Wine Reviews: California

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-08-2019

This week I have a big bundle of new releases from all over California.

Amici Cellars has been around for years, and I’ve found them to be a source of consistent, moderately-priced staples like Russian River Pinot and Napa Sauvignon Blanc. Their sister label Olema focuses on value-driven wines, and they’re quite good for the price.

Sonoma’s Jordan Winery comes through again with their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, while Napa stalwart Shafer comes out swinging with their 2017 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay.

I also tasted a handful of wines from Morgan, which began back in 1982. Sourcing fruit from the Santa Lucia Highlands and Monterey, these wines offer lots of juicy fruit but show elegance and freshness as well. And they really deliver for the price. A few wines from FEL, Mi Sueno and Luck Rock Wine Co. round out this report.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. 

White wines

2018 Lucky Rock Wine Co. Sauvignon Blanc County Cuvée - California
SRP: $17
Medium straw color. Aromatically popping with lemon, ruby red grapefruit, kiwi, and notes of lemongrass, magnolia and mint. Medium-bodied, fresh and zippy on the palate but some nice creaminess. A fresh fruit salad of green melon, ruby red grapefruit, peaches and lime, accented with notes of mint, wildflowers and clover. The fruit and floral/herbal tones are balanced together very nicely. A lot of personality and depth, especially for the price. Blended from Lake and Napa County fruit aged French oak. (88 points)

2017 Morgan Sauvignon Blanc - California, Central Coast, Monterey 
SRP: $18
Pale lemon color. Nose pops with lemons, limes, grapefruit and guava, along with lemongrass and mint. A nice bit of creaminess on the palate, but this is super bright and brisk with lemon, guava, melon, peaches, along with cut flower stems, white pepper, honeysuckle and clover. Fresh, zippy, fun stuff, quite complex for the price. All Musqué clone, this wine is aged five months in 10% new French oak. (87 points)

2018 Amici Cellars Sauvignon BlancCalifornia, Napa Valley
SRP: $25
Pale straw color. The nose displays lemon curd, white peaches, mango, along with clover flower, honeysuckle and lemon verbena. Peachy, fun, fruity with lemon and mango, backed by zesty acidity. The fruit is accented with notes of lemon verbena, clover, honeysuckle, and I get some mineral and chalk dust elements. Finishes with spicy floral and honeyed tones. Includes 4% Semillon, 12% of the wine is barrel-fermented. (89 points)

2018 FEL Pinot Gris - California, Mendocino County, Anderson Valley
SRP: $25
Rich yellow color. The nose is super peachy with limes and yellow apples, lots of flowers and green herbs. The palate is framed with zippy acidity, medium body, some creamy texture, with lemon, lime, peach fruit. Lots of flowers, white tea, chalk, stony tones, adding all sorts of complexity. It has this mineral, lifted quality that reminds me of Alto Adige, but it has this juiciness that is pure California. A really delicious and interesting Pinot Gris. (90 points)

2017 Morgan Chardonnay MetallicoCalifornia, Central Coast, Monterey
SRP: $22
Light yellow color. Aromas of peaches, lemon-lime, notes of verbena, white pepper, it’s very bright, floral and spicy. Bright acidity frames the palate nicely, this is very crisp and bright but has some nice depth of texture. Lemons, limes, peaches, topped in hay, white pepper, honeycomb and white tea. Notes of seashells and wild herbs add complexity. Fresh, fun, lean and brisk style, which is really refreshing. All stainless steel, no maloactic fermentation, 13.5% alcohol. (87 points)

2017 Morgan Chardonnay Highland - California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
SRP: $28thumbnail (13)
Medium yellow color. The nose shows sea spray, crushed shells, peanut shells, hay and white flowers on top of lemon crème and yellow apples. The palate boasts crisp, nervy acidity with lively, lip-smacking acidity and creamy texture. Apples, lemon curd and apricot mix nicely with salted nuts, honeycomb, white flowers. There’s a salty, crushed seashell, mountain stream essence that is so good. Balanced, lively, flavorful, so good for the money. Aged eight months in about 30% new French oak, 75% maloactic fermentation. (91 points)

2017 Amici Cellars Chardonnay Olema - California, Sonoma County
SRP: $16
Light gold color. Aromas of apricot, white peach, glazed pear, with some nougat and honeycomb elements. Medium-bodied, juicy but bright, with pleasant creaminess and moderating acidity. Glazed pears, apricot, lemon curd, and the fruit mixes with notes of sea salt, honeyed tea, almond brittle. There is a lot of vibrancy and deliciousness in here for a wine of the price. (87 points)

2016 Amici Cellars Chardonnay - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $25
Bright yellow color. All sorts of color and variety of apples on the nose, along with ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, nougat, some salty, oceanic notes. Plump and texturally rich but shows some restraint; it’s creamy but zesty, with bruised apple, orange marmalade and lemon pie. Notes of sea salt, crushed shells, almond skin, floral potpourri and ginger. Lots of texture and richness but it’s balanced very well. Very good Sonoma Chardonnay for the price. (89 points)

2017 Jordan Vineyard & Winery Chardonnay - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $34
Golden yellow color. Aromas of rich yellow apples, apricot and orange marmalade, notes of salted almonds and peanuts, hay, ocean spray. A plush texture on the palate, but a lot of fresh acidity. Lemon, yellow apple, apricot, along with notes of sea salt, almond, peanut brittle, honey. All sorts of fresh, floral, salty complexities in here. Rich but balanced, a lovely Russian River Chard, especially given the moderate price. 13.6% alcohol, aged six months in 100% new French oak. (90 points)

2017 Shafer Chardonnay Red Shoulder Ranch - California, Napa, Carneros
SRP: $52thumbnail (12)
Rich gold color. Bold aromas of pineapple, honey, vanilla, almond cake, walnuts, all sorts of rich and exotic flavors but it’s fresh and vibrant too with lemon crème, apricot and glazed pears. Full-bodied on the palate (14.9% alcohol) with plenty of textural depth (honeyed, waxy elements), yet the underlying crispness and vibrancy is unmistakable. Yellow plums, bruised apples, lemon crème, mixed with walnuts, salted almonds, honey and hay. There are underlying elements of mineral notes, crushed shells, it adds all sorts of complexity. Wow. Bold yet balanced, such an expressive and complex Chardonnay. Aged 14 months in 75% new French oak and 25% stainless steel. (93 points)

Red wines

2017 Amici Cellars Pinot Noir Olema - California, Sonoma County
SRP: $20
Medium ruby color. Nose boasts juicy raspberries, jammy cherries and plums, with cola, cedar, red licorice candies. Plump and juicy on the palate, a medium-bodied frame with light tannins and medium acidity. Cherries, raspberries and plums, this is fun and fruit-focused, with notes of spiced tea, cola, cedar. It’s not too rich or baked, and while super fruity, it stays food-friendly and fresh. A solid California Pinot for $20, which ain’t easy to come by. (87 points)

2017 Amici Cellars Pinot Noir - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $40
Deep ruby color. The nose shows spiced cranberry sauce, raspberries and strawberries, along with a nice mix of rhubarb, pepper, cola and cedar. Medium/full-bodied with soft tannins and some medium acidity. Juicy cherries, raspberries, strawberry jam, with flavors of cola, rhubarb, rose potpourri, menthol and cinnamon. Accessible and fun but this has some solid depth. Highly delicious. Stainless steel fermented aged in French oak 13 months. (88 points)

2017 FEL Pinot Noir - California, Mendocino County, Anderson Valley
SRP: $38
Bright ruby color. Bold but inviting aromatic display of rose petals, violets, white pepper and clove on top of juicy raspberries and red plums. Bold but suave on the palate with velvety tannins, vibrant acidity, and lots of raspberries, red and black cherries. Fresh and bright but a lot of spicy, herbal tones (clove, pepper), and already showing some mushroom and broth and earthy tones. Juicy but elegant, this should show even more earthy, savory goodness in a few years. Loving this style. Aged 16 months in 36% new French oak. (91 points)

2017 Morgan Pinot Noir Twelve ClonesCalifornia, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
SRP: $35
Deep ruby color. Nose shows juicy cherries, raspberries, red plums, and a nice mix of herbal tea, tobacco, spicy pepper, rose petals. Full-bodied but fresh on the palate with smooth tannins, medium acidity and a velvety, attractive texture. Plums, cherries and strawberry jam, laced with an interesting mix of roasted red peppers, tobacco, cola, candied apple, savory broth notes. Very cool stuff with a dynamic combination of flavors. Aged 10 months in 40% new French oak. (89 points)

2017 Morgan Cotes du Crow’sCalifornia, Central Coast, Monterey
SRP: $20
Light purple color. Bright nose of cherries, raspberries, plums, with a lot of smoky-herbal notes, leather and violets. Full but suave on the palate with a velvety feel and refreshing acidity. Tangy plums and black cherries mixed with spiced tea, cocoa, earth, violets, clove. Juicy, fun and barbecue-friendly but complex, earthy and vibrant, too. 56% Grenache, 37% Syrah, 7% Tempranillo, aged 10 months in 10% new French oak. (88 points)

2017 Morgan Syrah G17California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
SRP: $25
Deep purple color. The nose pops with tangy black cherries and dark plus, loaded with black pepper, leather, cocoa, scorched earth and graphite. Full but fresh on the palate with dusty tannins and bright acidity. Dark cherries and plums mix nicely with flavors of peppercorns, leather, cocoa, earth, and underlying notes of minerals and loamy soil. Lovely, accessible stuff, but it could also improve for a few years. Really solid value here. Includes 5% Grenache, 5% Tempranillo, aged 10 months in 25% new French oak. (90 points)

2015 Jordan Vineyard & Winery Cabernet SauvignonCalifornia, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $57
Medium purple color. Aromas of black cherries, plums, cassis, with roasted herbs and tobacco, and I get some coffee, menthol and mint chocolate chip notes as well. Smoothed out tannins on the palate but still nicely built, fresh acidity frames the wine well. Tangy black currants, plums and black cherries, the fruit is pure and lively, and backed up by complex notes of anise, mint, eucalyptus, earthy, tobacco and sweet vanilla. Smooth yet still young, this is coming together nicely but has many years of development ahead. Includes 15% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot; 2% Malbec, aged 13 months in 47% new French oak. (91 points)

2015 Mi Sueño Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $75
Dark purple color. Nose boasts jammy black cherries and cassis, topped in sweet vanilla coffee, anise and cocoa powder. Full and chewy but velvety with medium/low acidity on the palate, and lots of black cherries and blackberries, juicy and full fruit. Notes of cocoa, clove, coffee, vanilla and cedar. Rich and velvety and delicious but nice depth and complexity, too, with a spicy, minty finish. Should improve over the next few years. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon (mostly from Coombsville vineyards) aged 22 months in 65% new French oak. (88 points)

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