Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-04-2019

This week, I’ve got another roundup of new releases from all over California.

I recently tasted two wines (an Albarino and a Gamay Noir) from Eighty Four wines. This Shafer side project, based in Carneros and named after the year in which Doug Shafer and winemaker Elias Fernandez began working together, has impressed me in the past, and these two wines continue that trend.

Well-known producer Cliff Lede’s new Sauv Blanc and Cab Sauv have a lot to offer, while Frank Family’s new Carneros Pinot and Chard consistently deliver.

South African-born winemaker Graham Weerts, who now makes his home in Sonoma, produced two solid wines under the Legacy label. And a few exciting wines from Lodi make an appearance in this report as well, including a thrilling, old-vine Carignan.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.


2018 Beckmen Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc – California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $20
Pale straw color. Nose shows lemon, grapefruit, along with verbena, lemongrass, musk, sea salt and light perfume. Lovely texture on the palate with vibrant acidity, and integrated creamy and honeyed lemons. Lemon, cantaloupe, green apples, the fruit is mixed with lemongrass, green onion and verbena, but this notes accent, they don’t dominate. Lovely Sauv Blanc for the price. All stainless steel, no maloactic fermentation. (88 points IJB)

2018 Acquiesce Ingenue - California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $32
Light straw color. The nose is super tropical with white peaches, pineapple, papaya, lots of baby’s breath, honeysuckle and sliced cucumber notes as well. Crisp and bright on the palate with a nice mix of papaya, peaches, drizzled in lime. I get strong floral perfume, nettle, wild greed herb notes, too. Fun, fresh, with a crisp, spicy, salad-friendly appeal. 35% Grenache blanc, 35% Clairette Blanche, 20% Bourboulenc, 10% Piquepoul. (87 points IJB)

2018 Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc – California, Napa Valley
SRP: $25
Light yellow color. A burst of aromas: lime, apricot, white peach, with salted almond, honeysuckle, chalk dust. On the palate, this is lively but creamy, with bright acidity supporting deep texture. The fruit (orange, apricot, lemon) is infused with some honeysuckle, sea salt, oyster shell – a really cool combo. The green elements in some Sauv Blancs are dialed back, and the pure, mineral, brightness really shines through, this is a beautiful Napa Sauv Blanc, and really exciting for the price. Fermented in a mix of French oak, stainless steel and concrete eggs, this includes 10% Sémillon, 3% Sauvignon Vert. (91 points IJB)

2018 Eighty Four Wines Albariño - California, Napa, Carneros
SRP: $28
Light yellow color. Lively aromas of yellow flowers, honey, sea salt, with lemon, apricot and white peach. Medium+ bodied, really fresh and inviting with pleasant texture and crisp, lip-smacking acidity. Lemon curd, apricot and white peach fruit mixes nicely with chalk dust, salted almond, hints of mint and basil. Lovely depth yet this is s vibrant and gluggable, a great wine to drink all Spring and Summer. This spends four months on the lees in stainless steel (no oak, no maloactic fermentation). (89 points IJB)

2017 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay – California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $38
Rich yellow color. Aromas of lemon curd, apricot jam, baked apple, with nougat, honey, salted almond and fresh biscuits. Juicy and plum on the palate with rich texture and medium acidity. Flavors of glazed pear, apricot, orange marmalade, along with notes of almonds, sea salt, honey butter, biscuits and ginger. Warm yet fresh, bold but nuanced. A fine Carneros Chardonnay, as to be expected from Frank Family. Aged nine months in a third new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2015 Legacy Chardonnay – California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $75
Rich, almost neon color. Nose of buttered popcorn, peanut shells, on top of baked apple, orange marmalade, with ginger, almond cake, sea salt notes. Rich, bold, waxy, honeyed, this is full-throttle in style, but it has freshness underneath, too. Warm and nutty with buttered popcorn, salted almond, peanut brittle, with apricot and yellow apple fruit. Big and luscious but well-made with underlying perfume and floral notes. Fermented and aged 12 months in French oak, 37% new. (89 points IJB)


2016 Prie Vineyards Carignane Ancient Vine Spenker Ranch Vineyards – California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $29
Bright ruby color. Gorgeous nose: raspberries, red cherries, strawberries, topped in spiced tea, rhubarb, clay, dusty earth, an elegant, evolving aromatic display. Medium/full-bodied with smooth tannins and vibrant acidity, the balance is lovely. Strawberries, cherries, raspberries, crunchy yet deep fruit with elements of spiced tea, rhubarb, anise, tilled soil, herbs and rose petals. Complex, elegant, wow, this is really impressive stuff. (92 points IJB)

2016 Mettler Family Vineyards Pinotage - California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $25
Bright purple color. Nose shows saucy black cherries, roasted plums, raspberry jam with anise, sweet chai, dark chocolate. On the palate, this is velvety and smooth with fresh acidity and tart but sweet fruit (fig paste, roasted plums, black cherry jam), with anise, earth and cedar notes. This is fun, juicy, spicy stuff, and a rare iteration of California Pinotage that is worth checking out. (87 points IJB)

2017 Eighty Four Wines Gamay Noir - California, Napa Valley, Carneros
SRP: $35
Deep ruby color. Aromas of raspberries, fresh cherries, along with violets, spiced tea, clove, earthy-charcoal notes. Full-bodied (14.9%) with dusty, smooth tannins and refreshing acidity. The fruit is ripe and juicy (raspberries, black cherries), and touched with notes of miner, violets, earth, along with some cola and birch notes. Lots of fun, but the complexity and depth are in here, too. I’m a big supported of American growers working with Gamay, and it seems this producer has found quite the spot for it. The first vintage of this wine, and they’re off to a great start. Aged 14 months in 40% new French oak barrels. (90 points IJB)

2017 Frank Family Vineyards Pinot Noir – California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $38
Deep ruby color. Nose of raspberries, cherries, plums, juicy and rich but spicy and lively, too, along with notes of clove, rose petals, rhubarb, cola and cedar woven in well. Full but fresh on the palate with velvety tannins and moderating acidity. Juicy raspberry, red plum, cherry pie, rich fruit but lively and nuanced. Notes of rhubarb, violets, clove, cola and spiced black tea. Velvety and fruit-forward, but also nicely balanced and integrated. Aged 10 months in one-third new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2016 Rombauer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $65
Bright purple color. Aromas of juicy, warm black cherries and cassis, laced with lavender, clove, coffee, earth, touched with cedar and vanilla. Full-bodied with a velvety, slightly chewy mouthfeel, but clean, refreshing acidity keeps it lively. Cassis, black cherries and plums are mixed with a good amount of espresso, mint, lavender, bay leaf scorched earth – really nice mix of flavors. An underlying rocky/mineral element underneath, rich but lively. Drinking well now but could age. Includes 8% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc, aged 16 months in 80% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2016 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon One Point Five - California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
SRP: $95
Deep purple color. The fruit is deep but tart on the nose, with waves of black currants and blueberries, laced with spicy pipe tobacco, violets, earth, mint, clove, vanilla. Full and velvety on the palate, serious structure but it’s smooth, and the acidity is quite fresh, keeping it vibrant. Laced with complex tobacco, dusty earth, with clove, earth, lavender, vanilla, cedar. An underlying graphite and mineral element that is so good. Just gorgeous now, but it will be a real treat with age. All Cabernet that spends 20 months in 100% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

thumbkknail2016 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District – California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
SRP: $78
Really bright purple color. Nose boasts black currants, cassis, plums, rich and loaded but mixed with a host of coffee, cocoa, anise, mint chocolate chip, roasted herbs and graphite. Full-bodied and big on the palate (15.2%) but it’s built well with solid grip, enough acidity to hold it all together. Rich and velvety with waves of plums, black cherries and blueberries. The fruit is mixed with complex earth, graphite, iron, anise, along with coffee, mint chocolate chip and cedar. Accessible and delicious now but plenty of time ahead. Includes 11% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc, aged 21 months in about half-new French oak. (92 points IJB)

2013 Legacy Winery Legacy Red Wine – California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $100
Medium purple color. Deep, gorgeous nose of cassis and black currants, laced with a complex mix of earthy, smoky savory notes (charcoal, mesquite, grilled meat, black olive, pepper) with notes, also some vanilla, cedar. Structured but velvety on the palate, full but fresh, with moderating acidity. Rich blackberry and tart black currant fruit, topped with generous notes of charcoal, graphite, bay leaf, pepper, earth — the savory and spicy elements in here are lovely. I think age has really done wonders for this wine already, but it has many years of evolution ahead. 87% Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, aged 26 months in 62% new French oak. (93 points IJB)

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