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 I’ve got a couple of benchmark Chardonnays for you. The first is from Big Table Farm in Oregon, whose wines continue to shine as examples of purity and distinctiveness, both of which are words I’d use to describe their Yamhill-Carlton District Chardonnay. It’s positively electrifying.
I’ve also got the entry-level Chardonnay from Flowers Winery in the Western Sonoma Coast region. This wine also has a wonderful cut and zip, plus a hint of California richness.
Few people think of Piedmont, Italy as a white wine region, but there are a few traditional white wines grown in the area, one of which is Cortese, a brisk, mineral white that when farmed appropriately can make bracingly refreshing wines. The main growing area centers around the small town of Gavi, which leads some wines, to be labeled as Gavi di Gavi, while others outside of the town of Gavi are labeled simply Gavi. This week I received a few wines from Enrico Serafino, among which was his “Grifo del Quartaro” Gavi, which was a good example of this brisk style.
I also received a couple more wines from Serafino, including his Langhe Nebbiolo, which has a remarkably dark, earthy savoriness that might have led me to guess this wine was not 100% Nebbiolo, so dark and earthy as it presented. Serafino’s Barolo, on the other hand, was textbook berries and floral notes, with fantastic acidity and the smooth tight tannins that suggest this one will age for a long time. At $40, it’s a steal from a region where prices for such wines continue to climb above $70 or even $80 a bottle.
Back closer to home, Williams-Selyem sent me two of their top Pinot Noir bottlings, which are both quite expensive, but quite different in character. The Lewis MacGregor Pinot shows remarkably blue and black fruit flavors (and more than a little oak) while the Rochioli Riverblock is predictably cherry and cranberry and herbs. For those chasing the upper echelons of collectible California Pinot Noir, both may suit.
Finally, let’s get deep purple with some Zinfandel, and who better to do that with than Limerick Lane, the Zin-focused estate just outside of Healdsburg in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. I was particularly impressed with the acidity of all three of these wines I’m featuring this week, each was mouthwatering, carrying their ripe fruit easily across the palate and begging for another sip. The standard Russian River Valley Zinfandel was zippy with classic blackberry notes, while the Rocky Knoll bottling brought in cherry notes from a decent portion of Syrah in the mix. My favorite of the three was the 1910 Block, whose old vines, as they often do, managed to offer a remarkable elegance and balance, masking all traces of its alcohol level, and showing what makes Zinfandel so lovable.
Notes on all these below.
2018 Big Table Farm Chardonnay, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of grapefruit pith and lemon curd. In the mouth, bright and juicy meyer lemon curd mixes with white flowers and a touch of melted butter. Electric acidity makes the wine quite zingy and a silky texture carries hints of tangerine zest and toasted hazelnuts in the finish. Excellent. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2018 Flowers Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and white flowers. In the mouth, the wine offers floral brightness with lemon curd and candied grapefruit flavors. Very good acidity, and a nice hint of pineapple richness in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.
2019 Enrico Serafino “Grifo del Quartaro” Gavi, Piedmont, Italy
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of oyster shells, white flowers and citrus pith. In the mouth, crisp apple and white flowers have a nice wet chalkboard minerality beneath them. Hints of apple skin and citrus pith linger in the finish. Excellent acidity. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5 . Cost: $16. click to buy.
2018 Williams Selyem “Lewis MacGregor Estate Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blueberry and black cherry. In the mouth, black raspberry and cranberry flavors have a cedary, oak inflection and a sweetness from the oak that lingers in the finish. Surprisingly dark fruits here, and a bit more wood than I would like. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $130. click to buy.
2018 Williams Selyem “Rochioli Riverblock” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry fruit shot through with peeled wilow bark and herbs. In the mouth, juicy cherry and cedar and dried herb flavors are electrified with excellent acidity and linger with a hint of brown sugar or butter toffee in the finish. Rich, but not too rich. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $130. click to buy.
2018 Enrico Serafino “Picotener” Nebbiolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of potting soil, oiled leather and a touch of burnt meat and dried flowers. In the mouth, strawberry and meaty, earthy flavors have a distinctly savory dusty quality that is quite interesting. Faint tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5 . Cost: $25. click to buy.
2015 Enrico Serafino “Monclivio” Barolo, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry, dried flowers and rust. In the mouth, beautifully bright strawberry and orange peel flavors mix with dusty road, dried flowers, and crushed herbs. Faintly muscular tannins linger in the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2019 Limerick Lane Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of blueberry and blackberry. In the mouth, juicy fresh blackberry and boysenberry flavors have a hint of black pepper and licorice to them. Excellent acidity keeps the wine quite brisk and the mouth watering through a finish that shows just the faintest warmth of alcoholic heat. Quite tasty. 14.8% alcohol. 1500 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2018 Limerick Lane “1910 Block” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of boysenberry fruit and fennel seeds. In the mouth, boysenberry fruit flavors are quite juicy and shot through with hints of candied fennel seeds and a dusty earthy note that is quite compelling. Excellent acidity keeps the wine quite fresh, and I’d be hard-pressed to guess its 15.1% alcohol. Contains 2% Petite Sirah. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.
2018 Limerick Lane “Rocky Knoll” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and black cherry fruit. In the mouth, juicy black cherry and blackberry flavors are brisk with bright acidity and shot through with hints of licorice, blueberry, dried flowers and powdery tannins that buff the edges of the palate. Contains 12% Syrah and 3% Petite Sirah. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.