Thursday, June 4, 2020

Wine Reviews: California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Happy weekend, wine-lovers. I hope you’re all as safe and well as can be expected during these chaotic times. I’m back this week with two of my first wine loves: California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
My palate will always favor the more “Burgundian” styles, but I also enjoy and respect the juicier, darker styles as well. This report has a nice mix of producers, regions and styles. There are some serious values in here as well.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
2019 River Road Chardonnay Unoaked – USA, California
SRP: $14
Light yellow color. Aromas of lemon and orange peel, with mint, honeysuckle and clover. Crisp and punchy on the palate with a fresh, fun appeal. Lemon, apricot, orange peel, the fruit and herbal/floral tones stand out and make this is a seafood-friendly, value-driven style. (86 points)
2018 Qupé Chardonnay Y Block Bien Nacido Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $22
Medium yellow. Bright aromatics of see breeze and wild flowers on top of deeper notes of yellow apples and apricot, nougat, shaved ginger and graham cracker. Precise and fresh on the palate, lovely depth of texture and balanced. Yellow apples, lemon crème and apricot, mixed with meringue, salted almond, oyster shell, crushed rocks. Nuanced honeycomb and vanilla accents. A California Chard that makes me go, “Ahh…” in refreshment. What a bargain. Fermented and aged seven months in 15% new French oak. (90 points)
2017 Mi Sueño Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $42
Deep yellow color. Aromas of plump peach, apricot, lemon curd, with hay, peanut shell, honey and chalk scents as well. Rich texture, creamy and honeyed on the palate, but fresh acidity, the depth and balance are quite impressive. Peach, apricot, yellow apple, plush fruit but brighter tones of chalk, river stones, crushed shells, with nuanced notes of honey, graham cracker. Vibrant, deep, a lot of class here, especially for the price. Aged 18 months in 30% new French oak, all maloactic fermentation. (91 points)
2018 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay Carneros – USA, California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $38
Medium yellow color. Brighter aromas of green apple and lime mix with richer notes of apricot and orange marmalade, rounded out with yellow flowers, honey and chalk. Full-bodied, plump texture but vibrant acidity, with yellow apples and lemon curd fruit. Nuanced graham cracker, honey and ginger snap blend well with sea salt, chalk and wildflowers. Delightful, balanced. Fermented in 1/3 new French oak barrels and aged nine months on the lees. (90 points)
2018 Shafer Chardonnay Red Shoulder Ranch – USA, California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $52
Vibrant gold color. Deep, inviting aromas of apricot marmalade, orange peel, lemon curd, with brighter tones of sea salt, honeyed tea, chalk dust. Plush and smooth texture, this is full-bodied and round with creamy texture, but zesty acidity, which frames the wine well. Creamy pears, lemon curd and baked apple fruit, with nutty, almond, pistachio notes, cinnamon. There’s this crisp, flinty, mineral vibe underneath that is really exciting. Rich but lively, bold but nuanced, Red Shoulder Ranch does it again. This is the 25th anniversary vintage of this wine. (91 points)
2017 The Federalist Wines Chardonnay – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $23
Deep yellow color. Aromas of creamy pear, glazed apple, lemon crème, with honeycomb, crumb cake and whipped butter. Rich texture on the palate, full-bodied, medium/low acidity. Shows creamy pear and peach fruit mixed with ginger, honey and yellow flowers. Not too heavy, shows nuance and value. Aged in a mix of 35% new American, Hungarian and French oak. (87 points)
2018 FEL Chardonnay Anderson Valley – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $32
Vibrant yellow color. Inviting nose of sea salt, hay and chalk on top of deeper, honeyed, baked pear and nougat notes. Zesty acidity frames this wine really well, it has a lot of vibrancy, but also plenty of creamy, textured pear, apple and lemon curd fruit. Notes of saline, sea spray and oyster shell mix with hazelnut, honeyed white tea and almond skin. I’m liking this vintage of a perennially-killer Anderson Valley Chardonnay. Sourced from Savoy and Ferrington Vineyards, this is fermented in old oak. (90 points)
2018 River Road Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $18
Medium yellow color. Nose shows lemons, peaches, with bright white flowers, dandelions, honey and crème. Medium-bodied, fresh acidity, not too creamy or rich, shows some nice verve and brightness. Limes, lemons and peaches tossed with peanut shell, honey butter, nougat, some cool mint and white pepper notes. Vibrant style, accessible but shows complexity and depth for the price. Fermented in a mix of stainless steel and oak. (88 points)
2018 Fort Ross Chardonnay Fort Ross Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $44
Light yellow color. Brisk and bright aromas of seashells, chalk, talc, with orange blossom, honeysuckle, over lemon curd and yellow apple. Bright acidity, beautiful texture, bold presence on the palate but zesty acidity keeps the wine in line. Gorgeous lemon, key lime pie, baked apple and apricot. Complex notes of sea salt, crushed shells, saline, honeysuckle. Beautiful, mouthwatering stuff that should age really well. Aged 11 months in 30% new French oak. (91 points)
Pinot Noir
2017 Talbott Pinot Noir Kali Hart – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey
SRP: $26
Pale ruby. Spicy herbs and pepper kick off the nose, with floral potpourri and cola on top of cranberry relish and wild strawberry. Medium/full-bodied with soft tannins and medium/low acidity. Ripe red cherries and spicy cranberry relish blends well with white pepper, grilled herbs, tobacco – really lovely spicy tones. Easy-drinking, fun buy spicy style. Aged nine months in 15% new French oak. (87 points)
2018 Laetitia Winery Pinot Noir Estate – USA, California, Central Coast, Arroyo Grande Valley
SRP: $27
Medium ruby color. Bright cherries on the nose, wild raspberries, with menthol, white pepper, cola. Zesty acidity frames this wine nicely, dusty tannins, a crunchy, bright feel with cranberries, wild raspberries. Notes of rhubarb, white pepper, dusty earth and pickling spices add this spicy, earthy complexity. Fun and fresh but shows complex elements and a lot of personality for this price. For those looking for a brighter, leaner, spicier style without spending a lot. Aged 11 months in 20% new French oak. (88 points)
2018 Siduri Pinot Noir ­ USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $30
Light ruby color. Nose shows jammy raspberries, juicy black cherries, with cola, roses, and sage notes. Full-bodied on the palate with chewy tannins and moderate acidity, a ripe but lively feel. Dark cherries, super ripe plums, raspberry jam fruit, which is laced well with notes of tobacco, mint, earth and leaves. Touches of vanilla and cola. Fun and accessible style but it shows some solid depth and complexity for the price. (88 points)
2018 Frank Family Vineyards Pinot Noir – USA, California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $38
Medium ruby color. Aromas of juicy black cherries, raspberries, candied apple, with cola, sweet roses and coffee. Full-bodied, smooth but chewy tannins with fresh acidity and a fun, juicy feel with raspberries and black cherry fruit. Notes of cola, coffee, sweet roses and root beer add some complexity. Fun, accessible, early-drinking style. Aged 10 months in 1/3 new French oak. (88 points)
2018 FEL Pinot Noir Anderson Valley ­- USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $38
Deep ruby color. Inviting scents of raspberries, strawberries, fresh and fun, also floral and spicy with rose petals, white pepper, clove and rhubarb. Medium/full-bodied with vibrant acidity and silky, smooth tannins – a bold but balanced wine. Tangy cherries, strawberries and pomegranate fruit mix well with rose petals, rhubarb, portobello mushroom and black tea. Nuanced cola and cranberry relish elements on the finish. A lovely Anderson Valley Pinot (per usual from FEL), at less than $40, this has a lot of personality and depth. Aged 16 months in 38% new French oak. (91 points)
2018 Siduri Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $40
Vibrant ruby color. Aromas of crushed cherries, raspberries and wild strawberries with dried rose petals, potpourri, ripe but also airy and enticing aromas. Full but fresh on the palate with suave tannins and fresh acidity, a ripe but balanced mouthfeel. Raspberries, cherry preserves and dark plum fruit blend well with coconut, roasted chestnut and cola, but also these earthy, oregano and bay leaf vibes. Quite a lot going on here for the price. (89 points)
2018 Root & Rubble Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County
SRP: $40Medium ruby color. Bright and fresh aromas of wild raspberries and strawberries, some spice pepper, rose hips and tobacco. Medium-bodied, silky tannins, this has a fresh, crunchy, pretty feel. Vibrant red fruits (raspberries and strawberries) mix well with floral and herb tones (rose petals, clove, bay leaf) with some clay and earth undertones. Vibrant, accessible, yet complex, too. Fermented and aged in concrete, a process I’m a big fan of. It gives this wine airy, lifted aromas and keeps away the coffee and vanilla that would make this wine taste just like 100 other California Pinot Noirs. From winemaker and Siduri founder Adam Lee, this is well-done, exciting stuff for a great price. (90 points)
2016 Fort Ross Pinot Noir Fort Ross Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Fort Ross – Seaview
SRP: $52
Medium ruby color. So vibrant on the nose with chilled black cherries, cranberries, wild raspberries, with some musky, peppery, leathery tones, accents of red flowers. Medium-bodied, crisp acidity, fleshy but zesty with dusty, fine tannins. Crunchy cherries, wild raspberries and cranberry fruit, topped in beautiful dusty earth, clay, dried leaves, tobacco and mint. Pure, vibrant, refined, this is lovely and zippy deliciousness. Aged 10 months in 40% new French oak. (91 points)
2017 River Road Pinot Noir Stephanie’s Cuvée – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $30
Deep ruby color. Aromas show juicy raspberries and tangy strawberries with rose petals, sweet coffee, clove and black tea. Medium/full-bodied with a chewy texture, medium acidity, and plump black cherry fruit, some raspberry jam, too. Notes of cola, toasted nuts and herbal tea add some complexity. Ripe and round but shows brightness, too. Aged in 20% new French oak. (87 points)
2017 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Dijon Clones Hallberg Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $60
Medium ruby color. Really bright aromas of raspberry, strawberries, red currants, with spicy, floral complexities like rose hips, rhubarb, white pepper. On the palate, this is crisp and bright on a medium-bodied frame with medium, dusty tannins. The fruit (strawberries and red cherries) is tangy and vibrant, with rose hips, rhubarb, bay leaf, hops, all sorts of complex, spicy elements that keeps this wine intriguing. Pretty and complex, this exquisite Pinot will get even better in the next five or six years. Aged 10 months in 40% new French oak. (93 points)

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Happy Saturday, folks. I hope you’re all healthy and handling these pandemic times as well as can be expected. I’m still receiving lots of samples, and the delivery drivers have been great about social distancing, and I’m making sure to wash my hands after handling wine boxes!
Over these past few weeks at home, I’ve been receiving a lot of samples from California, mostly from producers I know well.
We’ve got some interesting Albarino from Lodi worth checking out, and a delicious Sonoma Roussanne as well. Even if you’re like me, and skeptical of Napa Sauv Blanc, Galerie’s Naissance Sauvignon Blanc is something really special. I also have some Napa Cabernets that deliver a lot of goodness and value.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
N.V. J Vineyards & Winery Cuvée 20 – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $38
Medium gold color. Nose shows white flowers, sea breeze, with generous pears and oranges, pie crust and chalk tones. Medium-bodied, the sweetness is balanced with vibrant acidity. Flavors of tangy apples and tangerines, green melon, blend well with notes of sea salt, white flowers, fresh biscuits and sugar cane. Fun, fresh, zippy, but also offering some balance and complexity, especially for the price. 51% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 9% Pinot Meunier, with a 10.5 g/l dosage, aged 30 months on the lees. (88 points)
White wines
2019 FEL Pinot Gris – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $25
Light yellow color. Bright floral tones on the nose with daisies, nettle honeysuckle and mint on top of peach and apricot fruit. Flexy texture on the palate, plush and creamy, but nervy acidity keeps it lively. Apricot and white peach fruit, yellow plum, fresh and vibrant fruit, mixing well with notes of floral perfume, mint, and flinty, salty tones. Inviting and complex. Fermented in old French oak and aged five months on the lees. (90 points)
2018 Oak Farm Vineyards Albariño – USA, California, Central Valley, San Joaquin County
SRP: $24
Deep yellow color. Bright and boastful aromas of white peach, green apple, apricot, with orange blossom, dandelion and sea salt. Crisp and tangy on the palate, yet a plush mouthfeel. Oranges, white peach, papaya, lime, a fruit salad topped in salty, steel, floral complexity. Lively, bright, yet punchy and fruity, this could easily sneak by in a Rias Baixas blind tasting, but it does have a bit more fruit. Delightful spring/summer wine at a bargain price. All stainless steel. (90 points)
2019 Mettler Family Vineyards Albariño Estate Grown – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $20
Light yellow color. Nose shows bright lemons, white peaches and nectarine, with all sorts of wildflowers and some wild herbs. Fleshy texture but bright, zippy appeal here, along with papaya and peach fruit. Spice lemon verbena and sliced green onion mix well with notes of sea breeze and clean laundry. A shellfish and outdoor patio-friendly kind of wine, as Albarino should be. All stainless steel. (87 points)
2018 Galerie Sauvignon Blanc Naissance – USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $30
Pale lemon color. Airy, breezy aromatics with lemon pith, green apples, topped in sea spray, baby’s breath and nettle, some mint. On the palate, this has lovely textural depth but a bright, sprightly appeal. Lemon, green apple, kiwi, fun and fruity but complexities abound: chalk, minerals, crushed stones, pure mountain stream. Notes of mint, honeysuckle and sliced cucumber round out the finish. Pure, lively, racy, fun, this is a killer Napa SB for the price. Fermented and aged in a mix of stainless steel, concrete eggs and old oak. (91 points)
2019 Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
SRP: $32
Light yellow color. A burst of kiwi, papaya and white peach on the nose, with honeysuckle, white pepper, verbena and clean laundry. Medium-bodied with bright acidity and deep texture, generous but super fresh. Kiwi, lemon, white peach, topped in sliced green onion, white pepper, honeysuckle, with notes of chalk and sea salt. Clean, focused, crisp but shows lots of depth, too. Aged six months on the lees. (89 points)
2017 Sosie Roussanne Vivio Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
SRP: $38
Deep yellow color. Gorgeous aromas of dried apricot, glazed pears, honey, ginger, white tea. Rich texture on the palate, deep and plush, yet moderate acidity. Apricot, honeyed pears, plush and deep with notes of graham cracker, wax, salted almond, green tea, ginger snaps. Bold but shows lots of nuance and vibrancy, very nice for Roussanne to be this lively. Aged 15 months in 20% new French oak. (90 points)
Red wines
2016 Galerie Cabernet Sauvignon Pleinair – USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $65
So inviting on the nose, with dark plums, black cherries, cassis, with earth, leather, sage, menthol and mint complexities. Gorgeous texture on the palate with structured tannins and bright acidity, balanced, vibrant, pure. Black currants, plums, deep, suave fruit, laced with beautiful notes of violets, clove, mineral, graphite, earth, sage. Such a nuanced, fresh style, but this will age beautifully. Aged 19 months in 73% new French oak. For the price, this wine has such an elegant, complex, “real” feel. (93 points)
2016 Mi Sueño Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $75
Aromas of blueberry and blackberry, with vanilla, espresso, charcoal, earth and violets. On the palate, this is full-bodied and velvety with medium acidity and a dark, juicy, fruity core (blackberry, blueberry). Complex notes of charcoal, warm earth, graphite, espresso roast and mint chocolate chip. Hedonistic but complex and smooth, this could use a few years or a good decant. Aged 2 months in 65% new French oak. (90 points IJB)
2017 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon One Point Five – USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
SRP: $95
Aromas show a deep core of black cherries, black currants, tart blueberry, with smoky earth, tobacco, clove, black pepper, tar and vanilla. Big and voluptuous on the palate, rich and structured with fine-grained tannins, moderating acidity. Gorgeous blueberry and blackberry fruit mixes well with complex, violets, tar, pencil lead, smoky earth, nuanced cedar and clove. Another stunning vintage of this Cabernet, which doesn’t disappoint. 100% Cabernet aged 20 months in all new French oak. (94 points)
2016 The Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder – USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
SRP: $80
Aromas of tangy black cherries, tart currants, with charcoal, vanilla, dark chocolate, some black tea, leather and clove. Full but balanced with moderating acidity. Bold and expressive with a chewy but lively texture, deep currants, plum sauce. Notes of mint, chewing tobacco and earth blend well with vanilla, coconut and dark chocolate. Saucy and rich but lovely vibrancy throughout. I’m curious to see what four or five years does to this wine. Aged 22 months in 80% new French oak. (91 points)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Arrival of the Rosés

It’s the unofficial start to “summer” here in the northern hemisphere this weekend. But what even is summer in these pandemic times? My plans for everything are cancelled, but I’m healthy and thankful.
And the annual arrival of new rosé wines offers some sense of normalcy amidst the chaos. I’ve been receiving a lot of new pink wines from France and America, new and old (to me) wines that offer some solace in these strange times, which are reviewed below.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
2019 Domaine De Cala Rosé – France, Provence, Côteaux Varois
SRP: $17
Pale copper color. Bright aromas of lemon, peach, red apple peel, with mint, nettle and chalk dust. Crisp and zippy on the palate on a medium-bodied frame with white cherries and tangy strawberry fruit. Notes of mint, dandelion, herbal tea, perfume. Salad-friendly, bright, tangy, fun. A blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Rolle, Syrah, Carignan and Grenache Blanc. (87 points)
2019 Château de Peyrassol Rosé­ – France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
SRP: $29
Very pale copper color. Super bright on the nose with white cherries and watermelon rind, topped in dandelion, wild herbs, chalk, saline. Zippy and crunchy on the palate with a bright and steely feel, lemon and grapefruit pith fruit. Light and fun but shows some complexities in terms of chalk, mint, lemon oil and saline. Fun, summery, but deep stuff. Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Rolle and Ugni Blanc from 35-year-old vines. (89 points)
2019 Hahn Pinot Noir Rosé – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey
SRP: $15
Medium pink color. Nose shows plump white peach and papaya, tangy red apple, with white tea, clove and sweet red flower notes. Juicy, medium-bodied wine with medium acidity and ripe peach and apricot, drizzled with lime and topped in orange peel. Notes of honey, clover and sliced cucumber add some complexity. Plush yet fresh, fun but showing some depth, especially for the price. (87 points)
2019 Steele Wines Cabernet Franc Rosé – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $18
Light cotton candy color. Nose of nettle, white pepper, with watermelon, white cherry and raspberry fruit. Crisp and vibrant on the palate with brisk acidity, creamy texture, and juicy but crisp fruit (watermelon, white cherry, raspberry). Fresh and bright with notes of honeysuckle, basil and white pepper. Crushable but showing significant complexity as well. All Cabernet Franc from the Silva Vineyard. (88 points)
2017 Castello di Amorosa Spumante del Castello Brut Rosé – USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $49
Light strawberry color. Nose shows chalk, honey, white pepper, clover, on top of strawberries and white cherries. Fine bubbles, a zippy frame with white cherry and raspberry fruit. Notes of fresh mint, verbena, chalk dust add complexity. No deep, bready notes, this is a light, bright, salad and fruit-friendly sparkling wine, but shows complexity and depth. Champagne method Pinot Noir. (88 points)
2019 Gamble Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
SRP: $20
Light salmon color. Bright and floral on the nose with white cherries, lemon, white peach, with chalky, white tea tones. Creamy texture with a crunchy strawberry, wild raspberry and red apple peel fruit. There’s a pleasant chalky, herbal tea, nettle and honeysuckle feel. Lots of depth and personality. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. (89 points)
2019 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Franc Rosé Sylviane – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
SRP: $32
Deep watermelon color. Gorgeous aromatics of watermelon, juicy cherries, strawberries, open and inviting, quite ripe, but shows complex hay, rhubarb and white pepper elements, too. Plush texture on the palate with lovely depth, ripe and juicy but bright acidity keeps it tight. Watermelon and strawberry fruit on a bed of cut flower stems and cinnamon sticks. Flinty, mineral, salty tones, this is a juicy but racy and complex rose. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. (91 points)
2018 Castello di Amorosa Pinot Noir Rosato Cresta d’Oro – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $39
Pale copper color. Bright, steely, floral nose with strawberries and white cherries, topped in nettle, honeysuckle, sliced cucumber. Bright and vibrant on the palate with sweet strawberry and white cherries, mixed with notes of chalk, verbena, honeysuckle and mint. Juicy but stays light, fresh, salad and summer-friendly stuff. All Pinot Noir. (89 points)
2019 Cenyth Cabernet Franc Rosé – USA, California, Sonoma County
SRP: $30
Light watermelon color. Aromas of white cherries and raspberries, with rose petals and white pepper. Bright, vibrant and clean on the palate with raspberries, white cherries and watermelon. Creamy but fresh, complex notes of white pepper, clove, white tea. Such a delightfully balanced and focused rose. All Cabernet Franc. (90 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Black Kite Delivers Delicious California Pinot & Chardonnay

This week, I’m highlighting a California Pinot producer that I’ve enjoyed over the years: Black Kite Cellars.

Based in Mendocino’s Pinot capital of Anderson Valley, Black Kite produces a range of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from single vineyards in the Anderson Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands and Sonoma. Started in 2003, co-founders Rebecca and Tom Birdsall were inspired by a bike trip through Burgundy. And Rebecaa’s parents had purchased a plot of land near the Navarro River in Anderson Valley in 1995, which would become home to their estate vineyards. The wines are made by Jeff Gaffner, who worked at Chateau St. Jean and Arrowood.

The Pinots show a juicy, fruity, but floral style, each with unique signatures of it’s vineyard. The Chardonnays are mouthwatering and delicious, treated the same way in the cellar, spending 16 months in 1/3 new French oak. There’s a lot of nuance and complexity in these wines, and they’re worth exploring if you like California Pinot and Chardonnay.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2017 Black Kite Chardonnay Gap's Crown Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $62
Deep yellow color. Aromas of honey, ginger, with lemon zest, meringue, orange peel, apricot, sea salt, dandelion – all sorts of awesome things going on, here. Medium-bodied on the palate with a crisp, nervy, racy aesthetic that hits target. Plush apricot, lemon curd, orange peel and kiwi, delicious fruit, mixed with complex stony, mountain stream, mineral and limestone. Deep but brisk, age-worthy but open for business. This wine leaves me salivating. So, so good. (93 point)

2017 Black Kite Chardonnay Soberanes Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
SRP: $48
Deep yellow color. The nose gushes with lime, papaya, topped in honey, cinnamon crumb cake, with sea salt and slate notes. Full-bodied but not heavy on the palate, creamy but bright, this is well-balanced and bright. Lime, kiwi, yellow apple fruit, open and expressive, but still brisk, with notes of honey, raw almond and gingerbread combining with oyster shell, saline and flinty tones. It’s all mixed together quite nicely. Very pretty Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay. (90 points)

2017 Black Kite Chardonnay Sierra Mar Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
SRP: $48
Medium yellow color. Bright aromas of peaches, lemon curd, yellow apples, with honey butter, shaved ginger, peanut husk. Plush texture on the palate, but the wine is medium-bodied and shows vibrant acidity. Yellow apples and apricot, lemon bars, the fruit mixes with ginger and peanut brittle, but there are also these chalky, mineral, oyster shell undertones that keep the wine zesty and alive. Pretty, well-balanced, delicious stuff. (91 points)

Pinot Noir

2017 Black Kite Pinot Noir Gap's Crown Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
P: $62
Aromas of dark cherries, red currants, with rose petals, black tea, clay, earth, tar. Full-bodied, medium acidity, with saucy black cherries, spiced cranberry jam, accented with spiced black tea, coffee, roasted chestnut, clove. A bold, darker style, but delicious, deep but still well-balanced. Aged 17 months in ½ new French oak, 14.8% alcohol. The fruit is sourced from 23 rows in this Petaluma Gap vineyard. (90 points)

2017 Black Kite Pinot Noir Sierra Mar Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
SRP: $45
Bright cherries and deeper plums on the nose, with smoky, earthy tones, clove, rose petals. Full-bodied, with suave, velvety tannins, medium acidity, this is bold but nicely balanced. Red cherries and raspberry fruit mix with rhubarb, tobacco, black tea, chai, rose petals. This is juicy but brisk with balanced, fresh elements in addition to the vibrant fruit and complex earthy, dusty notes. This should age nicely but has a lot to show right out of the bottle. Aged 17 months in ½ new French oak, 14.6% alcohol. A higher elevation vineyard, this is only the third Black Kite vintage from this site. (92 points)

2017 Black Kite Pinot Noir Kite's Rest - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $50
Ripe but cool cherries on the nose, juicy raspberries, spiced cranberry jam, with rose petals, rhubarb and white pepper. Full-bodied but fresh, with round tannins, chewy texture is balanced with fresh acidity. Lots of delicious, deep, but fresh raspberry, red plum, black cherry fruit. Elements of spiced tea, black pepper, cola, coffee, earth, add complexity. Very expressive and pretty now, but this could use some air or two to three years. Aged 17 months in 2/3 new French oak, 14.5% alcohol. A blend of specific blocks from three other vineyards (Redwood’s Edge, Stony Terrace and River Turn. (91 points)

2017 Black Kite Pinot Noir River Turn - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $62
Dep ruby color. Nose shows black cherries, currant jam, with cola, sarsaparilla, menthol, spicy grill rub. Full-bodied on the palate, but the acidity is quite vibrant, and the tannins and chewy and deep. Cool black cherry fruit, cranberry sauce, topped in spiced tea, wild herbs, cola and coffee. Fruity and deep, but nice earthy, soy, floral undertones, too. Ready to go, but this will open up nicely over the next few years. Aged 17 months in 2/3 new French oak. (91 points)

2017 Black Kite Pinot Noir Redwoods' Edge - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $62
Juicy ruby color. Aromas of sweet red cherries, strawberry jam, with plenty of rhubarb, mint, black pepper, roasted chestnut, and black pepper. Medium/full-bodied on the palate with smooth but chewy tannins, a ripe, juicy feel, but moderate acidity. Flavors of sweet cherries and juicy plums mix, dark and juicy, but it also stays lively. Notes of rhubarb, coffee, cola and vanilla add complexity. Aged 17 months in 2/3 new French oak. (90 points)

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Winning Wines from the Colorado Governor's Cup

For a few years now, I’ve been tasting the winning wines from Colorado’s Governor’s Cup, and this week, I’m focusing on the 2019 winners.

The Rocky Mountain State has some 150 wineries, which grow grapes in vineyards upwards of 4,000 feet in elevation. Riesling, Rhone varieties, Bordeaux blends, and some quirky, inventive stuff as well, the styles have been all over the map. Each year, I find a few that really pop out and make me think: there’s a lot more to explore here, especially on a trip (whenever we can go on trips again).

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2018 The Storm Cellar Mesa Dry Riesling - USA, Colorado, West Elks
SRP: $22
Pale lemon color. Bright and chalky nose, with lemon, orange peel, guava, mixed with white flowers, honeysuckle, tea and wet slate. The palate is dry, fresh, pure, it has a mountain stream sense of clarity, with lemon, quince, guava fruit. The flinty, mineral, lemon verbena notes add all sorts of complexity. Nervy, dry, talc-infused finish. Color me impressed with this Colorado Riesling, from their oldest Riesling vines in rocky soils. The value here is something else. (90 points)

2018 Carlson Vineyards NSFW - USA, Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $12
Pale lemon color. Super peachy on the nose with guava, lemon pith, honeysuckle. Fleshy texture, crisp acidity, this has a light and punchy style with lemon, green melon and lots of canned peach fruit. Some floral perfume and chamomile tea elements as well. Fun, fresh blend of Vidal Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. (85 points)

2016 Plum Creek Cabernet Franc - USA, Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $23
Dark ruby color. The nose shows red cherries, plums and raspberries, with hefty doses of black pepper, herbal tea and dried rose petals. Full-bodied, smooth and velvety tannins, vibrant acidity, there’s a lively, balanced appeal to this wine with tangy cherry and tart plum fruit. Notes of cocoa, coffee, pepper, leather and rose petals add some complexity. Round, fresh, nice stuff! (87 points)

2016 Bookcliff Vineyards Ensemble - USA, Colorado
SRP: $22
Deep purple color. The nose shows tart black cherries, currants and plums. Dense and smoky elements with earth, violets and coffee grounds. Full-bodied, solid grip on the tannins, medium-plus acidity, things line up pretty well on the palate. Crunchy tart black cherries and dense fruit, I like the concentration and tanginess. Earthy, pencil shavings flavors, along with smoky oak and vanilla. Well-balanced, a bit oaky, but well-done Bordeaux blend. (87 points)

2016 Bookcliff Vineyards Graciano - USA, Colorado
Deep purple color. Smells of cassis and black cherries, with tar, sweet pipe tobacco, mint and dark chocolate notes. Full-bodied on the palate with smooth tannins and fresh acidity. Plummy, saucy black cherries, some stemmy notes but they’re subtle. Notes of tar, smoky charcoal and spiced black tea round out this wine. Oaky but not too heavy, I’d like to see what this does in two or three years. (86 points)

2017 Colterris Petit Verdot - USA, Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $24
Deep violet color. Aromas of black cherries and roasted figs with cocoa and violets. Vibrant acidity opens up the wine, with grippy tannins, but not too harsh. Sweet blueberry and fig, rich, jammy fruit, a saucy style. Coffee, coconut and dark chocolate flavors, the oak overpowers some elements but the wine still shows a balanced feel. Could definitely use some time to unwind. (86 points)

2016 Snowy Peaks Winery Petite Sirah - USA, Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $29
Dense purple color. Aromas of deep blueberry and fig paste, along with anise, violets and mocha. Deep but tart on the palate with black cherries, blueberry and roasted fig fruit, while the tannins show grip, and the acidity balances things out quite nicely. Elements of tobacco, campfire smoke, black tea, along with beefy, peppery notes. Bold but nuanced, this is a really solid Petite Sirah. From a 7,500-foot vineyard, aged 12 months in French oak. (88 points)

2017 Qutori Wines Syrah - USA, Colorado
SRP: $30
Bright purple color. Spicy as heck on the nose, with mesquite, tar, black olive and cigar smoke on top of black currants. Full-bodied, smooth tannins, bright acidity, with deep currants and sweet, jammy black cherries. Beefy, grilled herb and anise notes. Ripe but fresh, it is a bit hefty, but the acidity keeps it lively. Aged 18 months in a mix of Hungarian, French and American oak. (86 points)

2017 Red Fox Cellars Nebbiolo - USA, Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $38
Medium ruby color. Aromas of tart cherries, raspberries, red apple, with spicy herbs and rhubarb notes. Full-bodied on the palate (15% alcohol) with solid grip and zesty acidity. Tangy cherries and red apple peel fruit are mixed with cocoa, black pepper, with notes of mushroom and tar. Nice tartness and concentration here, perhaps a few years will help this open up more. (86 points)

2018 Bonacquisti Wine Company Tempranillo - USA, Colorado
Medium ruby color. Aromas of juicy raspberries, red cherries, sweet cranberry sauce, with violets, roses and cola. Medium/full-bodied with velvety tannins and really fresh acidity. Flavors of sweet plums, raspberry jam, black cherry cola, with elements of mint chewing tobacco, coffee, toffee and cedar. Fun stuff, fruit-forward but the acidity lifts this wine up and makes it easier to drink. (85 points)

N.V. Vino Salida Vermouth di Salida - USA, Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $19/375ml
Deep salmon color. Super spicy aromatics that pop, like anise, clove, cigar smoke, and white pepper over cranberry relish and candied apple peel. Full-bodied but fresh acidity sets the frame for wild raspberry and cranberry relish, topped in a hefty dose of clove, black licorice, some rhubarb, rose petals and black tea. This is really fun, sipping as an aperitif, or for use in cocktails. Brandy infused with all sorts of spices, blend with a base wine of Black Moscato, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, sweetened with Colorado honey. Unique, interesting stuff. (86 points)

2018 Whitewater Hill Moscato - USA, Colorado, Grand Valley
Light yellow color. Juicy and sweet aromas of white peach, lychee, guava nectar, with floral spice and honey. Plush and sweet on the palate with medium acidity and plenty of plump white peach and lychee fruit, topped in honey and circus peanut candies. Yummy, fun, summertime sweet Moscato. (84 points)

N.V. Carlson Vineyards Cherry - USA, Colorado
Color like cherry liqueur and bourbon, really cool. Ripe cherries and raspberries on the nose with a streak of cinnamon sticks, mint and spiced tea. Plush texture, vibrant acidity keeps the sweetness in balance. This shows tangy cherry and stewed strawberry fruit, with a big punch of cinnamon and clove. Spicy, juicy – I could see using this in some cocktails. From Montmorency cherries. I’m no fruit wine fan, but this is pretty solid. (84 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Friday, April 3, 2020

International Wines for Pandemic Times

The coronavirus pandemic is causing havoc the world over. While tasting wines from Italy, Spain, the United States, I can’t help think of how all these places are being upended by this pandemic. I hope you all are staying safe, taking care of yourselves and each other, and also enjoying some good wine and food at home. 

I’ve been trying to cook as much vegetables as I can during these past two weeks of lockdown, and I’ve found myself playing around with lots of Indian and Moroccan spices. Luckily, I had two Pinot Blancs from Alsace to sample that also work really well with the dishes I’ve been slinging. Alsace is where I first fell in love with wine, and it is vibrant, exciting, inexpensive wines like the two in this report that keep me coming back.

This report also includes two wines from Fournier, in Ribera del Duero, which was purchased by Gonzalez Byass in 2019.

And from the U.S. come several Oregon and Washington wines. I’ve been hurling praise at Applegate Valley’s Troon wines for years now. And while I tend to personally enjoy their whites more, these Tannat-based reds are crisp, crunchy and juicy in a way that’s more accessible than most Tannats that I’ve tasted.

Tamarack Cellars offers a whole lot of Washington red goodness for less than $30, and Owen Roe’s wines also make an appearance.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2017 Meyer-Fonné Pinot Blanc Vieilles Vignes - France, Alsace
SRP: $22 

Medium yellow color. The nose has this waxy, honeyed aspect, contrasted with this airy, field of wildflower and clover element, on top of white peach and nectarine. Deep texture, lovely honeyed feel, but lively acidity keeps it moving forward. Apricot, nectarine and papaya fruit blend well with honeysuckle, verbena, and these underlying slate and mineral tones. Round but fresh, this should show some interesting characteristics with age. From granite soils in Katzenthal. (90 points)

2017 Emile Beyer Pinot Blanc Tradition - France, Alsace
SRP: $20
Light yellow color. The nose bursts with peaches, green melon, but also spicy, floral notes of honeysuckle, mint and baby’s breath. Dry and fresh on the palate, this has a waxy, rich texture, but the acidity moderates it well. Kiwi, peach and mango fruit, whipped with honey, white tea, seashells and minerals. There’s a lot on offer here, and a lot of balance between depth and freshness. From clay and limestone soils in Eguisheim. (90 points)

2017 Marchesi de' Frescobaldi Pomino Bianco Riserva Benefizio - Italy, Tuscany, Pomino
SRP: $21
Medium yellow color. Nose of green apples, kiwi, a pleasant mash-up of tennis ball, perfume, flowers, honey and chalk dust. Deep texture on the palate, full-bodied (14.5%) but bright acidity keeps it fresh. Yellow plums, cantaloupe and lemon crème fruit mixes well with whipped butter, toasted nuts, a creamy but balanced wine with underlying flinty mineral tones. Fermented in 50% new French oak with lees aging for 10 months. For fans of richer, creamier style, this Chardonnay also sports freshness and liveliness, though. (89 points)

2016 Fournier Ribera del Duero Crianza - Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
SRP: $30
Vibrant purple color. Aromas of juicy raspberries, sweet red cherries and crunchy red plums, with roses, some anise. Suave and velvety on the palate with vibrant acidity and a balanced, fresh appeal, with juicy raspberries and strawberries. Notes of cocoa, rose petals, mint, espresso, there’s a lot going on here, but it’s accessible and lively, too. (88 points)

2014 Fournier Ribera del Duero Reserva - Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
SRP: $50
Deep purple color. Nose shows dark, deep blackberry, along with smoky charcoal, coffee, dark chocolate and anise. Full-bodied, solid grip on the tannins, medium acidity, it is concentrated but not too dense. Deep blueberry and cassis fruit mixes with graphite, mineral and charcoal, with accents of campfire, espresso, dark chocolate. Deep and worthy of cellar time, but it’s has some fun, fresh appeal, too. (90 points)

2017 Troon Vineyard Cuvée Pyrénées - USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Applegate Valley
SRP: $65 
Bright violet color. Such vibrant aromas, like chilled plums and black currants, laced with violets, clove, mesquite, leather, warm clay. Medium-bodied on the palate (13.7% alcohol), with bright, tangy acidity and velvety tannins. Juicy plums, raspberries and black cherries, tangy, concentrated fruit, mixed with complex mesquite, graphite, cocoa, violet petals, earth. Lovely, fresh, accessible, but this could improve significantly over the next few years. Gorgeous stuff. 53% Tannat, 47% Malbec, co-fermented. (92 points)

2017 Troon Vineyard Tannat Estate - USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Applegate Valley
SRP: $45
Vibrant purple color. Delightfully spicy on the nose, with paprika, pepper, clove, on top of some blackberry and tangy cassis fruit, with dried rose petals and earthy, tar notes. Medium/full-bodied, solid grip but no harsh edges on the tannins – and the acid sings. Dark cherries, blackberries, juicy, crunchy fruit, mixed with potting soil, paved road, graphite, anise and light roast coffee notes. Deep and dark but crunchy and alive as well, this should do well with four or five years of cellaring. (91 points)

2016 Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $20
Medium purple color. Smells like black cherries, sweet blueberries, saucy plums, with smoky earth, barbecue sauce, clove, dark chocolate. Medium-bodied with velvety tannins, moderate acidity, a pleasantly chewy texture. Plummy, saucy cherry fruit, mixed with barbecue sauce, black pepper glaze, some coffee, cedar and clove. Fun and fresh but this shows a lot of complexity for the price. A kitchen sink blend of Merlot, Syrah, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Mourvedre, Grenache, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot and Counoise, aged in a mix of 40% new French, American and Hungarian oak. (88 points)

2017 Tamarack Cellars Cabernet Franc - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $30
Vibrant purple color. Deep, dark aromas that take some time to get going, but then it’s all about currants, plums, earth, clay, soy, clove – intriguing stuff. Full, plush, smooth tannins and fresh acidity meet for a well-balanced wine. Fresh currants and black cherries, laced with earth, pepper, violets, clove, soy and tobacco. Nuanced cocoa and cedar woven in well. Delicious now, but this could really use three or four years to show its best. Serious value here. All Cabernet Franc sourced from Weinbau, Ciel du Cheval and Tapteil Vineyards, aged in 30% new French oak. (90 points)

2017 Owen Roe Red Wine Yakima Valley - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley
SRP: $28
Light purple color. Smells like sweet red currants, black cherries, spiced cranberry relish, with violets, black tea, sweet cocoa. Full but suave on the palate, this is smooth but mouth-filling, deep but has a fresh appeal, too. Currants and plums, topped in violets, tobacco, eucalyptus, graphite. Chewy, deep feel, luscious but shows vibrancy and freshness. 59% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec, sourced from Red Willow, Union Gap and DuBrul Vineyards. (90 points)

2018 Owen Roe Sinister Hand - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley
SRP: $27
Light purple color. Nose of candied cherries, candied red apples, juicy, fruity, purple, with sweet tea, cola, some grilled herbs. Full but not heavy, soft/medium tannins, moderate acidity, this shows plenty of juicy red and purple fruits. I get notes of smoky cedar, cola, roses, cranberry relish. Notes of spiced tea, rose petals, barbecue sauce. Fun, early-drinking stuff that should go quickly at cookout parties. 55% Grenache, 19% Syrah, 17% Mourvedre, 9% Cinsault. (88 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.