Wine Reviews: American Wines for the Fourth of July

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-03-2021

Happy Fourth of July to all the American readers out there. As has grown to be my custom, I take this time to highlight some recent American wines that came across the sample pile. And I have a fun, diverse group today.

I’ve long been a fan (and something of an evangelist) for Arizona wines. I can’t help myself, I love it out there, and there are some really cool people making really fun wines. Aridus, based in one of my favorite areas of Cochise County, is a good intro into AZ wines, and are more widely available than most.

From Oregon, Applegate Valley’s biodynamic stalwart Troon Vineyards delivers three summery, spritzy, crushable wines. They’re always experimenting, and I respect that.

And, of course, California wines make appearances. Ashes & Diamonds 2020 pink is about as complex and impressive a California rosé I’ve come across in a long time. A case buy kind of wine. Howell Mountain Cabernet comes out to show why this appellation is so excellent, and a few other legit Cab-based wines round out the mix.

Lastly, from Virginia, Monticello-based producer Stinson continues to deliver with their Tannat-based pink, and a Merlot and Meritage definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in Virginia wines.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.


2019 ARIDUS Sauvignon Blanc USA, Arizona, Willcox
SRP: $28
Light yellow color. Aromas of white peaches, guava and lime, with honeysuckle, clover, minty, onion grass tones. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity, generous texture, with flavors of white peaches, pineapple and lime. Notes of yellow and white flowers, fresh and fun with tones of sea salt, mint, cucumber slices. Summery and lots of fun. (87 points IJB)

2017 Aridus Syrah USA, Arizona, Willcox
SRP: $37
Medium purple color. The nose shows plums, black currants, lots of anise, pepper, campfire, with notes of red pepper flakes and dried violet petals. Full but fresh. Chewy tannins, medium acidity, with tart blackberry, blueberry and saucy plums. Graphite and clay tones mix with pepper, bacon fat and glazed mushroom. There’s a lot going on here and it’s balanced well. Nice stuff, great intro to Arizona Syrah for the price. (89 points IJB)

2018 ARIDUS Graciano USA, Arizona, Willcox
SRP: $37
Vibrant ruby color. Aromas of smoky plums, cherries and currants, with notes of creosote, warm clay, tobacco and violets. Full and chewy on the palate with deep plums, cherries and red currant jam. Medium-low acid, but enough for balance. Notes of menthol, pepper, scorched earth, clay and earth. Yummy stuff, Graciano does good things in Arizona. (88 points IJB)


2020 Ron Rubin Chardonnay Pam’s Un-Oaked USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $14
Rich yellow color. Aromas of yellow apples covered in honey, with lots of flowers, like a springtime field of dandelion and clover. Crisp and juicy frame on the palate with white peaches and lemon/lime fruit. Note of honey, floral perfume on a vibrant, steely, bright frame. Accessible, fresh, crushable, crowd-pleasing Chardonnay. Sourced from Clarksburg and Lodi. (87 points IJB)

2020 Ashes & Diamonds Rose No. 5 USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $39
Palest copper color. Chalky and floral on the nose, so fresh and racy, with McIntosh apples and white cherries, with nuanced white pepper and bay leaf – so fun to sniff. Racy, chalky vibes on the palate, but shows impressive textural depth. Red apples, watermelon and lemon zest mix well with minerals, sea salt and white pepper. The whole time this wine exudes these oyster shell, mountain stream, spritely vibes that are pure and delicious. Worth every penny, and then some. Made from Cab Franc from Oak Knoll and Carneros, 11.7% alcohol, aged eight months in stainless steel. (93 points IJB)

2018 Ron Rubin Pinot Noir USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $25
Vibrant ruby color. Smells of ripe strawberries and red cherries, with lots of bright roses, red apple peel, with cola and spicy rhubarb elements. Crisp and zesty approach with light tannins and juicy raspberry and cherry fruit. A ripe but vibrant feel with spicy pepper, rhubarb, not jammy or overdone, just straightforward and fun. Aged 10 months in 20% new French oak. (87 points IJB)

2018 Castello di Amorosa Pinot Noir Morning Dew Ranch USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $75
Deep ruby color. Fresh aromas of cherries and strawberries, but also deep and inviting with spicy tones of tobacco, pepper, rose hips and paprika, nuanced cola and milk chocolate. Chewy texture but vibrant acidity, the balance is refreshing. Strawberry and cherry fruit, jammy but lively, with roses, pepper, with earthy, savory tones peeking out, which should come out more with time. Cola, coffee and nutmeg tones, this is spicy, complex and nuanced, very pretty, and should do well with two to five years in the cellar. Aged 11 months in 53% new French oak. (92 points IJB)

2016 Castiel Estate Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
SRP: $225
Medium purple color. Gorgeous depth on the nose, with tart black currants and wild berries. Inviting cigar box, violets, clove, old library shelves (in a really pleasant way), with nuanced cedar and dark chocolate shavings. Bold structure but moderate acidity, with a vibrant core of blueberry and black currants. Complex notes of violets, pine tar, all sorts of oregano and sage. Wow, this is exceptionally suave, deep but fresh, beautiful concentration and balance – this will reward the patient in the cellar. All Cabernet aged 18 months in 70% new French oak. (95 points IJB)

2017 Castiel Estate Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
SRP: $175
Medium purple color. Aromas of tart currants, deep black cherries and blueberries, darker, needs time to open but it shows a lot of spicy tobacco, roasted red pepper, sage, warm and peppery, too – a ton going on. Deep, structured, solid grip but the acidity is lively and keeps it fresh. Darker slightly than the ’16 but still so vibrant, with delicious, crunchy plums and black cherries. Complex notes of pipe tobacco, pine, mint, eucalyptus and earth. A wine for the cellar for sure, this has a lot to unpack and will do wonders over 10 to 20 years. All Cabernet aged 18 months in new French oak. (94 points IJB)

2017 Gamble Family Vineyards Paramount USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $90
Deep purple color. The nose boasts blackberries and blueberries, along with really complex tones of leather, cigar shop, tobacco, clove and violets. Give it a good decant to allow the aromas to unravel and be rewarded. Full and deep, structured well, moderating acidity. Plummy with dark currants, this is delicious but deep. Rocky, graphite tones, along with tilled soil, cocoa, tobacco and cigar box, mint chocolate chip. Mineral tones underneath, too. The price isn’t a “steal,” per se, but this performs very high for a Napa Cab in this range. 33% Cabernet Franc, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot aged 20 months in 43% new French oak. (93 points IJB)

2018 Newton Cabernet Sauvignon Unfiltered USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $55
Medium purple color. Medium purple color. The nose exudes smoky earth, mocha and coffee grounds over top of dark plums and saucy black cherries. Fresh and vibrant approach on the palate with smooth, velvety tannins. A plush feel with deep blackberry and plum fruit. Notes of spicy tobacco, earth, sage, roasted chestnut add complexity. Vibrant but complex, accessible young but a lot going on, too. (90 points IJB)

2017 Newton The Puzzle USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
SRP: $125
Bright purple color. Compact, needs time, but it opens to show tart black currants and plum sauce, along with scorched earth, graphite, coffee grounds and vanilla. Rich and deep on the palate, solid grip, concentrated and deep but it shows lively acidity, too. Tart currants and blackberries blend well with lush tones of coffee, dark chocolate, pencil shavings, some dried coconut, too. Deep and juicy, but vibrant, too, and it shows more leather and anise tones with air. Hold for a bit, but this is lovely. Cabernet Sauvignon with 11% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec. (92 points IJB)


2020 Troon Vineyard Kubli Bench Piquette USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Applegate Valley
SRP: $25
Bright cherry color with a nose of watermelon rind, orange peel, wild raspberry, with spicy citrus tea, some pepper and tomato leaf. On the palate, this has light bubbles, with crispy and tart acidity, and tart cherry and raspberry fruit. Unlike a lot of piquettes, this one isn’t too funky or feral, it shows focus, spicy tea, herbs, but has a bright and fun approach throughout. A lot of fun for a lot of different palates, I imagine. (88 points IJB)

2020 Troon Vineyard FIZZante USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Applegate Valley
SRP: $35
Juicy plum color. The aromas show bright raspberry and strawberries, with some wild herbs and spicy, floral tones. A light fizz on a chalky texture frame the palate, moderate acidity. Light and crushable but plenty of flavor, too. Raspberry and red apple peel mix with rose petal, white pepper, orange zest. A bright, crushable but spicy wine that is interesting and all sorts of fun. A co-fermented mix of Sangiovese and Montepulciano. (88 points IJB)

2020 Troon Vineyard Pét tanNat USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Applegate Valley
SRP: $35
Pale lemon color. The aromas are fresh and spritely with crushed sweet tarts, lemon peel, and white flowers. Zippy and tart with a light and brisk appeal. Lemon, kiwi, green melon, with notes of chalk dust, sea salt, cucumber water, celery seed. All sorts of cool, complexities in here, but it’s also so fun and fresh and perfect for summer. Tannat Pet-Nat. (90 points IJB)

2019 Siduri Chardonnay USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $35
Light yellow color. Ooh, so inviting on the nose: lemon and orange peels, sea salt, crushed shells, honeycomb and mild butter. Precise acidity with generous texture. Ripe and nuanced with lemon curd, orange peel and kiwi, this is delicate and fresh with accents of chalk, sea salt, hay, almond, some nuanced honey and ginger. Refined, zippy and lovely. Sourced from Maple Grove, Gran Moraine, Zena Crown and other vineyards, aged 10 months in 25% new French oak. This is Siduri’s first shot at Chardonnay, and they rocked it. (90 points IJB)


2020 Stinson Vineyards Tannat Rosé USA, Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $23
Pale copper color. Full of peaches and limes on the palates, with attractive tones of honeysuckle, daisies, crushed shells and sweet tarts. So crisp and vibrant on the palate, nice creamy texture offers pleasant depth. Flavors of white peaches and limes mix well with tones of celery seed, white pepper, rose petals. These mineral, talc and limestone elements add all sorts of complexity. Delightful, and a perennial performer in the Virginia rosé scene for sure, and an awesome value. (90 points IJB)

2019 Stinson Vineyards Merlot ­- USA, Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello\
SRP: $27
Medium ruby color. Such an inviting, spicy and savory mix on the nose, with raspberries and black cherries topped in smoky tobacco, sage, clove and leather. The tannins show nice grip and the acidity is crisp, providing a refreshing balance. Tangy black cherry and red currant fruit, laced with pepper, leather, roasted red pepper, some light roast coffee and clay, earthy tones. Integrated already but this will be excellent in five years. All Merlot aged 17 months in 30% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2017 Stinson Vineyards Meritage USA, Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $36
Deep ruby color. Wow, the aromas pop: plums and cherries topped in pepper, violets, sage, clay, warm black tea and warm leather. Medium/full-bodied with suave feel, solid tannic backbone, fresh acidity – things are lined up nicely here. Black cherries and deep plums, tossed with pepper, sage, paprika, and enticing notes of warm clay, clove, mocha and roasted chestnut. This will age wonderfully. 50% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, aged 21 months in 35% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

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