Monday, February 6, 2017

A Grab Bag of California Wines

Near the turn of the year, I had a bunch of unrelated California wines left to taste, and none of them seemed to fit into a coherent category. So I threw them together for a grab bag tasting.

I’ve got a few from
Gamling & McDuck, a label with an off-the-wall aesthetic approach but seriously good juice in the bottle. We also take a look at some wines from Jamieson Ranch, which sources grapes from Napa, Sonoma, and beyond, and produces several brands at varied price points. Lastly, Chronic Cellars makes an appearance; these wines are a few steps up from some of the big brands that purvey those residual sugar-laden, generic California AVA wines. These are jammy, fun, un-structured wines for easy-drinking. Oh, and a 2013 Cardinale Cabernet — whoa.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. 

2015 Gamling & McDuck Chenin Blanc Mangel's Ranch - California, North Coast, Suisun Valley
SRP: $26
Pale yellow color. Gorgeous aromatics of dandelion, cut flower stems, honeysuckle, chalk dust, drizzled over lemon, apple and apricot. Medium-bodied, vibrant acidity keeps this wine so crisp but there’s a pleasant richness and lees-aging notes of waxiness to the texture as well. Green and yellow apples and lemons mix with chalk, minerals, honey, and notes of flowers and herbal tea. Beautiful stuff with a long, crisp, blissful finish. (90 points) 

2015 Reata Chardonnay - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $20
Light gold color. Smells of salted lemon, apricot, dandelion and honeysuckle. Creamy texture on the palate but lots of fresh acidity. The creamy pear, tart apple and apricot fruit is topped in toasted nuts, sea shells and honeysuckle. For $20, this Chardonnay brings a lot of freshness and depth. (87 points) 

2014 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Chardonnay Light Horse - California
SRP: $15
Light gold color. Aromas of baked apple and pear, some salted nuts and honeysuckle. Juicy and plump on the palate but moderate acidity freshens it up, and I get flavors of yellow apples, apricots and baked pear, with some cinnamon, nuts and honeysuckle thrown in. For a $15 generic California AVA Chard, this has a lot of personality. (86 points) 

2014 Gamling & McDuck Cabernet Franc Pickberry Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain
SRP: $36
Deep ruby color. Aromas of tar, violets and pepper on top of juicy black cherries, with some sweet clove, graphite and cherry wood thrown in. Medium-bodied, moderate tannic structure, fresh acidity, refreshingly balanced. Tart but so juicy with these black cherries and roasted plums, along with plenty of chewing tobacco, oregano, black pepper. Vibrant yet rich, structured but so easy to sip right out of the bottle. Delish! (90 points) 

2013 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Pinot Noir Light Horse - California
SRP: $15
Medium ruby color. Aromas of juicy cherries and raspberries, sweet roses, cola and rhubarb. Soft tannins meet fresh acid on the palate with simple but pleasant cherries and strawberries, juicy appeal yet fresh. Notes of cola and rhubarb. Lacks that sweet baked fruit and fake character of a lot of generic California AVA Pinot Noirs, which is a good thing. Toss the Meomi, I’ll take a glass of this. (85 points) 

2014 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Malbec Whiplash - California
SRP: $15
Light purple color. Aromas of sweet cherries, plum cake, cola, coffee, vanilla. On the palate, light tannins combine with medium acid and soft, juicy blueberry and candied cherry. Sweet and office party-friendly, but lacks personality and depth. (79 points) 

2015 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Whiplash Red - California
SRP: $15
Juicy purple color. Aromas of jammy raspberries, cherries, sweet cola, vanilla and Swedish fish candy. Full-bodied, soft tannins, medium acidity, this is a jammy, simple wine with flavors of candied black and red fruit, Fig Newton cookies, cola and sweet coffee. (81 points)

2014 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Double Lariat - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $55
Rich purple color. Smells dark and juicy with black cherries and plums, vanilla coffee, charcoal and dark chocolate. Full-bodied with velvety and approachable tannins, medium acidity. Juicy dark fruit (blackberry and black cherries), shows some tanginess, and the fruit is backed up by sweet coffee, vanilla, and some earthy charcoal notes. Plush and smooth yet shows some liveliness, and could likely improve for a few years. (87 points)

2013 Cardinale - California, Napa Valley
Credit: Cardinale.
SRP: $250
Gorgeous purple color. Intoxicating and deep aromas of rich black cherries and currants, sweet pipe tobacco, eucalyptus, violets, loamy soil – so much to unpack. The palate is full and structured marvelously but there’s freshness despite the density. The black currant and cherry fruit is pure, complex and delicious, smooth but maintains a tart edge. Crazy complex elements of cedar, tobacco, vanilla, crushed rocks, hot clay, loamy soil, menthol, cigar lounge and leather jacket. Wow. Cardinale is a stunner as always, but in 2013 they really killed it. This is fantastic, and has so much to show over the next five-to-ten years. 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot aged 19 months in all new French oak. (96 points)

2015 Chronic Cellars Sofa King Bueno - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $20
Light purple color. Aromas of jammy rasberries, black cherries, red hot candies, sweet vanilla coffee and black pepper glaze. Full-bodied and chewy with easy-drinking tannins and medium/low acidity. The black cherries and raspberries and candied and jammy and topped with cola, coffee, pepper glaze. Simple, forward, fun if you like this style. A blend of 52% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 13% Petite Sirah, 7% Mourvedre. (85 points)

2015 Chronic Cellars Dead Nuts - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $24
Light purple color. On the nose: raspberries, juicy plums, smoke, cola, violets and chocolate. Full but smooth and velvety on the palate with medium/low acid and soft tannins. Candied cherries and raspberry jam mix with vanilla cola, pie filling and a note of sweet tobacco and earth. A bit sweet but tasty and probably a good office party kind of wine. 81% Zinfandel, 13% Tempranillp 6% Petite Sirah. (85 points) 

2015 Chronic Cellars Purple Paradise - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $15
Light purple. Smells like raspberry and strawberry jam, some peppery spice, sweet coffee and red licorice candy. Chewy texture on the palate, soft tannins, low acidity. “Purple” is right! I get jammy fruits and laffy taffy with coffee and some spicy, earthy notes underneath. Simple, sweet, fun. (85 points)

2015 Chronic Cellars Petite Sirah Suite Petite - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $15
Medium purple color. Aromas of sweet blackberries and plums, along with coffee, vanilla and chocolate shavings. Medium-bodied and juicy but shows hints of freshness. Dark and saucy black cherry and currant fruit, but shows some vibrancy, and I get notes of sweet clove, pepper, coffee grounds, earth. Unserious but seriously delicious. Less candied than the others in the lineup. Includes 15% Syrah. (86 points) 

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

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