Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Wine Reviews: New Releases from California

Last month I reported on a range of new releases from California. Well, the samples keep pouring in, and we’re back for another round. 

This week’s report has a nice spread, from zesty Sauvignon Blanc to big and bold Napa Cabernet. The Chardonnays from Stony Hill and Shafer steal the show, but Chalk Hill and La Crema bring some solid offerings to the table as well. And Shafer and Cliff Lede wow with their Stags Leap Cabernets, while a few other producers offer up moderately-priced and delicious wines.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2016 Gamble Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Gamble Vineyard - California, Napa Valley, Yountville
SRP: $25
Light yellow color. Bursting aromatics of quince, nectarine, lime, pineapple, some white pepper and dandelion notes as well. Rich texture, lovely depth, but the acidity is crisp and it frames the wine nicely. The fruit is rich and tropical (pineapple, kiwi) with tart lime and lemon crème, hints of almond and honey. Lovely freshness and minerality on the finish. 75% barrel fermented, 25% stainless steel, 13.1% alcohol. Fascinating and delicious stuff. (90 points)

2016 3 Badge Beverage Corp Pinot Grigio Moobuzz - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $17
Pale straw color. Bright aromatics of yellow flowers, honeysuckle, green melon, lemon crème. Zippy and fresh on the palate but rich texture. Plump pear, apricot, lime flavors, with dandelion, honeysuckle, hints of sea breeze. Impressive balance and depth for a Pinot Grigio at this price point. (88 points)

2015 Chalk Hill Chardonnay - California, Sonoma County, Chalk Hill
SRP: $42
Light gold color. Aromas show orange blossom, whipped butter, salted almond, on top of yellow apples and pears. Creamy, deep texture, but lovely freshness throughout, as the yellow apple and green pear fruit rolls in. Almond, nougat, whipped butter, with white tea, sea salt, chalk dust. Lovely balance, complexity is quite impressive, and it’s undeniably delicious. All maloactic fermentation, aged 11 months in about 50% new French oak. (90 points)

2015 Stony Hill Chardonnay - California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
SRP: $48

Light gold color. Gorgeous, enticing aromas of golden delicious apples, apricot, tangerine, with complex elements of spiced white tea, shaved ginger, honey and sea salt. Full and velvety on the palate, such depth of texture, but the acidity is lively and lip-smacking. Apricot and tangerine drizzled with lime, the fruit is tangy but shows great concentration. I get complex flavors of minerals, limestone dust, lemongrass, hazelnut, smashed sea shells… the flavors go on and on. Such purity and depth. A stunning wine from a master of Napa Chardonnay. Aged 10 months in old French oak. (95 points) 

2016 La Crema Chardonnay - California, Central Coast, Monterey
SRP: $20
Light gold color. On the nose, I get apricots, lemon curd, honeycomb, toasted oak, whipped butter. Creamy texture but refreshing acidity makes for a rich wine but it stays fresh. Bruised apple and apricot mix with whipped honey, cinnamon, nougat and floral perfume. Quite delicious for this style and price range. 7 months in 17% new oak. (87 points)

2016 La Crema Chardonnay - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $23
Gold color. Aromas of yellow apples and bruises pears, with whipped butter, yellow flowers, cinnamon and almond. Plush texture on the palate, rich and creamy and fun, with medium acidity. Pears and bruised apples with notes of honey butter, toasted bread and ginger. Rich and flavorful, fun stuff for lovers of big, rich Cali Chardonnay. 8 months in 17% new French and American oak. (87 points)

2017 Cline Cellars Mourvedre Ancient Vines Rosé - California, San Francisco Bay, Contra Costa County
SRP: $13
Light watermelon color. Ripe and juicy on the nose with melon, white peach, cucumber, nettle and honeysuckle. Plump texture on the palate with vibrant acidity. Strawberries, watermelon and white cherries mix with spicy white pepper, cinnamon candies, honeysuckle. Pleasant and ripe but quite complex, too, always so good for the price. (87 points)

2016 Shafer Chardonnay Red Shoulder Ranch - California, Napa, Carneros
SRP: $56

Rich golden color. Aromas are rich and plump with pineapple, apricot, bruised apple, along with whipped honey, salted almond, vanilla. Rich textural depth on the palate but the acidity is so surprising and fresh – loving the mineral and chalky depth. Bold apricot, yellow plum, bruised yellow apple fruit, laced with vanilla crème, whipped honey – notes of seashell – wow – pure and vibrant despite the intense richness of the wine. A gorgeous, stunning Napa Chardonnay, I’d love to see how this ages. No maloactic fermentation, aged 14 months in 75% new French oak. (94 points)

2015 La Crema Pinot Noir Russian River Valley - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $40
Deep ruby colored. Juicy black cherries and dark plums on the nose, along with clove, cedar, violets and cola. Full and juicy on the palate with easygoing tannins and medium acidity. Black cherries and forward dark plums, the fruit is mixed with root beer, cola, smoky oak, dark chocolate and coffee. Fun, fruity, yummy stuff for near-term consumption. Aged 11 months in 31% new French oak. (88 points)

2015 Scotto Family Wines Sangiovese Masthead Mohr-Fry Ranch - California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $30
Light ruby color. Smells of warm cherries, strawberry jam, topped with menthol, rhubarb, roasted coffee, mint chewing tobacco. Surprisingly fresh acidity with soft/fleshy tannins, great contrast in this wine between fullness and brightness. Sour cherries, sweet strawberry and raspberry jam, rich but fresh fruit with notes of tobacco, rose petals, mint, violets, coffee. Impressive stuff for near-term drinking. Includes 10% Zinfandel, the wines spend 18 months in French and American oak. (89 points)

2015 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon One Point Five - California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
SRP: $95

Dark purple color. Dark and rich on the nose, with deeply concentrated blackberry and cassis, graphite, loamy earth, spiced tea, violets, mint chewing tobacco, vanilla. On the palate, the acidity is quite refreshing, and keeps the wine moving forward despite the serious tannic backbone. Deep core of blackberry and cassis fruit, rich but shows a tart edge, with complex notes of chewing tobacco, eucalyptus, vanilla, cedar, graphite, all woven in very well. Another gorgeous example of this wine from Shafer, and the 2015 has lots of years in the cellar for this beauty. Includes 7% Merlot and 3% Malbec, aged 20 months in 100% new French oak. (94 points)

2015 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District - California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
SRP: $78
Rich purple color. Dark aromas of blackberries and currant compote, with menthol, cedar, cocoa, pine resin, complex and evolving aromas. On the palate, well-built tannins but velvety, and crisp acidity makes this wine enticing. Black currant and dark plums laced with tobacco, eucalyptus, iron, cedar, dark earth. Lots of time ahead for this wine, another impressive vintage of this wine. Aged 21 months in 80% new French oak. (93 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

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