Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-05-2019

It’s finally Fall, and the samples from California have been rolling in. This week, I’m focusing on some newly-releases Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Syrahs.

I’ve really enjoyed FEL’s take on classic Mendocino Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and their 2017s from the Savoy Vineyard are really something. They ride a clean line between being really pretty and expressive, and deep and age-worthy.

Gary Farrell is well-known for producing Sonoma Pinot and Chard, and they offer a wide portfolio of wines. They have a lot of solid value options, and more complex, single-vineyard wines, a few of which are in this report. Given their quality, I find these wines are priced very reasonably.

Also, Ramey and Sosie really deliver with some Sonoma Syrahs that would do well with some time in the cellar.

And a few other fun, value-driven wines round out this week’s report. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

N.V. J Vineyards & Winery Cuvée 20 USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $38/750ml
Pale gold color. Nice mix of biscuits and pie crust aromas, along with tangerine, pears and some salty, sea breeze notes. Crisp acidity frames the wine nicely, balancing the slight sugar. Pie crust, toasted bread and chalky, perfumed notes accent the tart apples and juicy orange fruit. Crowd-pleasing, pleasant, friendly stuff. 50% Chardonnay, 49% Pinot Noir, 1% Pinot Meunier, 12.5% alcohol, 1.4% residual sugar. Tasted from magnum. (88 points)

2018 Harken Chardonnay Barrel-Fermented USA, California
SRP: $15
Deep gold color. Juicy yellow apples, glazed pear and honey butter on the nose, with some floral and toasted nuts. Medium+ bodied, a plush and creamy texture, but moderate acidity keeps it lively. Flavors of orange marmalade, yellow apples and pears, topped in notes of cinnamon, nougat, honey, floral perfume. This sports a lot of fun and flavor, and it also has quite a bit of personality for a California Chardonnay at this price point. All barrel-fermented in American and French oak, 100% maloactic fermentation. (86 points)

2017 Gary Farrell Chardonnay Russian River Selection USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $35
Deep yellow color. Juicy and tropical aromas, peaches, pineapple, honey, almond butter and yellow flowers. Medium+ bodied with a juicy, creamy texture but vibrant acidity. Yellow apples, pineapple and mango slices, mixed with nuanced notes of honey, salted nuts, minerals and ginger. Delicious and yummy, but it shows a lot of balance and nuance for a Russian River Chardonnay at this price point. Aged nine months in 35% new French oak, 13.7% alcohol. (88 points)

2016 Gary Farrell Chardonnay Olivet Lane Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $45
Light gold year. Enticing aromas of pears, peach, yellow apples, with complex sea salt, peanut shell, hay and honeycomb. Crisp acidity frames the wine well on the palate, and there’s a pleasantly plump and juicy texture. Medium+ bodied and vibrant with creamy pear, lemon meringue and yellow apple. Notes of minerals, chalk, sea salt, and nuanced elements of almond and vanilla. Complex and harmonious, this opens up nicely and could benefit from a bit of age as well. Aged nine months in 35% new French oak, 13.4% alcohol. (91 points)

2017 FEL Chardonnay Savoy Vineyard ­- USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $48
Rich yellow color. The aromas boast salted almond, hazelnut, ginger and whipped honey on top of lemon curd and orange marmalade. So pretty and vibrant on the palate, the acidity leaves me salivating but there’s plenty of depth and fruit as well (lemon curd, apricot, kiwi, yellow apple). I get complex notes of whipped honey, graham cracker and peanut brittle, but also more delicate notes of crushed shells, sea salt and shaved ginger. Lovely, complex, full of flavor but really nervy and fresh with a mineral-driven finish. Very pretty stuff that should do well with a few years in the cellar. Barrel-fermented in 55% new French oak, aged 18 months. (92 points)

2016 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Hallberg Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $55
Deep ruby color. Inviting nose of violets, rhubarb and roses on top of strawberries, raspberries and cola. On the palate, crisp acidity frames the wine nicely, this has a fresh and lively style with dusty tannins. Juicy strawberries, raspberries, spiced cranberry relish, and I get complex notes of clove, rhubarb, pepper and mint. Notes of earth and nuanced cedar and coffee round out the finish. Fresh, lively, but juicy and complex, this is lovely now but has the stuffing to improve for at least a few years. Aged 15 months in 40% new French oak. (91 points)

2017 Cherry Pie (Hundred Acre) Pinot Noir USA, California
SRP: $23
Medium ruby color. Sweet nose of cherry pie filling — and that’s not my reaction based on the name, it legit smells like cherry pie — along with raspberry jam, rhubarb and vanilla. Juicy and fun on the palate, this has a playful, smooth, easy-drinking appeal with medium/low acidity and light tannins. Not as candied and gloppy as I was expecting, this shows plump, sweet red fruits mixed with some spiced cranberry sauce, pepper, clove. Light-hearted fun. A blend of fruit from Monterey, Santa Barbara and Napa counties. (85 points)

2017 FEL Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $70
Deep ruby color. A rush of fresh red fruits on the nose (strawberries, cherries, cranberry and pomegranate), along with mint, menthol, tobacco, rose petal and white pepper notes – beautiful aromas. Juicy and full on the palate but vibrant, bright acidity frames the wine well against a backdrop of structured, round-edged tannins. Black cherry, raspberry, spiced cranberry sauce, the fruit mixes with lots of earthy, minty, leafy, floral complexities. Complex and could age well for at least three to five years, but it remains fresh and so fun to drink. A ripping good Anderson Valley Pinot. (93 pints)

Ramey Syrah2015 Ramey Syrah Rodgers Creek Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Petaluma Gap
SRP: $65
Light purple. Aromas of tangy strawberries, juicy raspberries, and a spiced cranberry sauce note, along with black pepper, leather, cocoa and mint – gorgeous aromas. Velvety but structured tannins, and vibrant acidity, this Syrah has a tangy, juicy, balanced feel. A nice mix of crunchy red and saucier black fruit, all fresh and lively. Complex notes of violets, leather, pepper, nuanced notes of coffee and vanilla bean. I’d love to see what this does in five years. Native yeast fermentation, this exquisite Syrah was co-fermented with 8% Viognier, aged 25 months in 93% new French oak. (93 points)

2016 Sosie Syrah Vivio Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
SRP: $38
Deep purple color. Smoky nose with beefy, meaty, leathery, mesquite notes on top of saucy black cherries and blueberries. Full but fresh on the palate with solid tannic grip, but rounded edges and vibrant, moderating acidity. Tangy black cherries and plums balances well with a lot of interesting flavors: mesquite, menthol, brisket, leather, violets, incense. Complex but straight-up delicious, too. This evolves nicely with air but would benefit rom a few years. When sniffing and sipping, this is one of those Syrahs I can just tell comes from a special place. Co-fermented with 7% Roussanne, aged 20 months in 50% new oak. (92 points)

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