Wine Reviews: California White Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-26-2018

Well, I never go too long without another batch of new releases from California. I’ve been receiving all sorts of different California wines lately, and the white wines especially are piling up. It’s been hot and humid here on the East Coast, and a lot of fresh 2017s are headed out to consumers, so I’m stoked to offer up some new releases that will get you through the heat.

Sure, there are plenty of uninspiring California Sauvignon Blancs, but I didn’t find any here — just some serious wines and distinct styles. Paso Robles offers up a few strikingly crisp white wines, and it continues a long run of exciting white wines I’ve tasted from Paso over the past year or so. A killer Kerner from Lodi (California’s only varietal Kerner) makes a serious impression, as does the new vintage of one of my favorite California Rieslings, Smith-Madrone’s Spring Mountain. Lastly, a few Chardonnays round out this report.

Maybe I got lucky with these samples (which I tasted sighted), but I couldn’t find a mediocre wine in the lot.

2017 Lucas & Lewellen Sauvignon Blanc- California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $18
Medium lemon color. Aromas burst with white peach, lime and grapefruit, along with yellow flower petals and cut floral stems. Crisp and zesty on the palate but moderately creamy texture. Bright lemon, grapefruit and white peach fruit, mixed with dandelion, white pepper and lemongrass. Crisp and clean and Spring-y. Includes 10% Viognier. (87 points IJB)

2016 Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc- California, Sonoma County, Chalk Hill
SRP: $33
Light yellow color. Nose boasts peaches, green and yellow apples, with honeysuckle, lilies, crushed limestone and river rocks. Zesty on the palate with medium/full body and plush texture as well, with clean, crisp, mineral elements. Sea salt, chives, lemon grass, along with some chalk dust and white flowers. Pure, vibrant, pleasant Sauv Blanc. (89 points IJB)

2017 Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley- California, Napa Valley
cliffe lededSRP: $25
A wonderful follow-up to the exceptional 2016 vintage, this light gold-colored wine bursts with aromas of papaya, lime, apricot, sea salt, lemon verbena. A creamy rich texture (14.6% alcohol), yet the acidity keeps it lip-smacking. Pineapple, juicy white peach, drizzled with limes. Notes of dried honey, white pepper, mint, with elements of minerals and raw almond. Pretty, complex, balanced Napa Sauvignon Blanc that delivers for the price. Includes a bit of Sémillon and Sauvignon Vert. (90 points IJB)

2017 Rombauer Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc- California, Napa Valley
SRP: $24
Lively yellow color. Aromas of limes, grapefruit, white peach, on top of mint and honeysuckle. Plush and juicy texture, zesty acid throughout, flavors of peaches, grapefruit and lime. Notes of cucumber slices, white pepper, lilies, mix with deeper notes of whipped honey. Balanced, easy-going, summer-friendly wine, but it sports seriously complexity as well, and offers a lot for the price. (89 points IJB)

2016 Robert Mondavi Winery Fumé Blanc- California, Napa Valley
SRP: $22
Light yellow color. Smells bright and lively with lemon and sea salt and white pepper, but also notes of pineapple and honey. Full-bodied and creamy texture to the palate, but the acidity is bright and crisp. Yellow apples, quince, lemon curd, the fruit is mixed with white pepper, oregano, salted almond, honey and seashells. Rich but nuanced, this is always a reliably good Napa Sauv Blanc, but 2016 is something special. Includes Semillon, this wine is all barrel fermented and aged six months in French oak. (89 points IJB)

2015 Smith-Madrone Riesling- California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
SRP: $32
Light yellow. Aromas of which peaches, salted limes, chalk dust, white tea and fresh tennis balls. On the palate this is juicy and zesty with live-wire acidity that kicks off the wine and finishes it. Gorgeous peaches, nectarines and limes, with complex minerals, ocean rocks, mountain streams. Lip-smacking stuff that leaves the palate salivating. Another great vintage of this Riesling, and t will surely age quite nicely for at least a decade. (91 points IJB)

2017 FEL Pinot Gris- California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $25
Light yellow color. Bursts with aromas of pineapples, peaches, limes, white flowers and honey. Rich textural depth but crisp throughout. Nectarine, peaches, green melon rind, limes, topped with salted almond, floral perfume, cut flower stems, sliced cucumber. Fresh, lovely, seems like a perfect sushi wine to me. (88 points IJB)

2017 J. Dusi Pinot Grigio- California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $24
Pale straw color. Aromas of peaches, limes, nectarines, with honeysuckle and clover. Tart acid on a medium-bodied frame, this PG has a steely and salty appeal with tart green apples and nectarine. Floral-spice notes, chalkboard, sea salt, this is so fresh (begs for oysters) but shows some impressive depth, too. This wine is not what you might be thinking – give it a shot. (88 points IJB)

2015 Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay- California, Napa Valley
SRP: $24
Medium yellow color. Aromas of green and yellow pears, with white flowers and chalk contrasting against honey, nougat and cinnamon notes. Juicy palate with plump texture but refreshing acidity. Crisp green apple with richer bruised pear and glazed apricot. Notes of toasted almond, honey and cinnamon mix well with bright flowers. Classic Napa chard for the price, and the 2015 is lovely. Mostly barrel fermented in French oak (16% new) and aged nine months on the lees. (90 points IJB)

2016 Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay Jackson Estate- California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $32
Rich yellow color. Aromas of almonds, honey, bruised apple, along with sea breeze and white flowers. Rich texture and it’s creamy and bold but also fresh acidity. Bruised apple, lemon curd, yellow pears, along with flavors of almond cake, cinnamon. Underlying notes of minerals, sea salt and ocean breeze. Lovely, rich, nuanced. Aged 10 months in 40% new French oak. (89 points IJB)

2016 Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay Jackson Estate Camelot Highlands- California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $38
Bright gold color. Bright aromas of sea salt, almond, lots of ocean breeze, along with rich elements of toasted biscuits and toffee. Brisk acidity on the palate aligns with a rich texture, all balanced nicely. Lemon curd, bruised apple, pineapple upside down cake, along with toffee, almond, toasted biscuits, but there’s also a streak of chalk and seashells. Rich but lively, too, there is a lot going on here! Fermented and aged in 41% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2016 Sidebar Cellars Kerner- California, Central Valley, Lodi Mokelumne River
kernerSRP: $25
Bright yellow color. Peaches and dried mango, honey, some olive oil and spicy herbal elements as well. On the palate, the acidity is pristine, and it’s balanced wonderfully with a rich texture – but, wow that acidity carries this wine from start to finish. Lemon, white peach, yellow plums, mixed with dried white flowers, wild clover, honeysuckle, and a salty-mineral element that is delicious. Very impressive stuff. (91 points IJB)

2016 Steele Wines Writer’s Block Roussanne- California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $18
Light gold color. Bright aromas of apricot, nectarine, lime, a brighter aromatic approach than I usually get from this grape, but also some nougat, honeyed tea, chalk dust elements. Rich texture on the palate, this is a creamy but zesty and crisp wine. Apricots, green apples and pears, nectarine, topped in raw almond, honey, chalk dust and white tea. Delicious but also complex and a steal at this price. The freshness of this wine is crazy when compared with so many honeyed, oily California Roussannes (many of which I love), but this is a very crisp example. Sourced exclusively from Las Lomas vineyard, which sits in sandy soils at 1,500+ feet elevation. The wine is aged nine months in oak, 20% new. (90 points IJB)

2017 Opolo Roussanne- California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $18
Bright lemon color. Surprising bright aromas of chalk, ocean breeze, lemons, with some richer pineapple and cantaloupe notes. Pleasantly medium-bodied (13.5% alcohol) with moderating acidity, this isn’t your typical fat Roussanne. Lots of pineapple, apricot, white peach, drizzled with lime, with notes of tropical flowers and honeyed tea. Rich in flavors but lively in style. (88 points IJB)

2017 Pomar Junction Vineyard Sidetrack- California, Central Coast, Paso Robles, El Pomar District
SRP: $15
Straw colored. A burst of wildflowers and clover on the nose, along with papaya, lime, guava, and notes of crushed shells. Full-bodied (14.2%) with a waxy textural dynamic underlined by moderate acidity. Flavors of pineapple, papaya, drizzled with lime and complex notes of chalk dust, limestone sea rocks, lemon verbena, spiced tea. I was shocked to see the retail price; this is bold but complex and nuanced. A blend of Viognier, 35% Roussanne and 15% Grenache Blanc. (90 points IJB)

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