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 couple more top-tier Proseccos from some of the steepest plots in the region. The Bellenda (love that photo on their home page) is a particularly complex and dynamic rendition of Prosecco, one which includes a salinity that I really loved. The Villa Sandi is also quite compelling, if a bit more classic in its flavor profile.

The Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are both worth seeking out, both for their classic flavors and relative values, as well as for the fact that like all Frog’s Leap wines, they’re made from dry-farmed, organically grown grapes.

Sticking with Chardonnay for a moment, I’d like to draw your attention to the Lombardi Chardonnay, which has a really fresh and crisp citrus aspect to it, while the Sanford Chardonnay takes on a more classically California form.

The four Pinots I have to recommend this week are all pretty solid, with the standouts being the Dutton-Goldfield “McDougall Vineyard” bottling and the Stephen Ross “Stone Corral” wine. Unfortunately the Stephen Ross wine comes in a ridiculously heavy bottle that outweighs some of the thick Napa Cabernet bottles to which I normally object. There’s no reason in the universe that a Pinot Noir needs to have such heavy glass, which basically says “screw the environment, I want you to think my wine is classy.”

Finally, I’ve got one more Zinfandel (more like a red blend actually) from Limerick Lane that is worth checking out, plus a pair of Syrahs from Troon Vineyard in Oregon, both of which have a wonderful savory character that will appeal to anyone who prefers to taste stone rather than sugar in their Syrahs.

Notes on all these and more below.

Tasting Notes

San Fermo CONEGLIANO VALDOBBIADENE PROSECCO SUPERIORE DOCG BRUT

2020 Bellenda “San Fermo” Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, Veneto, Italy
Palest straw with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of white flowers and wet pavement with a hint of lemon cucumber and a faint resinous quality. In the mouth, wonderfully savory notes of citrus peel, cucumber, a hint of green herbs. Faint saline note with a moderately voluminous mousse that carries an aroma of grilled pineapple. Clean and bright. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2020 Villa Sandi “La Rivetta” Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze, Veneto, Italy
Palest straw with very fine bubbles, this wine has a remarkably floral aroma with the sweetness of green apple. In the mouth, bright green apple and white flowers mix with a hint of green melon, and a touch of saline and citrus pith all carried on a nice mousse. Lovely bright and quite classic in expression. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2020 Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apple and a bit of passionfruit. In the mouth, bright green apple, passionfruit, and kiwi flavors have a nice juiciness and a hint of cut grass. Nice silky texture. 13.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2019 Frog’s Leap “Shale and Stone” Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of bright lemon curd and a hint of buttered popcorn. In the mouth, the wine is lovely and silky but with a nice crisp edge thanks to excellent acidity. Lovely lemon curd and a touch of toasted bread mix with bright juicy lemon juice and grapefruit. Barrel fermented for only about 4 days and then poured warm into a large concrete “room” where it finishes fermentation at its own pace. Stays for 11 months and the bottle, right off its lees. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 9 . Cost: $30. click to buy.

2019 Sanford Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, white flowers and a hint of melted butter. In the mouth, tangy pink grapefruit, melted butter, lemon curd and a touch of butterscotch mix with a nice brightness thanks to very good acidity. There’s a toasty bread and oak note in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2019 Lombardi Wines Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light gold in color, this wine smells of lemon pith and lemon oil. In the mouth, bright lemon and pink grapefruit flavors have a nice clean snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a nice white floral overtone to this wine and thankfully very little trace of oak. Quite pretty. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2018 Stephen Ross “Stone Corral Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Edna Valley, Central Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, gorgeous raspberry and cherry notes are bright with excellent acidity and dusted with faint tannins. Dried herbs and orange peel linger in the finish with a tangy mouthwatering sour cherry quality. Delicious. 13.7% alcohol. Packaged in a shamefully heavy bottle weighing 1.67 kg full. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2018 J. Cage Cellars “Hallberg Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of green herbs, cherries, and cranberry. In the mouth, cranberry and cherry flavors have a faint boysenberry kick at the end with some nice floral tones. Faint tannins, good acidity. 14.4% alcohol. 175 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $49. click to buy.

2019 J. Cage Cellars “Cuvee ’42” Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, simple but pleasurable raspberry fruit flavors mix with a hint of cherry and dried herbs. Faint tannins. Decent acidity. Straightforwardly tasty. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $39. click to buy.

2019 Dutton-Goldfield “McDougall Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of bright cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully pure, even crystalline berry flavors of cherry, cranberry, and raspberry are shot through with a faint hint of cedar and a touch of dried herbs that linger in the finish. Excellent acidity and barely perceptible tannins. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2019 Limerick Lane Cellars “Estate Cuvee” Red Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and licorice with a hint of black pepper. In the mouth, bright blackberry and boysenberry flavors are wrapped in a leathery throw of tannins. Excellent acidity brings a citrus-peel quality to the finish, along with herbs and dried flowers. A blend of 56% Zinfandel, 37% Syrah, and 7% Petite Sirah. 14.6% alcohol. 200 cases made. Score: around 9 . Cost: $85. click to buy.

2019 Troon Vineyard Syrah, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon, Oregon
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of potting soil, iodine, and mulberries. In the mouth, wonderfully saline flavors of boysenberry, huckleberry, rusty iron, dried flowers, and forest floor swirl in a gorgeous haze of powdery tannins. Dashi and a hint of green herbs linger in the finish. Made with biodynamically farmed grapes, and fermented with no additions, save “minimal effective” sulfites. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2019 Troon Vineyard “Siskiyou” Syrah, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of blueberries, wet chalkboard, and the barest whiff of camphorwood. In the mouth, wonderfully crystalline flavors of blueberry and blackberry mix with chopped aromatic herbs, dried flowers, and a wonderful dashi umami character which makes the mouth water. Excellent acidity and a nice pine bough freshness lingering in the finish. Made with biodynamically farmed grapes, and fermented with no additions but “minimal effective” sulfites. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.