Wine Reviews: New Releases from California

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-14-2018

The California wines keep on comin’!

This week’s report includes four wines from Sonoma-based producer Smith Story, which is the project of husband-wife duo Eric Story and Ali Smith-Story. It was my first time tasting these wines, and I found a lot to like.

Eighty-Four offers up a few well-priced and exciting wines from Napa. A cooperative effort between Doug Shafer and winemaker Elias Fernandez, these varietal wines are named for the year in which they began making wine together, and they’re definitely worth seeking out.

Lastly, we have two 2016 offerings from Napa’s Frank Family (which further solidify my love for the 2016 vintage in Napa), and a big, delicious Cab from Kelly Fleming.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2016 Smith Story Sauvignon Blanc- California, Sonoma County
SRP: $25
Pale yellow color. Aromas burst with lime, apricot, guava, cut flower stems, chalk dust and honeysuckle. Zippy and fresh but pleasantly plump texture with flavors of lemon-lime, green pears, apricot and guava. Notes of sea salt, mineral, nettle and honeysuckle elevate the complexity. Very well-integrated and balanced. The fruit comes from Knights Valley and Sonoma Mountain AVAs. (88 points)

2015 Smith Story Pinot Noir Thorn Ridge- California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $75
Light ruby color. Nose shows chilled strawberries, wild raspberry, red apple peel, rose bush, potpourri, some sweet incense. Medium-bodied, so clean and crisp on the palate, with tangy acidity and smooth tannins. Raspberries, cherries, red apple, juicy but crisp fruit laced with cola, sage, roses and rhubarb. Lovely, fresh, inviting, nuanced. 16 months in French Oak (25% new). (90 points)

2015 Smith Story Cabernet Franc- California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
SRP: $40
Deep ruby color. Aromas of fresh red plums, red and black cherries, with roses, cola, some sweet pipe tobacco. On the palate, fresh and crisp and clean with dusty tannins and cool red fruits (strawberries, raspberries, cherries). Rhubarb, pepper, cola, roses and spicy tobacco add complexity, while mushroom notes come out with time. Lots of fruit and flavor but fresh. The wine is aged 20 months in used French barrels. (89 points)

2015 Smith Story Cabernet Sauvignon Pickberry Vineyard- California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain
SRP: $60
Deep ruby color. Smells like tangy black cherries, red and black currants, along with violets, eucalyptus, mint, some spice rub and clove. Such freshness and liveliness on the palate with structured tannins, the balance is great, and this is such an integrated wine. Plump blackberry and tangy red and black currants, topped with violets, roasted chestnut, spicy clove, tobacco, sweet herbs and potpourri. Wow this is a juicy, spicy, complex Cabernet. aged in 2-4 year old French barrels for 21 months before bottling. (91 points)

2016 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay- California, Napa, Carneros
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Medium yellow color. Nose of almond butter, nougat, vanilla and white flowers, on top of creamy yellow apples and pears. Juicy and plump texture on the palate, but fresh acidity, creamy but not heavy. Yellow pears and apples, orange marmalade, the fruit is mixed with flavors of honey, almond, candle wax and clove. Powerful and packed with richness but it is put together so well and maintains freshness. (90 points)

2016 Frank Family Vineyards Pinot Noir- California, Napa, Carneros
SRP: $38
Deep ruby color. Aromas of black cherries, raspberry, rhubarb, black tea, tobacco and cedar. Full-bodied with plush tannins and moderating acidity. Tart cranberry sauce and rich black cherry fruit, forward and bold but nuanced. Notes of rhubarb, cola, tobacco, white pepper, cedar. Rich and fruity but complex and enticing. Yum. (90 points)

2017 Eighty Four Wines Albariño - California, Napa, Carneros
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Rich yellow color. Gorgeous aromatics of apricots, green melon, honey, salted almond, so many fresh white and yellow flowers. Plush texture, lots of depth here, but the acidity is brisk and refreshing. Glazed apple, apricot, white peach, the fruit is topped in yellow flowers, salted almond, a racy streak of minerals and chalk dust. The complexity is really impressive, and it’s downright delish. Another great example of what Albarino can do it Napa. (90 points)

2014 Eighty Four Wines Malbec- California, Napa Valley
SRP: $48
Rich purple color. Nose boasts lots of yummy fruit (blackberry, black cherry, dark plums) with complex elements of smoky charcoal, eucalyptus, violets, espresso – lovely aromatics. Full-bodied (15.1% alcohol) but the texture is smooth and the acidity keeps it fresh. Gushing blackberry and blueberry with menthol, eucalyptus, roasted coffee, violets, potting soil, vanilla, chipotle spice rub – serious complexity in here, but it’s plush, forward and delicious and goes down so easily. All Malbec aged 20 months in 50% new French oak. (91 points)

2012 Eighty Four Wines Petite Sirah- California, Napa Valley
SRP: $50
Dense purple color. Aromas of tart black currants, dark plums, a dark and earthy note, like smashed rocks and wet forest floor, some anise and espresso – complex and awesome aromatically. Full-bodied (of course!), the tannins are built to last, but the edges are rounded out nicely. The fruit is dark but tart, like crunchy dark plums and currants. Notes of anise, espresso, cedar, graphite. A massive wine at 15.8% alcohol, but its remarkably lively. All Petite Sirah aged 40 months in 100% new French oak. (91 points)

2014 Kelly Fleming Wines Big Pour- California, Napa Valley
SRP: $90
Rich purple color. Gobs of fruit on the nose (currants, blackberries, gushing plums), along with complex notes of eucalyptus, graphite, cedar and vanilla. Bold presence on the palate, the wine has a smooth feel though, with velvety tannins and fresh acidity that keeps it tangy. Tart black cherries and currants with juicy blackberries and plums, rich but fresh. Complex notes of cedar, coffee, vanilla, graphite, eucalyptus. As the name indicates, this is absolutely delish and goes down so easily, but it sports significant complexity as well. Cabernet with 11% Malbec and 8% Syrah. (91 points)

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