Wine Reviews: Holiday Treats

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-13-2020

It’s been a long year, and this is a very different holiday season. But I hope you and yours are safe, healthy, and have an enjoyable holiday season, whatever you are celebrating.

In the spirit of the holidays, I’ve gathered up a collection of wines from all over the world that could add some cheer in the coming winter.

From one of the brightest, most complex Soaves I’ve tried in a long time, to Quilceda Creek’s second wine and the new vintage of Napa’s Cardinale, I’ve found some beauties. Merry Edwards’ first vintage of a Sauvignon Blanc dessert wine is absolutely delicious, and worth checking out, especially if you (like me) are a fan of their classic Sauv Blanc.

There’s some Champagne and other bubbles, of course. And if you’re not up for opening a full bottle, this report also includes several 375ml examples that are widely available in the U.S.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

White wines

2018 Pieropan Soave Classico Calvarino – Italy, Veneto, Soave Classico
SRP: $40
Medium yellow color. Plush but inviting nose of peach, guava, lime, topped in hay, white flowers, mint and chalk dust. Creamy texture on the palate is beautiful, while crisp acidity keeps it focused and bright, backed up with these plump peach and yellow apple fruit, drizzled with lie. The complexity here is great, with mineral, chalk, sandstone, hay and lemon verbena. Zest, focused, complex, stony, with a long, harmonious finish. This is killer single-vineyard Soave. (91 points IJB)

2019 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc – New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
SRP: $13/375ml
Light yellow color. Lively aromas of lemon, guava and ruby red grapefruit, with subtle herbal, peppery tones, white flowers in the mix as well. Ripe and plush on the palate with flavors of grapefruit, white peach and guava, accented with daisies and honeysuckle. A ripe and spicy feel but balanced and nuanced as well. (88 points IJB)

2018 William Hill Winery Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $13/375ml
Rich yellow color. Aromas of honeyed pears and apples, cinnamon crumb cake, but also some lively lemon and chalky tones. Creamy, juicy texture on the palate, moderating acidity, with flavors of yellow apples and lemon curd. Notes of honey, cinnamon and almond are woven in well, and notes of yellow flowers and chalk add vibrancy. Forward but harmonious, and a solid value Napa Chardonnay. (89 points IJB)

2019 Girasole Vineyards Pinot Blanc – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $14
Light yellow color. Nose of white peaches and yellow plums, along with spicy oregano and mint, honey and clover. Juicy, peachy and tropical on the palate, but fresh and crisp throughout. Yellow apples, white peaches, lemon and papaya, this is a juicy but zippy wine tossed with cucumber slices, floral perfume and honeysuckle. There’s a lot going on here for the price. (88 points IJB)

Sparkling, rosé & dessert wines

N.V. Bruno Paillard Champagne Extra-Brut Rosé Première Cuvée – France, Champagne
SRP: $70
Light salmon color. So bright and brisk with the nose with wild raspberry and strawberry, along with watermelon rind, topped in crushed shells, chalk dust, hints of white pepper and tomato leaf. Precise and focused on the palate with racy acidity and bright appeal, along with solid textural depth. Grapefruit, strawberry, raspberry and red apple peel fruit mix well with chalk, talc and crushed shell tones. Notes of white pepper and ginger add complexity to this brisk, delightful rosé. Mostly Pinot Noir from Verzenay, Bouzy, Mailly or Les Riceys, along with Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, with a 6 g/l dosage. (91 points IJB)

2019 Maîtres Vignerons de la Presqu’ile de Saint-Tropez Côtes de Provence Fleur de Mer Rosé – France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
SRP: $13/375ml
Deep copper color. Bright and chalky on the nose with sea salt and dandelion over top strawberry, watermelon and white cherry fruit. Fresh and plump texture on the palate, but bright acidity, with flavors of white peach and guava. Notes of yellow flowers, green tea and honey mix in well. Fruity but vibrant, a fun, versatile rosé. (87 points IJB)

N.V. La Marca Prosecco – Italy, Veneto / Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Prosecco
SRP: $11/375ml
Light yellow color. Nose pops with peaches, limes, honeysuckle, and crushed sweet tarts. Light and fresh with moderate acidity and flavors of peaches in honey, candied orange peel, shaved lemon. Nots of floral perfume and crushed sweet tarts mix with a hint of mint. Fun, straightforward, crowd-friendly stuff. (85 points IJB)

N.V. J Vineyards & Winery Brut Rosé – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $45
Light salmon color. Aromas of strawberries and watermelon, McIntosh apple, with chalky, seashell tones, spicy oregano and wildflowers. Fine bubbles on the palate, a round and tropical feel but fresh, too. Red apples, apricot, strawberry, mixed in with green and white teas, talc, mint. Juicy and fun but shows a good amount of complexity as well. 57% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay, 6% Pinot Meunier, 12 g/l dosage. (88 points IJB)

2018 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc Late Harvest – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $48/375ml
Rich yellow color. An explosion of peachy goodness on the nose with guava, orange marmalade, candied ginger, white tea and honey. Plush texture on the palate, with moderating acidity, a rich and honeyed texture, with guava and orange marmalade, yellow plums. Delicious tones of candied ginger, almond cake, unctuous yet shows vibrancy underneath. This is a delicious and complex wine, and the first harvest of this noble rot Sauv Blanc from the Maefield Vineyard Merry planted in 2015. An exceptional holiday choice or bury it in the cellar. (93 points IJB)

Red wines

2016 Renato Ratti Barolo Marcenasco – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
SRP: $65
Medium ruby color. The nose shows suave cherries, red currants, topped in a complex host of leather, pepper, grilled steak, clove, with underlying mushroom and rose petal tones. Medium/full-bodied with solid, grippy tannins and racy acidity. A deep but tart core of black cherries and red currants, chewy, ripe but fresh, and topped in elements of menthol, tar, smoky earth, pepper, mushroom and rose petals. This needs at least a few years or a good decant, but is balanced well and has a lot to offer. (90 points IJB)

2017 J Vineyards & Winery Pinot Noir Multi-Appellation – USA, California
SRP: $13/375
Medium ruby color. Aromas of jammy strawberries and cherry pie, cola and rhubarb on top. On the palate, this has velvety tannins, medium-low acidity, and plenty of juicy fruit (raspberries, red plums, cherry cheesecake). Notes of cola, caramel, rose petals, even some earth and herbal tones keep this interesting. Fun accessible, value-driven stuff. Fruit sourced from Monterey, Santa Barbara and Sonoma Counties. (86 points IJB)

2017 Cardinale – USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $325
Deep purple color. The nose shows waves of fresh, deep, tangy black currants and cherries, tossed with warm clay, tobacco, potting soil, roasted chestnut, oregano and hot chocolate – it’s a fascinating, diverse, shifting display of aromas. On the palate, this is full but fresh, structured but smooth tannins, and the acidity keeps it fresh and balanced. Plums, cherries, currants, deep but vibrant fruit laced with tobacco, mint, anise, cigar box, tobacco and coffee. Underlying graphite and mineral tones add this integrated, profound feel. This will do excellent things over the next five to 10 years. (96 points IJB)

2017 Barra of Mendocino Petite Sirah – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
SRP: $22
Medium purple color. Boisterous aromas of blackberry and blueberry jam, with smoky earth, dark chocolate, clove and violet petals. Juicy and fun on the palate, warm and inviting with smooth tannins, medium acidity keeps it active. Plummy, blackberry puree and roasted fig tones, mixed with coffee, rocky earth, tilled soil and dark chocolate shavings. Deep but not heavy, stays fresh. Solid value here for near-term wintertime drinking. All Petite Sirah, 14.5% alcohol. (88 points IJB)

2017 J Vineyards & Winery Pinot Noir Annapolis Ridge Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $110
Light purple color. Deep and saucy aromas of black cherries, dark plums, with lots of interesting mesquite, black pepper, rose petals and leather tones. Full, polished on the palate with velvety tannins and medium acidity that balances the deep, ripeness of the black cherries and plum cake fruit. Violets, gravelly earth, lots of concentration here with tones of black pepper glaze, dark chocolate and mesquite. A Pinot for Syrah-lovers for sure, and this needs serious time or a decant, but it has a lot going on. (91 points IJB)

2017 Quilceda Creek CVR Columbia Valley – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $70
Medium purple color. Deep and saucy aromatic display of red and black currants and cherries, laced with mesquite, tobacco, rocky earth, tar and coffee tones. Full-bodied, suave but structured, juicy but shows vibrant acidity. A smooth, deep yet tangy display of currant and black cherries, with a complex mix of graphite, loamy earth and rocky tones, iron, tobacco, with these nuances of cocoa powder and vanilla. This could use a few years or give it a really good decant if drinking soon. Cabernet Sauvignon with 3% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc, aged 18 months in 70% new French oak. A delicious, less expensive way to experience the Quilceda Creek goodness. (93 points IJB)

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