Wine Reviews: California Pinot Noir & Chardonnay

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-13-2018

California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir need no introduction, so let’s get right to it.

This report includes offerings from Ramey, Cambria, Gary Farrell, Frank Family and Cline Cellars, and spans the 2015 to 2017 vintages.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

RAMEY2015 Ramey Chardonnay Rochioli Vineyard- California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $65
Medium gold color. Rich aromas of yellow apples, apricot, baked apple, with nougat, honeysuckle, sea salt, peanut shell, with yellow flowers. The palate is bold in its texture, but the acidity is refreshing and lively, and the balance is lovely. Apricot, lemon curd, baked apple and juicy yellow pears, topped in sea salt, almond cake, toasted coconut, with floral and ginger notes. Complex and despite its powerful aesthetic. Aged 20 months in 23% new French oak. (92 points)

2015 Ramey Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard- California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $65
Medium gold color. Bold and lush aromatically with peanut shells, almond butter, honey, whipped butter, but also salty, lemon meringue, crushed shells and orange blossoms. Lovely depth of texture on the palate with velvety and rich fruit but lively acidity. Lemon curd, apricot, yellow pears. Toast is here (toasted nuts, almond cake, vanilla, coconut) but also notes of hay, sea salt, honeysuckle, white tea. Richly flavorful but pretty, too. Aged for 20 months in 21% new French oak. (92 points)

2015 Cambria Chardonnay Katherine’s Vineyard- California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $22
Medium yellow color. Smells of yellow apples, apricot, lemon-pineapple cake, along with honey, almond and green olive notes. Creamy texture, vibrant acidity, with lots of yellow plum, apricot and lemon crème flavors. Notes of honey, almond, sea salt and white tea add complexity. Rich flavors but that classis Santa Maria Valley freshness keeps it bright and inviting. Aged six months in 21% new French oak. (88 points)

2016 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay- California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $38
Rich yellow color. Big and bold aromatics, with glazed apples and pears, apricot, lemon crème, with honey, flowers, nougat and vanilla. The texture on the palate is lovely, creamy and rich but also vibrant, backed up with medium acidity. Lots and lots of fruit, lemon crème, orange marmalade, apricot and baked pears, but also complex notes of almond, honey, gingerbread, with some floral tones, too. Rich and flavorful but done very well. Barrel fermented and aged nine months in 34% new French oak. (90 points)

2016 Frank Family Vineyards Pinot Noir- California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $38
Deep ruby color. Aromas of sweet black and red cherries, raspberries, and strawberries, along with roses, spicy tobacco, white pepper and black tea. Crisp and fruity with spiced cranberry sauce, plums, black cherries, the fruit is juicy but vibrant. Floral, spicy, smoky tobacco, roses and rhubarb, with notes of clove and cedar woven in well. Lovely balance here. Aged 10 months in 33% new French oak. (90 points)

2016 Ramey Pinot Noir- California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP $50
Light cherry color. Aromas of bright strawberries, raspberries, along with rhubarb, raspberry leaf, eucalyptus, mint and cedar. Full-bodied (14.5%) with dry but velvety tannins and medium acidity that wraps it together nicely. Juicy red and black cherries, raspberries, along with rhubarb, cola, pepper, mint, earth. Some coffee and cedar woven in quite well. Hints of savory elements on the finish that should evolve with time. Pretty now, but I’d like to revisit in 3-4 years. Aged 14 months in about half new French oak. (91 points)

2016 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River Selection- California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $45
Deep ruby colored. Lovely nose of juicy red and black cherries, spiced cranberry sauce, some spicy herbs, rhubarb, cola, accented with coffee and vanilla. Full but suave with silky tannins and fresh acidity. Black cherries, strawberries, cranberry sauce, mixed in nicely with cola, rhubarb, rose petals, spicy green herbs. Anise, coffee and vanilla woven in well. A bright appeal but full of fruit, crowd-pleasing and early-drinking but “serious,” too. Aged 10 months in 35% new French oak. (90 points)

2015 Cambria Pinot Noir Julia’s Vineyard- California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $25
Bright ruby color. Nose boasts strawberries, raspberries, red cherries, fresh but ripe with some rhubarb, rose petals, eucalyptus and cedar. This is really refreshing on the palate with lovely brightness and a crisp feel, with light tannins. Plenty of juicy raspberries, cherries and strawberry fruit, not too rich or dark, which I love. Raspberry leaf, rose hips, nuanced cola and coffee. Fun and inexpensive, but also balanced and complex, so good for the price. Aged eight months in 30% new French oak. (88 points)

2017 Cline Cellars Pinot Noir- California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $15
Deep ruby color. Rich and juicy aromas of sweet black cherries, raspberry jam, plum cake, sweet cola and vanilla coffee. Chewy texture on the palate with light tannins, medium acidity. Jammy and sweet fruit (black cherries and raspberries) with notes of cola, violets, and vanilla coffee. A jammy, fun approach. (85 points)

Comments (1)

  1. Isaac, thank you! I think you get the prize for best descriptors.