Wine Reviews: California and Arizona

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 01-09-2022

I hope your new year is off to a good start. I’m starting off the year with some wines from two places I love, California and Arizona.

Mendocino County is a place I’ve spent enough time visiting to realize, again and again: I need to spend more time here. The gnarly coast is one of my favorite places, and the wines from all the different AVAs have a lot to offer. I’ve been paying close attention to Mendocino wines over the past 15 years, and there’s a lot to offer. Meyer Family is a good one to check out – based in the Yorkville Highlands, and they also have a tasting room in Mendocino. I first tasted a 2003 Syrah from them that rocked me, and it was a pleasure to revisit their recent offerings.  

I also have some delicious wines from Sonoma, including an interesting white blend Sosie and a banger of a Cab-based red from Hamel Family. I also have a bright, zesty Monterey Pinot Noir that wowed me.

For the first time in two years, I traveled out of my region, and visited family in Arizona over the holidays. I’m a big fan of Arizona wines, and bought some Page Springs Cellars and Dos Cabezas ahead of time for the family dinners. (The wines were great.) The landscape in Arizona fascinates me so, and I’ve spent countless hours hiking and climbing in the desert mountains. And I love that, turns out, a lot of cool people make really good wine out there, too. Most of the winelands are in higher elevation sites, there are always mountains nearby, and winemakers working with diverse grapes and styles. Two wines from Aridus are represented here. Based in Willcox, their wines are more widely available than some others. If you ever find yourself in Old Town Scottsdale, their tasting room is a nice place and a fun visit.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2018 Meyer Family Cellars Chardonnay Donnelly Creek Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $32
Ripe yellow color. The nose is lovely, with lemon bars and yellow apples, tossed with raw almond, hay, with chalky, flinty, salty notes. Medium-bodied, crisp, vibrant acidity frames the wine so nicely, and the wine has a pleasant, balanced creaminess. Lemon and pear fruit mix well with nuanced whipped honey and graham cracker, and these chalky, salty, mineral tones. A really vibrant and focused Chardonnay. Aged nine months in 25% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

2017 Meyer Family Cellars Syrah – USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands
SRP: $26
Deep ruby color. Lovely spice on the nose with pepper, paprika, anise and coffee, over top of cherries, wild raspberries and pomegranate fruit. Medium-bodied with lovely acidity and dusty tannins, this is such a lively wine with loads of savory tones. Crisp red fruit meets notes of bacon fat, mesquite and grilled steak. Spicy and floral with dusty minerals and earth tones that linger long on the finish. Fans of spicy, crisp Syrah, this one delivers complexity and depth for a very reasonable price. Includes 2% Petite Sirah, aged 20 months, this sees 13% new French and 11% new American oak. (92 points IJB)

2018 Meyer Family Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Fluffy Billows – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
SRP: $54
Deep purple color. Aromas of plum cake and blackberry jam, over some nice smoky, savory tones (like a grilled steak over a campfire with plenty of cracked pepper). On the palate, the acidity is great, giving the wine such a vibrant streak throughout, and the tannins show grip and structure. Tart cherry and black currant fruit blend well with smoky, graphite, mineral, iron and roasted red pepper tones. Fresh, spicy, a lot of cool Old World vibes, but distinctly Mendocino. Includes 5% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, aged 22 months in 50% new French oak. (92 points IJB)

2019 Hartford Old Vine Zinfandel – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $40
Light purple. The nose is saucy with sweet raspberries, plums and cherries, with clove and warm black tea elements. The palate shows soft tannins and medium/low acidity, with plummy, sweet fig fruit. Notes of caramel, mocha, warm black tea and clove add complexity. A ripe, saucy style for cold nights and comfort food. Aged 10 months in 41% new French oak. (88 points IJB)

2019 Sosie Rossi Ranch White Blend – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
SRP: $35
Rich yellow color. The nose is really ripe and floral with notes of honey and candle wax over a tropical salad of cantaloupe, pineapple and lemon. The palate shows a rich, plush texture but the medium acidity keeps it from being overbearing or heavy on the palate. Pineapple, lime, kiwi and guava fruit blend well with these raw almond, dried honey, candle wax, chalk dust notes. White this is so fresh and inviting for a Roussanne-based blend, and definitely one to check out if you like those textural depth elements but need freshness in your Rhone blends. Roussanne with 27% Grenache Blanc and 25% Marsanne, co-fermented with native years and aged 10 months in all used oak. (92 points IJB) 

2018 Hamel Family Wines Isthmus – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
SRP: $90
Deep purple color. Ooh, the nose has this lovely mix of smoky, meaty tones over top of blackberry and black currants, tossed with cocoa, earth and iron. The palate has grippy tannins and moderate acidity, with tart currant and saucy black cherry fruit. Balanced, vibrant and structured, this needs time and air, but has a lot of spice, clove, iron, graphite and cedar to unpack. With time, beefy, smoky tones come out. This is Sonoma Valley goodness, a blend of Cab with 18% Merlot, 14% Cab Franc, 4% Petit Verdot, aged 12 months in a mix of new and used French oak and then 17 months in concrete. (92 points IJB)

2019 Metz Road Pinot Noir Riverview – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey County
SRP: $36
Lively ruby color. Vibrant aromas of raspberries and cherries, fresh and fascinating with tones of white pepper, rose petals and cola. On the palate, this is refreshing and lively with juicy raspberries, cherries, red apple peel. Notes of tobacco, white pepper, light roast coffee and cola tones add a lot to ponder. Refreshing but deep, too, with an earthy, spicy, floral finish. I’d love to see this in three or four years. Aged 14 months in 100% new French oak. (92 points IJB)

2020 Aridus Sauvignon Blanc – USA, Arizona
SRP: $28
Light lemon color.  Aromas show salty, lemon verbena and cucumber slices over top of peaches, kiwi and honey – lots of fun. Zesty but nice creaminess on the palate, with tangy limes and kiwis, juicy peaches, backed up by honeysuckle, minerals, and flinty, stony notes that add complexity. Arizona Sauv Blanc? Yeah, this is good stuff from an estate vineyard in Cochise County, in the Chiricahua Foothills, all stainless steel. (89 points IJB)

2019 Aridus Malbec – USA, Arizona
SRP: $36
Light purple color. Jammy nose of roasted figs, plum cake, with mocha, toffee and pepper tones. Medium acidity, smooth, soft tannins on the palate, and a fun and fresh appeal. Strawberries and blueberry fruit mixes with red licorice, violets and roses. Notes of pepper and sage. Fun, grilled food-friendly Malbec with 5% Petit Verdot. (87 points IJB)

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