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.
Let’s start this week with a couple of excellent Rieslings from opposite sides of the globe.
The first is a lovely balanced wine that calls itself “medium dry” with only a tiny hint of sweetness. It’s pitch-perfect and one of the better examples of Riesling I’ve had from Oregon in a while. Well done, Bryn Mawr.
The other is from one of Marlborough’s top producers, Fromm Winery, which makes excellent Pinot Noir in addition to Riesling. This one they call Spatlese (yes, without the umlaut), and it’s a moderately sweet, wonderfully mineral experience.
Sticking with New Zealand for a moment, I’ve got a very fresh-tasting Chardonnay from Easthope in Hawkes Bay, which manages to walk the line between richness and raciness quite competently.
Closer to home I’ve got two examples of Chardonnay from high-elevation Mendocino County, courtesy of Alder Spring’s Vineyard. They’re both aging nicely, though the 2014’s fruit is starting to fade a bit in favor of savory, herbal notes.
Headed into red territory, the Migration Pinot Noir offers a strong, pure cherry expression that many will love, while the three wines from Williams Selyem I tasted this week lean a bit more towards raspberry, each with their own charms.
Finally, I’ve got two incarnations of Sangiovese to recommend this week, one deeply earthy, the other plummy and cherry-bright. Both the Selvapiana and the Casanova di Neri represent excellent values.
2019 Bryn Mawr “Estate” Riesling, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of a hint of diesel and mandarin orange oil. In the mouth, juicy flavors of mandarin and Asian pear and wet chalkboard are bright with fantastic acidity. There’s only the barest hint of sweetness, with a perfect balance. Citrus zest lingers in the finish with a lovely stony quality. 11.8% alcohol. 130 cases made. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.
2020 Fromm Winery “Spatlese” Riesling, Marlborough, New Zealand
Palest greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of tangerine oil and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, moderately sweet flavors of honeysuckle, Asian pear, and mandarin orange have a wonderful wet pavement minerality and a nice filigreed acidity. 7% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2019 Nickel & Nickel “Truchard Vineyard” Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa, California
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of pineapple and buttered popcorn. In the mouth, pineapple, lemon curd, and melted butter have a rich saline quality as flavors of toasty buttered brioche linger with scents of pineapple in the finish. A rich, but vibrant expression of California Chardonnay for those who like the style. A bit ripe for my taste. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $52. click to buy.
2016 Alder Springs Vineyard Chardonnay, Mendocino, California
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of dried citrus peel, lemon juice, and dried herbs. In the mouth, citrus pith, grapefruit, and dried sage flavors have a faint salinity and a nice silky texture. Excellent acidity and length, though there’s a tiny bit of heat in the finish, surprising given the modest 13.1% alcohol. 119 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $39.
2014 Alder Springs Vineyard Chardonnay, Mendocino County, California
Light greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of baked and dried apples and dried chamomile. In the mouth, dried apple and chamomile flavors mix with lemon curd and grapefruit. Definitely entering its second stage of evolution, with the fruit fading, but the acidity is still brisk and bright. 13.5% alcohol. 350 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $39.
2017 Easthope Family Winegrowers “Skeetfield Vineyard” Chardonnay, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of sweet buttered popcorn and a touch of pineapple. In the mouth, gorgeously saline flavors of pineapple, lemon curd, and melted butter are positively zingy with fantastic acidity. Butter pineapple lingers in the finish. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $48.
2018 Migration “Bien Nacido Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of bright cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, cherry, cranberry, and raspberry fruit flavors have a bright sweetness to them, along with a wonderful purity. Excellent acidity and faint tannins, but with just a touch of alcoholic heat in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. 117 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $77.
2019 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth and cranberry and cherry. In the mouth, sweet cherry and raspberry fruit has a nice purity and excellent brightness thanks to fantastic acidity. Silky and bold with barely perceptible tannins. The sweet vanilla of new oak is clearly present here, but better integrated than the Central Coast bottling. Very easy to drink. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $80. click to buy.
2019 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California
Medium purple in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and new oak. In the mouth, rich black cherry, black raspberry, and the sweet vanilla of oak all swirl in a bright silky package across the palate. There’s a slightly candied quality to this wine and a touch more oak presence than I’d like. It may need a little time to settle down. 13.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2019 Williams Selyem “Terra de Promisso Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries, pine duff, and new oak. In the mouth, juicy bright raspberry and redcurrant flavors are shot through with the sweetness of new oak as well as bright floral notes. Hints of dried herbs linger in the finish along with the new oak. I think the oak will meld into the wine with time, but for now it’s a little in your face, and a bit too much for me. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.
2019 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina, Tuscany, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of forest floor and potting soil with a hint of dark fruit underneath. In the mouth, the wine is deeply earthy as well, with wet soil, pine duff, and cedar shavings mixing with cherry and black raspberry fruit. Profoundly savory in quality, with dried herbs lingering in the finish. 13% alcohol Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2018 Casanova di Neri “Irrosso” Sangiovese, Tuscany, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of meaty cedar and black cherry. In the mouth, juicy black cherry and earthy, cedar flavors have a wonderful salinity to them and a nice brightness thanks to excellent acidity, which leaves a faint citrus note lingering in the finish. Fleecy tannins hang about the edges of the mouth. Very drinkable. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.