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 couple of wines from Bibiana González Rave, a Colombian-born winemaker who studied in Bordeaux and made wine in Europe before coming to California to focus on her own brand, made from grapes bought in Sonoma and Napa. The wines are generally affordable and well made, as her Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Rosé demonstrate this week.
Before getting into darker territory, I’ve also got a bright cherry expression of Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley courtesy of Domaine Nicolas Jay, a collaboration between Burgundian winemaker Jean-Nicolas Meo (of Meo-Camuzet) and record producer Jay Boberg. This is their entry-level wine, though it doesn’t have an entry-level price tag.
Moving to darker tones, I’ve got two Ribera del Duero wines from Dominio Fournier, recently purchased by the Gonzalez Byass wine empire. Both their younger “Crianza” and their “Riserva” are dark expressions of Tempranillo, but thankfully absent the heavy influence of wood.
Darker still, we take a brief jaunt to the northern end of France’s Rhône Valley for a meaty Syrah from Crozes-Hermitage’s granite gravels. Ferraton has been making wine since 1946, and was purchased by the Chapoutier family in 2006, which brings its considerable know-how to both the farming and the winemaking.
Lastly, let’s return home for a couple of Napa Cabernets — the first from Giana Kelley’s Galerie label, a personal project that she does on the side while winemaking for other properties in Napa, most recently Cardinale. The Galerie Cabernet is quite classic in style with a nice balance of lush California and more restrained sensibilities. At only $65 it practically (if sadly) qualifies as a steal in Napa.
And then there’s Cathy Corison, whose star has finally ascended. After years of making wines that somehow only appealed to those very few who valued restraint and elegance in California Cabernet, the mainstream has swung back to an appreciation of low alcohol Cabernets. Unfortunately for those who have been fans for a long time, that means her wines are harder to get, even as they continue to be among Napa’s finest. This week included her 2016 vintage and it is what you expect from Corison — lithe, nuanced, complex, bursting with acidity and promising to age for decades.
Notes on all these wines below.
2019 Alma de Cattleya Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apple and gooseberries. In the mouth, zippy and bright greenish flavors of apple and gooseberry and kiwi have a silky texture and a nice snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a touch of cut grass bitterness that lingers in the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.
2018 Alma de Cattleya Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California
A pale baby pink in the glass, this wine smells of candied watermelon. In the mouth, flavors of watermelon and watermelon rind have a faint herbal bitterness to them but also sweet lush fruit. Nice citrusy acidity makes for an overall tasty package. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2017 Nicolas Jay Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry. In the mouth, the wine has a candied quality with its flavors of cherry and cranberry lingering bright thanks to excellent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2014 Dominio Fournier “Crianza” Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero, Spain
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of ripe black cherry and boysenberry. In the mouth, leathery tannins wrap around a core of black cherry and saddle leather with notes of blueberry edging in. The wine turns earthy and herbal in the finish. Very distinctive. Ages for 12 months in French oak barrels. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??
2014 Dominio Fournier “Riserva” Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero, Spain
Inky, opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, struck match, and licorice. In the mouth, rich and dark black cherry and licorice flavors are draped in a heavy, thick suede throw of tannins which linger weightily on the tongue while the wine finishes with notes of violets and black cherry. Somewhat overly powerful, but will appeal to those looking for a brawny wine. Ages for 18 months in French oak barrels and then another 3 years in bottle. 15% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??
2017 Ferraton Pere et Fils “La Matiniere” Syrah, Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone Valley, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of struck match, saddle leather and meaty cassis notes. In the mouth, flavors of cassis and blackberry are shot through with sour cherry and bacon grease. Faint grippy tannins. Notes of licorice root linger in the finish. Excellent acidity. Needs some time in the bottle. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: as low as $20 some places and as high as $60 others. click to buy.
2016 Galerie “Pleinair” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Very dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, graphite and black plum. In the mouth, black cherry, tobacco leaf and pencil shavings mix with darker earthier notes of licorice and dried flowers. Excellent acidity and muscular tannins. 14.5% alcohol. 2233 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.
2016 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, St. Helena, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and tobacco and black cherry. In the mouth, wonderfully velvety tannins enrobe flavors of cherry, black cherry and herbs. Notes of violets and herbs linger in the finish. Fantastic acidity keeps the wine bright and juicy, and the 13.1% alcohol means this wine is positively gulpable. The trick will be keeping yourself from drinking it now. Give it 10 years and watch it soar. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.