Wednesday, October 17, 2018

High Quality Bordeaux from the Edmond de Rothschild Portfolio

The Rothschild family has a long and storied history in Bordeaux, dating back to 1868, when James de Rothschild bought Chateau Lafite .

About a century later, descendant Edmond de Rothschild, then co-owner of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, wanted to purchase a Bordeaux property to try something new. So, in 1973, he took control of the derelict Chateau Clarke in Listrac-Médoc, and also bought Chateau Malmaison in Malmaison in Moulis-en- Médoc. Though in different appellations, the properties adjoin each other.

A decade later, Edmond’s son Benjamin de Rothschild snatched up the Right Bank estate Chateau des Lauret in Puisseguin Saint-Emilion. Together, these three estates comprise the French holdings of the Edmond de Rothschild branch, but the company also owns properties in South Africa, Spain, New Zealand and Argentina.

I recently attended a trade tasting sponsored by the Edmond de Rothschild group, featuring their three Bordeaux brands. I found a lot to love about these wines, especially the quality-to-price ratios in these wines. The new oak has been dialed back over the years, and the 2015s (a stellar vintage by almost any account) really shine.

My notes on the wines are below...

2011 Château Clarke - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Listrac-Médoc
Nice nose of damp earth, mushroom, leaves, red pepper flakes, on top of red and black currants. Grip is nice and dry, medium acidity, with suave black cherries and currants. Structured but smooth and velvety with a noticeable oak signature, but some nice leather, leaves, anise and spiced tea as well. A 70/30 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from limestone/clay soils, aged 16 months in 2/3 new oak. (88 points)

2015 Château Clarke - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Listrac-Médoc
A deep nose of juicy red and black currant fruit, so pretty, with deep floral tones, too. Young and grippy but fresh and vibrant as well. Juicy black cherries topped in leather, cocoa, clove, lovely earthy and floral tones. Elegant even this young, I’m really impressed with the vibrancy. The oak and extraction has been dialed down since the 2011 (when Michel Rolland was consulting), this is a lovely wine with time ahead. (90 points)

2011 Château Malmaison Baronne Nadine de Rothschild - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Moulis en Médoc
Super juicy on the nose with plums and cherries, lots of roses and violets, along with clove, wet earth and cedar. Suave, velvety, still built well with tannins but fresh as well. Currants and tangy plums along with violets, earth, clove, cedar and vanilla. An 80/20 blend of Merlot and Cabernet planted in limestone, clay and gravelly soils, aged 16 months in 1/3 new oak. (88 points)

2015 Château Malmaison Baronne Nadine de Rothschild - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Moulis en Médoc
Lovely aromas of plums, dark currants, rich but airy, with clove, earth, tobacco and deep floral tones. Pure and rich on the palate but focused and fresh, the balanced between the acidity and tannins is on point. Crisp red and black plums, the fruit is redder and fresher than the 2011. Complex violets, clove, tilled soil and tobacco. Pretty now, but this will age nicely. Insane value. (91 points)

2014 Château des Laurets - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Puisseguin-St. Émilion
Juicy ripe black cherries and dark plums on the nose, with bell pepper, iron and scorched earth notes. Nice grip on the palate, tight and dry, with medium acidity. Crunchy dark cherry and currant fruit mixed with spiced tea, tilled soil and cedar. A bit tight and could use some time to open up, but nice for the price. 100% Merlot planted in limestone and clay soils, aged 14 months in 30% new oak. (87 points)

2015 Château les Laurets Baron Edmond De Rothchild - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Puisseguin-St. Émilion
Deep aromatic display of dark cherries and currants, with violets, pepper and earth. Grippy and young on the palate, great concentration, moderating acidity, young but balanced nicely. Dark cherries, plums, currants, gorgeous, velvety fruit mixed with iron, pepper, violets, cocoa, grilled herbs. Young but beautiful. This cuvee is made from plots at the highest part of the vineyard, which are treated differently for this blend, which is still about 80/20 Merlot and Cabernet Franc, aged 16 months in 100% new barrels. (91 points)

Monday, October 15, 2018

New Releases from California: Chardonnay & Pinot Noir

California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir need no introduction, so let’s get right to it.

We have a solid group this week, with offerings from Ramey, Cambria, Jed Steele, Gary Farrell, Frank Family and Cline Cellars, and the wines span the 2015 to 2017 vintages.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted,

2015 Ramey Chardonnay Rochioli Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $65
Medium gold color. Rich aromas of yellow apples, apricot, baked apple, with nougat, honeysuckle, sea salt, peanut shell, with yellow flowers. The palate is bold in its texture, but the acidity is refreshing and lively, and the balance is lovely. Apricot, lemon curd, baked apple and juicy yellow pears, topped in sea salt, almond cake, toasted coconut, with floral and ginger notes. Complex and despite its powerful aesthetic. Aged 20 months in 23% new French oak. (92 points)

2015 Ramey Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $65
Medium gold color. Bold and lush aromatically with peanut shells, almond butter, honey, whipped butter, but also salty, lemon meringue, crushed shells and orange blossoms. Lovely depth of texture on the palate with velvety and rich fruit but lively acidity. Lemon curd, apricot, yellow pears. Toast is here (toasted nuts, almond cake, vanilla, coconut) but also notes of hay, sea salt, honeysuckle, white tea. Richly flavorful but pretty, too. Aged for 20 months in 21% new French oak. (92 points)

2015 Cambria Chardonnay Katherine’s Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $22
Medium yellow color. Smells of yellow apples, apricot, lemon-pineapple cake, along with honey, almond and green olive notes. Creamy texture, vibrant acidity, with lots of yellow plum, apricot and lemon crème flavors. Notes of honey, almond, sea salt and white tea add complexity. Rich flavors but that classis Santa Maria Valley freshness keeps it bright and inviting. Aged six months in 21% new French oak. (88 points)

2016 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay - California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $38
Rich yellow color. Big and bold aromatics, with glazed apples and pears, apricot, lemon crème, with honey, flowers, nougat and vanilla. The texture on the palate is lovely, creamy and rich but also vibrant, backed up with medium acidity. Lots and lots of fruit, lemon crème, orange marmalade, apricot and baked pears, but also complex notes of almond, honey, gingerbread, with some floral tones, too. Rich and flavorful but done very well. Barrel fermented and aged nine months in 34% new French oak. (90 points)

2017 Steele Wines Chardonnay Durell Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Carneros
SRP: $36
Light yellow color. Aromas boast toasted almond, honey, graham cracker and ginger, along with baked apple and lemon curd. Plush texture on the palate with crisp acidity, which is great, and at 13.8% alcohol, it’s not heavy, but packed with lemon curd, key lime pie, apricot and baked apple. Bold but complex, with almond, mineral, sea salt, ginger and floral tones. Love the vibrancy and minerals here. Fermented and aged 10-12 months in French oak, 20% new. (91 points)

2017 Steele Wines Chardonnay Parmelee-Hill Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
SRP: $30
Deep yellow color. Aromas of rich yellow apples and apricot, topped in honeysuckle, hay, almond and peanut shell. Medium+ bodied (13.5% alcohol), this shows rich textural depth but solid underlying acidity keeps it bright. Yellow apples, apricot, baked pear, drizzled with lime, and I get complex elements of almond, fresh biscuits, peanut brittle, spiced tea and ginger. Rich and flavorful but balanced very well. Barrel-fermented and aged 10-12 months in 30% new French oak. (90 points)

2016 Frank Family Vineyards Pinot Noir - California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $38
Deep ruby color. Aromas of sweet black and red cherries, raspberries, and strawberries, along with roses, spicy tobacco, white pepper and black tea. Crisp and fruity with spiced cranberry sauce, plums, black cherries, the fruit is juicy but vibrant. Floral, spicy, smoky tobacco, roses and rhubarb, with notes of clove and cedar woven in well. Lovely balance here. Aged 10 months in 33% new French oak. (90 points)

2016 Ramey Pinot Noir - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP $50
Light cherry color. Aromas of bright strawberries, raspberries, along with rhubarb, raspberry leaf, eucalyptus, mint and cedar. Full-bodied (14.5%) with dry but velvety tannins and medium acidity that wraps it together nicely. Juicy red and black cherries, raspberries, along with rhubarb, cola, pepper, mint, earth. Some coffee and cedar woven in quite well. Hints of savory elements on the finish that should evolve with time. Pretty now, but I’d like to revisit in 3-4 years. Aged 14 months in about half new French oak. (91 points)

2016 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River Selection - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $45
Deep ruby colored. Lovely nose of juicy red and black cherries, spiced cranberry sauce, some spicy herbs, rhubarb, cola, accented with coffee and vanilla. Full but suave with silky tannins and fresh acidity. Black cherries, strawberries, cranberry sauce, mixed in nicely with cola, rhubarb, rose petals, spicy green herbs. Anise, coffee and vanilla woven in well. A bright appeal but full of fruit, crowd-pleasing and early-drinking but “serious,” too. Aged 10 months in 35% new French oak. (90 points)

2016 Steele Wines Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Carneros
SRP: $36
Light, bright ruby color. Nose shows a vibrant and spicy appeal with tart cherries, cranberries, strawberries, along with rose hips, menthol and white pepper. Medium/full-bodied with velvety tannins and crisp acidity, a plush but tart combo of red and black cherries, wild strawberries and spiced cranberry sauce. Roses galore, white pepper, eucalyptus, accents of coffee and oak, all integrated really nicely. This is complex, vibrant and really good for the money. This spends 16 months in 20% new French oak. (91 points)

2016 Steele Wines Pinot Noir Shooting Star - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $15
Bright ruby color. Subtle and spicy aromatics of tangy raspberries, red apple peel, green herbs, black pepper and sliced rhubarb. Medium-bodied, 13.5% alcohol, with light tannins and fresh acidity. Crunchy red fruits (red apple, strawberry, cranberry) with notes of rose hips, rhubarb, black pepper and oregano. Subtle, tangy, fresh, balanced, it’s very rare I find a $15 California Pinot Noir with those kinds of refreshing elements. Aged nine months in French and American oak. (87 points)

2015 Cambria Pinot Noir Julia’s Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $25
Bright ruby color. Nose boasts strawberries, raspberries, red cherries, fresh but ripe with some rhubarb, rose petals, eucalyptus and cedar. This is really refreshing on the palate with lovely brightness and a crisp feel, with light tannins. Plenty of juicy raspberries, cherries and strawberry fruit, not too rich or dark, which I love. Raspberry leaf, rose hips, nuanced cola and coffee. Fun and inexpensive, but also balanced and complex, so good for the price. Aged eight months in 30% new French oak. (88 points)

2017 Cline Cellars Pinot Noir - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $15
Deep ruby color. Rich and juicy aromas of sweet black cherries, raspberry jam, plum cake, sweet cola and vanilla coffee. Chewy texture on the palate with light tannins, medium acidity. Jammy and sweet fruit (black cherries and raspberries) with notes of cola, violets, and vanilla coffee. A jammy, fun approach. (85 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Murrieta's Well Shows what LivermoreValley Can Offer

If you’re unfamiliar with the wines of California’s Livermore Valley, Murrieta’s Well might be a good place to start. This Livermore Valley producer sources grapes from about 100 acres of estate vineyards on a site that dates back to the 1880s. That’s when Louis Mel purchased the property and planted a vineyard based on cuttings from Chateau d’Yquem and Chateau Margaux. 

His friend Ernest Wente purchased the vineyard in the 1930s, and it has been under the Wente family’s control ever since, though the Murietta’s Well brand was established in 1990. 

These wines are sourced from estate vineyards, like Louis Mel Vineyard (which sits at about 575-715 feet in elevation) and the Hayes Vineyard, which rises to about 860 feet. The valley stretches east to west, which allows cooling fog and breeze from the San Francisco Bay to roll. Combine that with old riverbed soils (gravelly, clay), and winemaker Robbie Meyer has some high quality fruit to work with.

These wines make a good, refreshing argument for why this important and historic California wine region is still exciting today. I received these wines as samples and tasted them sighted.

2016 Murrieta's Well The Whip - California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley
SRP: $26
Light yellow color. Peaches, lychee, magnolia, fresh laundry and ginger on the nose, a really interesting combo. Pleasantly juicy with orange, lychee and pineapple fruit, a waxy feel but vibrant acidity. The fruit is accented with baby’s breath, white tea, raw almond, floral perfume. Chunky fruit but fresh throughout. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Orange Muscat and Viognier. Aged 14 months in a mix of barrels and stainless steel. (88 points)

2017 Murrieta's Well Dry Rosé - California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley
SRP: $30
Light watermelon color. Bright and floral with baby’s breath, cherry blossom, wild strawberries, juicy watermelon, a spicy green herbal note, too. Medium-bodied, plump texture but moderating acidity. Flavors of strawberry, white cherries, watermelon, apricot, with lots of white flowers, rose petals, honeyed tea and a spicy white pepper note. Complex, fresh. A blend of Grenache, Counoise and Mourvedre. (89 points)

2016 Murrieta's Well The Spur - California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley
SRP: $35
Vibrant purple color. Aromas of blackberries, currant paste, roasted fig, with vanilla coffee, roasted herbs, anise, clove, some sweet violets and root beer notes. Medium-bodied and plush on the palate with smooth tannins and vibrant acidity. Juicy and tangy fruit (black cherries, raspberries, juicy plums), the fruit has a nice crunch to it, and I get elements of spiced black tea, anise, cedar, espresso and mint. Yummy for sure, but shows freshness as well. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Aged two years in 40% new oak. (90 points)

2016 Murrieta's Well Merlot Small Lot - California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley
SRP: $46
Bright purple color. Nose shows rich but tart blackberries and black cherries with earthy, smoky notes, along with violets, coffee grounds and eucalyptus. Medium/full-bodied with fleshy tannins, the fruit (blackberry, dark plums, black cherries) is juicy but fresh acidity keeps it tangy. Notes of roasted coffee, tilled soil, violet petals, some vanilla and cedar woven in well. This is delicious, balanced, vibrant. I’m impressed. Includes 5% Cabernet, all the fruit comes from the Sachau Vineyard, gravelly, sandy loam. The wine is aged 18 months in 60% new French oak. (90 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Friday, October 5, 2018

If You Haven't Been Paying Attention to VA Wine, Now's the Time

I love Virginia wine, and I don't pass up an opportunity to shoot down naysayers. But since I've been paying attention to Virginia wine (for about a decade), I hear less and less of that nonsense.

Virginia wine has expanded drastically in that time, and the state now boasts some 300 wineries. I avoid any talk of "signature" grapes or styles in Virginia, because the wines are so diverse as to make such terms irrelevant.

For years now, I've been tasting a lot of wines curated by Virginia guru Frank Morgan, who founded VA Wine Chat, a tasting series that brings together people in real life and online to taste and talk about Virginia vino.

So I was stoked to join him and the wonderful crew at Flight, a DC wine bar, to kick of October as "Virginia Wine Month."

We tasted some exceptional Virginia wines that I wanted to share. There are no shortage of excellent producers in the Commonwealth, but the ones included in this tasting are definitely some of my favorites.

If you're still skeptical of Virginia wine, or never really jumped in, now's a great time!

My notes on the wines I tasted are below...

2017 King Family Vineyards Chardonnay Small Batch Series - Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
Aromas of spiced tea, yellow apples, honey, almond. Deep texture, a lot of concentration but freshness as well. Lots of honeyed tea and almond and some floral, dusty complexity. (89 points)

N.V. Virginia's Heritage - Virginia
Deep ruby color. Aromas of raspberries, red currants, spicy pepper, roses, violets, earth. Crisp and lively on the palate, structured nicely but fresh acidity as well. Raspberries, tart cherries, doused in roses, chewing tobacco, grilled herbs. Lots of different elements woven together well. A blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, blended from barrels of Bordeaux varietal wine submitted from 16 different Virginia wineries (2016 & 2017 vintages), and then blended and aged in Virginia oak. It is released at the individual wineries as a way of celebrating 400 years if Virginia wine (next year is the 400th anniversary of the House of Burgess act that required colonists to plant grapevines). (88 points)

2014 Glen Manor Vineyards Hodder Hill - Virginia, Shenandoah Valley
Aromas of spicy dark currants, violets, pepper, deep and herbal, too. Rich but plump on the palate, plenty of freshness, lots of tart black currant fruit. Spicy, earthy, with pepper, mushroom, coffee, anise, dark chocolate shavings, forest floor. Structured wonderfully, but fresh as well. Plenty of time ahead hear. Wonderful stuff. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. (91 points)

2015 Rosemont of Virginia Kilravock - Virginia
Gorgeous nose of crushed red and black berries, herbs, black pepper, cinnamon. Crisp and fleshy, tart red and black currant fruit, and lots of savory elements of pepper, mushroom and earth mixing with violets and rhubarb. Really impressive. Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. (90 points)

2013 Williamsburg Winery Adagio - Virginia
Vibrant purple color. Aromas are spicy and herbal, also incense, violets, lavender on top of gushing blackberry fruit. Grippy structure but crisp acidity. Plums, blackberries, suave fruit with deep graphite and smoky elements, some herbs and soy and black pepper. Deep, age-worthy, this is 12.8% alcohol, a blend of Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, aged 14 months in all new French oak. (91 points)

2016 King Family Vineyards Meritage - Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
So lovely on the nose, with deep, juicy plyums and blackberries mixed with cinnamon, coffee and grilled herbs. Plush texture on the palate with crisp acidity that keeps the wine so lively. Crunchy red currants and juicy black cherries mix so well with violets, eucalyptus, charcoal smoke, green herbs, black pepper. Lovely stuff, but this needs time to age. A blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. (91 points)

1999 Linden Chardonnay Hardscrabble - Virginia, Northern Virginia
Gorgeous aromatics of apricot, lemon curd, ginger, graham, sea salt, honey. Pretty and exquisite on the palate with pristine acidity and a lovely, velvety texture. Honey, almond, sea salt and ginger mix with apricot, lemon and apple fruit. This is harmonious, balanced, complex and still so youthful. A gorgeous Hardscrabble that showed wonderfully. (92 points)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Wine Reviews: New Releases from California

This week, I have a round-up of some wines from different California regions.

First off, I tasted some wines from Napa’s Amici Cellars and its sister brand of Sonoma County wines, Olema. The winemaking team at Amici and Olema consists of well-known, long-time winemaker Tony Biagi, and Jesse Fox. Amici offers moderately-priced takes on Napa classics (Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc), while the Olema wines offer a sample of Sonoma goodness for $25 or less. (There’s a Provencal rosé under the Olema umbrella as well, which is included in this report.)

I also tasted some wines from Wine Insiders, a direct-to-consumer wine company that operates kind of like a wine club without strict membership requirements. The wines selections are curated by sommeliers Tyson Koster and Christopher Hoel and sourced from different countries. Customers can receive a quarterly shipment of wines based on their preferences, or shop at will online. I tasted through their half-case of Lodi wines (which sells for $81) and found some wines that really deliver for the price (like many wines from this region).

Lastly, I found a $20 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir that punches above its weight class.

All the wines in this report were received as samples and tasted sighted.

2017 Amici Cellars Sauvignon Blanc - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $25
Light gold color. Aromas of honeydew, lemon crème, tart green apples, with some floral and note of honeyed tea. On the palate creamy texture, a rich and plush feel with baked yellow apples contrasting off lemon peels and green melon. Notes of honey, white tea, hint of clove and white pepper. Balanced nicely, vibrant and crowd-pleasing but not simple. All stainless .steel. (89 points)

2016 Olema Chardonnay - California, Sonoma County
SRP: $16
Light gold color. Lots of fresh apples and pears on the nose, green and yellow, along with apricot jam, some honey, slight toasted nuts. The texture is plush but the acidity keeps it fresh, and the plump apples and pear fruit taste juicy and ripe. The honey, white tea and almond flavors mix in nicely. A fresh, flavorful and balanced Chardonnay for the price. (87 points)

2017 Olema Côtes de Provence Rosé - France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
SRP: $16
Pale copper color. Aromas of white cherries, wild strawberries, with nettle and cucumber water. Medium-bodied, crisp and brisk with white cherries, red apple peel and watermelon rind flavors. Notes of floral perfume and baby’s breath as well. Simple, pleasant pink. 60% Grenache, 30% Mouvedre, 10% Carignan. (86 points)

2016 Olema Pinot Noir - California, Sonoma County
SRP: $20
Light purple color. Juicy and ripe but fresh on the nose, raspberries, strawberries, cherry preserves, with notes of cola, incense sticks. Medium-bodied with moderating acidity and light tannins, this is an easy-drinking style with fresh red cherries and strawberries. Flavors of cola and rhubarb. Very nice for a $20 Pinot. (87 points)

2016 Olema Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Sonoma County
SRP: $25
Bright purple color. Nose of saucy black cherries and currant am, with cedar, cocoa, some sweet coffee. Juicy and plump on the palate with smooth tannins and moderate acidity, juicy but tart, with black cherries and dark currants, mixed in with some violets, black tea, cocoa, coffee. Suave and juicy but fresh, too. Fun, crowd-pleasing stuff, good for the price. Includes a combined 10% Malbec, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Petite Sirah. (87 points)

2016 Amici Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $50
Medium purple color. This is dark and saucy on the nose with blackberries, black currant, coffee, dark chocolate, some mint and cedar. Full and juicy on the palate with smooth, slightly chewy tannins, and medium acidity. Plump blackberry and fig paste flavors mix with vanilla, cola, coffee, cedar, some mint and chewing tobacco notes, too. Forward, rich and appealing, but put together well. Includes a combined 18% Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc aged 20 months in 70% new French oak. (88 points)

2015 Lucas & Lewellen Pinot Noir - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $20
Medium ruby color. Juicy black cherries and sweet raspberries mix with cola, rhubarb, light roast coffee and some white pepper. Full but smooth with light and velvety tannins and fresh, tangy acidity. Cherries, raspberries, crunchy red apples, with notes of rhubarb, pepper, coffee and mint. A lot of flavor, but more importantly, balance and vibrancy, which is really rare in a California Pinot at this price point. (88 points)

(The following wines are sold as a half-case for $81, or $13.50 per bottle)

2016 Saddlehorn Cellars Chardonnay Lone Cardinal - California, Central Valley, Lodi
Light yellow color. Nose boasts apricot, pineapple and guava, with cinnamon rolls, spicy clove and honeyed tea. Moderating acidity helps balance the plump texture. The wine is loaded with apricot, baked apple crisp and apple cider flavors, with notes of cinnamon, clove and honey. Rich but not too heavy, this has a pleasant simplicity to it. (87 points)

2016 Saddlehorn Cellars Pinot Noir Lone Cardinal - California, Central Valley, Lodi
Medium ruby color. A nice mix of tart strawberries and cherries with jammy, cheesecake topping notes, along with roses and rhubarb. Medium-bodied (13.5%) with soft tannins and medium acidity. Sweet red plums, cherry preserves and raspberries mix with rhubarb pie, spicy cedar, some floral and earthy tones. Juicy and jammy but stays lively. (86 points)

2016 Saddlehorn Cellars Zinfandel Lone Cardinal - California, Central Valley, Lodi
Deep ruby color. Aromas shows hammy raspberries and cherries, roses, cola, paprika and pepper spice rub. Fresh and fruity on the palate with smooth, soft tannins and medium-low acidity, and a chewy, playful vibe (13.5% alcohol). Raspberries and cherries, candied apple, this has a good amount of pepper, coffee, cola, clove and cinnamon. Pleasant and fruity but not too burly, this is a crowd-pleaser for sure. (87 points)

2016 Saddlehorn Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Lone Cardinal - California, Central Valley, Lodi
Light purple color. Savory herbs and sweet cola on the nose, along with candied currants and fig paste. Plush on the palate with smooth tannins and moderate acidity, along with tart black cherries, blackberries, jammy currants, this is smooth and fruit. Notes of grilled herbs, smoky earth, vanilla coffee and black pepper. Yummy but fresh, sweet fruit but solid complexity, too. (87 points)

2015 Sierra Trails Sangiovese Special Selection - California, Central Valley, Lodi
Deep ruby color. Aromas of spicy black cherries, raspberries, juicy and ripe with black pepper, anise and cola flavors. Ripe and rich with smooth tannins on a medium-bodied frame (13.4% alcohol) with fresh acidity. Sweet black cherries and raspberry jam mixes with barbecue sauce, black pepper, smoky charcoal, earth and graphite notes. Impressive in its freshness and complexity. (89 points)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Benchmark Israeli Wines from Golan Heights Winery

Golan Heights Winery has been a key player in shaping the modern Israeli wine industry. After first planting vines in the Golan Heights in the late 1970s, the winery was founded in 1983. Thirty-five years later, it now boats almost 30 different vineyards, growing 20 different varieties, and the winery exports to more than 30 countries.

The Golan Heights family includes such wine brands as Yarden, Mount Hermon, and the U.S. brand Gilgal. Yes, the wines are kosher (and have been since inception), but don’t let that fact alone impact your opinion about their quality.

In January, Golan Heights became the first international winery to be
certified by the Lodi Rules, a sustainable farming initiative started by Lodi, California winemakers. At the time, Winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, said, “We very much see ourselves as caretakers of a very special spot on the planet. We hope to act as a model for others in the Israeli wine industry in order to promote sustainability in our industry as a whole.”

So, how are the wines? I recently received four sample wines from Golan Heights (which I tasted sighted) and found a lot to get excited about. Dig in below!

2017 Golan Heights Winery Gewürztraminer Yarden - Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights
SRP: $23
Light gold color. Lush aromatics of lychee, glazed pear, apricot marmalade, some honey, but also lots of bright, floral, spicy elements that pop. Full-bodied on the palate, but moderating acidity keeps it zippy. Rich tropical fruits (papaya, apricot, pineapple), but also some zesty lime on top. Notes of spiced white tea, wild green herbs and honeysuckle add complexity, but this is so bright and easy to sip. Impressive example of this wine, and I really like the tropical but crisp style. (90 points)

2016 Gilgal Syrah Rosé - Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights
SRP: $17
Rich watermelon color. Nose shows deep fruit (red cherries, strawberries, red apples) along with enticing notes of white pepper, rose hips and honey. Medium-bodied but lots of rich, fleshy fruit (strawberries, cherries, watermelon, red apple), but zesty acidity keeps it fresh, and the balance is really nice. Nuanced notes of roses, rhubarb, bay leaf, white pepper. Bold enough to stand up to lots of foods but still a vibrant wine. A delicious, eye-opening rosé for me. (90 points)

2014 Gilgal Syrah - Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights
SRP: $17
Rich purple color. Lovely aromas of juicy, ripe blackberries, roasted plums, black cherry, black pepper, sweet barbecue sauce, with some anise, coffee, bitter olive. Full and saucy but fresh acidity keeps the lips smacking, with velvety, slightly chewy tannins. Loaded with earthy, charcoal, black pepper, sweet barbecue sauce, a kind of sautéed mushroom note, too. Interesting, delicious, vibrant Syrah. Aged 12 months in French oak. (88 points)

2014 Golan Heights Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Yarden - Israel, Galilee
SRP: $35
Light purple color. Waves of black currant, roasted fig and blackberry on the nose, along with anise, eucalyptus, coffee grounds and cedar. Full-bodied, quite sturdy with grippy tannins, medium acidity. Black cherries and blackberry, rich but tart fruit, with powerful notes of cedar and dark chocolate, and notes of herbs, scorched earth, tar and anise. Could use 3-5 years to develop, but this is a delicious Cab. Aged 18 months in 40% new French oak. (89 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.