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 relatively textbook incarnation of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, which affirms the adage that the genre is one of the most reliable in the world of wine. Generally, you’re gonna get something that matches your expectations and tastes pretty good, as this one from Jules Taylor does.
On the other hand, or you might say, the other hemisphere, I’d also strongly suggest you consider the J. Christopher incarnation of the same grape, which is a deliciously cut grass and green fruit expression that I’d be happy to drink any day of the week.
German rosé is a much less-well-known genre than New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s one to which we should all pay a bit more attention. This very pretty bottling from Weingut Wittmann in Germany’s Rheinhessen region is worth finding if you like racy, savory pink wines. This family has been making wines in the region for 350 years and is one of the more well-known estates in Westofen. Their wines have been biodynamically produced since 2004 (an early adopter of such practices), and are generally excellent.
Moving on to reds, I’ve got a bunch of Pinots worth paying attention to this week. Let’s start with two really lovely single-vineyard wines from Anderson Valley by cult Pinot Producer Rhys Vineyards. Both are excellent and worth seeking out.
I’ve also got a few Oregon Pinots as well, two from Big Table Farm, the small biodynamic producer in Gaston, and two from J. Christopher Cellars, which is the joint venture between winemaker Jay Somers and Mosel vintner Ernie Loosen, of Dr. Loosen fame. All four are worth pursuing.
Lastly, let’s head back to the Southern Hemisphere for a little Shiraz. The first from the venerable Barossa house of Yalumba, who sent through their “Samuels Collection” Shiraz. Yalumba has been making wines in the Barossa since 1849, and their wines show the confidence of experience, including this moderately priced effort.
It was intriguing to taste what a master of Syrah does with Shiraz, but that’s exactly what we’ve got in the Tournon Shiraz from Michel Chapoutier. And it offers wonderfully juicy, bright blackberry purity that seems fresher and less jammy than some interpretations of the grape from Down Under.
2018 Fritz Haag “Brauneberger Trocken” Riesling, Mosel, Germany
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of tangerine oil and Asian pear. In the mouth, lovely, silky flavors of Asian pear and mandarin oranges have a wonderful wet chalkboard quality and a beautiful crispness. Bone dry without a trace of sweetness, nonetheless, there’s an aromatic honeysuckle quality to the finish. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.
2019 Jules Taylor Wines Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of gooseberries and cut grass. In the mouth, bright green apple and gooseberry flavors have a clean brightness thanks to decent acidity. Straightforward, but pleasurable. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2018 J. Christopher “Über Sauvignon – Croft Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Palest greenish-gold in color, almost colorless in the glass, this wine smells of cut green grass and green apple. In the mouth, cut grass, kiwi, and green apple flavors have a juicy brightness with savory herbal notes and a wonderful salinity. Uber, indeed. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $29. click to buy.
2018 Wittmann Rosé of Pinot Noir, Rheinhessen, Germany
Palest baby pink in color, this wine smells of strawberries and hibiscus. In the mouth, bright hibiscus and strawberry flavors have a wonderful citrus snap and silky texture that is quite alluring. Deliciously balanced with excellent acidity and the faintest bit of aromatic sweetness that pairs with a faint herbal bitterness in the finish. Includes some Sankt Laurent fruit as well. 11.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $16.
2018 Rhys Vineyards “Bearwallow Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of earth and candied redcurrant. In the mouth, raspberry and redcurrant flavors are fantastically juicy with hints of dried flowers and cedar. Phenomenal acidity keeps the wine bright and zippy, as notes of candied orange peel linger in the finish. Layered and delicate with barely perceptible tannins. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.
2018 Rhys Vineyards “Porcupine Hill” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry fruit and a touch of orange peel. In the mouth, raspberry, orange peel, and redcurrant flavors mix with dried herbs and a touch of earth. Excellent acidity, silky texture, and the faintest of powdery tannins. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $90. click to buy.
2018 Big Table Farm Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry, cranberry and forest floor. In the mouth, beautifully savory notes of dried herbs and pine duff mix with raspberry and cranberry notes under a gauzy blanket of tannins. Good acidity, but I would love a little more edge to this wine. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.
2018 Big Table Farm “Cattrall Brothers Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of green herbs, including a touch of marijuana, redcurrant and raspberry. In the mouth, redcurrant and rhubarb flavors mix with dried and fresh herbs that take on a deeper, earthier note as they head to the finish. There’s a touch of citrus peel that creeps into the finish as well. Lovely acidity and faint, powdery tannins that show a little muscle over time. 12.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.
2016 J. Christopher “Volcaniqe” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth and sweet cherry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit is shot through with dried herbs and a hint of raspberry jam that lingers in the finish with a touch of citrus peel acidity. Nice juiciness, with herbal notes that gain strength over time. Faint, gauzy tannins.13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2016 J. Christopher “Sandra Adele” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth, silky flavors of raspberry and dried herbs have a beautiful aromatic sweetness to them. Notes of dried flowers linger in the finish. Faint tannins and good acidity. Named for Jay Somers’ mother. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2017 Yalumba “Samuels Collection” Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and black cherry shot through with pink peppercorns. In the mouth, blackberry and black pepper notes mix with licorice and a touch of lavender. Good acidity and fine, powdery tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2016 Tournon “Mathilda” Shiraz, Victoria, Australia
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet blackberry and dried herbs. In the mouth, juicy blackberry pastille flavors mix with a touch of citrus peel brightness and a hint of cedary wood. Excellent acidity and very faint tannins make this a particularly easy-drinking approach to Shiraz. Made by legendary Rhône producer Michel Chapoutier. 14.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.