Wine Reviews: California Chardonnay & Pinot Noir

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-02-2019

Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – they grow together, and they go together. And, this week, I’ve got a fresh batch of Chards and Pinots from California.

In this report, I tasted two vintages of Chardonnay from Oceano, which is owned and operated by Rachel Martin of Virginia’s Boxwood Estate. The fruit is sourced from the slops of Price Canyon in San Luis Obispo County, and the vineyard is located less than two miles from the coast. The wines were fermented and aged at Caldwell Vineyards in Napa. These wines really impressed me with their lively, salty, oceanic vibes, and I’m excited to see they have a Pinot Noir coming soon, too.

I also tasted some new Anderson Valley releases from FEL, which is owned by Cliff Lede and used to be branded as Breggo years ago. I’ve followed these wines for a long time, and these new ones keep up a long tradition of rocking yet nuanced Pinot and Chard.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2016 Oceano Chardonnay Spanish Springs Vineyard - California, Central Coast, San Luis Obispo County
thumbnail (3)SRP: $38
Deep yellow color. Popping nose of pineapple, green melon, lemon meringue, with a burst of sea salt and ocean spray, along with spicy floral tea, honey and ginger. Full but not heavy, with vibrant, crisp acidity throughout, which works well with a deep, velvety texture. Flavors of tangerine, green melon, key lime pie, with ginger, honey and bread crumbs. A deep, crusty sea salt element, which I adore, lingers long on the finish. A beautiful balancing act of a Chardonnay. Aged 11 months in French oak, 15% maloactic fermentation. (92 points IJB)

2017 Oceano Chardonnay Spanish Springs Vineyard - California, Central Coast, San Luis Obispo County
SRP: $38
Deep yellow color. Nose bursts with green melon, lemon curd, guava, and a ton of sea salt and ocean breeze, crushed shells, some white tea and honeysuckle. Crisp yet vibrant, lovely texture on a medium/full-bodied frame, but it’s so zesty and the balance is lovely. Lemon, green apple, melon, tangerine, topped in sea salt, crushed shells, hints of toasted bread, vanilla and ginger. Very similar to the 2016 in style, this is kicking now but I’d love to give it a few years. (92 points IJB)

2017 FEL Wines Chardonnay - California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $32
Light gold color. Nose shows yellow pears, yellow apples, along with honey, salted almond, hay, sea spray, crushed shells. On the palate, this is medium-bodied with a rich yet precise texture, refreshing acidity. Yellow pears, apples, apricot, lemon curd, laced with honeysuckle, crushed shells and limestone, ginger, buttercream. There’s also this nice mineral depth, too. Pretty, complex, yet so delicious as well. Aged in neutral French oak for 10 months. (91 points IJB)

2016 Mi Sueño Chardonnay - California, Napa, Carneros
SRP: $42
Light yellow color. Open and bold aromas of yellow pears and apples, lemon curd, with ginger, graham cracker, honey, some ocean spray and chalk. Deliciously full, rich and plump texture, but the acidity moderates it quite nicely. Big, oaky, yes (plenty of honey, almond, buttered biscuits) but there’s also significantly complex notes of sea salt, honeysuckle, chalk, all on top of glazed apples and pears. Deep, delicious, but also intriguing stuff. Aged 18 months in 30% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2015 Gehricke Pinot Noir Los Carneros - California, Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $32
Bright ruby color. Nose shows a mix of roses and violets, clove and rhubarb, on top of jammy raspberries and sweet black cherries. Juicy and ripe on the palate, medium/full-bodied with soft, smooth tannins and moderating acidity. Black cherries, raspberry jam, juicy plums, rich and generous in texture and flavor but it’s quite complex, especially for a wine at this price point, with notes of cola, herbal tea, coffee and toffee. Aged 20 months in French oak, this wine really delivers for the price. (88 points IJB)

2016 FEL Pinot Noir Donnelly Creek Vineyard - California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $65IMG_20190225_185054_712
Dark ruby color. Bright aromas of black cherries, raspberries, with cola, rose petals and a cool, spicy/herbal mix: pepper, dandelion, eucalyptus, mint. Full frame on the palate, structured well but the tannins have some smoothness to them, too, and the acidity is bright. Jammy raspberries, chilled plums, mixed with roasted earth, chestnut, cracked pepper, rose potpourri, with cedar and clove notes. Very pretty, with a lot of depth, this could blossom well over a few years. Aged 16 months in 20% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

2016 FEL Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard - California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $65
Deep ruby color. The aromas pop with red currant, raspberries and strawberries, cherry pie (lots of fruit!) but also some interesting notes of rose petal, clove, pine forest, black tea. Medium/full-bodied with a velvety feel and lip-smacking acidity. Juicy cherries, raspberries, candied red apple, the fruit is mixed with a nice mélange of black tea, roses, anise, bay leaf, dusty earth. Deep yet crisp, there’s a lot to uncover here in the next three-to-six years. Aged 15 months in 37% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

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