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.

If we’re going to start somewhere, I suppose there’s no better place than bubbles. I’ve got three bottles of bubbles to share this week, with one to fit nearly every budget, starting with the sophisticated and complex expression of Louis Roederer’s Collection 242, their multi-vintage cuvée. It’s lovely and rich, and an excellent bottle of Champagne that demonstrates what you can get if you’re willing to pay more than $40 for a bottle of Champagne.

If you’re not willing to spend that much for a bottle of bubbly, then Spain has you covered, with a very nice bottle of well-aged reserve Cava from Roger Goulart that has some of the yeasty saline characteristics of much pricier wines, but at a reasonable $20 tariff. And finally if you’re looking for cheap beach bubbles, then it’s pretty hard to go wrong with the Seguras Viudas Rosé. At $10 it’s a steal.

It seems totally bizarre to us up here in the Northern Hemisphere to be drinking 2021 vintage wines when we’re still in the midst of harvest, but that’s the magic of the Southern Hemisphere. Their harvest was in March and April, and that means that some of the 2021 Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand are hitting the market now. Allan Scott Family Wines produces a reliable and tasty version that is one of the first to show up on our shores.

Before we move into reds, I’ve got a couple more whites for you this week, a lovely Bryn Mawr Chardonnay from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, which has really started to make a name for itself when it comes to Chardonnay, and a more classically styled Chardonnay from Merry Edwards in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley.

While their Chardonnay is decent, I preferred the couple of Merry Edwards Pinot Noirs that I opened this week — the Sonoma Coast bottling, and the vineyard-designate Meredith Estate Pinot, both of which offered richer, riper expressions of Pinot Noir that will appeal to those who appreciate a little more lushness in their Pinots.

There’s a lot new going on at Signorello Estate in Napa. For starters, the winery is breaking ground on its new building, which was completely destroyed in the 2017 wildfires. Also, as of 2019, there’s a new viticultural and winemaking team in place, helmed by the talented Priyanka French, who is assisted by consultants Steve Matthiasson (viticulture) and Celia Welch (winemaking). As if that’s not enough (or perhaps because of all that ?) the estate, which has traditionally made only a Cabernet, a Reserve Cabernet, and a Chardonnay, has launched a new wine with the slightly unwieldy name of “S by Ray Signorello.” This Cabernet (with a dash of Merlot and Petit Verdot) is the first wine Signorello has made from grapes they didn’t grow themselves. I visited with French in the Spring of this year and was impressed with my tastes (out of the barrel) of her work on the 2019 estate wines, which seemed to have a bit more energy and brightness than previous vintages. Unsurprisingly, this new wine “S” is quite appealing and will satisfy anyone who loves Napa Cabernet.

Lastly, I’ve got three recent releases from Blackbird Vineyards in Napa, the long-running project that started with a Merlot focus, and has spread its wings to encompass several nice red blends all made by the talented Aaron Pott. All are excellent, and slightly more savory than I remember in past vintages (which is a plus) but my favorite of the three was the “Paramour.” All are worthy of pursuit.

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes

Champagne Louis Roederer, Collection 242, 375 ml Louis Roederer, Collection 242 – price, reviews

MV Champagne Louis Roederer “Collection 242” Champagne Blend, Champagne, France
Light yellow-gold in the glass with medium fine bubbles, this wine smells of apples, buttered sourdough toast, and sea air. In the mouth, a silky voluminous mousse delivers flavors of apples, lemon peel, Meyer lemon juice, and a touch of yeasty sourdough. Wonderfully creamy in texture with excellent acidity and brightness. Quite pretty. A blend of three estate vineyards, with 42% Chardonnay, 36% Pinot Noir, and 22% Pinot Meunier. 88% of the wine sees no oak at all, and the blend is 56% from the 2017 harvest and 44% wines from previous vintages ranging back to 2009. 8 g/l dosage. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $55. click to buy.

2012 Roger Goulart “Gran Reserva Brut” Cava Blend, Cava, Spain
Light gold in color with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of sea air, apples, and toasted white bread. In the mouth, an expansive, voluminous mousse fills the mouth and delivers flavors of seawater, kelp, apples, and a touch of toasty bread. The saline quality of this wine makes it quite drinkable. Nicely balanced and bright. 12% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.  

NV Segura Viudas Rosé Cava Blend, Cava, Spain
A light bronze-pink in the glass with medium-sized bubbles, this wine smells of hibiscus and berries, with hints of herbs. In the mouth, faintly sweet flavors of hibiscus and herbs are carried on a voluminous, coarse mousse. Hints of orange peel linger in the finish with an apple-skin character that turns faintly bitter after a while. A straightforward pink bubbly that will satisfy, for the price. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $10. click to buy.

2021 Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Pale straw in color, this wine smells of candied green apples and freshly mown lawns. In the mouth, bright green apple and gooseberry flavors mix with a touch of passionfruit that lingers pure and bright in the finish. Very good acidity and just a faint, faint salinity. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $14. click to buy.

2018 Bryn Mawr Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and a hint of resin. In the mouth, tangy lemon zest, lemon curd, and lemon pith have a tangy saline quality that is quite compelling. Zippy acidity makes the mouth water. 12.6% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. 325 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $53. click to buy.

2019 Merry Edwards “Olivet Lane” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in the glass with a hint of green, this wine smells of oak and popcorn and pineapple. In the mouth, rich flavors of lemon curd, buttered popcorn, and vanilla mix with toasted oak and golden apple and hints of pineapple in the finish. Decent acidity but I’d love for a bit more bite, and a little less richness. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $90. click to buy.

2019 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry and cranberry fruit with a hint of earth. In the mouth, silky and rich flavors of cherry, cranberry, and raspberry flavors are ripe and lush with faint billowy tannins to back them up. I wish there was more acidity here, but the flavors are hard to dislike. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.

2019 Merry Edwards “Meredith Estate” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry compote. In the mouth, rich cherry and raspberry flavors have a lovely silky texture and notes of cedar and brown sugar. This is a riper-style wine, but it holds its fruit with poise, and while it is not lean and nervy, it is neither excessively rich. Call it classically fuller-bodied Pinot Noir. 14.4% alcohol. Comes in a heavier bottle than it needs to. 1.63 kg when full. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $85. click to buy.

2019 Signorello “S by Ray Signorello” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and cola. In the mouth, bright cherry cola flavors mix with darker notes of licorice and cocoa powder. Excellent acidity keeps things bright and faint fleecy tannins tickle the edges of the palate. Lush and bright, and likely quite crowd-pleasing. Includes 7% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. Fermented with native yeasts and aged for 18 months in 50% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75.

2017 Blackbird Vineyards “Paramour” Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherries and earth. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit is firmly held by a muscular fist of tannins as hints of herbs and earth balance the bright cherry fruit. Excellent acidity keeps the mouth watering. A blend of 56% Cabernet Franc, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Merlot. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $ . click to buy.

2017 Blackbird Vineyards “Contrarian” Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and blackcurrants. In the mouth, black cherry and cassis flavors are wrapped in a muscular fist of fine-grained tannins. Notes of dried herbs and licorice root linger in the finish. Excellent acidity keeps things fresh. A nice balance between savory qualities and fruit. A blend of 29% Cabernet Franc, 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Merlot. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $ . click to buy.

2017 Blackbird Vineyards “Illustration” Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of juicy black cherries and a touch of earth. In the mouth, bright black cherry fruit is bouncy with excellent acidity and wrapped in a suede blanket of tannins that seem to carry an earthy flavor across the palate. This is decidedly more savory than I remember past vintages, but I’m not complaining in the slightest. Very pretty. A blend of 23% Cabernet Franc, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 49% Merlot. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $ . click to buy.