Wine Reviews: Steele Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-26-2020

Long-time readers may have seen me focus on Steele Wines in the past. And that’s because there’s something about this producer’s old-school aesthetic, budget friendly appeal, and diverse and delicious portfolio, that I think deserves attention. Owner/winemaker Jed Steele has been vinifying grapes for 50 years; this year Steele Wines marked its 28th anniversary.

This old school Lake County producer puts out a staggering array of wines. There are different brands, price-points, and lots of different sources of fruit from around California. Thing is, from entry-level to their upper tier wines, these wines are reliably well-made, delicious, and frequently complex, offering a lot of bang for the buck.

I recently tasted a batch of new releases and found a lot of wines that I would recommend for those looking to try something yummy and a bit off-the-beaten path without spending a lot of money.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

White wines

2019 Steele Wines Sauvignon Blanc Shooting Star USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $15
Light yellow color. Interesting notes of lemon verbena, clover and honeysuckle, on top of grapefruit and white peach. Plush texture, medium/full body, with zippy acidity, this has a real sense of precision and balance that is rare for the price point. Lemons, peaches, with minty, chalky, steely, mineral tones. From 30-year-old vines in Kelseyville, Lake County, this is fermented and aged in stainless steel. Really solid value here. (88 points IJB)

2018 Steele Wines Cuvée Chardonnay USA, California
SRP: $24
Light yellow color. Fresh aromas of green apples and kiwi, with hay, sea spray and honeysuckle. The palate is fresh and vibrant with zippy acidity, but solid depth and texture as well. A bright, accessible style with flavors of green apples, limes, white peach. Notes of white tea, honeysuckle, raw almond and floral perfume add complexity. Solid value here, especially for fans of brighter, less heavy styles. Blended from five vineyards in Sonoma, Santa Barbara and Lake Counties, aged eight months in 20% new French oak. (87 points IJB)

2018 Steele Wines Chardonnay Parmelee-Hill Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
SRP: $36
Medium yellow color. Gorgeous nose of honey, ginger, almond, toasted nuts, but also these brighter, sea breeze tones, all on top of juicy yellow pears. Plump and lovely texture on the palate but vibrant acidity, matched with pure, deep fruit (honeydew, lemon, yellow pear. Nuanced notes of nougat, honeycomb and ginger snap contrast with these crushed shells, sea salt and mineral elements really well. This is Sonoma Valley Chardonnay goodness at a great price, aged 12 months in 30% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

2018 Steele Wines Chardonnay Durell Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Carneros
SRP: $38
Medium yellow color. Creamy nose with salted almond, dried straw, shaved ginger, over top of juicy yellow apples and pears. Lively acidity frames the wine well, supported with a creamy texture and ripe but lively fruit (yellow apples, lemon curd, white peach). Complex, racy elements of minerals, crushed seashells, rocky stream add lip-smacking elements while notes of graham cracker and honeycomb add depth. Balanced, serious, age-worthy stuff here. Aged 12 months in 30% new French oak. (92 points IJB)

Red wines

2017 Steele Wines Pinot Noir “Shooting Star”  USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $15
Light ruby color. Spicy rhubarb and pepper on the nose with rose petals, red currants and wild raspberries. Medium-bodied with silky-light tannins, fresh acidity, this is zippy and crushable, which is great, whole sporting some fun flavors. Wild strawberries and raspberries, crunchy red apples, with cinnamon sticks, pepper, tobacco and clove. Fun, fresh, vibrant, this has a lot of appeal for a Pinot at this price point, which is rare. Aged nine months in French and Hungarian oak. (86 points IJB)

2018 Steele Wines Zinfandel “Shooting Star” USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $15
Deep ruby color. Smells of jammy cherries and raspberries with smoky earth, chewing tobacco, mocha and root beer. Full-bodied on the palate with chewy texture, light tannins, rich, ripe and summer-friendly stuff. Jammy black cherries and plum sauce fruit mixed with cola, toffee and vanilla. Fun, grill-friendly stuff. Aged eight months in American and Hungarian oak. (86 points IJB)

2017 Steele Wines Zinfandel Old Vines Pacini Vineyard USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $20
Light purple color. Aromas of cherries, wild blueberries, raspberries, with integrated notes of mesquite, anise cookie, scorched earth. Full-bodied, chewy texture, velvety tannins, but stays lively and fresh with some moderating acidity. Black cherries, tart plums, wild raspberries, with bold notes of earth, tobacco, roasted chestnut, along with vanilla, coffee and dark chocolate Forward and packed with fruit but this shows a lot of complexity as well. Aged 12 months in 30% new American oak. (89 points IJB)

2016 Steele Wines Zinfandel Century Old Vines Catfish Vineyard USA, California, North Coast, Clear Lake
SRP: $25
Bright purple color. Nose shows jammy raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, with violets, coffee and vanilla. Vibrant acidity makes this a pleasure to drink from start to finish, the smooth tannins have some structure, but the wine feels accessible with tart black cherry and blueberry fruit. Notes of scorched earth, pepper, graphite, loamy earth. Deep but fresh, showing mineral tones, this is just entering a good drinking phase, and I’d love to see this in two or three years. Seriously impressive Zin for this price point. Originally planted in 1901, own-rooted, head pruned vines that include small amounts of Carignan, Alicante, and others. (91 points IJB)

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