Saturday, July 29, 2017

McIntyre Vineyards - Classic Santa Lucia Highlands Wine

The McIntyre Estate Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County, California. Credit: McIntyre Vineyards
Steve McIntyre (viticulturist, founder of McIntyre Vineyards) has extensive experience in California’s Central Coast. As owner of Monterey Pacific, his team farms 12,000 acres in Monterey County, and he has planted or farmed nearly a quarter of the vines in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA.

In 1987, Steve purchased an 80-acre site first planted in 1973-acre. This McIntyre Estate Vineyard is the source of some impressive Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and Steve also bottles a larger appellation blend Chardonnay, an old vine rosé, and a Merlot sourced from Arroyo Seco, among others.

This was my first time tasting McIntyre Vineyards’ wine, and I found them delicious, vibrant, showing a tasty mix of rich fruit without being too overt or emblazoned with new oak. They seem like solid examples of the high quality Chardonnay and Pinot that always excites me about the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA.

2014 McIntyre Vineyards Chardonnay - California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
SRP: $28
Medium gold. Aromas of buttercream, rich yellow apple, quince paste, salted almonds and biscuits. Full and round, creamy but moderate acidity, yellow apples and baked pears with hints of limes. Graham crackers, almond, sea salt, honeybutter, lots of deliciousness but it stays vibrant and none of the flavors are too overt. (88 points)

2014 McIntyre Vineyards Chardonnay Estate - California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
SRP: $38
Medium gold color. Nose shows bruised apples, pear nectar, along with white and yellow flowers, sea salt and crushed chalk. Rich and creamy with moderating acidity, the honeyed apple and baked pear fruit is mixed nicely with bright yellow floral notes, along with almond butter, graham cracker, hints of sea salt and chalk. Bold but balanced, and straight delicious, a little more verve and chalky notes than the non-estate Chardonnay. (89 points)

2016 McIntyre Vineyards Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir - California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
SRP: $24
Pale copper color. Smells of strawberries, watermelon, chalk dust, lemon zinger tea. Pleasantly plump on the palate but bright acidity. Crisp, chilled strawberry, cranberry and wild raspberry fruit, laced with complex notes of lemon verbena, mint, honeycomb, wild flowers and chalk dust. Delicious, complex, long finish. Impressive depth and complexity on this Pinot rosé. From a 45-year-old, own-rooted vineyard, this is a serious rosé that leaps out of the glass. (88 points)

2014 McIntyre Vineyards Pinot Noir - California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
SRP: $45
Bright ruby color. Aromas show a nice mix of tart red cherries and rich black cherries along with rhubarb pie, roses, clove and tobacco. Medium/full-bodied, velvety tannins, vibrant acidity. Saucy but tangy fruit (black cherry, raspberry, some strawberry jam), with clove, cinnamon, cedar, violets, all woven in well. Lovely stuff, this could soften for a few years but no guilt about drinking it right now. (90 points)

2013 McIntyre Vineyards Merlot Kimberly Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Arroyo Seco
SRP: $25
Deep ruby/light purple color. Pretty aromatic display of red currants, deep black cherries, violets, sweet pipe tobacco, cola. Full-bodied, velvety tannins, moderating acidity, doused in black cherries, black currant and raspberry jams. Violet petals, loamy soil, soy and mushroom, charred herbs, vanilla, savory spices, all of these add complexity and serious deliciousness to this Merlot. At least five years (likely more) of development, but delicious now, too. (90 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Delicious Value Wines from Spain's Navarra Region

A vineyard in the Spanish region of Navarra. Credit: Navarra US.
This week, I’m delving into a range of wines from the Spanish region of Navarra.

This region, which is located east of La Rioja, is only about 120 miles from north to south and 60 miles east to west, but it shows a wide range of soils and microclimates. With the Pyrenees Mountains to the north and the Bardenas Reales Desert to the south, the average vineyard in Navarra sits at about 1,300 feet in elevation. Navarra is home to a wide variety of both classic Spanish and international grape varieties.

Most of the wines in this report fall into that “bargain” range of $10-$15, but I found the quality and value to be very solid. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2016 Bodega Inurrieta Sauvignon Blanc Orchidea - Spain, Navarra
SRP: $13
Light gold color. Super bright aromatics with lemons, ruby red grapefruit, some guava, honeysuckle, cut grass. Medium-bodied, slightly creamy with plump fruit (peaches, guava), but moderating acidity. Lots of cut flower stems, some honeyed tea, grass and oregano. Simple, delicious, summer- and salad-friendly stuff. (86 points)

2015 Bodegas Berceo Viura Mas de Berceo - Spain, Navarra
SRP: $15
Pale lemon color. Nose shows tart lime, green apple, saline and some white pepper and green grass. Medium-bodied, bright acidity, a lighter, steely style with flavors of lime, lemon and green pears. Notes of whipped honey and cut flower stems. Light, simple, pleasant wine made from the Viura grape. (85 points)

2015 Castillo de Monjardín Chardonnay El Cerezo Unoaked - Spain, Navarra
SRP: $12
Medium yellow color. Nose of honeyed tea, yellow apples, dandelions and nettle. Medium-bodied and clean with crisp acidity and plump fruit (peach, yellow apple, some lime juice on top). Notes of white and yellow flowers, some nougat and honey woven in but this is a tangy, lighter, shellfish-accompanying style of Chardonnay. (87 points)

2015 Camilo Castilla Muscat Rayo de Sol - Spain, Navarra
SRP: $15
Pale straw. Aromas of lychee, white table grapes, sweet floral perfume, tropical flowers. Round on the palate with sweet tropical fruit (papaya, pineapple, banana) and low acidity. A bit heavy but I could see many palates liking this. (82 points)

2016 Bodegas Ochoa Garnacha Calendas Rosado - Spain, Navarra
SRP: $15
Light watermelon color. Nose shows watermelon, white cherries, notes of cinnamon candy and nettle. Bold and juicy but very bright and crisp of white cherries, strawberries, watermelon, plump but tart fruit. Laced with honeysuckle, rose petal, raspberry leaf tea, honeyed notes. Some chalky mineral elements linger on the finish. So good for the price! (88 points)

2015 Castillo de Monjardín Garnacha La Cantera - Spain, Navarra
SRP: $15
Medium ruby colored. Nose of juicy red cherries, lots of spicy tobacco, pepper, sage and desert brush. Medium-bodied, light tannin, medium acidity, this is a fresh and easy-drinking wine but it shows lots of cherry fruit mixed with a fun mix of tobacco, sage, pepper, some sweeter cola and coffee notes. Lighter-styled for grill-outs and summer drinking. (86 points) 

2015 Bodegas Berceo Tempranillo Mas de Berceo - Spain, Navarra
SRP: $15
Deep ruby/light purple color. Nose shows tangy red and black plums with spicy pepper, sweet cola, leather. Medium+ bodied with light tannins and moderate acidity tangy red and black fruit but plenty of juicy ripeness. Soot, campfire, coffee and cola notes on the finish, drink now, this is a fun, delicious, grill-friendly Tempranillo at a solid price. (87 points)

2011 Bodegas Ochoa Tempranillo Crianza - Spain, Navarra
SRP: $23
Light purple color. Aromas of red plums, red and black cherries, tobacco smoke, charcoal and spicy pepper. Medium-bodied with velvety tannins, decent structure, medium acidity. Plenty of juicy red and black plums and cherries, mixed with notes of tobacco, charcoal, leather. Still a few years ahead but this would be good now with grilled meat and veg. (87 points)

N.V. Camilo Castilla Navarra Capricho de Goya - Spain, Navarra
SRP: $29/500ml
 An auburn/rich brown color. Nose of raisins, roasted figs, musk cologne, sweet cola, brown sugar, pepper. Full-bodied but sports moderate acidity (some volatile acidity) and moderate alcohol (16%), the sugar is balanced quite nicely. Roasted figs, candied apples, yellow raisin, mixed with pepper, root beer, caramelized sugar, a lot going on here. This shows tawny fortified notes mixed with Madeira-style acidity and baked elements, and the end result is delicious. A fortified, barrel-aged, Muscat-based wine. (90 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

New Releases from Preeminent Oregon Producer Penner-Ash

Penner-Ash has earned wide consumer, restaurant and wine media respect for many years, and it’s easy to see why. For decades they have sourced fruit from some stunning Oregon vineyards: their estate vineyard in Yamhill-Carlton, Shea Vineyard, Hyland Vineyard in McMinnville, Zena Crown in Eola Amity Hills. Their wines are what one may call terroir-driven, they are vibrant, complex wines with all sorts of unique nuances. 
In a recent blind tasting of American Rieslings (detailed here), Penner-Ash showed quite well with their two Rieslings, a Willamette Valley AVA and one from a Hyland Vineyard-designated Riesling. So I was expecting goodness from the 2015 Riesling, and it delivered.  
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. 
2015 Penner-Ash Riesling Old Vine Riesling Hyland Vineyard - Oregon, Willamette Valley, McMinnville
SRP: $35
Medium yellow color. On the nose, this bursts with white peach, lemon zest, apricot, an oily note, honeycomb, new tennis ball, yellow flowers – lots going on here! The palate is medium-bodied with brisk, mouth-watering acidity, and the wine feels near bone dry but shows plenty of ripe fruit (orange, lime, peaches). Balanced with saline, minerals, tennis ball, orange marmalade, a long, lingering finish. Complex, delicious, beautiful stuff. (90 points)
2016 Penner-Ash Viognier - Oregon
SRP: $30
Medium straw color with a slight spritz. So much floral explosion on the nose: honeysuckle, orange blossom, dandelion, along with honey, peach nectar, green pear and guava. Full-bodied and plump but not heavy due to the moderating acidity. Pulses with lime, guava and white peach, lots of floral perfume and orange blossom along with honeycomb, waxy notes, and a lingering sense of minerals and saline. Big but vibrant for Viognier, a very pretty interpretation. All stainless steel, sourced from vineyards in the Rogue and Columbia Valleys. (89 points)
2015 Penner-Ash Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton
SRP: $65
Pretty rose/ruby color. Takes time but opens up to show deep red currant, red and black cherries, rose petals, spicy white pepper, clove, tilled soil. Crisp acidity frames the palate so well, but the tannic structure provides plenty of support without being harsh, and the balance is superb. Graceful but tart red and black cherries, some cranberry, tons of spiced black tea, tobacco, rose petals, white pepper, sage and earthy, floral complexities that linger long on the finish. This is a tightly structured wine that will probably see its best days five years from now, and age beautifully, but this an impressive young Shea Pinot from Penner-Ash. (94 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Welcoming Zachy's to DC with an Epic Tuscany Tasting

Zachy’s (the Scarsdale, New York-based fine wine purveyor and auction house) has opened up shop in Washington, DC, and I am so stoked.

The new location is a massive facility located on V Street NE, and it will offer wine storage service in a huge, cold warehouse. You’ll be able to purchase wine at the facility, and through email offers. There’s a great tasting room that will be used for all sorts of trade tastings, wine classes, and auction parties.

A good buddy of mine, Tim O’Rourke, is working on this project, and there really is no better person for the job. All the details and events are still very much coming together, but the future looks bright for this venture. And it’s a huge win for DC, Maryland, Virginia-area wine-lovers such as myself.

I recently stopped by to check out the facility and taste through a serious lineup of Tuscan wines. Even though they had been open for only two days, things were pristine. The service was on point and, most importantly, the wines were stunning.

Here are my notes on some killer Tuscan wines.

2016 Fattoria Le Pupille (Elisabetta Geppetti) Maremma Toscana Poggio Argentato - Italy, Tuscany, Maremma, Maremma Toscana
Floral, peach nose. Tangy and spicy with flowers and peaches and spicy floral tones. Fun, dry, delicious. A Gewurz-based blend. (88 points)

2016 Fattoria Le Pupille (Elisabetta Geppetti) Maremma Toscana RosaMati - Italy, Tuscany, Maremma, Maremma Toscana
Super floral aromatics. Brisk, spicy, tart, watermelon plumpness as well, slightly earthy. An all Syrah rose. (87 points)

2012 Tenuta Greppo (Biondi-Santi) Rosato Toscana IGT - Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
Interesting copper orange color. Red apples, spiced herbal tea nose. Interesting stuff, tangy, chalky, some honeyed and slight nut characteristics but still vibrant fruit. Not often do I find an aged rose I really like to drink, but this is one. The “current” release and it rocks. (90 points)

2015 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico - Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG$20
Red fruits and spice on the nose. Structured quite well with smooth, dry tannins and fresh acid. Juicy and tangy red fruit with tar, anise, pepper notes. Really solid for the price, shows what quality 2015 offers even in the entry-level. (89 points)

2013 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia - Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG
Lots of cigar smoked and leather on the nose with earthy black cherries. Rich tannins, dry but fresh acidity, which I love, balanced nicely with plum and black cherries, notes of spiced tea and pepper. Lovely. (91 points)

2013 Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di San Niccolò - Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
Lots of roses, eucalyptus, spiced tea, rich earth, tart black cherries and plums. Rich texture but velvety, bright acidity frames it so well, lots of delicious black cherry fruit, laced with herbs and spices. Young but very, very good. (92 points)

2015 Tenuta San Guido Le Difese - Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
Plums, leather, tobacco, herbs on the nose. Accessible on the palate but shows some good structured tannins, bright acidity, plums and cherries and tobacco and spices, all wrapped up quite nicely. (89 points)

2004 Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino - Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
Gorgeous aromatics, cedar, silky red and black fruit, roses, violets. Still so young with firm tannins but some moderating acidity. Black cherries and tart blueberries mix well with tar, charcoal and cigar smoke. Lovely stuff with many more years ahead. (93 points) 

2010 E. Fuligni (Cottimelli) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva - Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
Amazing nose of tangy red fruits, rose petals, rhubarb, pepper, soy. Velvety but structured, zesty but rich, waves of red and hints of black fruit along with cigar shop, incense sticks, roses, tilled soil. The mouthfeel on this is just so amazing, despite the complexity of flavors and total deliciousness, the elegance and balance of this wine makes it next level excellent. (95 points)

2015 Monastero Campanaio - Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
Jammier approach with plums and raspberry jam, cocoa and violets. Silky, velvety, but some surprisingly fresh acidity. Sweet red fruits and violets and coffee. Fun, approachable stuff. 50/50 Cab/Merlot. (89 points)

2015 Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto - Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
Bright but some saucy fruit on the nose, too, with plums and cola. Velvety, violets, cedar, plump and a bit chewy but balanced with freshness. Cabernet and Merlot. (88 points)

2015 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo Toscana IGT - Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
Plummy, rich, baked black fruit on the nose. Really saucy on the palate with silky tannins, medium-low acidity, chunky black fruits, some violets, cola and cedar. Well-made, tastes so polished, I could see this being a big hit. (88 points)

2014 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia - Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri, Bolgheri Sassicaia
Wow, this is drinking really well. Considering the vintage, I wasn’t expecting anything classic, but this is a fresher, more vibrant, early-drinking version, but still of very high quality. Bright floral and red berry tones on the nose. Silky, tangy, vibrant palate with bright red currants and cherries, lots of pepper and spices and sage. Not lean, but quite elegant, and it goes down easily. (93 points)

2013 Marchesi Mazzei “Philip” - Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
Aromas of tangy red berries. Velvety, rich but vibrant palate with sweet floral, coffee, earth and vanilla notes to accent the black cherry and plum skins. (90 points)

2013 Marchesi Mazzei Castello di Fonterutoli Siepi - Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
Lifted aromatics of bright red fruits and roses, very bright. High-toned, tangy, zesty even, with brisk red fruits but so delicious, laced with dusty earth, rhubarb, coffee. So good now, so good on the table, but this will also age nicely for at least a decade. Merlot and Sangiovese. (91 points) 

2013 Fattoria Le Pupille (Elisabetta Geppetti) Maremma Toscana Saffredi - Italy, Tuscany, Maremma, Maremma Toscana

Christ, this wine blew me away! I had never heard of this producer before, but I’m listening now. Gorgeous waves of red fruits on the nose along with tobacco, leather, incense. Structured so well but vibrant and refreshing, the mouthfeel is so pure and focused. Cherries and velvety plums with lots of leather, sage, tobacco, mint, rhubarb – so much to unpack for many years in the cellar. (96 points)

In a lineup of gems, the Geppetti Safredi was incredible.
2013 Antinori Solaia Toscana IGT - Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT

A bit dense but a lot to unpack aromatically: plum cake, violets, black cherry, leather, coffee, dark chocolate shavings. Rich, saucy and velvety at the same time but not too heavy, it shows freshness, too. Sweet plums and cherries laced with violets, cocoa, loamy earth, cedar, warm clay – wow. Delicious now but will do wonders over the next 10-15. (94 points)

2015 Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno Toscana IGT - Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT

Lots of aromatics: roses, violets, plums, rich black cherries, smoke. Chewy and bold but balanced, shows plums and black currants with cola, coffee, cocoa, anise, cedar – rich in flavor but nuanced and suave as well. Obviously a long time ahead. (93 points)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Uncovering Collio's Gems With Venica & Venica

Venica & Venica's estate vineyards in Collio, Italy. Credit: Venica & Venica.
Venica & Venica’s story begins in 1930, when Austrian-born Daniele Venica purchased a small house and property in Dolegna del Collio, in north-eastern Italy. After the ravages of World War 2, he and his son Adelchi worked together to buy up neglected vineyards.

Today, they maintain estate vineyards spread across a 70-acre estate, allowing varieties of local and international grapes to thrive. Adelchi’s sons, Gianni and Giorgio, carry on the tradition by producing wines that show freshness, minerality, and demand a spot on a table surrounded by food. I couldn’t find an unexciting wine in the bunch, and a few are shockingly good.

I received these wines as trade samples and tasted them sighted.

2016 Venica & Venica Collio Sauvignon Ronco del Cerò - Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Collio
SRP: $24
Light yellow color. Popping aromas of white peaches, lime, nectarine, so bright with honeysuckle, lemon verbena, chalk dust, oregano. Medium-bodied palate with a pleasantly plump texture and lip-smacking acidity. Limes, white peaches, apricot, zesty fruit complemented by honey, floral perfume, chalk dust. Plush texture but crisp, packed with depth and complexity. (90 points)

2016 Venica & Venica Collio Sauvignon Ronco delle Mele - Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Collio
SRP: $49
Medium yellow color. Deeper, more concentrated nose than the Ronca del Cero, but opens up to show orange, lime, apricot, lots of crushed chalk, mountain streams, limestone dust and nettle. Plush texture but focused acidity, ripe and juicy fruit (lime, apricot, some richer mango, too) but it stays so fresh. Notes of raw almond, honeycomb, mineral, mountain stream, the complexity is really impressive. From a single vineyard planted in 1983. Wow. (91 points)

2016 Venica & Venica Collio Pinot Grigio Jesera - Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Collio
SRP: $21
A beautiful light copper color in the glass. Nose shows nettle, honeysuckle, oregano, chalk dust, on top of lemon and orange pith. Rich textural depth on the palate but crisp acidity, the wine is balanced with plump orange and peach fruit, drizzled with lime. Salty, spicy notes, lots of wildflower and wild grass elements, hints of almond and honeyed tea. This is absolutely delicious but also shows a lot of depth and complexity. Not your normal Pinot Grigio, this is something else — and it’s awesome. (90 points)

2016 Venica & Venica Collio Friulano - Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Collio
SRP: $38
Light gold color. Lemon pith, orange peel, crushed chalk, white pepper, green onion, sweet floral perfume, there is a lot going on aromatically. Fresh acidity keeps the wine tangy, but plump fruit (papaya, pear) mixes with bitter lemon and lime, and there are lots of complex elements of white flowers, wild grass, chalk dust, honeycomb, graham cracker – a lot of fascinating and vibrant flavors in here, and there’s a crisp, lingering sense of minerals and lip-smacking acidity on the finish. An excellent take on this indigenous white grape, done expertly. (91 points)

2015 Venica & Venica Collio Merlot - Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Collio
SRP: $16
Bright ruby color. Smells like tart red and black cherries, highly complex notes of tobacco, rose hips, graphite, wet forest floor, incense sticks. Vibrant acidity on the palate, nice grip from the tannins, this is a food-friendly but structured medium-bodied wine. Tart black and red cherries are laced with rose petals, tobacco, black pepper, soy. Lovely balance, the freshness is key but this wine has a lot of depth. (90 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

2012 + Siduri + Hirsch Vineyard = Excellence

2012 was a wonderful vintage in Sonoma, producing bold, structured, deep wines. Siduri is a long-time producer of the highest order. And the Hirsch Vineyard, located in the coastal Sonoma appellation of Fort Ross-Seaview, is home to some stunning Pinot Noir. Combine the three, and I knew I was in for one hell of a good wine.

It did not disappoint. I visited Siduri a few years ago for an extensive tasting, and had a total blast (
my post can be found here). This was the last bottle I brought back from that tasting some four years ago, and I'm glad I held onto it. The wine has at least a few more years of development, but it showed wonderfully. I picked it up for $55, so it wasn't cheap, but worth every penny.

2012 Siduri Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Fort Ross - Seaview
Dark ruby color. Aromas of juicy red currants, cherries, mixed with rhubarb, wild herbs, creosote, clove, pepper, lots going on! Medium/full-bodied with plenty of weight and structure but the tannins are accessible and the acidity is fresh. Plump but tangy red an black cherry fruit, along with clove, rose petals, rhubarb, spicy herbs. Hints of mushroom and sage will peek out more with time, this will be even better in three years or so but still very good now. (92 points)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Kita: Stunning Santa Ynez Wines With a Restrained Style

Tara Gomez. Credit: Kita Wines.
Tara Gomez, winemaker at Kita wines, has been on a tear for quite a few years now. She crafts an array of varietal wines and blended wines that all share a similar aesthetic: lower alcohol, crisp acidity, bright fruit, less obvious new oak influence, tons of non-fruit complexity. I’ve been tasting these wines for a few years, and they never fail to thrill my senses.

Most of Kita’s grapes are sourced from the Camp 4 Vineyard, a massive vineyard (with more than 250 acres of vines) that is home to 19 different grape varieties. Originally planted by Fess Parker in 1999, the vineyard was purchased by the Santa Ynez Band of the Chumash Indians in 2010. With a scholarship from the tribe, Tara studied enology Cal State Fresno, before working at Fess Parker and J. Lohr. She became winemaker of the newly-formed Kita Wines, and says she views making wine from the tribe’s vineyard as a way of giving back to her community.

This sandy loam soil vineyard sits at the easternmost edge of Santa Ynez Valley, close to Happy Canyon, and produces some incredible Rhone and Bordeaux grape varieties. By harvesting with lower potential alcohol, and judicious use of new oak, the vibrancy of Tara’s wines shines through. And the Pinot and Chardonnay she sources from the Santa Rita Hills are also stunning. So if you’re a fan of the so-called “New California Wine” (as John Bonné lays out in his book), you should definitely check out these wines.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2015 KITÁ Chardonnay Hilliard Bruce Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
SRP: $30
Pale yellow color. What a nose! So many white and yellow flowers, lots of chalk dust, seashells, notes of lime, kumquat and apricot — complex and lovely to sniff. Gorgeous acidity, it tingles the palate but the wine provides plenty of texture on a medium-bodied frame (12.8% alcohol). Key lime pie flavors, lemon curd, apricot, the fruit is mixed with pretty notes of white tea, honey, chalk and minerals, also some hay and almond. Tastes effortlessly pretty, even though a ton of effort obviously went into crafting this Chardonnay. I’d love to see what four-to-five years does to this wine. This spends six months in French oak, 14% new. (92 points)

2016 KITÁ Sauvignon Blanc Camp 4 Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $24
Rich yellow color. Aromas are bursting with kiwi, gooseberry, lots of lemongrass, sliced jalapeno and green herbs. On the palate, this is medium-bodied with fresh acidity and a rich, creamy texture. Lemon curd, guava, kiwi, the fruit mixes with honey, white tea, sliced jalapeno. I also get nettle, hints of perfume and candlewax, some almond. Lots going on here! This sees 14% new French oak for six months. (89 points)

2015 KITÁ T'aya Camp 4 Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $22
Light gold color. Pretty and exotic aromas of white peach, yellow apples, honeysuckle, orange blossom, ginger. Refreshing and bright but plenty of mouth-filling texture on a medium-bodied frame (13.5% alcohol). Oranges, guava, white peach and banana are mixed with peanut shell, raw almond, candle wax, honeycomb, candied ginger. A lingering sense of salinity. So crisp and refreshing for a California white Rhone blend. A blend of 57% Marsanne, 40% Roussanne, 3% Grenache Blanc, which spends six months in French oak, 14% new. (91 points)

The stunning Camp 4 Vineyard, from which Kita sources most of its grapes. Credit: Kita Wines.

2014 KITÁ Pinot Noir Hilliard Bruce Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
SRP: $55
Pale ruby color. Nose shows tart strawberries, sour cherries, red apples, and lots of herbal tea, white pepper and roses. Medium-bodied with silky tannins and lip-smacking acidity, such great depth for a lighter-styled Pinot. Apples, strawberries, cranberries, the fruit is tangy and crunchy and laced with basil, white pepper, herbal tea, tobacco and rose hips. So pretty, lean but not weak, light but shows such balance. 12.8% alcohol, this sees 20% new French oak for 18 months. (93 points)

2014 KITÁ Spe'y Camp 4 Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $30
Deep ruby color. Such a pretty aromatic display: red plums and currants, so much dusty earth, leather, bay leaf, pepper, sage, violets, perhaps mistakable for a lighter-style Chateauneuf. Medium+ bodied (13.5% alcohol) with structured but lightly dusty tannins, crisp acidity throughout. Red currants mix with black cherries and dark plum skins, add in some cowhide, black pepper, sage, red clay, an underlying mineral presence. Just wow. Delicious now but should evolve nicely for three to six years, easily. Lip-smacking, complex, a Rhone-inspired blend of 55% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 20% Carignan, aged 18 months in 20% new French oak. (93 points)

2014 KITÁ Kalas Camp 4 Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $40
Light purple. Aromas of smoky charcoal, scorched earth, herbal tea, eucalyptus, on top of tart red and black currants. Medium+ bodied with dry tannins and moderating acidity. Tart red and black currants and plums mix well with notes of loamy soil, fallen leaves, grilled mushroom, hints of coffee and cedar are hidden behind. Lots of depth but very alive and pretty. This should improve for three-to-five easily. 13.5% alcohol, 48% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, aged 18 months in 40% new French oak. (91 points)

2014 KITÁ Cabernet Sauvignon Camp 4 Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $40
Dark ruby colored. Smells of tart red and black currants, scorched earth and eucalyptus with black peppercorns and grilled herbs. Medium-to-full-bodied with structured but fine tannins, refreshing acidity, and lots of crunchy, tangy red and black fruit (plums, currants). The complex elements of earth, tobacco, pepper, graphite and charcoal are impressive, and the wine shows depth but also freshness. Lots to unpack in the cellar over the next ten years. Aged 18 months in 40% new French oak. (92 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Wine Reviews: New Releases from California

This week I’m back with another round-up of new releases from all over California.

The Quilt wines are a new brand from Copper Cane, Joe Wager's project, sourced from various Napa appellations. This is a higher-level brand, with some gutsy pricing, but the deliciousness delivers. In keeping with the company style of producing bold, decadent wines, these are massive and highly delicious examples.

J. McClelland is producing some exciting wines from Napa’s Oak Knoll appellation, three of which I tasted for this report. Named for John McClelland, who spent 50+ years making wine in California for labels like Steele Canyon Cellars, these are moderately priced but very high quality wines.

The Malibu-based winery Dolin Estate wowed me with two impressive offerings, especially the Blue Note red blend from a Malibu Coast vineyard. We also have some reliably delicious wines from Napa’s Frank Family, a stunning Cabernet from Grgich Hills, and some Zinfandel from Dry Creek.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2014 J. McClelland Chardonnay - California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
SRP: $35
Rich yellow color. Aromas of yellow pears, juicy green apples, buttered toast, a host of honey and floral tones. Creamy and plush texture with vibrant acidity makes a balanced but bold Chardonnay. Lime drizzled on apricots and baked pears, followed up with integrated elements of almond, nougat and butter with some mineral dust on the finish. Delicious, long, impressive depth. 30% barrel-fermented, aged in oak for 12 months. (90 points)

2014 Dolin Estate Chardonnay Bien Nacido - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $39
Light yellow color. Aromas of lemon curd, apricot, melted butter, graham cracker. Full-bodied with pleasant creaminess and fresh acidity. Rich but pure and vibrant with lime, apricot, bruised apple, richer elements of toasted nuts, lemon curd and honey mix well with sea salt and chalk dust. Packed with flavor, delicious but so lively. Fermented in 1/3 new French oak, 100% maloactic fermentation, aged 13 months in oak. (90 points)

2015 Quilt Chardonnay - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $35
Light gold color. Nose shows buttercream, lemon cake, key lime pie, yellow flowers, some chalk notes. Decadent, full-throttle style, this is but partially balanced out by quite fresh acidity. Bruised apple and rich yellow pear fruit mixes with roasted peanuts, candied pecans and orange marmalade flavors. 15 months in 70% new French oak, all maloactic fermentation, this is a burly style, but a delicious expression of Napa Chardonnay. (88 points)

2015 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay - California, Napa, Carneros
SRP: $35
Rich yellow color. Aromas of almond paste, whipped honey, buttercream, but also peaches and pears drizzled with lime. On the palate, this is bold but balanced, creamy but moderate acidity. Bruised apple, peach, apricot, rich fruit but stays fresh. Pretty yellow flowers, clover, honeysuckle, lemon curd, notes of peanut brittle and buttercream are mixed together well. A Chardonnay that should please many a palate, fermented and aged in 1/3 new French oak. (89 points)

2016 Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel - California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
SRP: $12
Medium watermelon color. Juicy red apples and watermelon on the nose with some white pepper, basil and green tea leaves. Medium-bodied, moderate acidity, fleshy texture with flavors of cherries and watermelon. Notes of white pepper and basil mix with whipped honey and cream notes. Tasty, crowd-pleasing stuff. (86 points)

2015 Frank Family Vineyards Pinot Noir - California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $35
Deep ruby/light purple color. Nose shows spiced cranberry jam, black cherries, rhubarb, rose hips, chewing tobacco. Fleshy texture with velvety tannins and medium acidity. Juicy red plums, Thanksgiving cranberry sauce, rhubarb pie, rose petals, pepper. This is ripe and plush but fresh, earthy, complex, and it finishes with notes of cocoa and clove. Two to four years could do interesting things for this wine, but shows well right out of the bottle. 10 months in 1/3 new French oak. (89 points)

2012 Dolin Estate The Blue Note - California, South Coast, Malibu
SRP: $45
Light purple color. Awesome aromas of black cherries, raspberry jam, roasted fig, coffee, candied pecans. Lovely balance on the palate with bold texture, velvety tannins, moderate acidity keeps it fresh. Tart plum, blackberry, the fruit is loaded with coffee, charcoal, tar, cedar and cola. This was an eye-opening wine for me in the sense that it was absolutely delicious, showed solid balance, lots of depth, and it’s the first wine from this area I’ve tasted. A blend of 44% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc, aged 21 months in oak. The vineyard sits 1,450 feet above the Malibu coast. Intriguing and special stuff. (91 points)

2013 J. McClelland Merlot - California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
SRP: $35
Light purple color. Rich, pretty aromas of violets, sweet pipe tobacco and cola on top of juicy red and black cherries and plums. Full but not heavy with velvety tannins and moderate acidity. Dark plums, tart black cherries, the fruit meshes with tobacco, violets, potting soil and notes of cedar and vanilla. This could unfurl for a few years, but it’s good to go now, although it really opens up with air. Includes 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine spends 28 months in French oak. (90 points)

2013 J. McClelland Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
SRP: $45
Light purple color. Nose shows juicy blackberries, saucy dark currant, and a whole lot of chewing tobacco, mint, coffee grounds, fallen leaves, bell pepper – the aromas are complex and firing. Full-bodied on the palate with nice grip to the tannins with medium acidity to balance it all out. Tart but rich black currants and black cherry fruit, and I love the level of earth and spice complexities: tobacco, mint, charcoal, charred herbs, bell pepper. Notes of cedar linger on the finish. Structure and depth are impressive but it maintains a spicy and fresh style, which balances out very nicely. (92 points)

2014 Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $52
Light purple color. Tart black currants, black cherry, plum skins, mixed in with vanilla, cola, but also some mint, eucalyptus and spicy pepper. The palate shows dry but velvety tannins and some moderate acidity, surprising balance and freshness. The black cherry, tart blueberry and cassis fruit is fresh and vibrant but plenty ripe, and mixed with notes of tobacco, soy sauce, potting soil, and integrated cedar, vanilla and coffee notes. Yummy but also structured, this could do nicely with three to six years in the cellar, but delicious now. Includes 8% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc, this wine is aged 20 months in 1/3 new French oak. (90 points)

2014 Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $72
Rich purple color. Gorgeous aromatics of currants, dark plums, so much spicy, herbal and savory tones as well: pepper, sage, mint, dusty earth, leather, soy. Full and structured well with taut tannins and lively acidity. Gushing plums and tart currants glide over the palate despite the youthfulness of the wine. So much earth, charcoal, pepper, leather, sage, woven in with cedar, mocha and clove. Gorgeous stuff but built for the long haul, this is another killer vintage of a perennial performer (in my book). Includes 14% Merlot and a combined 7% Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, aged 21 months in 60% new French oak. (93 points)

2013 Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $100
Bold purple color. Nose shows dark currants, black cherries, lots of violets, vanilla, graphite, charcoal, lots going on. Bold and ripe on the palate with gushing dark plums and blueberries on a frame of chewy tannins, plush mouthfeel, and moderate acidity that helps it from being too intense. Creamy vanilla, coffee, sweet pipe tobacco, roasted chestnut, this is an extracted, gushing style, but it’s all held together quite well, and straight delicious. 70% new oak, all Cabernet from valley floor fruit. (90 points)

2014 Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $37
Deep ruby/light purple color. Dark and saucy red and black berry fruit on the nose, along with coffee beans, black pepper, tobacco, root beer and eucalyptus. Full-bodied, dry but rounded tannins, medium-low acidity. The palate is loaded with blackberry and raspberry, some roasted fig and plum cake, and mixed with cocoa, coffee, roasted chestnut, root beer and chewing tobacco. Hedonistic and rich but nuanced. Includes 14% Petite Sirah, this wine is aged 16 months in 1/3 new French oak. (89 points)

2014 Mounts Family Winery Zinfandel Old Vine - California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
SRP: $36
Rich ruby color. Aromas of dark cherries, jammy blackberry and raspberries, also cola, sweet barbecue, roasted chestnut and vanilla. Full-bodied and burly, this is a chewy, rich wine with velvety tannins and low acid, but it’s so delicious. Plump black cherries, jammy raspberries and blackberries, fig paste. I get complex notes of bourbon, cola, coffee, sweet barbecue sauce, black pepper. Big, bold, but quite nice. 15.8% alcohol, this spends 17 months in 60% new French oak. (88 points)

2014 Mauritson Wines Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley - California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
SRP: $35
Light purple. Nose of fig paste, plum cake, black cherry ice cream, with some scorched earth mixed in. Full-bodied, so smooth, velvety tannins, low acidity, a chewy wine. Rich black fruit and roasted figs, laced with milk chocolate, sarsaparilla, roasted chestnut, also some earthy, peppery tones. A burly hedonistic Zinfandel for near-term consumption. All Zin, 14.6% alcohol, this spends 14 months in mostly French oak. (87 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.