Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-05-2023

From across the country, I’ve been watching this crazy winter weather across California. You’ve been on my mind lately, as I see beautiful images of snow-covered vineyards contrasted with some destruction and mind-boggling high-altitude snow levels. As Spring kicks off, and in anticipation of a coming California trip, I’m highlighting some new releases from the golden state this week.

Smith-Madrone (one of those snow-covered vineyards) continues to deliver with their Riesling. Like guitarists who cannot stop writing amazing riffs record after record, the Smith brothers continue to turn out stellar Riesling after Riesling from their Spring Mountain site (around 1,800 feet and slopes at a grade up to 34%). The 2018 continues that trend. I also have a delicious Cab from Napa’s Lobo Wines, a producer frequent readers may recognize, and a killer Sauv Blanc from Napa’s Grieve that is good choice for whenever the snow melts and the flowers start to bloom. Lastly, there are some reliable and value-driven Mendocino wines from Barra – a little something for everyone this week.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2021 Grieve Family Winery Double Eagle USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $50
Medium lemon color. The aromas are so spritely (with white flowers, celery seed, saline) along with deeper honey tones, over apples, papaya, and lime. The palate is really racy but the mouthfeel shows this nice, creamy depth as well. White peach, papaya, yellow apples, drizzled with the lime, the fruit meets the chalky, floral, basil and white pepper elements, and it finishes with minerals and slate. The combination of pure, delicious fruit with this brisk appeal and the textural depth – it just hits the spot. Fantastic Napa Sauv Blanc. Aged eight months in 77% concrete eggs and 23% French oak. (94 points IJB)

2018 Smith-Madrone Riesling USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
SRP: $36
Medium yellow color. The aromas pop with peaches, pineapple, lime, accented with honeycomb, white tea, and plenty of chalky, limestone, and saline tones. The palate sports lip-smacking acidity and a peachy-keen appeal with honeydew melon and lime. There are so many chalky, mineral, crushed rock, and mountain stream vibes to parse through here, but the wine maintains an effortless feel. This vintage seems like it will age for a very long time, as there’s a ton to unpack. Still, absolutely delicious right now, and so expressive. (94 points IJB)

2020 Lobo Wines Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $80
Deep purple color. The nose shows delightfully deep and tangy currants and black cherries, tossed together with anise, loamy earth, graphite, fallen leaves, and nuanced oak. The palate shows solid grip, round-edged tannins, and lively acidity, which makes for a tangy, balanced wine. Black cherries, plums, and blackberries, along with plenty of graphite, violets, tar, roasted red pepper, and black pepper. Good concentration and vibrancy, this should do well with a few years in the cellar and hold for quite some time. (92 points IJB)

2021 Barra of Mendocino Chardonnay Reserve USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
SRP: $24
Medium lemon color. Shows a juicy, ripe nose of yellow apples, white peaches, with honey, almond, whipped butter, with some brighter floral tones. The palate has a pleasantly creamy texture and medium acidity, with flavors of white peaches, yellow apples, and accents of almond, hay, some popcorn, but also some cool saltine and chalk dust elements. A lot of fun. (87 points IJB)

2020 Barra of Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $28
A punchy purple color. Ripe and fun on the nose with black cherries and plum sauce, roasted figs, and a cool mix of tar, smoky earth, with chocolate and caramel nuances. The palate shows smooth tannins on a ripe but fresh frame, with flavors of roasted figs, blueberries, and black cherries. The nuances of black pepper and portobello mushrooms, with roasted red pepper, rose potpourri, some coffee and dark chocolate elements. Delicious, fan-friendly style but shows good complexity as well. (88 points IJB)

2021 Barra of Mendocino Pinot Noir Reserve USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
SRP: $26
Vibrant ruby color. A bright but sweet nose of red apple peels, raspberries, rhubarb, along with spiced tea, library dust, rose petals and pepper. The palate shows dusty tannins and a fresh appeal with tangy raspberries and red cherries. Notes of sweet red flowers, spiced tea, rhubarb, white pepper, it has a fun and accessible style but shows a lot of balance and complexity for the price point. (89 points IJB)

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