Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-25-2020

Happy Saturday, folks. I hope you’re all healthy and handling these pandemic times as well as can be expected. I’m still receiving lots of samples, and the delivery drivers have been great about social distancing, and I’m making sure to wash my hands after handling wine boxes!

Over these past few weeks at home, I’ve been receiving a lot of samples from California, mostly from producers I know well.

We’ve got some interesting Albarino from Lodi worth checking out, and a delicious Sonoma Roussanne as well. Even if you’re like me, and skeptical of Napa Sauv Blanc, Galerie’s Naissance Sauvignon Blanc is something really special. I also have some Napa Cabernets that deliver a lot of goodness and value.

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
Medium gold color. Nose shows white flowers, sea breeze, with generous pears and oranges, pie crust and chalk tones. Medium-bodied, the sweetness is balanced with vibrant acidity. Flavors of tangy apples and tangerines, green melon, blend well with notes of sea salt, white flowers, fresh biscuits and sugar cane. Fun, fresh, zippy, but also offering some balance and complexity, especially for the price. 51% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 9% Pinot Meunier, with a 10.5 g/l dosage, aged 30 months on the lees. (88 points IJB)

White wines

2019 FEL Pinot Gris USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $25
Light yellow color. Bright floral tones on the nose with daisies, nettle honeysuckle and mint on top of peach and apricot fruit. Flexy texture on the palate, plush and creamy, but nervy acidity keeps it lively. Apricot and white peach fruit, yellow plum, fresh and vibrant fruit, mixing well with notes of floral perfume, mint, and flinty, salty tones. Inviting and complex. Fermented in old French oak and aged five months on the lees. (90 points IJB)

2018 Oak Farm Vineyards Albariño USA, California, Central Valley, San Joaquin County
SRP: $24
Deep yellow color. Bright and boastful aromas of white peach, green apple, apricot, with orange blossom, dandelion and sea salt. Crisp and tangy on the palate, yet a plush mouthfeel. Oranges, white peach, papaya, lime, a fruit salad topped in salty, steel, floral complexity. Lively, bright, yet punchy and fruity, this could easily sneak by in a Rias Baixas blind tasting, but it does have a bit more fruit. Delightful spring/summer wine at a bargain price. All stainless steel. (90 points)

2019 Mettler Family Vineyards Albariño Estate Grown USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $20
Light yellow color. Nose shows bright lemons, white peaches and nectarine, with all sorts of wildflowers and some wild herbs. Fleshy texture but bright, zippy appeal here, along with papaya and peach fruit. Spice lemon verbena and sliced green onion mix well with notes of sea breeze and clean laundry. A shellfish and outdoor patio-friendly kind of wine, as Albarino should be. All stainless steel. (87 points IJB)

2018 Galerie Sauvignon Blanc Naissance USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $30
Pale lemon color. Airy, breezy aromatics with lemon pith, green apples, topped in sea spray, baby’s breath and nettle, some mint. On the palate, this has lovely textural depth but a bright, sprightly appeal. Lemon, green apple, kiwi, fun and fruity but complexities abound: chalk, minerals, crushed stones, pure mountain stream. Notes of mint, honeysuckle and sliced cucumber round out the finish. Pure, lively, racy, fun, this is a killer Napa SB for the price. Fermented and aged in a mix of stainless steel, concrete eggs and old oak. (91 points)

2019 Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
SRP: $32
Light yellow color. A burst of kiwi, papaya and white peach on the nose, with honeysuckle, white pepper, verbena and clean laundry. Medium-bodied with bright acidity and deep texture, generous but super fresh. Kiwi, lemon, white peach, topped in sliced green onion, white pepper, honeysuckle, with notes of chalk and sea salt. Clean, focused, crisp but shows lots of depth, too. Aged six months on the lees. (89 points IJB)

2017 Sosie Roussanne Vivio Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
SRP: $38
Deep yellow color. Gorgeous aromas of dried apricot, glazed pears, honey, ginger, white tea. Rich texture on the palate, deep and plush, yet moderate acidity. Apricot, honeyed pears, plush and deep with notes of graham cracker, wax, salted almond, green tea, ginger snaps. Bold but shows lots of nuance and vibrancy, very nice for Roussanne to be this lively. Aged 15 months in 20% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

Red wines

2016 Galerie Cabernet Sauvignon Pleinair USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $65
So inviting on the nose, with dark plums, black cherries, cassis, with earth, leather, sage, menthol and mint complexities. Gorgeous texture on the palate with structured tannins and bright acidity, balanced, vibrant, pure. Black currants, plums, deep, suave fruit, laced with beautiful notes of violets, clove, mineral, graphite, earth, sage. Such a nuanced, fresh style, but this will age beautifully. Aged 19 months in 73% new French oak. For the price, this wine has such an elegant, complex, “real” feel. (93 points IJB)

2016 Mi Sueño Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $75
Aromas of blueberry and blackberry, with vanilla, espresso, charcoal, earth and violets. On the palate, this is full-bodied and velvety with medium acidity and a dark, juicy, fruity core (blackberry, blueberry). Complex notes of charcoal, warm earth, graphite, espresso roast and mint chocolate chip. Hedonistic but complex and smooth, this could use a few years or a good decant. Aged 2 months in 65% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2017 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon One Point Five USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
SRP: $95
Aromas show a deep core of black cherries, black currants, tart blueberry, with smoky earth, tobacco, clove, black pepper, tar and vanilla. Big and voluptuous on the palate, rich and structured with fine-grained tannins, moderating acidity. Gorgeous blueberry and blackberry fruit mixes well with complex, violets, tar, pencil lead, smoky earth, nuanced cedar and clove. Another stunning vintage of this Cabernet, which doesn’t disappoint. 100% Cabernet aged 20 months in all new French oak. (94 points IJB)

2016 The Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
SRP: $80
Aromas of tangy black cherries, tart currants, with charcoal, vanilla, dark chocolate, some black tea, leather and clove. Full but balanced with moderating acidity. Bold and expressive with a chewy but lively texture, deep currants, plum sauce. Notes of mint, chewing tobacco and earth blend well with vanilla, coconut and dark chocolate. Saucy and rich but lovely vibrancy throughout. I’m curious to see what four or five years does to this wine. Aged 22 months in 80% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

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