Week of 05/15/22: Vinography
Hello and welcome to my weekly dig into the pile of wine samples begging to be tasted. I’m happy to bring you the latest episode of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the best bottles that have come through my door recently.
Last week included a few new releases of Opening cellars, the Sonoma-focused brand started by young winemaker Jesse Katz and his photographer father, Andy Katz (whose images I’ve regularly featured here on the site). The Sauvignon Blanc they sent was incredibly intense and expressive and would impress anyone looking for fruit in their Sauvignon Blanc, while keeping us sour freaks happy with its crisp freshness. We’ll come back to Aperture below when we get into the big reds.
In the meantime, let’s spend some time in the hammock with three good bottles of rosé. The first two come from the same wine estate, Center of effort located in the Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo County. COE, as they are sometimes called, is the reincarnation of Lawrence Vineyards, one of the first major vineyard sites to be planted in the region. Current owners Bill and Cheryl Swanson have essentially made COE their retirement project, taking it to new heights with a talented team including winemaker Nathan Carlson. These two rosés are quite similar in style and expression. The estate’s wine, named ‘Effort’, is slightly silkier and more refined, but the Fossil Point offers a wonderful bright, juicy freshness that will appeal to the perennial rose drinker.
The third rosé proposed is the result of a very small project between three young college friends named less tide. Recently created, this small label produces beautiful, understated wines that highlight the fruits of Mendocino County. Their Carignan rosé has a nice sour cherry acidity which I really enjoyed. The trio also sent their Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir, which was quite tasty, especially for anyone (like me) who enjoys some of the more secondary Pinot Noir flavors that emerge over time.
Perhaps the opposite of the Pinot spectrum, the latest version of On the way (part of the Far Niente family of brands) is all about primary, ripe fruit, bursting with cherry and raspberry.
When people ask which wineries to visit near Healdsburg, I often send them to two wineries, right across from each other and as different as day and night.
Acorn cellar has been run for decades by husband and wife Bill and Betsy Nachbaur. They make reasonably priced old-fashioned field blends that have few trimmings and offer a winery and tasting room that ooze charm and down-to-earth hospitality. I tasted their Sangiovese (which is really a land blend) and their Axiom Syrah this week and can recommend both, especially the Syrah which will appeal to anyone who likes the more flavorful side of the grape.
Across the street is the sleek, modern Aperture Cellars cellar, with beautiful architecture, lighting, landscaping, and decorated with Andy Katz’s stunning photography. In addition to the Sauvignon Blanc above, this week I sampled their “ground-specific” Sonoma red wine, which is smooth and juicy, as well as their more expensive SJ Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon.
Notes on all of this below.
2020 Aperture “Sol Specific” Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, CA
Light yellow-gold in the glass with a hint of green, this wine smells of lemon zest and gooseberry. On the palate, intense flavors of passion fruit, citrus zest and candied green apple have a bright aromatic sweetness and excellent acidity. Quite intense and greedy. 13.8% alcohol. Note: approx. 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2021 Center d’Effort Rosé de Grenache, Edna Valley, Central Coast, CA
Pale peachy pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon rind and unripe strawberries. On the palate, the juicy and bright flavors of watermelon and berries are silky but also crisp and zesty thanks to excellent acidity. A quintessential example of a Grenache rosé. Meaning: quite delicious. Made with 100% fruit from the estate. 13.5% alcohol. Note: approx. 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2021 Fossil Point Rosé de Grenache, San Luis Obispo, Central Coast, CA
Pale peachy pink in the glass, this wine smells of wet stone and watermelon rind. On the palate, flavors of watermelon flesh and rind mingle with some citrus peel and a hint of grassy bitterness that lingers on the finish with citrus oil. Made by Center of Effort with fruit from friends and neighbors. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screw cap. Note: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2021 Minus Tide ‘Feliz Creek Vineyard‘ Rosé from Carignan, Mendocino County, CA
Light copper-pink in the glass, this wine smells of sour cherry and citrus peel. On the palate, silky flavors of Morello cherry and strawberry have a nice liveliness thanks to an excellent acidity. Ripe cherry flavors linger on the finish. Pretty. 13% alcohol. Note: approx. 8.5. Cost: $26. click to buy.
2019 Minus Tide “Manchester Ridge Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mendocino Ridge, CA
A slightly hazy medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of damp redwood bark, red apple peel, earth and raspberries. On the palate, flavors of raspberry and red apple peel intertwine with cedar and dried flowers as wispy tannins float lightly in the corners of the mouth. Excellent orange peel acidity. Quite evolved tastes, as if it had taken a lot of air before bottling. 13.2% alcohol. Note: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2019 EnRoute “Les Pommiers” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, CA
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry and raspberry jam. On the palate, sweet raspberry and cherry flavors have a silky texture and light cotton ball tannins that polish the edges of the mouth. Good acidity and length, a little riper than I would like, with just a bit too much oak influence, although it is relatively well integrated. However, many will appreciate the richness of the fruit. 14.5% alcohol. Note: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.
2018 Acorn Winery “Alegría Vineyards” Sangiovese, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, CA
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth, cherry and cocoa powder. On the palate, cherry and cocoa powder mingle with the sweetness of wood. The muscular tannins have a leathery grip and the wine ends with a hint of wood. Good acidity. A country blend of 26 different Sangiovese clones co-fermented with Canaiolo and Mammolo. 14.1% alcohol. 240 boxes manufactured. Note: approx. 8.5. Cost: $42. click to buy.
2018 Acorn Winery “Alegría Vineyards – Axiom” Syrah, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, CA
Very dark garnet with violet reflections, this wine smells of wet metal, blackberry and blueberry. On the palate, flavors of iodine and rust mingle with dark berries and deeper earthy notes. Very tasty and deep, with a slight incense note. Brooding. Includes a small amount of Viognier. 14.2% alcohol. 310 cases produced. Note: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2018 Aperture “SJ Ranch Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, CA
Opaque garnet and inky in color, this wine smells of dark cherry and cola. On the palate, powdery tannins hang in a haze around a cherry cola core, tightening with time. Excellent acidity shows up mid-palate and flavors of cocoa powder and cola linger on the finish with a hint of salty black licorice. Ripe. Aged for 22 months in 90% new French oak barrels. 14.7% alcohol. Note: approx. 9. Cost: $150.
2019 Aperture “Soil Specific” Red Blend, Sonoma County, CA
Opaque dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries and black cherries. On the palate, juicy flavors of boysenberry and black cherry have crisp acidity and a very supple, velvety tannic undertone. Fruity but not massively ripe, this is a lush expression of fruit, for those looking for such things. There is just a tiny bit of warmth in the finish. A blend of 40% Malbec, 32% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. Aged for 18 months in 45% new French oak barrels. 14.7% alcohol. Note: approx. 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.