Monday, February 16, 2015

Wine Reviews: Grab Bag of Cali Reds

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

One of the greatest things about exploring California wines is the diversity. We taste a lot of California classics, Cabernets, Pinot Noirs and Rhone reds, and most of the California red wine samples we receive fall into these tried and true categories. But there’s so much else worth checking out.

After my initial fascination with Petite Sirah wore off, I have experienced something of a regained appreciation for the grape. And some Central Coast producers are doing interesting things with Malbec. There’s some Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Barbera thrown in for good measure. A small drop in the bucket, of course, but I enjoyed exploring these wines, which were received as trade samples and tasted single blind. 

2012 Clayhouse Vineyard Petite Sirah Old Vines Red Cedar Vineyard ­- California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $25
Bright purple color. Deep and dark on the nose, all sorts of concentrated berries, along with a hefty dose of incense sticks, mocha and dark chocolate, underlined by notes of clove and pepper. Solid tannic backbone, a bit low on the acid for my palate, but the wine gushes with juicy blackberries and blueberries. I pick up complex notes of loamy soil and dark roast coffee, some pepper and clove lingers onto the finish. A bold and chewy wine that could use a year or two to settle down. (87 points)

2012 Parducci Petite Sirah True Grit Reserve - California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $29
Dense purple color. Smells like fig cookies, raisin muffins, a deep and dark sense of baked plums and cocoa. Full-bodied and mouthfilling, with gritty tannins but tartness comes in from the acid and balances it out a bit. Deep and dark with plums, blueberries and cherry pie, also a real sense of loam, charcoal and an intriguing espresso and toasted marshmallow note. Rich and hedonistic for sure, begging for pepper-crusted steak. Includes 8% Syrah and 1% Grenache, aged in 43% new American oak. (88 points)

2011 Foppiano Petite Sirah - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $25
An absurdly purple color with thick legs. Deep aromatics, with black currants and blackberry jam, underlined by smoke, mocha, caramel and a bit of heat. Dusty but firm tannins, medium- acid, this is such a creamy and velvety wine. The black currant and blackberry fruit is rich but smooth and plush. Secondary flavors of black olive, chewing tobacco and sweet BBQ sauce add complexity. A rich and hedonistic wine, but the different elements are woven together nicely, and the finish shows a lot of length. Unabashedly big, but very tasty, I just wish it had a bit more acid. Perhaps a few years could help this integrate more. (87 points)

2012 Niner Wine Estates Malbec - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $30
Bold purple color. Aromas of cool dark berry fruit (blue, black) with some violets, sweet clove, vanilla and coffee, all the aromas of bold but full of nuance. So smooth and velvety on the palate, with seamlessly integrated fine tannins and fresh acid. Waves of blue and black fruit glide across the palate, also violets, loam, dried cranberries, clove and cinnamon sticks, but despite these rich flavors it doesn’t taste sweet of overbearing at all. Finishes clean with long notes of coffee and vanilla bean. Drink now. Aged 18 months in half new French, Hungarian and American oak. (88 points)

2012 Clayhouse Vineyard Malbec Estate Red Cedar Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $14
Bright and plummy on the nose, with rich but vibrant fruit, some violets, root beer and sweet cherry-rhubarb pie notes. Fine tannins and tangy acid make this an easy-drinking wine. The red and black plum fruit is ripe and smooth yet tangy. Notes of cola, root beer and roasted nuts mix with lighter floral and herbal tones. Bright, clean, refreshing, a straightforward but well-made wine. Includes 5% Petite Sirah. (86 points)

2012 Tooth & Nail Wines “The Fiend” Tolliver Ranch - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $27
Light purple color. Smooth and rich blueberries and black cherries on the nose, intoxicating vanilla bean, warm chai, coffee and deep loamy notes. On the palate, smooth but structured tannins mix with moderately refreshing acid. The black currant and blueberry fruit is tart and tangy but deep and velvety as well, and I love the notes of tobacco, spearmint and mossy soil. The graphite and granite elements blend well with hints of toasted nuts and creamy oak. A wonderfully balanced wine, but a bottle that will reward a few years in the cellar. 80% Malbec and 20% Syrah. (90 points)

2012 Kendall-Jackson Merlot Grand Réserve - California, Sonoma County
SRP: $26
Deep magenta color. Nose of black cherries, blackberry jam, vanilla cola, mocha, sweet violets and pepper. Fine tannins, tart acid, bright berries (black cherry, raspberry, blackberry) along with mocha, cola, earth and dark chocolate. A fun wine, not too complex but it presents itself well. Drink now. (85 points)

2013 Force of Nature Red Wine - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $18
Vibrant purple color. Bursting aromas of juicy raspberries, blueberries and cherries on the nose, with some cocoa powder, red licorice and vanilla cola. Full and chewy on the palate, with dry tannins and medium-low acid. The cherry and blueberry fruit oozes across the palate, backed up with cocoa, campfire smoke, root beer and cola. A forward but persistent wine that I can’t help but like. 67% Merlot, 11% Cabernet, 11% Syrah, 11% Petite Sirah. (87 points)

2011 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Franc Stepping Stone - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $45
Medium ruby color, clear. Lovely and complex nose of red currants and wild raspberries, matched by strong elements of tobacco leaf, sweet red peppers and roasted coffee. Creamy and velvety but solid tannins and some refreshing acid for balance. Great mix of red berry fruit, some darker plums mixed in, I like the non-fruit elements of charcoal, bell pepper, tobacco leaf and graphite. Notes of sweet clove and vanilla are nuanced, not overpowering. Long finish. Smooth and open but could easily be cellared for three to five years and then some. (90 points)

2012 Nico Wines Barbera - California
SRP: $30
Medium ruby color. Smells of ripe cherries, roses and red licorice candy. Medium bodied with medium acid and soft tannins. Juicy with cherries and sweet currant jam flavors, backed up by some earth and vanilla bean. A bit candied, but a fun, pleasant wine for sure. (85 points)

2011 Longoria Tempranillo Santa Ynez Valley - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $36
Smells of berry compote, tobacco smoke, roasted pepper, some cedar. Fine tannins and fresh acid frame the wine. Flavors of mixed berries, dried roses, black pepper and tobacco. Some cedar and charcoal notes on the finish. Interesting flavors, solid structure, a lot of fun. (88 points)

2012 Belle Ambiance Family Vineyards Red Wine - California
SRP: $10
Bright ruby colored. Nose of sweet roses, red licorice candies, tart cranberries and sweet oak. Soft tannins, medium acid, a very light and fruity approach with gummy candy and sweet jam notes to the red apple and raspberry fruit. Juicy and sweet and simple, an almost chewy candy feel. A blend of Zin, Merlot, Syrah and Malbec. (75 points)

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