Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. 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 really lovely riesling from the recently anointed Petaluma Gap AVA in Sonoma, just across the top of the San Francisco Bay. Made by Dutton Goldfield it has a wonderfully dry citrus crackle to it.
Dutton Goldfield also sent through one of their classic Chardonnays from their estate property in the Russian River. It’s pretty much a bullseye for those looking for the latest (more restrained) version of California Chardonnay.
Sticking with the Chardonnay theme, I’ve got a bottling from one of the Russian River Valley’s best vineyards, the Ritchie Vineyard, by Ten Acre. It’s a little awkward, but still a pleasurable glass of Chardonnay.
Headed towards red, let’s pause for an hour of sun on the porch with the Frescobaldi rosÉ named Alie, which begs to be ice cold and consumed in copious quantities. With the Tuscany IGT designation you might expect this wine, especially from a producer like Frescobaldi to be made of Sangiovese, right? But if you guessed that, as I did, you’d be dead wrong. It’s a blend of Syrah and Vermentino, of all the crazy combinations, and you know what? It’s fantastic. And with a bottle styled not unlike the Miraval rosé made by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, my guess is that it is a hot commodity.
Moving on to red wines, this week featured two of Napa’s royalty, starting with the Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon, showing its typical lush density thanks to the experienced hand of winemaker Chris Carpenter.
This week also saw a couple of wines from the Aridus Wine Company in Wilcox, Arizona. One of them, a Syrah from Arizona, is quite pretty, while the other, an “American” designated Malbec made with New Mexico fruit has a surprising stony aspect.
All these and more below.
2017 Dutton Goldfield “Chileno Valley Vineyard” Riesling, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma, California
Near colorless in the glass, this wine smells of tangerine zest and Asian pear. In the mouth, positively brisk flavors of Asian pear and mandarin oranges snap and crackle across the palate thanks to excellent acidity. A faint chalky flavor and texture emerges on the finish along with notes of citrus peel. Crisp and tasty. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2017 Dutton Goldfield “Dutton Ranch” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and cold cream. In the mouth, lemon curd and buttered popcorn flavors have a zippy crackle thanks to excellent acidity, and a nice ethereal floral note wafts through the finish along with a whiff of butterscotch. Crisp and mouthwatering, with a nice balance. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $34. click to buy.
2015 Ten Acre “Ritchie Vineyard” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in the glass with a slight haze, this wine smells of cold cream and melted butter. In the mouth, wonderfully saline notes of melted butter, cold cream and lemon zest have an almost searing acidity to them that leaves a citrus pith bitterness in the finish along with a little alcoholic heat. Feels slightly imbalanced. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.
2017 Frescobaldi Tenuta Ammiraglia “Alie” Rosé, Tuscany, Italy
Palest baby pink in color, this wine smells of berries and tropical flowers. In the mouth, crisp and bright berry and watermelon flavors have a nice zing thanks to excellent acidity. Light and bouncy and quite delicious, this is everything you want in a rosé, with a kick of minerality in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. An unusual blend of Syrah and Vermentino. Score: around 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.
2015 Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich cherry fruit. In the mouth, lush and bright cherry fruit has a wonderful aromatic sweetness and mixes with cola and cocoa powder. Dark chocolate notes linger in the finish along with dusty tannins. Very pretty and polished. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $295. click to buy.
2015 Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar, tobacco, cherry and pencil lead. In the mouth, gorgeous flavors of pencil lead, cherry, cola and a touch of herbs are wrapped in a fleecy blanket of tannins that flex their musculature as the wine finishes with floral notes and great depth. Outstanding, and worthy of 5-15 years in the cellar. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $225 . click to buy.
2014 Domaine de la Terre Rouge “Les Cotes de L’Ouest” Syrah, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bloody steak, dried flowers and cassis. In the mouth, cassis and black cherry have a wonderful deep earthy backbone and excellent acidity. Savory notes of herbs emerge on the finish that seems to ooze out of the felt-like tannins that coat the mouth. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.
2017 Aridus Wine Company “Limited Production” Malbec, America
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, blueberry and cassis flavors have a nice underlying stony minerality, and a cool, minty herbal note that lingers in the finish. Quite beautiful. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $36.
2016 Aridus Wine Company “Limited Production” Syrah, Arizona
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of earth and herbs and blackberries. In the mouth, blackberry pie flavors have a nice brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity as faint muscular tannins build strength through the finish. Only a tiny bit of bitterness betrays the 15.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $37.