Wine Reviews: American Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 02-02-2019

This week, I have some wine reviews from New York, California, and Washington.

If you know Finger Lakes wine, you know Dr. Konstantin Frank, a Ukrainian immigrant who contributed so much to viticulture in this country.  By producing exceptional wines, and showing what Riesling could do in the Finger Lakes, he earned his spot in the canon of trail-blazing American winemakers. All these years later, the wines are still examples of excellence in American wine.

Napa’s Gratus also contributed wines for this report. This Pope Valley project began in 2010, and the winery now produces about 600 cases per year. These wines were new to me, but I found them vibrant, delicious, and expressive.

Respected Washington producer Tamarack Cellars recently released a 2013 “Emerald Release” Cabernet that blew my mind, and I think it would be a great addition to any Washington Cabernet collector’s cellar.

A few other wines round out this week’s report. I received these wines as trade samples and tasted them sighted.

2017 La Crema Pinot Gris - California, Central Coast, Monterey
SRP: $20
Light yellow color. Nose shows white peaches, lemon curd, orange blossoms and whipped honey notes. Crisp acidity frames the palate nicely, while the wine sports a waxy, plump texture. Apricots, yellow apples, peach nectar, the fruit is backed up with white pepper and flowers. This shows a lot of depth for a California Pinot Gris at this price point. Lots of fun. (87 points)

2017 Mettler Family Vineyards Albariño Estate Grown - California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $20
Medium yellow color. Punchy and tropical on the nose with guava, cantaloupe, pineapple, some yellow flowers and sea salt. Fleshy texture on the palate, but bright acidity, the fruit is rich and generous (creamy yellow apples and pears, guava, pineapple). I get a lot of floral tones, perfume, honey and sea salt. The bright/tropical contrast combination is really working in this Lodi Albarino. (88 points)

2017 Gratus White - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $29
Rich yellow color. Smells of lemon curd, pineapple, glazed pear, with a fascinating note of rainy forest, sea salt, along with some almond and honeycomb. Full-bodied with a plush, waxy texture, yet medium acidity keeps the wine quite lively. Lemon curd, blood orange, pineapple cake and apricot jam flavors, mixed in with spicy clove, white pepper, wet earth, sea salt, some richer almond cake and honey notes as well. Bold but very pretty. 50% Grenache Blanc, 15% Viognier, 15% Marsanne, 15% Roussanne, 5% Picpoul Blanc, aged seven months in old oak. (90 points)

2015 Gratus Malbec - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $55
Deep purple color. Smells of plums, gushing blackberries, blueberries, mixed with violets, roses, espresso, eucalyptus, and rocky/earthy elements. I love the acidity on the palate, so fresh, and the velvety tannins make this wine accessible. Suave yet tangy fruit (black cherries, dark currants), topped in violets, mint, eucalyptus, and a blend of black tea, rocky soil and mineral. Oak elements blend in nicely. This is a fresh and vibrant Malbec that really hooked me. 100% Malbec, aged 22 months in 50% new French oak. (91 pointthumbnail (1)s)

2015 Gratus Petite Sirah - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $45
Rich purple color. Dense aromas of boysenberry, blackberry, blueberry, deep and dark and topped in anise, menthol, ginger snap cookie and vanilla. Full and fleshy on the palate, some serious tannic grip here, while medium acidity moderates. This is a big, saucy, punchy wine with loads of juicy dark fruit, blended well with anise, pepper, vanilla, leather, clove. Dark, bold, this could use three to five years of age. All Petite Sirah aged 22 months in 50% new French oak. (89 points)

2015 Gratus Red - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $75
Medium purple color. Nose boasts juicy black cherries, dark plums, and I get a complex blend of charcoal, graphite, black tea, grilled herbs, clove and cedar. Full but fresh with structured but velvety tannins and vibrant acidity. Juicy black fruit (cherries, currants, plums), whipped together with complex elements of earth, graphite, cocoa, clove, pepper, mint, sweet violets and tobacco. Complex, vibrant, this opens up nicely with time. Lovely now but I’m curious what two or three years will do to this wine. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 5% Petite Sirah, aged 22 months in 50% new French oak. (91 points)

2015 Gamble Family Vineyards Paramount - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $90
Deep purple color. Deep and saucy on the nose, with roasted fig, blackberry, black currant, all tossed together with warm clove and cinnamon, black tea, vanilla, espresso, mint – a lot going on. Full-bodied with nice grip, but the tannins have rounded edges, and the acidity is really clean, balancing this big wine out really nicely. Flavors of pure blackberry, black currant and roasted fig, backed up with lots of clove, black pepper, spiced black tea, cinnamon sticks, charcoal, graphite scorched earth, vanilla and cedar. So complex, lots of fruit, but serious freshness and aging potential, too. 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, aged 20 months in 44% new French oak. (92 points)

2015 Gamble Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $60
Deep purple color. Waves of black cherries and currants on the nose, along with violets, cedar, cocoa, smoky charcoal, and notes of sweet pipe tobacco. Velvety texture on the palate, structured but vibrant, acidity and tannins balance out nicely. Fresh yet rich fruit (black cherries, cassis, dark plums), laced with cedar, espresso, vanilla, sweet pipe tobacco, and a nice earthy-loamy element, too. Nice now but this would do well with 2-4 years in the cellar, and can definitely handle longer. Includes 7% Malbec, 5% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot, aged 20 months in 40% new French, Hungarian and American oak. (91 points)

2017 Dr. Konstantin Frank Rkatsiteli - New York, Finger Lakes
SRP: $17
Pale lemon color. Nose of orange peel, lemons, quince, with notes of lemon verbena, honeysuckle, nettle, bay leaf, sea salt. Plump texture on the palate with racy acidity, the balance is great. Lemons, yellow and green apples, so bright yet the depth of fruit is great. Lots of mineral depth, stones, sea salt, mountain streams. Brisk and sprightly, yet deep and complex. Fascinating stuff. (91 points)

thumbnail (2)2013 Dr. Konstantin Frank Blanc de Blancs - New York, Finger Lakes
SRP: $30
Light yellow color. Nose boasts yellow apples, apricot, with ginger, baguette, floral perfume, crushed chalk and sea spray. On the palate, this is crisp and nervy with depth that is impressive. Apricot, pear, green and yellow apples, the fruit is accented with these sea salt and crushed oyster shells, along with honeysuckle and ginger and light biscuity notes. Very impressive, a lean style but some impressive depth and that mineral streak is amazing. 100% Chardonnay, aged on the lees four years, 8 g/l dosage. Disgorged September 2018. (91 points)

2016 Dr. Konstantin Frank Riesling Eugenia Dry Riesling - New York, Finger Lakes, Keuka Lake
SRP: $30
Light yellow color. The nose bursts with peach nectar, lime, guava, apricot, along with orange blossom, honey, dusty limestone and new tennis ball. Pristine acidity frames the palate from start to long finish, this is dry, bracing, so brisk and invigorating. Lime, lemon, guava, along with a complex burst of shells, saline, chalk and minerals. Notes of honey and mint add complexity. This is pretty but laser-like, too, offering enjoyment now or, preferably, with 5-10 years of age. Gorgeous Keuka Lake Riesling. 12% alcohol, 0.27% sugar. (92 points)

2013 Tamarack Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Emerald Release - Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $100
Rich purple color. Gorgeous nose of tart currants, blackberries, spiced cranberry sauce, along with serious non-fruit complexity: violets, spearmint, smashed rocks, scorched earth, red pepper flakes, cocoa and vanilla. The palate is full, concentrated, yet lively, with a pure, velvety, effortless feel on the palate despite the density the wine brings. Generous with black cherries, red and black currants, tangy plums, the fruit is plush but shows a tart edge. Complex notes of cocoa, charcoal, rocky soil, flinty minerals, along with cocoa, mint, vanilla. This is gorgeous stuff that will age wonderfully. A blend of wines from all the different vineyard-designated reserve bottlings Tamarack makes, this includes 15% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot, aged four years in 100% new French oak. This vintage is released to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Tamarack Cellars. (94 points)

Comments (1)

  1. Why wasn’t I called about the leftovers?