Wine Reviews: New Releases from California & Washington

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-25-2017

Thanksgiving is over — whew! So, now we can talk about something besides wine and Thanksgiving dinner pairings, right? OK, good.

It’s been a busy fall samples season, and I’m still digging out, but I’ve been receiving a ton of California wines (which make up the bulk of this report) and want to highlight some good stuff.

This week includes some wines from Lake County institution Jeb Steele, who always manages to release impressive varietal wines, from various California appellations, for seriously good prices. I also have some delicious Zinfandels from Quivira, Ironstone, and Grgich Hills, sparklers from Mumm, and a few other wines from across the state. Lastly, I received three wines from Washington State producer Mercer, which I had not tried before, but found them very tasty.

All of these wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

White wines

2016 Steele Wines Pinot Blanc- California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $19
Pale straw color. Nose shows lemon, peaches, yellow flowers, green onion and dandelion notes. On the palate, crisp acidity but a medium+ bodied feel with some waxy texture. Flavors of kumquat, apricot, lemon, notes of almonds and sea salt. Bold presence but stays a bit fresh. Fermented in stainless steel, aged in old oak barrels. (87 points)

2016 Steele Wines Viognier- California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $19
Pale yellow color. Nose shows peaches, guava nectar, lemon, yellow flowers and honey, and interesting combo of richness and liveliness for a Viognier. Plump texture on the palate but there is a surprising amount of acidity as well, and plenty of textural depth. Apricot, peach, kumquat fruit, mixed with honey and yellow flowers. Tasty, lively, juicy, tropically delicious stuff. Stainless steel fermented, aged in old oak for four months, this is a seriously food-friendly California Viognier. (88 points)

2016 Ron Rubin Pinot Gris- California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $20
Light yellow color. Peachy and bright on the nose, with daisies and honeysuckle, green apples, lemon zest. Fresh acidity, voluptuous mouthfeel, laced with orange, peach kiwi, lots of bright fruit backed up with some honey, dandelion, sea salt notes. Tasty stuff. (87 points)

2015 Grgich Hills Fumé Blanc Dry Sauvignon Blanc- California, Napa Valley
SRP: $31
Pale lemon color. Aromas of spices and herbs (oregano, lemongrass, white pepper) on top of guava and white peach. Plump texture, bright acidity, sets things nicely for the apricot, white peach and lemon fruit. Notes of honeysuckle, dandelion, baby’s breath, along with white pepper, oregano, sea salt, hints of cream and vanilla. Always a reliably delicious and intriguing Sauvignon Blanc, and 2015 is no exception. This spends six months on the lees in old oak. (90 points)

2016 Quivira Sauvignon Blanc Fig Tree- California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
SRP: $24
Light yellow color. Bursting aromatics of guava, peaches, lemon curd, lemongrass and parsley. Punchy but zesty fruit (lemon, kumquat, guava) on a medium-bodied frame with fresh acidity. Notes of sea salt, nettle, white pepper, parsley, and chalky minerals add complexity. Impressive stuff, especially for the price. (90 points)

2016 Fields Family Wines Vermentino Delu Vineyard- California, Central Valley, Lodi
23754644_10155836079877173_2725812216304556521_n
SRP: $21
Medium yellow color. Super peachy aromatics with lemon zest, orange peel, white and yellow flowers, cut stems, baby’s breath. Wow, this is so pretty and balanced, medium-bodied at 12% alcohol with zesty acidity. Lemon, lime, peaches, apricot, the fruit plays so well off of oyster shell, saline, chalk dusty, cut flower stems, a lot of depth and minerality in this wine. Wow, what an incredible California interpretation of this grape. Aged on the lees five months in old French oak. (92 points)

2016 Trefethen Chardonnay- California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
SRP: $38
Light yellow color. Aromas of lemon curd, yellow apples, lots of daisies and dandelions on top of nougat, roasted nuts and honey. Very exciting acidity on the palate with a medium-bodied frame, plenty of texture and fruit (yellow plums, lemon curd, bruised apples), but lots of freshness, too. Nougat, honeycomb and honeyed white tea notes add complexity. Rich in flavor but vibrant. Less than 10% maloactic fermentation, this spends nine months in about 20% new French oak. (89 points)

2015 La Follette Chardonnay- California, North Coast
SRP: $24
Bright gold color. Juicy yellow apples and baked pears, apricot jam, honeybutter, some floral perfume and roasted nuts. Medium+ bodied, moderate acidity that keeps this wine really fresh, along with green and yellow apples and pears. Notes of honey, salted almonds, cut flower stems. Rich flavor and wide appeal but some impressive freshness, too. (87 points)

2015 La Follette Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyard- California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $38
Rich yellow color. Rich aromatic display of apricot jam, lemon curd, buttercream, toasted almonds, and some dusty/chalky elements. Bold textural presence on the palate, moderating acidity keeps if lively, and lots of fruit (apricot, lemon pie, banana), mixed with chalky-floral notes and nougat, vanilla elements. Highly delicious but balanced. (90 points)

2015 Mercer Estates Sauvignon Blanc- Washington, Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills
SRP: $15
Pale straw color. Nose of cut green peppers, lemon, kiwi, oregano, honeysuckle. Crisp acidity frames the palate nicely, medium-bodied, with lemon-lime, apricot, kiwi and sliced apples. Notes of white pepper and honeysuckle. Light, zesty, fun stuff. (86 points)

Sparkling wines

N.V. Mumm Napa Brut Prestige- California, Napa Valley
SRP: $22
Light yellow color. Smells like honey, floral perfume, baked apple, white peaches, some bread crumbs. Zesty on the palate but lots of fruit and texture (apples, peaches, apricots). Notes of honeysuckle, biscuits, chalk and lemon verbena add complexity. Consistent, reliable, a very good California sparkling wine for the price. 18 months on the lees. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Meunier. (88 points)

N.V. Mumm Napa Brut Rosé- California, Napa Valley
SRP: $24
Light strawberry color. Bright aromas of red apple peel, strawberry, some toasted baguette, dandelion, rose hips. On the palate, crisp acidity but some creamy texture and fruit-forward appeal, with red apple, wild raspberry, dandelion, honeysuckle, rose petals and freshly cut stems, juicy and fruity but lots of freshness too. High quality stuff for the price. 80/20 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. (88 points)

Red wines

2015 Quivira Zinfandel- California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
SRP: $25
Deep ruby color. Smells of tart raspberries, sweet plums, spicy herbs, cola, red and black licorice candies. Plump texture on the palate with medium acidity and some light grip from the tannins. Black cherries, raspberries, plum cake, mixed with root beer, sweet herbs, and a dusty/earthy note. Delicious yet vibrant. Co-fermented with a bit of Petite Sirah. (88 points)

2015 Quivira Zinfandel Anderson Ranch- California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
SRP: $42
Bright purple color. Nose of blackberry jam, raspberries, loaded with complex earthy, spicy, tar, peppery notes, and some vanilla and coffee. Bold presence on the palate with serious structure from the tannins, surprisingly vibrant acidity, makes for great balance. Black cherry, raspberry, wild cherry, with tobacco smoke, charcoal, savory herbs, roses, some earthy-mineral tones. Flavorful, pretty, but can age nicely. (91 points)

2015 Ironstone Vineyards Zinfandel Old Vine Reserve Rous- California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $30
Rich purple color. Aromas of smooth black cherries, boysenberry, roasted fig, the fruit is suave, mixed with charcoal, sweet black licorice, coffee — wow. Smooth texture on the palate but solid tannic structure, moderating acidity, the balance is lovely. Tart black cherries, sweet blueberries, boysenberry jam, delicious fruit mixed with black licorice candy, coffee grounds, vanilla, and a cool earthy/graphite/mineral component. Delicious but quite complex, a Zinfandel that begs for food and conversation. From a Mokelumne River AVA vineyard first planted in 1909, this spends 10 months in French oak. (91 points)

2013 Grgich Hills Zinfandel- California, Napa Valley
SRP: $36
Medium ruby color. Aromas of tart black cherry, raspberry, red plums, along with leather and roses and eucalyptus – beautiful stuff to sniff. Fresh acidity and dusty tannins work so well on this wine, tinged with black and red berry fruit. Complex elements of coffee, tobacco, leather, roasted chestnut and vanilla. This really opens up with time and shows more pepper and floral elements. I’d love to age this for 3-6 years. (92 points)

2016 Ron Rubin Pinot Noir- California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $25
Light ruby color. Smells of sweet and tart red cherries and strawberries, along with spicy clove, cola, rhubarb. Medium-bodied, medium acidity, light tannins, a fresher, brighter take with strawberries and red cherries, backed up by cola, coffee, rhubarb and cinnamon notes. Fun, bright, food-friendly stuff but shows a solid amount of complexity for an early-drinking wine at this price point. (88 points)

2015 Steele Wines Cabernet Franc- California, North Coast, Lake County
TT4YrT9ym7zQ5eepij3hZKhToZTjxsSXwHzi20u9SlkpX92IB
SRP: $19
Light purple color. Tart blackberry, juicy black cherries on the nose, with enticing black pepper, soy, sweet eucalyptus and pine. Such lively, mouth-tingling acidity with moderate tannins for structure, and a frame of tart black cherries. Laced with white pepper, red pepper flakes, incense sticks, eucalyptus and cedar. A Loire throwback with juicy but tangy California fruit – this can improve for a few years easily. Sourced from the Stymie Bench Vineyard from within the Kelsey Bench Ava, this wine is aged 14 months in 30% new American oak. (90 points)

2015 Steele Wines Cabernet Sauvignon - California, North Coast, Red Hills Lake County
SRP: $28
Light purple color. Nose of sweet plums and jammy blackberries and cherries, along with cocoa, violet petals, fall leaves, vanilla, lovely. Medium+ bodied with fleshy tannins and moderating acidity, juicy but bright with plums and blackberry fruit. Smooth and pretty with lots of spicy chewing tobacco, pepper, graphite and fallen leaves, mixing well with vanilla and cocoa. Delicious, and really good for the price. Aged 18 months in 30% new French and American oak. (89 points)

2013 Mi Sueño Cabernet Sauvignon- California, Napa Valley
SRP: $75
Deep purple color. Dense aromas of crushed blackberries, blueberries and black currant jam, with waves of sweet mocha, coconut, eucalyptus and rich earth. Rich on the palate with suave tannins, medium-low acidity, and plenty of dark, rich fruit. Plenty of coconut, mocha, sweet herbs, eucalyptus, coffee – plenty of complex, earthy notes as well. Delicious now but can improve for years. All Cabernet aged 24 months in 55% new French oak. (91 points)

2015 Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon Oak Knoll- California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
SRP: $60
Rich purple color. Dark and suave on the nose with black currants, blackberries, lots of earthy, charcoal, smoky elements and sweet cola. Rich texture, dark plum and currant fruit, structured tannins, but some vibrant acidity. Lots of complex vanilla, earth, charcoal, sweet pipe tobacco, library books, leather – a lot of interesting elements that will evolve well over time. Includes 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot and 4% Malbec, this wine is aged 18 months in about half new oak (mix of French, American, Hungarian). (91 points)

2015 Mercer Estates Sharp Sisters- Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $25
Rich, saucy aromas of plum cake and black cherry mixed with cocoa, pepper, save, violets. Plush fruit on the palate (black cherry, tart plums) on a frame of fleshy tannins and medium acidity, balanced quite nicely. Notes of savory spice and beef, the fruit is hedonistic but the vibrancy and food-friendly nature of the wine is really attractive. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Grenache, Carignan, aged 18 months in French and American oak. (90 points)

2015 Mercer Estates Malbec- Washington, Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills
SRP: $25
Deep purple. Nose of tart black currants and plums, sweet coffee, violets, magic markers, anise cookie. Full but plush with some structured tannins and bright acidity. Crunchy blackberry, blueberry and dark plums laced with anise, cedar, coffee, mocha. Suave, silky, delicious now but this could age. Includes 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 18 months in French and American oak. (90 points)

Comments are closed.