Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/5/23

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 past week included a wide variety of interesting wines, but perhaps none so “wide” away from my normal tasting regimen as a wine made from American native grape varieties in Missouri. I recently got a number of wines from Terravox, who specializes in producing wines from various indigenous grape varieties that were bred by the earliest viticultural pioneers in America. Many of the wines didn’t appeal to me, but the white made from a grape called Hidalgo was a pleasant surprise. Crisp, bright, and with a nice combination of savory and fruity notes, it’s a wine I would be happy to drink.

Closer to home, I received a couple of bottles on my doorstep from Stewart Johnson of Kendric Vineyards, one of the stalwart producers from Marin County. I’ve been following Johnson’s efforts for perhaps close to a decade now, and he has settled into a really nice groove in his winemaking, with predictably tasty results. His Viognier continues to be one of the best renditions of the variety made in California in my opinion (crisp, lean, and not at all oily or flabby) and his Sangiovese is frankly unbeatable for its true varietal expression of the grape, something very few people manage to achieve in California. Johnson’s prices are unusually reasonable in a world of constantly climbing SRPs, so I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Also reasonably priced are the wines from Two Shepherds winery, whose products I’m always happy to taste and recommend. I’ve got two skin-fermented “gris” varieties to show you this week, a Grenache Gris and Trousseau Gris, along with their Grenache Noir. I really loved the Trousseau Gris, for its peachy, berry goodness.

When wine lovers normally think of the Carmenere grape variety, their first thoughts are probably about Chile, where the grape has become something of a signature variety after many decades of being mistaken for Merlot. If they are really wine savvy, the second place a wine geek might think of when it comes to Carmenere would be Bordeaux, which is where it became most popular in the early 19th Century (though it is believed that the variety originally hails from Croatia). All of which is to say the Soave region of Italy is not likely to be high on the list of expected sources of the grape, yet nonetheless, I’ve got a Carmenere from Inama, one of Soave’s best producers, for you this week. Carmenre made its way to the Veneto region of Italy along with some other Bordeaux varieties, and in 2009 Italy recognized its first DOC specifically for the grape: Carmenere Colli Berici. While many people have abandoned its cultivation, Inama has kept a plot with which they make their tasty “Carmenere Piu” or “Carmenere Plus” wine (which includes a bit of Merlot). It’s got an unusual herbal character that may delight or mystify, depending on your inclination.

Few people realize (or remember) that the modern California wine industry is, at best, younger than 50 years of age. Very few wine producers survived the very long 13 years of illegality to be resurrected after the repeal of prohibition in 1933. That’s why it’s quite impressive for a winery such as La Jota Vineyard Co. to be celebrating its 125th anniversary. Founded in 1898, high on the slopes of Howell Mountain in Napa, the winery achieved modest success but fell victim to Prohibition like so many others. Revived in 1974, the winery became well-known in the 1990s for its powerful mountain Cabernet Sauvignons, leading to its purchase in 2005 by Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke. The winery remains one of the jewels in the Jackson Family Wines portfolio, with the wines made by Chris Carpenter.

In celebration of this anniversary, the winery…

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/5/23  
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