Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/6/23

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 week we’ve got a bunch of Chenin Blanc to talk about. None of us, I’d wager, are drinking enough Chenin Blanc. It’s simply one of the greatest grapes around. It can be made into sweet wines and sparkling wines, but I like me some plain ‘ole dry Chenin Blanc, like the bottles of Savennières and Vouvray I have to recommend to you this week. The first two wines, especially, from Domaine du Closel – Chateau des Vaults are both excellent and worthy of seeking out. This certified biodynamic estate, run by Evelyne de Pontbriand, is a gem, and in addition to having beautiful grounds, it is one of the few estates in Savennières where you can simply drop by without an appointment to taste.

From farther east along the Loire, I can recommend these two dry Vouvrays as well, which are slightly richer than their stony Savennières cousins, but equally bright and refreshing. The tiny Domaine de la Canopée is run by Jérémy Lajoux, who doesn’t even have a website, preferring to stick with Instagram. Chateau Moncontour, on the other hand, has been around for a while and is better known for their sparkling wines than their still, dry Chenins.

Before we head into red wine territory, I have one more Chenin Blanc for you, this one from Mendocino County, made by Taylor Berkley Boydstun, whose T Berkeley label takes inspiration from the Loire, and tends to focus on grape varieties from the region. His Chenin doesn’t have the snap of the Loire bottlings above, but it is varietally correct and tasty. In addition, Boydstun sent along a couple of Cabernet Francs which are both quite interesting, and manage to have both Loire and California sensibilities. I like that they have distinctly savory components along with their fruit.

Many wine lovers will know that Thomas Jefferson was america’s first wine geek, and that he even planted vines at his estate in Monticello. Fewer will know that Virginia has a thriving wine country and several sub-AVAs. I was sent some Virginia wines a while back—the winners of the state’s annual Governor’s Cup wine competition—and I found a few bottles that I’m pleased to recommend.

Barboursville Vineyards is perhaps one of Virginia’s best known producers, and its longest-running, having been purchased and planted by Gianni Zonin (of the Zonin prosecco empire in Italy) in 1976. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that their Vermentino is worth drinking.

On some of the very same land that Jefferson tried so hard to turn into vineyards, the appropriately named Jefferson Vineyards has finally made his dreams come true, having planted vineyards beginning in 1981. Their red blend will definitely appeal to drinkers of rich red wine. This blend carries the designation Meritage (pronounced like “heritage”), which is a particular designation for a Bordeaux-style blend in which no single grape makes up more than 90% of the blend.

The Pollack Vineyards Meritage shows more of its Cabernet Franc pedigree with nuttier tones, while the Barren Ridge Vineyards Petite Sirah offers deeper blueberry flavors for those looking for darker, richer wines.

Last but not least, I’ve got a couple of wines to recommend to you from Acorn Winery, run by Bill and Betsy Nachbaur, who farm one of Sonoma’s oldest vineyards south of Healdsburg. Planted in 1890, their Alegría heritage vineyard of primarily Zinfandel contains fifty or sixty other grape varieties. The winery specializes in field blends of different sorts, and I’m recommending two of them today. Their Zinfandel, which is a cofermentation of many of the different grapes from their old vine block dominated by Zinfandel, and their Medley, which is a more equal cofermentation…

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/6/23 Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/6/23 *Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/6/23