Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-22-2017

There’s a little bit of everything in this catch-all tasting of newly-released wines from California: Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, white blends, Chard, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Malbec, etc.

For my palate, the most impressive wines hail from Sutro, a single-vineyard Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon project located in Alexander Valley. Just wow.

These wines were received as trade samples and tastes sighted. 

2016 Cline Cellars Pinot Gris California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $13
Medium yellow color. Nose of orange peels, lemons and honeysuckle. Medium+ body, fresh acidity, this is a peachy keen wine with lemon meringue and orange peel. Sea salt, white flowers, some mint and cut flower notes. Plump but fresh, some nice depth, too. (87 points IJB)

N.V. Locations CA-4 California
SRP $20
Rich yellow color. Interesting nose of baked pear, cinnamon-spiced apple, honey, apricot jam, but also some lemon zest and notes of daisies and nougat. Wow this is a chunky and plump wine, but there’s refreshing acidity that holds it together somehow. Flavors of baked apple and pear, orange marmalade, mixed with toasted almond, honeyed tea. A rich a full style but there is a nice mix of non-fruit flavors and the wine stays vibrant. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne from Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino. (88 points IJB)

2016 Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc California, Napa Valley
SRP: $25
Light gold color. The nose shows intense lemon, gooseberry, apricot, and something that reminds me of lily pads and aquatic white flowers. Medium-to-full-bodied with such vibrant, but balanced, acidity. Lime/lemon, blood orange and apricot, the fruit is pure, deep, zesty with waxy/honeyed texture balanced off notes of chalk dust and mountain stream minerals. Long finish. An intriguing, impressive and absolutely delicious Napa Sauv Blanc, and such a solid value. Fermented in French oak barrels, stainless steel and concrete eggs. Includes 14% Sémillon, 3% Sauvignon Vert, and 1% Muscat Canelli. (91 points IJB)

2016 Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc California, Napa Valley
SRP: $32
Medium straw color. Aromas of white peach and guava provide an excellent contrast with lime and nectarine, and I get some dandelion, white pepper and chalk. Vibrant acidity from start to finish, a bold presence but a brisk and crystalline presence. Apricot and lime fruit laced with lilies and chalk dust and honeysuckle, and a long finish. Pure and bright but lots of depth and ripe fruit. All Sauv Blanc, all stainless steel. (90 points IJB)

2015 Jordan Vineyard & Winery Chardonnay California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $32
Light yellow color. Aromas of almonds and sea salt, pretty white flowers and honeyed biscuits on top of lemons and white peaches. Creamy but precise on the palate with vibrant acidity and a deep presence of minerals and salinity. Plump peach, tart lemon, mix in some crushed chalk, white pepper, almond, nougat and honeycomb. I really like the precision, balance and depth of this wine, and it lingers long on the finish. I’d love to see how this ages over the next three or five years, it’s that good. Aged six months in all new French oak. This has been my favorite vintage of this wine I’ve tasted so far, and winemaker Rob Davis calls it his most “Old World” wine. I always like this wine, but this vintage is really special. (92 points IJB)

untitled2015 Cambria Chardonnay Bench Break California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $22
Medium gold color. Nose of apricot, orange peel, bruised yellow apple, notes of white flowers, toasted nuts and granola. On the palate, juicy, slightly waxy texture, moderate acidity – plump apples mix with tart limes, richer baked apple and bruised pear fruit, too, there’s a tempered amount of toasted nuts and popcorn, but also some white flowers, sea salt, chalky notes – a complex wine that has a lot to offer palates all over the Chardonnay spectrum. From Katherine’s Vineyard, aged about six months in mostly French oak, 14.4% alcohol. (88 points IJB)

2015 Cambria Chardonnay Clone 4 California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $30
Light gold color. Wow, bursting aromas of crushed shells and sea salt with lemon/lime, orange peel, some apricot, lemon curd, juicy orange. Full-bodied and roundly textured but there’s lip-smacking and refreshing acidity. Plump peach, baked apple, drizzled with lime and tangerine, so much freshness in this wine, and the fruit is laced with notes of peanut shell, chalk dusty, sea shells, nougat and honeyed white tea. I love the balance and lingering minerality in this wine. Aged five months in French oak, 14.5% alcohol. (90 points IJB)

2014 Cambria Pinot Noir Bench Break California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $25
Rich ruby color. Plump aromas of cherries and raspberry jam with some sweet cola, clove and rose petals. Full-bodied (14.5% alcohol) with saucy fruit (raspberry and strawberry jams) and moderate acidity. Generously fruit with notes of rose petals, cola, coffee. Tasty, plush and crowd-pleasing but stays quite balanced. From Julia’s Vineyard, aged eight months in ¼ new French oak, 14.4% alcohol. (87 points IJB)

2014 Cambria Pinot Noir Clone 4 California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $35
Medium ruby color. Lots of earth, savory spice and mushroom notes on top of aromas of red cherries, plums, rhubarb and rose petals. Full but suave texture on the palate with chewy tannins and refreshing acidity. Dark cherries mix with raspberry jam, summer plums. Notes of leather, pepper and mushroom mix with clove and cedar. Bold but balanced, showing yumminess, complexity and freshness is equal amounts. Delicious now but should be able to improve with a few years. Aged seven months in 23% new French oak, 14.2% alcohol. (90 points IJB)

2015 FEL Pinot Noir California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $38
Medium ruby color. Aromas burst with roses, rhubarb, slight mushroom on top of juicy raspberry, red plums, strawberry — a lot going on here. Medium-to-full-bodied on the palate with smooth tannins and fresh acidity. Fresh strawberries and deep black cherries fruit, juicy and rich but shows vibrancy. Elements of cola, rhubarb, rose petals, soy sauce, grilled mushrooms, and quite a long finish. A few years would be fine, but this is ready to drink now. Aged 16 months in about 1/3 new French oak. (91 points IJB)

2014 Berryessa Gap Malbec California, Central Valley, Yolo County
SRP: $23
Deep ruby color. Aromas of dark plums and ripe black cherries, slightly roasted, and some violets, scorched earth and graphite. Full-bodied with medium-strength tannins and medium/low acidity. Flavors of plum cake and rich saucy fruit with clove, mocha, scorched earth and dark chocolate savings. Fun, plush, ready to go but also shows structure. All Malbec from the Coble Ranch Vineyard, aged 20 months in old oak. (87 points IJB)

2014 Berryessa Gap Tempranillo California, Central Valley, Yolo County
SRP: $24
Light ruby color. Smells of juicy cherries, raspberries and red plums, also some mint, tobacco and cedar. Plump and juicy on the palate, accessible, but offers a lot of balance and vibrancy. Red cherries and plums, soft and fresh, with tobacco, roasted herbs, pine tree and anise. Impressive complexity, and a lip-smacking finish. All Tempranillo from Coble Ranch Vineyard, aged 21 months in old French oak. (90 points IJB)

2015 St. Amant Winery Zinfandel Old Vines Marian’s Vineyard California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $24
Medium ruby color. Fresh but rich aromas of strawberries, raspberries, black cherry, also some smoke, anise, spicy herbs, rose petals. Full and richly texture (15.5% alcohol), this is not a subtle wine but it shows some fresh acidity and fleshy tannins, and isn’t too heavy. Strawberry jam and wild raspberry, candied cherry, the fruit is matched with tobacco, charred herbs, dark chocolate, black pepper. Long finish. This is so, so delicious. (90 points IJB)

2013 Sutro Wine Company Merlot Warnecke Ranch California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $35
Medium purple color. Aromas of tart red currant, juicy black cherries, violets, rocky earth, sage, sweet coffee and pipe tobacco. On the palate, plenty of structure but smooth and refreshing, too, silky texture combines with vibrant acidity. Pure, lively red and black currants with complex notes of grilled steak, chorizo, spice rub (love it!), and lingering notes of mineral and forest floor. Very impressive now, but this is gorgeous, and will continue to excel for more than a handful of years. Includes 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 32 months in old French and Hungarian oak. (93 points IJB)

2013 Sutro Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon Warnecke Ranch California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $50
Rich purple color. Gorgeous aromatic waves of cassis, black cherry and blueberry, mixed with complex notes of eucalyptus, anise, dark roast coffee, dark earth and charcoal notes. Full and structured with firm tannins but it has a velvety feel and refreshing acidity. Flavors of chilled blueberries, rich black currant, bold fruit but stays very fresh. Lots of complex earth, herbal and savory elements (eucalyptus, smashed rocks, asphalt, pencil shavings, mushroom). At least a decade of excellence ahead, but this is very pretty now. Wow, this producer is one to check out. Includes 7% Merlot, aged 29 months in a mix of French and Hungarian oak (20% new). (93 points IJB)

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