Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/9/23

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 couple more wines from the Austro-amazing hands of Graham Tatomer, whose command of Riesling and Grüner Veltliner are largely unmatched in California. His standard Santa Barbara County Grüner is about as textbook as you can get, and eminently quaffable, as is his Kick-on Ranch Riesling, which offers delicate flavors and great minerality.

I opened up two biodynamically-produced Oregon Chardonnays this week, both of which I can recommend highly. The first is from the perennially-satisfying production of Big Table Farm. Their “The Wild Bee” Chardonnay is always wonderfully delicate, perfumed, and electric with juicy acidity. The second is from Johan Vineyards, which was acquired by Kathering “Mini” Byers in 2021 shortly after acquiring Cowhorn Vineyards the same year, at the remarkable age of 26. I found myself wondering how a 26-year-old manages to acquire two large wine estates in one year, until I realized that Byers’ maiden name is Banks, making her the daughter of major wine investor Charles Banks, who was convicted of fraud in 2017. Let not the sins of the father be laid upon the daughter, presumably? Byers has turned these two biodynamic estates into sister properties, and if this Chardonnay I tasted is any indication, producing excellent wines. The wine was actually quite striking—intensely aromatic and quite distinctive in character. I highly recommend it.

This week also featured a number of new releases from Ryme Cellars in Sonoma. This husband-and-wife brand began in 2007 when Megan and Ryan Glaab decided to make wine from the ton of Aglianico they managed to get their hands on. This was followed soon after by “His” and “Hers” Vermentinos, his made with skin contact, hers made in a more classic style. Since then they’ve made many excellent wines from lesser-known grape varieties around California, always bringing a deft, restrained touch to their efforts. This past week their “Hers” Vermentino and Grenache were singing, their Fiano bright and steely, their Aglianico dark and alluring, and their Cabernet, herbal and savory.

I was recently introduced to the wines of Birdhorse, a wife-and-wife project started by Corinne Rich (assistant winemaker at Scribe) and Katie Rouse (assistant winemaker at Bedrock Wine Co.). These two ladies met and fell in love while working a harvest in South Africa. After returning to California and settling into their respective gigs making wine for others, they decided to make some wine together. And aren’t we glad they did!? Their wines are electric, fresh, and thrilling. Check out their lemony-neon-light-in-a-glass Verdelho or their incredibly floral and juicy Cinsault, or the mouthwatering Valdiguié. Their Barbera may be the best that I’ve ever had from California. Just sayin’. These wines are largely undiscovered, and priced that way, so get in while the getting is good!

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes

2021 Tatomer Grüner Veltliner, Santa Barbara County, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of Asian pear, chamomile, and herbs. In the mouth, juicy and bright pear and apple flavors are shot through with chamomile and lemongrass flavors. Excellent acidity and wonderful stony minerality. Classically profiled and delicious, with just the barest hint of salinity. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.

2020 Tatomer Kick-on Ranch Riesling, Santa Barbara County, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of citrus oil, honeysuckle, and Asian pear. In the mouth, stony flavors of citrus oil, wet chalkboard, and Asian pear have a nice filigreed acidity, and just enough aromatic sweetness to…

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/9/23  
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