Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/17/24

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 featured an interesting assortment of wines, including a new sparkling wine from Valdemar Estates in Washington State. I’ll be honest, I haven’t had a lot of bubbles from Washington, but this wine certainly suggested that more of them ought to be made. It was bright and fresh, with a nice purity.

I also got a new wine to taste from Amulet Estate in Napa, a winery partly owned by the Beckstoffer family and partly owned by outside investors. Sourced from one of Napa’s crown jewels, the Proof Vineyard, this wine is a nice blend of Sauvignon Blanc with a high percentage (35% of Semillòn) plus 10% of the white field blend that continues to populate this 150+-year-old vineyard. Given the economic pressures on real estate and winery finances in Napa, it’s something of a miracle that a 19th-century vineyard sporting white grapes has remained in the ground in the heart of Napa Valley. It’s a delicious wine, even though it comes in an offensively heavy bottle, which implies the owners care more about projecting an image of luxury than taking care of the environment.

I’ve got a few New Zealand wines to recommend this week starting with two Sauvignon Blancs. The first, from Smith & Sheth offers a textbook expression of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with a hint of that characteristic cat scent as a grace note. Smith & Sheth is the negociant label of Steve Smith MW and his investor partner Brian Sheth, who are perhaps better known for being, as of 2017, owners of the legendary Pyramid Valley Vineyards. Smith has long been a well-known name in New Zealand for having been one of the founders of Craggy Range.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, that bottle of Smith & Sheth Sauvignon Blanc was accompanied by a bottle of Pyramid Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which offered somewhat next-level crystalline purity and elegance (a word that isn’t often used for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc). I highly recommend it if you can find it somewhere and don’t mind paying a slight premium. The grapes come from the famed Churton Vineyard, which is biodynamically farmed and one of the most beautiful sites in Marlborough.

Sticking with these two brands for the moment, I can also highly recommend both of their Chardonnays. The Smith & Sheth version comes from near Hawke’s Bay on the North Island, while the Pyramid Valley wine is from near the home estate in North Canterbury, on the South Island. Both are brimming with a zingy combination of fruit and bright acidity that instantly charms.

Two respective Pinots from each don’t quite have the same punch as the Chardonnays but they are also worth looking at, especially as they are much more affordable than the top-end bottlings from Pyramid Valley, which I’ll be reviewing next week.

Making a brief stop in Europe on our way home to California, let’s dally for a moment on a hillside of pink granite in Beaujolias (where I happen to be headed tomorrow, coincidentally). Winemaker Jonathan Pey might be a name familiar to my readers, as I’ve reviewed his Pey-Marin for years, as well as his Textbook Cabernet from Napa. He’s since shut down Pey-Marin, and sold Textbook. For his next act, he’s acquired some old vineyards in Morgon and Fleurie and is now living in France (though still making two other small US brands, Forager and Spice Rack). His Domaine Jonathan Pey Morgon is (forgive me) a textbook interpretation of Gamay, unsullied by oak or overt winemaker effort. It’s fresh, pure, and a great expression of the grape and the place. I can’t wait to taste his Fleurie.

Finally, closer to home, the folks at Gary Farrell Vineyards in the Russian River Valley sent through two of their top single-vineyard bottlings of Pinot…

Source : https://www.vinography.com/2024/03/vinography-unboxed-week-of-3-17-24