Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-27-2021

The California wines keep on coming, so I’m back this week with another roundup of new releases.

There are some serious Cabernets in this mix. LaPelle’s Napa offering is an underrated gem that would be a nice mix to any Cali Cab fan’s cellar. Sullivan is right up there, too.

Paso Robles comes back again with some delicious, complex, grill-friendly reds from Tooth and Nail’s Amor Fati label. Sonoma producers Notre Vue, Bouchaine and Sosie also sport some interesting reds.

I recently attended a Facebook Live virtual tasting with Justin Vineyards’ founder Justin Baldwin, which involved three of their wines paired with a cheese. Justin and author Laura Werlin walked attendees through their wines and the cheeses from Cowgirl, Vella Cheese and Cypress Grove. Especially during these past 15 months or so, I’ve appreciated seeing wineries putting lots of effort into tasting likes these as a way to bring wine-lovers together when many of us have been far apart.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

White wines

2020 Justin Vineyards & Winery Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Central Coast
SRP: $16
Medium yellow color. Aromas of lemons and white peaches, with lots of flowers, wild mint, basil and honey. Punchy texture, medium-bodied, moderating acidity. Rich fruit, with chunks of peaches and guava, drizzled in lime. Notes of honeysuckle, candle wax, some mineral, chalky tones, with some dandelion and clover. Nice freshness and depth, a lot going on here for the price in this widely-available Sauv Blanc. All stainless steel, no maloactic fermentation. (88 points IJB)

2019 Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay “40th Anniversary” – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $70
Rich yellow color. Aromas of deep apricot, lemon curd, along with graham cracker, saltines, honey, along with some ginger, breezy, floral tones. Plump and full on the palate but it has nice, pleasant acidity. A rich style with flavors of lemon bars and orange marmalade, but it has complexity and nuance, too. Hay, chalk, white tea, honey, gingerbread, some pistachio tones. Underlying notes of minerals and ocean spray. Bold but classy. A blend of three estate vineyards, aged 10 months in 15% new French oak, released for their 40th anniversary, this is a fitting tribute to their classic style of California Chardonnay. (90 points IJB)

2019 La Pelle Chardonnay Bien Nacido – Block 1 – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $60
Light yellow color. Wow, the aromas pop with kiwi, lemon and white peach, backed with saline, peanut shell, honey and chalk dust tones. Brisk and salty on the palate with generous texture, round but vibrant and bright. Lemon, yellow apples and apricot mix with complex tones of sea salt, crunchy mineral tones, backed up with yellow flowers, honey. Perfumed, generous, deep and complex, this is a special Chard. From the oldest vines in the vineyard. (93 points IJB)

Red wines

2018 Justin Vineyards & Winery Malbec Reserve – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $45
Deep purple color. Aromas of cocoa, vanilla and ginger snaps, with violets and cedar, over top of juicy blackberries. Full, suave, chewy tannins, moderate acidity keeps it fresh. Juicy plums and blackberries but the fruit has a nice crunchy edge. Notes of tilled soil, graphite, coffee grounds, tossed with coconut and dark chocolate tones. Highly delicious, and despite its richness, it stays lively. Drinking great now or hold for two years or so. Aged 21 months in 60% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2018 Justin Vineyards & Winery Savant – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $50
Vibrant purple color. The nose pops with black cherries and blackberries, with lots of smoky elements, tones of pepper, roasted meat, coffee grounds – a lot going on. Full (16.1%) but somehow maintains some freshness, too. Chewy tannins, dangerously easy-drinking, with flavors of lush plum, blackberry and currant compote. Complexities of red pepper flakes, black pepper, leather, cocoa, mint chocolate chip, coffee grounds. Rich but interesting, sporting savory complexities that will really pop with a few years in the cellar. 64% Syrah, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Merlot, aged 21 months in 52% new French oak. (92 points IJB)

2018 Amor Fati Grenache Murmur Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $60
Vibrant purple. Ripe and juicy on the nose with plums, raspberries and blackberries, over top of smoky, earthy tones, with soy, violets, some sweet pipe tobacco. Juicy and ripe on the palate with smooth tannins and acidity that is surprisingly vibrant, bold cherry and vibrant raspberry fruit. Complexities of roasted red pepper, roasted chestnut, tobacco, sage and some brisket and smoke tones. There’s really a lot going on here, and it unfolds nicely with air. This should improve with a few years in the cellar, but a deep yet nuanced Grenache. (91 points IJB)

2018 Amor Fati Syrah Murmur Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $60
Light purple color. Delicious aromas of red plums, raspberries and candied apples, with lots of clove, roses, violets, cracked black pepper. Has a suave feel with moderate, lively acidity and a smooth, balanced feel. Raspberry compote, black cherries, the fruit is deep but crunchy and laced with complex notes of black olives, warm clay, violets, clove, with sweet herbs and lavender. A fresh, minerally, earthy tone underneath. Highly delicious but balanced, a very pretty Santa Maria Syrah that will do nicely with three or four years. (91 points IJB)

2019 Sosie Rossi RanchUSA, California, Sonoma County, Moon Mountain District
SRP: $43
Medium ruby color. Aromas of suave cherries, plums and raspberries, along with lots of floral, fresh tones (roses, violets) withi black tea, tilled soil and cinnamon sticks. Zesty acidity makes this so fresh and easy to drink, full but fresh with suave tannins. Plummy, raspberries, a juicy and vibrant feel with complexities of violets, soil, clove, spiced tea, oregano and rosemary – you get the idea, just a lot to unpack. Graphite and mineral tones round out the finish. 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, native yeast fermentation, aged 21 months in 50% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

2019 Bouchaine Pinot Noir Estate Vineyard – USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $35
Vibrant ruby color. So fresh on the nose, with strawberries, cranberry, wild raspberry, along with cola, tobacco, tilled soil, also violets and hints of mushroom – a lot going on here. Crisp acidity and a velvety mouthfeel, smooth tannins, meet raspberries and juicy strawberries, the fruit has a ripe but vibrant feel. Notes of light roast coffee, rose and violet petals, along with complexities of cola, clay earth, mushroom accents. Delightful, quite complex, accessible now but will improve for a few years. Solid value. Aged 10 months in 18% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2018 La Pelle Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $125
Rich purple color. Aromas of deep currants and plums with complex tones of earth, rocks, graphite and minerals, and opens wonderfully to show lots more floral and spice notes. Solid grip and structure on the palate, while the acidity is crisp and lively, and there’s an elegance to the mouthfeel that is wonderful. The plum and currant fruits are deep but crisp and woven together expertly with tones of violets, coffee, mint, potting soil, graphite. Deep but perfumed and expressive, this needs time to show its best, but a beautiful young Napa Cab. Includes 2% apiece Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, aged 21 months in 80% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

2017 Sullivan Vineyards Coeur de Vigne – USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
SRP: $90
Deep purple color. The aromas are gorgeous, deep but evocative, with plums, currants and blueberries, laced with smoky herbs, menthol, cocoa powder, along with mushroom broth and rock earth – wow. Full-bodied, solid tannins and vibrant acidity, over a deep core of currant and tart blackberry and cherry fruit. Complex notes of rocky earth, tobacco barn, tar, anise, violet petals. A lot of flinty, iron and mineral components make this a fascinating, delicious wine with a lot of depth, but the liveliness is really impressive too. This will reward the patient. Includes 22% Merlot and 4% Malbec. (93 points IJB)

2019 FEL Pinot Noir Anderson Valley – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $40
Bright ruby color. The nose boasts juicy raspberries and cherries, along with clay and clove tones, and a nice mix of spicy pepper, sage and dried rose petals. Warm and inviting on the palate, but fresh acidity, with velvety tannins. Tangy black cherries meet raspberry jam, which is tossed with black tea, roasted chestnut, warm clay, and notes of tobacco and pepper. Fun and accessible but the complexity and spicy, earthy tones is impressive. Really solid value here for a Pinot of this character. Aged sixteen months in 38% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

2019 Notre Vue Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $55
Medium ruby color. A warm, inviting compote of cherries and strawberries, with tobacco, rose petals, dusty earth and sage. On the palate, this is so fresh and vibrant with moderate grip to the tannins and juicy cherries and dark plums. Lovely spice and earth tones, rose petals, clove, tobacco and pepper. Deep and refined, earthy and bright, this could age well, too. For those who like more subtly, savory elements in their California Pinot, seek this out. Native yeast fermentation, aged 12 months in 40% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

2019 Notre Vue GSM – USA, California, Sonoma County, Chalk Hill
SRP: $69
Pale ruby color. The nose is spicy and fresh with wild strawberries, cherries, raspberries, with white pepper, tobacco and eucalyptus tones. Bright acidity frames the wine well, fleshy texture, with dusty tannins. Lovely fruit (tangy raspberries, juicy red cherries, crunchy red currants), mixing well with notes of pepper, paprika, tobacco and rose petal. Opens up and shows more nuanced sage, clay and floral tones. Has a lot to show in the future, but also delicious now. 51% Grenache, 29% Mourvedre and 20% Syrah. (92 points IJB)

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