Monday, August 29, 2016

Wine Reviews: California White Wines

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, blends, this report features a bunch of California white wines from all over the state. The Dragonette Cellars Duvarita Vineyard 2014 was shockingly good, while Sonoma Chardonnay purveyor La Pitchoune continues to impress me with their 2013s. Toss in some newly-released Sauvignon Blancs and a few blends, and you've got a nice selection of late summer sippers.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single blind.

2014 Dragonette Cellars Chardonnay Duvarita Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $60
Medium gold color. Aromas of lemon curd, oranges, caramel apple, along with a kick of minerals, chalk and shells — this is quite exciting to sniff. Medium-full-bodied, I love the mouthfeel: plump and creamy yet balanced by vibrant acidity. Lemon meringue meets baked apple and peach tart. I love the complexity of honey, bread crumbs, graham cracker, a lively mineral kick. Rich but elegant and harmonious, this scores high in the deliciousness ranking. This wine comes out slugging, but it’s precision is so impressive. Wow, folks. Aged 12 months in 12% new French oak. From a clearly fascinating site in sandy soils west of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation. (92 points)

2014 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay - California, Napa, Carneros
SRP: $35
Light gold color. A juicy, more tropical appeal on the nose, like papaya and pineapple mixed in with bruised apple and honeybutter. Lovely creamy texture on the palate, some medium acidity keeps it moving forward, but this is a velvety almost oily mouthfeel. Bruised apple, apricot jam, orange marmalade, those flavors are topped in almond, candle wax, clover honey and cinnamon sticks. Despite these rich flavors, the wine maintains vivacity and brightness, especially on the finish, where a kick of acidity and minerals leaves the palate wanting more. (89 points)

2014 Shafer Chardonnay Red Shoulder Ranch - California, Napa, Carneros
SRP: $52
Medium gold color. Gorgeous nose of yellow flowers, apple slices, orange peel, dried apricot, honey and some mountain stream rocks. Chunky texture on the palate, almost chewy (14.9% alcohol) but the acidity helps balance it out. Straight-up delicious, too: yellow apple, peaches, oranges and pineapples, topped in chopped nuts, honeycomb and almond skin. A nice kick of rocks and minerals bounces off the oak-influenced elements. Almost dense at this point but it opens up a lot, and will surely continue to do so in the cellar. No maloactic fermentation, this is aged 14 months in 3/4 new French oak. The grapes come from a single vineyard in Carneros. (91 points)

SRP: $26
Medium gold color. Smells of juicy pears, yellow apple and apricot jam with some nutty and butterscotch elements as well. Plump texture on the palate, this is a richly creamy wine but some slight acidity keeps it from feeling too heavy. Juicy apricot and bruised apple fruit mixes with nougat, peanut shell and butterscotch elements. Not too toasty or rich, but plenty of those big, delicious Chardonnay elements in this wine. Fermented in about 40% new French oak with full maloactic fermentation. (86 points)

2014 J Vineyards & Winery Chardonnay Estate - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $28
Light gold color. Bright floral notes mix with all colors of apples, and some aromas of hazelnut and almond. Juicy and round on the palate but cool acidity keeps it lively. Plump pears, baked apples and apricots mix with honeyed tea, cinnamon spice and caramel popcorn. Rich in texture and flavor but this is refreshing as well as delicious. Barrel-fermented and aged nine months in 25% new French oak. (87 points)

2014 Frei Brothers Chardonnay Reserve - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $20
Gold color. Smells of bruised apples, toasted almond, honey — you get the idea of the style. Plump and creamy on the palate, some light acidity helps. This wine is full of apricot, yellow apples, topped with nougat, cinnamon, hazelnut and butterscotch. A typical style, but it tastes good. (85 points)

2013 La Pitchoune Chardonnay Pratt Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $68
Light gold color. Smells like golden apples, juicy pears, mixed with honeysuckle, cinnamon, almond and crushed chalk. Full and creamy, a rich and lush feel, but the acidity keeps it firing. Plump yellow fruit (plum, appple, pear) and loaded with non-fruit complexity: honey, almond, nutmeg and clove. But these flavors are matched with chalk, wildflowers and sea spray. A delicious big boy of a Chardonnay, but it's paradoxically surgical. I’d love to re-taste in a few years. Aged 16 months in 1/3 new French oak. (91 points)

2013 La Pitchoune Chardonnay Chenoweth Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $88
Pretty golden color. I love the salty, nettle and white floral components to the nose, which liven up the rich apple and yellow plum fruit. Full-bodied, but this wine hides its weight well via the crisp acidity. Juicy yellow apple and plum, apricot and orange, mix in some honeycomb, croissant, salted butter. There’s a vibrant sense of sea shell and minerality in this wine, and the finish is long, creamy but crisp. Beautiful stuff — this is what my palate craves in Sonoma Chardonnay. I’d love to retaste in two or three years. Aged 16 months in 50% new French oak. (92 points)

2014 Gundlach Bundschu Chardonnay Estate Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $27
Light gold color. Very floral and bright on the nose with peaches and lychee, backed up by notes of cucumber and rosewater. Creamy texture, vibrant acidity, the fruit is very tropical (guava, pineapple, passion fruit), backed up by sweet honey, brown sugar and nougat. Sweet floral perfume pervades the finish. No maloactic fermentation, this spends 10 months in 20% new French oak. (87 points)

2013 Agnitio Wines Chardonnay Sun Chase Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $50
Light gold color. Smells of yellow apples and apricots covered in nougat, honey, lilies and clean laundry. Plump and creamy texture on the palate, acidity keeps it moderately fresh. Apricots and spiced apple sauce flavors mix with honey, chopped almonds and white tea. A rich style but it's not heavy, and I get this lively mineral presence in the wine that keeps it interesting. This wine sees 1/4 maloactic fermentation and time in 25% new French oak. (88 points)

2015 Matanzas Creek Winery Sauvignon Blanc - California, Sonoma County
SRP: $22
Medium yellow color. Rich aromatics of guava, pineapple and limes, topped with lemongrass and sliced jalapenos. Medium-bodied, creamy, slightly waxy texture on the palate with medium acidity. Chunky pineapple and mango fruit blends nicely with citrus zest, grapefruit, salted lime and an integrated mix of lemon grass, white pepper and chalk. Solid stuff for the price. Includes 7% Semillon. (87 points)

2014 Murrieta's Well The Whip - California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley
SRP: $24
Pale lemon color. Smells insanely floral and soapy, like perfume, honeysuckle and laundry powder on top of oranges and lychee. Medium-bodied with a slightly waxy mouthfeel and some moderate acidity. The oranges, white peaches and pineapple fruit is juicy and topped with candle wax, floral perfume, laundry soap and sugar cane and orange blossom. Really interesting flavors, here, but if you dislike floral notes or avoid this wine. A kitchen sink blend of Semillon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Orange Muscat, Muscat Canelli and Viognier. (85 points)

SRP: $13
Medium straw color. Nose of grapefruit and lime topped with white and green peppers, some honeysuckle as well. Medium-bodied with medium but refreshing acidity. The grapefruit and tangerines are ripe but tangy and blended in with elements of pepper, lemongrass and honeysuckle. Not too complex but very pleasant and refreshing. (85 points)

SRP: $31
Medium straw color. Aromas of juicy white peach, green apple mixed with elements of almond and green beans, honeysuckle and crushed chalk. Medium-plus-bodied with a creamy texture but bright acidity keeps it crisp and clean. Honeysuckle, lemongrass, chalk and minerals accent the green apple, sliced peaches and honeydew melon. Juicy fruit is mixed with quite complex elements of almond, honey, white tea, chalk and minerals. Tasty but racy stuff — another solid vintage of this wine. About 80% of this comes from the Musque clone, which accentuates these fresh floral elements. Aged six months in old French oak, which rounds out the wine but doesn’t impart oaky flavors. Nicely done, per usual. (88 points)

SRP: $15
Light yellow color. Honey, almonds and yellow flower aromas on top of apricot and yellow apple. On the palate, this shows a creamy, waxy texture but some solid acid keeps it quite balanced. Apricots, yellow plums, bruised apple, the fruit is backed up with some floral, white tea and honeycomb elements. Straight-up fun, but some nice balance and diversity of flavors. A blend of75% Chardonnay, 14% Viognier, 8% Roussanne and 3% Marsanne. (86 points)

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