Wine Reivews: New Releases from California

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-08-2018

We’re headed back to California this week for another batch of new releases.

I’ve reviewed the wines of Jed Steele several times in the past, and they continue to offer tons of value for the money. Although the winery sources grapes from other regions, all of the wines in this report hail from Lake County. With more than 50 vintages under his belt, these are tried and true California wines that deliver gobs of goodness, and most of them cost $20 or less.

I also reviewed two wines from Windvane, the new Ramey Claret, and the new release of Cardinale, the latter of which (while expensive), is something to behold.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2017 Steele Wines Riesling Shooting Star - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $14
Pale straw color. Aromas of lime, peaches and lychee, mixed in with new tennis ball and clover honey. Crisp and punchy, the sugar (about 20 grams/liter) is woven in well. Lemons, peaches, guava and lychee, lot of juicy, tropical goodness mixed with a lot of orange blossoms, honey and dandelion. Fun Riesling at a good price. 12.1% alcohol. (86 points IJB)

2017 Steele Wines Viognier - California, North Coast, Lake County
47683305_338969896917455_6105542864509337600_nSRP: $20
Light yellow color. Lovely aromas of peaches, kiwi, lemon curd, with whipped honey, orange blossoms, yellow flowers. Full and plump on the palate, nice waxy texture but — crisp acidity in my Viognier? Love it. Peaches, lemon curd, oranges, kiwi, fun and fruity but balanced and quite complex, with stony minerals, honey, white and yellow flowers. Excellent value, this is even better than I remember the 2016. Stainless steel fermented and aged four months in old oak. (90 points IJB)

2016 Steele Wines Merlot Shooting Star - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $15
Light purple. Aromas of plums, black cherries, along with some violets, pepper and leather, which I find really attractive. The balance on the palate is quite nice, a good mix of dusty-light tannins and really fresh acidity. Black cherries, tangy currants, summer plums, the fruit is mixed with elements of cocoa, leather, pepper. Fresh and juicy but nice complexity, too. Aged eight months in French and American oak. (87 points IJB)

2016 Steele Wines Cabernet Franc - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $20
Light purple color. Nose shows pure, deep plums and black cherries on the nose, along with anise, pepper, sage and sweet cocoa. Full but fresh, medium-strength tannins meets moderate acidity, balanced off of black cherries and dark plums, rich but tangy fruit. Notes of loamy earth, black pepper, anise, with coffee and wood notes woven in well. Yummy now, this could actually age for a few years, too. Aged 14 months in 30% new French and American oak. (88 points IJB)

2016 Steele Wines Cabernet Franc Writer’s Block - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $17
Deep ruby, light purple. Smells of sweet plums and red and black cherries, with cola, clove and black pepper, some violets and earth. Fleshy and velvety but stays fresh, a nice mix of juicy, tangy, red and black cherries and plums, backed up by notes of cedar, cola, coffee, and some black pepper and earth. Fun, pleasant, shows some complexity at the price point. (87 points IJB)

2016 Steele Wines Syrah Stymie Founder’s Reserve - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $38
Deep purple color. Smells like tart black currants and dark plums, along with smoky, earthy, leathery notes that are quite complex, along with some violets and clove. Full-bodied, surprising acidity on the palate, integrated but structured tannins, and tangy plums and black cherries — the balance is quite nice. Lots of violets, clove, pepper and leather notes, some cocoa and wood as well, with an earthy, tangy finish. Nice now, but you could easily forget about this in the cellar for three or four years. Aged 22 months in 20% new French and American oak. (90 points IJB)

2016 Windvane Chardonnay - California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $40
Light yellow color. Nose boasts yellow apples, lemon curd, apricot, along with toasted almond, whipped butter and sea salt. Full and rich, a bold and classic style but fresh acidity keeps it lively. Lemon curd, bruised apple, mixed with nougat, honey butter, spiced white tea, sea salt and ginger. Bold but lovely depth and balance. About a third of the wine goes through maloactic fermentation, and the wine is aged nine months in ¼ new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2015 Windvane Pinot Noir - California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $45
Dark ruby color. Pretty, warm, inviting nose with raspberries, black cherries, birch beer, rose petals. Full-bodied but crisp and bright with fleshy tannins and flavors of cherries, raspberry jam, dark plums. Notes of cola, rhubarb, mint and cedar, with some nice floral, earthy depth. Lovely vibrancy here, and I’d love to see this in three to four years. Aged nine months in 46% new French oak. (90 points)

2016 Ramey Claret - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $42
Deep ruby color. I love the nose, a mix of juicy, bright fruit (cherries, cranberries, currant) along with anise, tilled soil and pine. Full-bodied but velvety, this wine is smooth and approachable but balanced with vibrant acidity. Nice depth to the red and black cherries, spiced cranberry sauce flavors, along with sweet spice, lots of floral and earthy tones. Deep but lots of brightness and spicy elements. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with 26% Merlot, 12% Malbec, 8% Syrah and 20% Petit Verdot aged 12 months in 13% new French and American oak. (90 points IJB)

2015 Cardinale - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $275
Bright purple color. Needs time to open up, but has lovely aromas: showing blackberries, dark currants, plums, concentrated but lovely fruit, with complex notes of sweet pipe tobacco, mint, eucalyptus, black tea, vanilla. Full-bodied, structured but so velvety and suave, medium acidity keeping it vibrant. Blackberry, cassis, plum, mixed with a complex host of roasted chestnut, espresso, tobacco, mint, charcoal, earth and mineral. Complex, long-lasting, this could be buried and forgotten for a long time but gorgeous and polished young. A blend of fruit from 12 different vineyards across Napa Valley, with a focus on Mountain fruit, this includes 10% Howell Mountain Merlot. This is aged 20 months in 84% new French oak. (96 points IJB)

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