Monday, May 6, 2013

Wine Reviews: California Grab Bag

One of my wine matras is: try new things. Today’s reviews focus on California winemakers who are doing just that. Lately I’ve been reviewing a lot of cabernets, pinot noirs and chardonnays from California. While these wines can be spectacular, it’s always fun to highlight winemakers who are working with lesser-known varieties. Some of these grapes you may have heard of, some maybe not. If you haven’t tried a Santa Barbara viognier or some of the unique red varieties coming out of the Sierra Foothills, there has never been a better time than now to experiment.

All wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.  

2010 Curtis Roussanne - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County ($29)
Light gold colored. Aromas of yellow apple, green melon, beeswax. Palate shows medium acid, a little lacking in structure. Apple juice, green tea and green melon flavors mix with notes of clover honey and pineapple. Tangy acid and a hint of mineral linger onto the finish. Overall, not very complex, but it’s got enough verve from the acid to keep it going. (86 points)

2011 Curtis Viognier - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County ($29)
A tropical mélange of papaya, pineapple and mango on the nose, but it’s not over the top because there are these bright white flower aromas as well. Plump and generously textured with persistent acid. The papaya, green melon and tangerine flavors are laced with limestone and this flavor that reminds me of a mountain stream. Just a hint of honeycomb and lemon crème, probably from the 8 months this wine spends in contact with the lees. Even so, this is more of a sleeker style of viognier. I really appreciate the overall balance and the length of the finish. (89 points)

2011 Fess Parker Viognier - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County ($20)
Like potpourri on the nose, with aromas of lilies, honeysuckle, tangerine. Plump on the palate, but the acid is surprisingly fresh. Usually in Central Coast viognier I get too much thickness and not enough acid, but this is fresh and full of nice tart flavors. There’s some nice rich white peach and pineapple, backed up by some oily-nutty notes. Crisp finish. (88 points)

Semillon is used in the expensive dessert wine Sauternes,
but this dry version from Calaveras County is a bargain.
2011 Chatom Vineyards Sémillon - California, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County ($16)
Fresh aromas of pineapple, papaya mixed with salted lime and white flowers. Juicy, light and fresh, with creamy peach and white flower flavors. There’s a flavor that reminds me of lime drizzled on papaya — love it. The waxy aspect makes this interesting. I’d be a happy camper drinking this with fried calamari on a sunny afternoon. (87 points)

2011 Castello di Amorosa Sangiovese “Gioia” - California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley ($24)
This rose of Sangiovese shows a pretty cherry-rose color in the glass. Aromas of McIntosh apples, red plums, wild strawberries and a hint of tobacco. Tart acid on the palate, but it’s balanced by fresh apple, strawberry and watermelon fruit. There’s a kick of pepper, lemon rind and mineral that lingers long onto the finish. Such a fresh wine, it begs for grilled seafood and Greek salads. One of the better domestic roses I’ve had in quite a while. (88 points)

California interpretations of Italian grapes can be
hit or miss for my palate. This one's a home run.
2009 Castello di Amorosa Sangiovese - California, Napa Valley, St. Helena ($30)
Bright ruby color. Bright and sweet on the nose: red licorice, red cherries, roses, clove and a note that reminds me of sweet paprika. The palate is full of juicy strawberry fruit and lots of acid. Fine tannins combine for an overall creamy mouthfeel. The important thing to note here is that the oak is used judiciously. Notes of green olive and tobacco accentuate the bright red fruit. This is a Cal-Ital done very well, and I frankly enjoy it more than a lot of Tuscan wines at twice the price. 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot. (91 points)

2009 Chatom Vineyards Touriga Nacional - California, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County ($24)
Dark berries on the nose, fig paste, mocha, these richer aromas play with herbal and broth aromas as well, and it makes for an interesting combo. Dusty tannins on the palate, medium acid and a balanced mix of fruit and non-fruit flavors: cherry, raspberry, olive, smoke, soy and garlic. Really earthy and briny, and coming from California, I'm enjoying it. The fruit is rich enough to indicate California, but the non-fruit flavors are off the charts. Love it. Made from one of the classic Port grapes. (88 points)

2010 Fields Family Wines Tempranillo - California, Central Valley, Lodi ($22)
Smoky on the nose, with aromas of charcoal and mocha over top of blackberries and raspberries. Full of dark fruit on the palate, plums, blackberries and blueberries, slathered with rich mocha and baking spices. Fine tannins, low acid, noticeable alcohol, this is a seriously jammy and dense wine, with an almost bourbon-esque finish of sweet coconut. (87 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

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