Monday, April 3, 2017

Steele Wines: Long-Time Lake County Winery Produces Fun Wines at Moderate Prices

Jed Steele has been making wine in California for about 45 years. He first worked as a cellar rat at Stony Hill in the late 60, before getting his Master’s in Enology from UC Davis and heading off to work for Mendocino’s Edmeades. Add in some work at the burgeoning Kendall-Jackson, and Jed had all the experience he needed to start his own label in 1991. 

Steele, based in Kelseyville near Clear Lake (in Lake County), produces more than 20 different wines, everything from Aligote to Zinfandel. Jeb’s extensive experience in different California wine regions has allowed him to source fruit from many different sites. So I was surprised to see Chardonnay from Santa Barbara and Zinfandel from Mendocino all in the same lineup.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2015 Steele Wines Chardonnay Steele Cuvée
- California
SRP: $21
Medium yellow color. Aromas of green apples and grapefruit with some honeyed herbal tea and flower vase notes. Medium-bodied, slightly waxy texture but fresh acidity. Green apples and bruised pear, vanilla crème, sharper notes of white pepper and dandelion. Some contrasting elements, but it’s still a fun wine. Aged 8 months in 20% new French oak, 13.5% alcohol, the fruit comes from several sites across California, from Santa Barbara to Mendocino’s Redwood Valley. (86 points) 

2015 Steele Wines Chardonnay Durell Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $30
Pale yellow color. Aromas of peach nectar, yellow apple, honey, some chalk, mint and almond notes. On the palate, this shows a creamy, medium+ body but some fresh acidity. Limes mix with richer bruised apple and apricot fruit, and there’s a pretty contrast between the floral and grapefruit zest notes with some green tea, yellow flower and honey notes. Impressive, fresh, lengthy stuff. Aged 10-12 months in 20% new French oak. (90 points) 

2015 Steele Wines Cabernet Franc Rosé - California, North Coast, Lake County

SRP: $15
Bright watermelon color. Super floral nose with bananas, watermelon and cherry candy. Plump and juicy palate with some moderating acidity. Chunks of watermelon, raspberry jam, some tart white cherry notes, too, along with lots of floral perfume and banana peel. Fun, up-front, gluggable stuff. From the Silva Vineyard in Lake County. 14% alcohol. (85 points)

2013 Steele Wines Pinot Noir Goodchild Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $30
Deep ruby color. Brisk aromas of chilled cranberries, juicy raspberries, rhubarb, clove and eucalyptus. Full, bold, chewy-textured, but freshness from the acidity and easy-on-the-mouth tannins. Rhubarb, rose petal, top soil and pickle notes mix in with some clove and vanilla. Stays ripe but this is such a crisp and vibrant style. 14.5% alcohol, aged 12 months in 30% new French oak. (89 points)

2013 Steele Wines Zinfandel Century Old Vines Catfish Vineyard
- California, North Coast, Clear Lake
SRP: $25
Light purple color. Nose of bold black cherries, currants, grape jelly, violets and anise. Full-bodied with surprisingly sturdy tannins and medium acidity. Dark cherries and blueberry fruit, ripe and juicy but showing a tart edge, mixes with loam, rocky soil, black pepper and black licorice notes. Delish, complex, some years of cellar potential, too. A single-vineyard wine from Kelsey Bench, Lake County, this includes small amounts of Carignan, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet, Petite Sirah and Cinsault. aged 12 months in 35% new hybrid French/American oak barrels, 14.5% alcohol. (89 points)

2013 Steele Wines Zinfandel Old Vine Zin Pacini Vineyard - California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $19
Deep ruby color. Rich and dark and saucy aromas of cherries, boysenberry, roasted coffee, violets, dark chocolate. Full and dark (15.2%), some tone to the tannic grip, some moderate acidity helps keep it from being too heavy. Black cherries and blackberries, loaded with roasted coffee, violets, sweet cola, black pepper glaze, some vanilla and ginger cookies. Opens up and shows a cool teriyaki jerky note. I think a few years would help this unwind even more. 15.2% alcohol, this spends 12 months in American oak. (89 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

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