Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-13-2020

I’m back this week with a roundup of some recent wine samples from all over California.

This week, I take a look at some wines from Carneros’ Ram’s Gate Winery, which bring some nationally-distributed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir worthy of checking out.

Napa’s Castello di Amorosa offers up some solid wines, but their Gewurztraminer (surprisingly) really stands out.

Cliff Lede provides two splurge-worthy Napa Cabernets that show depth, elegance, and aging potential.

And a couple other wines are sprinkled in for good measure. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

Sparkling, White & Rosé

N.V. J Vineyards & Winery Cuvée 20 USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $38
Gold color with nose of white flowers, green apples and pears, orange peel, with some pie crust and chalk dust elements. Crisp and zippy on the palate with a chalky, bright feel, and subtle biscuits, pie crust. Lemon, green apple and melon, with sea salt and sugar cane tones. Juiciness and sugar are woven in well with the brighter elements. Solid value, consistent sparkler. 51% Chardonnay, 41% Pinot Noir, 8% Pinot Meunier. (88 points IJB)

2018 The Paring Sauvignon Blanc USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $25
Light yellow color. A punchy burst of limes and peaches on the nose, with cucumber slices, mint and sliced jalapeno. Zippy and crisp on the palate, with white peach, lemons, limes, a crisp and crunchy feel. Stony, bright but shows depth and complexity. (88 points IJB)

2019 Balverne Sauvignon Blanc Forever Wild USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $27
Pale lemon color. Vibrant aromas of lime, green apple, with mint, white pepper, cucumber slices and honey. Creamy texture on the palate with medium acidity, bright lemons, white peach and nectarine fruit. Notes of mint, baby’s breath, verbena add complexity, along with honeyed waxy tones. Fun, fresh, but also complex, vibrant. (89 points IJB)

2019 Castello di Amorosa Gewürztraminer USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $29
Light yellow color. Bold and ripe aromas of lychee, white peach and guava, topped in honey and white flowers. Full-bodied, creamy with chunks of fruit (papaya, white peach, lychee, kiwi), but balanced and vibrant as well. Notes of salted almond, candied orange peel, clove and spiced tea. This is a ripe but fresh Gewurztraminer that has a friendly, lively appeal to balance the tropical density. Well done. (91 points IJB)

2018 Castello di Amorosa Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $39
Medium yellow color. Nose shows apricot and orange peel with ginger snaps, graham cracker, sea salt. Full-bodied on the palate with a rich texture, medium acidity keeps it delightful. Apricot, orange peel, lemon crème, with notes of shaved ginger, toasted bread, honeycomb. This Chardonnay sets a lot of diverse, intriguing lines, offering a lot to consider, especially for the price. (91 points IJB)

2017 Ram’s Gate Chardonnay USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $42
Medium yellow color. Rich yet bright on the nose, with lemon curd, orange peel, with hazelnut, almond, ginger and graham cracker. Plump feel on the palate but fresh acidity, this sports creamy yellow apples, apricot, peach and lemon bars. Notes of hay, sea salt, dried yellow flowers, and elements of mineral, talc, topped in graham cracker and honeyed tea. Generous and plush but also stony, focused and bright. (91 points IJB)

2019 Balverne Pinot Noir Rosé Forever Wild USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $24
Medium copper color. Bright aromas of lemon, tangerine, apricot, with daisies, mint, talc. Crisp and floral with focused acidity and bountiful peaches, lemon, apricot and orange pith. Notes of watermelon rind, mint, salted almond. A dry, brisk, vibrant style with a lot of depth to complement the gluggable nature. (88 points IJB)

 Red wines

2018 Castello di Amorosa Pinot Noir Il Rubino USA, California, North Coast
SRP: $39
Medium ruby color. Aromas of raspberry and juicy strawberries, with mint, menthol, eucalyptus and pepper. Plummy, velvety texture with bright acidity, this really sings. Raspberry, cherries, with clove, black tea, clove, mint and white pepper. Complex, earthy, dried rose petals, with clay and dried leaves. Really pretty, expressive, a whole lot of fun and complexity herein. (90 points IJB)

2017 Castello di Amorosa Pinot Noir Los Carneros USA, California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $39
Vibrant ruby color. Aromas of crushed cherries, raspberries and red plums, along with incense, menthol, mint, dried rose petals. On the palate, this shows velvety texture, moderate acidity, with fleshy, juicy fruit (cranberry sauce, plums, raspberry jam). Notes of clove, dark chocolate, roses and violets. There’s an underlying earthiness that is really attractive, too, and it stays lively. Aged 11 months in 45% new French oak. (88 points IJB)

2017 Ram’s Gate Pinot Noir USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $46
Medium ruby color. On the nose, I get raspberries, strawberries and red cherries, vibrant and spicy, with leather, rose petals and paprika notes. Medium/full-bodied with velvety tannins, crisp acidity, this is fresh, ripe and balanced with strawberries, raspberries and red delicious apples – gorgeous fruit. Complex notes of herbal tea, warm clay, dry rub, pepper and earth. Long, vibrant, spicy finish. This is uniquely delicious. (91 points IJB)

2017 The Paring Syrah USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $25
Deep purple color. The nose sports dark plums and juicy blackberries, topped in clove, charcoal, spicy steak rub. Full but fresh on the palate, this has smooth tannins and medium acidity. A deep core of blackberry, blueberry, sweet, deep fruit but it has this tangy edge throughout. Notes of roasted chestnut, pepper, scorched earth, leather. There’s a lovely depth and level of complexity in here given the price point. A lot to love about grilled meats and veg and this wine. (90 points IJB)

2018 River Road Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $25
Medium purple color. Nose of black currants, raspberry jam, cranberry relish, with menthol, earth and clove. Fresh acidity frames the wine well, dusty tannins, a medium-bodied with with juicy red fruit (raspberry, tangy currants). Notes of spicy tobacco, menthol, tilled soil and clay round out this wine. Fun, fresh stuff for the price. Aged nine months in French and American oak. (86 points IJB)

2017 Experience Wines Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $30
Deep purple color. Aromas of saucy plums, currants, maraschino cherries, with mint and violet petals. Velvety texture on the palate, but zesty acidity frames it well, medium/full-bodied with soft tannins. Ripe dark fruit (currants and plums) play off mocha, coconut tones. Ripe but fresh, an accessible style but has a level of authenticity to it. Aged 17 months in 24% new French oak. (89 points IJB)

2016 Gamble Family Vineyards Paramount USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $90
Medium purple color. Enticing nose of plums, wild blueberries, prunes, currant jam, with leather, clove, wet soil, cedar and coffee grounds. Big but fresh on the palate, structured but the tannins have smooth edges, medium acidity balances things well. Pure, smooth, rich, tangy fruit (blueberries, plums, currants), laced with complexities of earth, smashed rocks, coffee grounds, tar and anise. Pristine and pretty despite its heft, this is beautiful but young and could use five to eight years in the cellar. 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, aged 20 months in oak. (92 points IJB)

2017 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Rock Block “Dancing Heart” ­ USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
SRP: $110
Deep purple color. A host of deep, rich aromas: currants, blueberries, with vibrant floral tones, tilled soil, cedar and coconut shavings. Full and suave on the palate, the mouthfeel is beautiful, velvety tannins balanced well off fresh acidity. Tangy blueberries, deep currants, dark plums, the fruit is ripe but fresh and mixed with complex elements of graphite, iron, cocoa powder, sweet pipe tobacco. Voluptuous but vibrant, this is really yummy, complex stuff and holds its weight and oak really well. Aged 21 months in 85% new French oak. Give it a few years or a solid decant and a steak. (93 points IJB)

2017 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
SRP: $78
Dark purple color. On the nose, I get dark currant, black cherries, with smoky earth, tar, charcoal, graphite, with notes of vanilla. On the palate, this is full-bodied, velvety but structured, fresh acidity provides a mouthwatering aspect throughout. Juicy black currants and blueberries with complex notes of graphite, mocha, anise, sweet coffee, black tea. Some earthy, savory undertones will come out more with age (3-5 would do nicely), but this is beautiful stuff. Aged 21 months in 65% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

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