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 past week included a lovely Albariño from Niner Estates down on the Central Coast. There isn’t a lot of Albariño planted in California (a mere 405 acres statewide) which is a bit of a surprise given how nicely it seems to turn out for a number of people. While never quite reaching the steely cut that you’d get from Rias Baixas, the wines are typically quite tasty, as is this one in all its laser lemon glory.

Next I’ve got a really nice rendition of the classic Southern Rhône blend of Marsanne and Roussanne from Two Shepherds winery. Full of floral, herbal, and citrus qualities, you’d be hard-pressed to find a lovelier attempt at this kind of wine than this 2017, which incidentally tastes as fresh as if it were bottled yesterday.

As some of you know, I’ve been keeping an eye out for canned wines that I think are worth a damn, and this week I’ve discovered a couple more (or they have discovered me, as the case may be). Owner Nate Miles ditched his corporate life for the wine world in recent years and decided to do something more fun and accessible than yet another luxury California label. Enter Groove Wines, which makes darn fine wine in a can, with the help of winemaker Matt Nagy who’s spent time working with Steve Matthiasson and Thomas Rivers Brown, in addition to running his own wine label. All three of these wines, from the snappy Rosé to the two crunchy red blends are worth grabbing, throwing in a cooler, and heading out for a picnic or an outdoor concert.

I also popped open a nice, everything-you-expect-from-Pinot, bottle from Sanford winery down in Santa Barbara County. If you’re looking for a not-too-expensive rendering of this grape, you’d do well to seek out a bottle of this stuff.

And now it’s Zinfandel time.

I’ve got three more single-vineyard Zins from Limerick Lane Winery, which really is firing on all cylinders these days when it comes to Zinfandel. Each of these wines is delicious, but it’s impossible not to be floored by the 165-year-old vines of the Bedrock Vineyard and how they’re expressed in this fantastic wine. The natural acidity of this fruit will just blow you away, as will the incredibly juicy berry flavors. If you like Zinfandel, or if you want to know why people do, take a look at this bottle.

Speaking of old vines, last but not least I’ve got the estate Zinfandel from Saucelito Canyon Winery, from the Arroyo Grande Valley AVA down in San Luis Obispo County. Their Zinfandel plantings date back to 1880, though it’s not clear just how much of that fruit ends up in this bottle (they make a separate 1880 bottling). Nonetheless, this wine has a lovely unique character that is a pleasure to drink.

Finally, I’ve got another new release from Troon Vineyard up in Oregon’s Applegate Valley. Their latest Syrah is brooding and savory, but with fantastic stony minerality and crunchy acidity. I have a feeling it will age beautifully.

Notes on all these follow below.

Tasting Notes

2020 Niner Wine Estates Albariño, Edna Valley, Central Coast, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon candy and lemon pith. In the mouth, bright lemon and grapefruit flavors have a nice zip to them thanks to excellent acidity. Clean, crisp, and bright with electric lemon all the way down. What’s not to like here? 12.8% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.

2017 Two Shepherds “Marsanne Roussanne” White Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light yellow-gold with a hint of green in it, this wine smells of chamomile, citrus peel, and a hint of bergamot. In the mouth, lemon curd, chamomile, pear, and grapefruit flavors have a wonderful zing to them thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a faint waxiness to the wine and a lovely finish. A blend of 67% Roussanne and 33% Marsanne fermented with native yeasts in neutral barrels. 12.5% alcohol. 75 cases made Score: around 9. Cost: $26. click to buy.

2020 Groove Wines “Joyride” Rosé, California
A light peachy pink in color, this wine smells of orange peel and hibiscus. In the mouth, crisp flavors of orange peel, rosehip, and hibiscus have a zingy acidity and bright freshness that is quite charming. A blend of 35% Cunoise, 29% Carignan, 22% Grenache, 11% Cinsault and 3% Pinot Noir. 12% alcohol. Packaged in a 250ml aluminum can. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $42 per six-pack.

2020 Groove Wines “Everyday Hero” Red Blend, Sierra Foothills, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cola and cranberry. In the mouth, cherry, cranberry, and cola flavors are lean and bright with excellent acidity. Faint grippy tannins. A blend of Tempranillo and Mourvèdre. Pretty tasty. 13% Alcohol. Packaged in a 250ml aluminum can. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42 per six-pack.

2020 Groove Wines “The Wild One” Red Blend, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of dried herbs and road dust layered over forest berries. In the mouth, faint but chewy tannins wrap around a core of raspberry, strawberry, and dried herbs that are all bright with juicy acidity. Quite tasty, and delicious with a slight chill. A blend of 75% Mission, 20% Tempranillo, and 5% Mourvèdre. 12.1% alcohol. Packaged in a 250ml aluminum can. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42 per six-pack.

2019 Sanford Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth, bright cranberry and raspberry flavors have a faint earthy, herbal quality to them and powdery tannins that hang at the edge of perception. Nice citrus peel acidity in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $39. click to buy.

2019 Limerick Lane Cellars “Rocky Knoll” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass with purple highlights, this wine smells of licorice, blackberries, and black cherries. In the mouth, blackberry and black cherry flavors are juicy and bright with fantastic acidity. There’s a wonderful herbal freshness to this wine, like the scent of a Peppermint Patty, and tannins that flex their muscles through the finish adding a grip to the end. Contains 9% Petite Sirah and 5% Syrah. 14.7% alcohol. 300 cases made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2019 Limerick Lane Cellars “Bedrock Vineyard” Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of fresh flower petals, blackberries, and black cherry. In the mouth, remarkably weightless flavors of black cherry and blackberry have an incredible, almost searing acidity. Athletic tannins tighten around the edges of the mouth as the purple fruits – blackberry, boysenberry, black plum, and more — go soaring into the finish with just the slightest grind of black peppercorn. This vineyard was planted in 1854, making it 165 years old when it made this stupendous wine. 14.8% alcohol. 100 cases made. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2019 Limerick Lane Cellars “Squatters Hill” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and black cherry. In the mouth, blackberry and boysenberry flavors have a wonderful brightness thanks to excellent acidity that leaves an orange peel flavor lingering in the finish. Notes of licorice root, dried herbs, and dried red shiso also linger in the finish. Excellent. Contains 2% Petite Sirah and 1% Syrah. 14.9% alcohol. 300 cases made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2018 Saucelito Canyon “Estate” Zinfandel, Arroyo Grande Valley, Central Coast, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of licorice, blueberries, and blackberries. In the mouth, blueberry and blackberry flavors have a nice bright acidity and a hint of orange peel to them. Notes of mulling spices linger in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2019 Troon Vineyard “Cowhorn Vineyard” Syrah, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon
Medium garnet with purple highlights in the glass, this wine smells of wet iron and cassis. In the mouth, wonderfully savory and stony notes of iodine, blackberry, and black currant are welded to a wet pavement minerality that is quite lovely and just a little bit salty. Delicious. Farmed and fermented biodynamically with minimal sulfite additions. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.