Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-22-2018

This week, I have a round-up of some wines from different California regions.

First off, I tasted some wines from Napa’s Amici Cellars and its sister brand of Sonoma County wines, Olema. The winemaking team at Amici and Olema consists of well-known, long-time winemaker Tony Biagi, and Jesse Fox. Amici offers moderately-priced takes on Napa classics (Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc), while the Olema wines offer a sample of Sonoma goodness for $25 or less. (There’s a Provencal rosé under the Olema umbrella as well, which is included in this report.)

I also tasted some wines from Wine Insiders, a direct-to-consumer wine company that operates kind of like a wine club without strict membership requirements. The wines selections are curated by sommeliers Tyson Koster and Christopher Hoel and sourced from different countries. Customers can receive a quarterly shipment of wines based on their preferences, or shop at will online. I tasted through their half-case of Lodi wines (which sells for $81) and found some wines that really deliver for the price (like many wines from this region).

Lastly, I found a $20 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir that punches above its weight class.

All the wines in this report were received as samples and tasted sighted.

2017 Amici Cellars Sauvignon Blanc- California, Napa Valley
SRP: $25
Light gold color. Aromas of honeydew, lemon crème, tart green apples, with some floral and note of honeyed tea. On the palate creamy texture, a rich and plush feel with baked yellow apples contrasting off lemon peels and green melon. Notes of honey, white tea, hint of clove and white pepper. Balanced nicely, vibrant and crowd-pleasing but not simple. All stainless steel. (89 points)

2016 Olema Chardonnay- California, Sonoma County
SRP: $16
Light gold color. Lots of fresh apples and pears on the nose, green and yellow, along with apricot jam, some honey, slight toasted nuts. The texture is plush but the acidity keeps it fresh, and the plump apples and pear fruit taste juicy and ripe. The honey, white tea and almond flavors mix in nicely. A fresh, flavorful and balanced Chardonnay for the price. (87 points)

2017 Olema Côtes de Provence Rosé- France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
SRP: $16
Pale copper color. Aromas of white cherries, wild strawberries, with nettle and cucumber water. Medium-bodied, crisp and brisk with white cherries, red apple peel and watermelon rind flavors. Notes of floral perfume and baby’s breath as well. Simple, pleasant pink. 60% Grenache, 30% Mouvedre, 10% Carignan. (86 points)

2016 Olema Pinot Noir- California, Sonoma County
thumbnailSRP: $20
Light purple color. Juicy and ripe but fresh on the nose, raspberries, strawberries, cherry preserves, with notes of cola, incense sticks. Medium-bodied with moderating acidity and light tannins, this is an easy-drinking style with fresh red cherries and strawberries. Flavors of cola and rhubarb. Very nice for a $20 Pinot. (87 points)

2016 Olema Cabernet Sauvignon- California, Sonoma County
SRP: $25
Bright purple color. Nose of saucy black cherries and currant am, with cedar, cocoa, some sweet coffee. Juicy and plump on the palate with smooth tannins and moderate acidity, juicy but tart, with black cherries and dark currants, mixed in with some violets, black tea, cocoa, coffee. Suave and juicy but fresh, too. Fun, crowd-pleasing stuff, good for the price. Includes a combined 10% Malbec, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Petite Sirah. (87 points)

2016 Amici Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon- California, Napa Valley
SRP: $50
Medium purple color. This is dark and saucy on the nose with blackberries, black currant, coffee, dark chocolate, some mint and cedar. Full and juicy on the palate with smooth, slightly chewy tannins, and medium acidity. Plump blackberry and fig paste flavors mix with vanilla, cola, coffee, cedar, some mint and chewing tobacco notes, too. Forward, rich and appealing, but put together well. Includes a combined 18% Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc aged 20 months in 70% new French oak. (88 points)

2015 Lucas & Lewellen Pinot Noir- California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $20
Medium ruby color. Juicy black cherries and sweet raspberries mix with cola, rhubarb, light roast coffee and some white pepper. Full but smooth with light and velvety tannins and fresh, tangy acidity. Cherries, raspberries, crunchy red apples, with notes of rhubarb, pepper, coffee and mint. A lot of flavor, but more importantly, balance and vibrancy, which is really rare in a California Pinot at this price point.(88 points)

(The following wines are sold as a half-case for $81, or $13.50 per bottle)

2016 Saddlehorn Cellars Chardonnay Lone Cardinal- California, Central Valley, Lodi
Light yellow color. Nose boasts apricot, pineapple and guava, with cinnamon rolls, spicy clove and honeyed tea. Moderating acidity helps balance the plump texture. The wine is loaded with apricot, baked apple crisp and apple cider flavors, with notes of cinnamon, clove and honey. Rich but not too heavy, this has a pleasant simplicity to it. (87 points)

thumbnail (2)2016 Saddlehorn Cellars Pinot Noir Lone Cardinal- California, Central Valley, Lodi
Medium ruby color. A nice mix of tart strawberries and cherries with jammy, cheesecake topping notes, along with roses and rhubarb. Medium-bodied (13.5%) with soft tannins and medium acidity. Sweet red plums, cherry preserves and raspberries mix with rhubarb pie, spicy cedar, some floral and earthy tones. Juicy and jammy but stays lively. (86 points)

2016 Saddlehorn Cellars Zinfandel Lone Cardinal- California, Central Valley, Lodi
Deep ruby color. Aromas shows hammy raspberries and cherries, roses, cola, paprika and pepper spice rub. Fresh and fruity on the palate with smooth, soft tannins and medium-low acidity, and a chewy, playful vibe (13.5% alcohol). Raspberries and cherries, candied apple, this has a good amount of pepper, coffee, cola, clove and cinnamon. Pleasant and fruity but not too burly, this is a crowd-pleaser for sure. (87 points)

2016 Saddlehorn Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Lone Cardinal- California, Central Valley, Lodi
Light purple color. Savory herbs and sweet cola on the nose, along with candied currants and fig paste. Plush on the palate with smooth tannins and moderate acidity, along with tart black cherries, blackberries, jammy currants, this is smooth and fruit. Notes of grilled herbs, smoky earth, vanilla coffee and black pepper. Yummy but fresh, sweet fruit but solid complexity, too. (87 points)

2015 Sierra Trails Sangiovese Special Selection- California, Central Valley, Lodi
Deep ruby color. Aromas of spicy black cherries, raspberries, juicy and ripe with black pepper, anise and cola flavors. Ripe and rich with smooth tannins on a medium-bodied frame (13.4% alcohol) with fresh acidity. Sweet black cherries and raspberry jam mixes with barbecue sauce, black pepper, smoky charcoal, earth and graphite notes. Impressive in its freshness and complexity. (89 points)

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