Saturday, February 15, 2014

Wine Reviews: California Whites - Anything But Chardonnay

I review a lot of California Chardonnays for the daily wine blog Terroirist. But this week I’m focusing on a grab bag of ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) whites. If (for some crazy reason) you eschew Chardonnay, California has so many interesting white wines to offer. These wines are made from all sorts of grapes and in every conceivable style. 

All of these wines were received as trade samples and tasted blind.

2012 Conundrum Wines White Table Wine - California
SRP: $20
I recently walked through a flower warehouse, and this wine smells like everything in there. Some of these intense floral notes are a bit pungent, and there’s this lychee and white peach stuff as well. On the palate, this is rich and ripe, all sorts of melon, grapefruit, yellow apple. I get this other honey, orange marmalade, lychee nut and lavender stuff going on. The acid is a bit low for my tastes, and there’s sweetness to the perfume. I’ve liked and disliked previous vintages of this wine, but the 2012 seems to show some balance. What grapes are in here? I don’t know. That’s their whole shtick. Sure tastes like Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, Riesling and possibly Gewurz. (87 points)

2012 Smith Madrone Riesling - California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District

SRP: $27
A very light yellow color. Aromas of grapefruit, white flowers, some apricot and a distinct crushed limestone note. The acid tingles the palate as the apricot, creamy peach and green melon roll in. There’s an awesome lime juice and rock quarry aspect that reminds me of the Mosel, which I’m not sure I’ve ever said about a Napa Riesling. Very crisp and lively, this likely has some fun evolution ahead of it. (90 points)

2012 Fess Parker Riesling Santa Barbara County - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $18
Smells rich, like orange marmalade, white peach and some of those circus peanut candies. Creamy texture, a bit low on the acid for my Riesling tastes. Lots of lychee, also some honey, perfume and a pungent wildflower note. A bit simple, lacking precision, but tasty. (85 points)

2012 Magnolia Court Sauvignon Blanc - California, Central Coast

SRP: $15
A green-tinged yellow color. Bright nose of lemon-lime, some grapefruit, mango, sea salt. Medium+ bodied, richly-textured with green and yellow apple fruit, nutty, but a sense of vibrancy from the acid. I get a salted nut and apricot note, some honey. Impressive for the price. Includes 19% Chenin Blanc. (88 points)

2012 Star Lane Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Estate Grown - California, Central Coast, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
SRP: $22
Medium straw-yellow color. A burst of grapefruit and white peach on the nose, underlined by some sage and green onion. Crisp acid but a lot of creaminess to the mouthfeel. Richly textured, with honey and almond notes accenting the yellow apple, pineapple and pear fruit. A slight herbal tone, but it takes a back seat to the creamy, honeyed fruit. Some tart green apple peel and mineral components on the finish. Creamier, less green in style, I’m digging this Sauvignon Blanc. Fermented and aged in 90% stainless steel and 10% French oak. (88 points)

2011 Alta Maria Sauvignon Blanc - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $18
Aromas of honeysuckle, lemon-lime, a hint of green herbs and white pepper. Medium-bodied, lots of acid keeps this thing tart and lively. Grapefruit, lots of tangerine, the fruit is backed up by notes of sea salt and fresh green herbs and peppers. Tangy, focused, with some significant complexity. I’m impressed, especially considering the price. 100% stainless steel, no maloactic fermentation. (90 points)

2012 Grgich Hills Fumé Blanc Dry Sauvignon Blanc - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $30
On the nose: classic Sauvignon aromas of green grass, snap peas, white peach, honeysuckle, green apple. Medium-bodied, medium+ acid provides some tang. Green apple, grapefruit, orange pith, backed up by green pea and herbs, slightly less intense than I was assuming from the nose. Some wildflower, nutty and almond notes on the finish. Tasty stuff, but quite intense and herbal. (88 points)

2012 Kelly Fleming Wines Sauvignon Blanc - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $36
Clear, light yellow color. Aromas of orange blossom, white peach, honeysuckle, some pineapple. Medium+ body, medium acid, there’s a waxy-creamy aura to this wine. A lot of nice peach and pear fruit, glazed with a mix of honey and almond. Rich and forward, but I like the tang and the floral, herbal and mineral notes on the finish. Impressive depth. Made from primarily the Musque clone, this wine sees a combination of French oak and stainless steel. (90 points)

2012 Hanna Sauvignon Blanc - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $16
Clear straw color. So much guava on the nose, it just bursts from the glass, and there’s also some hay and grass. On the palate, tangy acid on a medium-bodied frame. Grapefruit flavors dominate, but there’s still that guava nectar and a slight green pepper note. Really tasty stuff that would please many a palate. (87 points)

This post first appeared on the award-winning daily wine blog Terroirist.

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