mouth, strawberries, dried herbs and dried flowers are wrapped in a surprisingly muscular sheath of tannins as excellent acidity keeps things crunchy and the wine true to its name. Carbonically macerated, young-vine fruit. Biodynamic. Regenerative Organic Certified. 12.9% alcohol. 125 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2021 Podere Sapaio “Vopolo” Red Blend, Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries, blackberries, and black cherry. In the mouth, green herbs mix with black cherry and blueberry flavors along with the barest hint of dusty earth. A touch of citrus peel lingers in the finish as the wine finishes with a nice taut, fine-grained tannic texture and a chalkiness in the mouth. A blend of Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.5% alcohol. Made with certified organic grapes. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $38. click to buy.