Wine Reviews: California White Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-15-2015

Let’s take a break from Chardonnay and focus on some other white wine options from California. Though I love Cali Chard, it’s exciting to come across a diverse group of Gewürztraminer, Riesling  Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc from the Golden State. I enjoy California whites year round, but warm weather makes these wines even more attractive.

This grab bag of California whites was received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.

Review: 2014 Niner Wine Estates Albariño Jespersen Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
SRP: $20
Straw-light gold color. Aromas burst out of the glass: white peach, guava, yellow flowers, also some gummy bears and peach ring candies. Bright acid frames the wine well as it rolls across the palate, lots of white peaches, juicy apricot, cantaloupe melon, backed up by some yellow flowers, honeysuckle and clover notes. Juicy, with gummy candy notes, yet dry and crisp. A unique flavor profile and presence on the palate, check this out if you’re looking for something bright, fruity and crowd-friendly. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Gundlach Bundschu Gewürztraminer Estate Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $23
Light yellow color. Nose of white peach, papaya, lime juice drizzled on top, a bit of river rocks and mineral notes as well. Bursting with lime and white peach on the palate, it has a creamy mouthfeel but the acid streaks through from start to finish. Complex notes of lychee nut, dried honey, ginger tea, but there’s an underlying sense of stony minerality. Dry, bracing, nervy and complex. An example of what can be done with this grape in the right place at the right time. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Smith Madrone Riesling - California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
SRP: $27
Pale straw color. Lovely limestone, crushed shells and chalk on the nose, overtop of white peach and yellow apples. Crisp and bracing, with fine acid and a mineral-centric approach. I get thse sense I’m drinking lime juice from a glass made of crushed rocks and chalk. Juicy white peach and apricot mix with sliced Granny Smith apples, a hint of honey. A complex but clean and refreshing wine. Smith-Madrone are masters of Napa Riesling. (91 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Clayhouse Vineyard Grenache Blanc/Viognier Red Cedar Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $23
Light gold color. Zesty and flower-driven on the nose, like lemon, lime peels and tangerines tossed with honeysuckle and white tea leaves. Decent acid, but lots of creaminess and juicy tropical fruit elements. White peach and papaya fruit, some white tea and maybe mint note? Nutty, too with nougat and whipped butter, not to mention hints of sea salt and chalk. Quite complex, definitely tasty, this stuff would work well with all sorts of food. 70% Grenache Blanc and 30% Viognier. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2013 La Merika Pinot Grigio - California, Central Coast, Monterey
SRP: $13
Light and airy aromas, green melon and lemons mix with honeysuckle. Medium-bodied, medium acidity, a plump feel to the cantaloupe, nectarine and honeydew fruit (some lime drizzled on top), and I also get some honeycomb and green tea elements. A bit simple, but solid and would probably be a big crowd-pleaser for brunches or picnics. (85 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Swanson Pinot Grigio - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain
SRP: $21
Medium straw color. Very bright on the nose, lots of white peach, mango and mixed yellow and white flowers, some honeycomb and spring breeze notes. Light-medium bodied with moderate acid, the white peach and lemon flavors mix with cucumber water, white tea and honey notes. A bit light and not too complex, but the flavors are tasty and it’s definitely refreshing and fun. Fermented in all stainless steel, this wine includes 11% Oakville Chardonnay. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Landmark Pinot Gris Hop Kiln - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $20
Light gold color, hint of spritz. Very pretty nose: apricot jam, orange peel, honey, caramel apple and a note that reminds me of lager beer. Nice and creamy on the palate, but the acid zips in and cleans it up. The yellow apple, apricot and orange marmalade flavors are rich and full, but the wine also shows notes of white tea, chalk, nougat and raw almonds. Could be mistaken for a Chardonnay, but has a bit more tropical aspects to it. I’m intrigued. Fermented in half stainless steel and half oak barrels. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Kendall-Jackson Pinot Gris Vintner’s Reserve - California
SRP: $15
Pale gold color. Bright aromas, lemons, green apples, some richer honeyed and floral notes, hints of hay and almonds. Medium-bodied, some refreshing acid, a light and bright style with crispness and freshness. Sliced yellow and green apples, lemon, but also some nougat, honeycomb and almond notes. An interesting Pinot Gris that blends in 9% Roussanne, 4% Gruner Veltliner, 3% Chardonnay, 3% Viognier and 2% Albarino. Most of the fruit comes from Monterey, but some Sonoma, Lake and Santa Barbara juice mixed in. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Niner Wine Estates Sauvignon Blanc - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $20
Bright straw color. Nose shows grapefruit, kiwi, white peach, some underlying river stream and white floral tones. Tangy acid, medium+ bodied, I like the creamy-nutty aspects, woven in well with the kiwi, grapefruit and apricot flavors. Hints of seashell, mountain stream and chalk, along with a slight white floral and spice note. Bright, clean, refreshing, but some attractive richness. Includes 10% Semillon, and 10% of the wine sees French oak. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Justin Vineyards & Winery Sauvignon Blanc - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $14
Light gold color. Bursting with white peach and guava on the nose, but some bright lime and sea breeze notes, along with a rather complex mixture of grass, herbs and peppers. Full bodied but brisk acid keeps it fresh and tingling on the tongue. Loads of green pear, Granny Smith apple and lime drizzled on top. So very tangy and green-fruit dominated, but also shows some richer elements of honey and guava. Complex seashell, mountain stream, smashed chalk. Very interesting, but ultimately a wine made for the dinner table. Order the seafood tower! What a bargain for $14. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Star Lane Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc - California, Central Coast, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
SRP: $22
Light gold color. Nose: grapefruit, lime, white peach, jalapeno and crushed sea shells. Tangy, crisp, bright palate, moderate creaminess, but a tart-citrus-driven wine (grapefruit, lime), hints of white peach. A clean, zesty feel with notes of chalk, white pepper, jalapeno and sea breeze. Acidity is really attractive and refreshing on the back end. Tart and nervy, begging for oysters and could stand up to some hot weather. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Matanzas Creek Winery Sauvignon Blanc Bennett Valley - California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
SRP: $32
Bright sunshine on the nose: yellow flowers, white peach, guava, some notes of green pepper and sea salt. Tart acid, medium+ body. Green apples and grapefruit mix with peach, guava and mango, but add in some bright mineral and chalk notes, subtle white pepper and grass. A very fresh and vibrant wine despite the richness. Honeyed tea comes out with time but the wine stays brisk. Long, salty finish. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Matanzas Creek Winery Sauvignon Blanc Helena Bench - California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley
SRP: $40
Slightly more nuanced aromatics than the Bennett Valley: white peach, lime, grapefruit, hints of honeyed tea, less green pepper and more complex mineral and floral tones. Vibrant acidic backbone but smooth and creamy on the palate. Lovely balance, rich but graceful. White peach, guava, pineapple and lime, dusted with chalk, limestone, crushed hazelnut shell and honeycomb. Faint white pepper and oyster shell. Long and clean yet open and forward. Very pretty stuff. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Agnitio Wines Sauvignon Blanc - California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
SRP: $30
Pale straw color. Nose of yellow apple, white peach, lemon, some cucumber water, honey and white tea. Very creamy body, medium acid, flavors of yellow apple, apricot jam, lemon curd, and white peach are juicy and ripe, mixed in with honeyed green tea, almond and cotton candy notes. Ripe, forward approach, but stays clean — no green or herbal elements here, just richness and fruit. Creamy finish with lots of honey. Barrel fermented (8% new), aged on the lees, a richer style but still refreshing. (88 points IJB)

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