Wine Reviews: California Selections

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-22-2022

I love California wine, and this week I have a handful of wines from producers that consistently deliver for me. It’s autumn, the nights have been cool and I’ve been cooking a lot at home. And it is prime time for deep Napa Cabs, refreshing Sonoma Pinot Noirs and creamy Chards. I’m planning on hosting a lot of friends and family over the coming holidays, and I chose some wines I would love to serve at such occasions. There are complex and age-worthy Cabs from some great producers: Smith-Madrone, Sullivan Rutherford Estate, Frank Family. And Gary Farrell and Ram’s Gate deliver Sonoma goodness in droves.

If you’re stocking up for the coming holiday season, here are some of my favorites from recent California samples. These wines were tasted sighted.

2019 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
SRP: $65
Vibrant purple color. The fruit on the nose shows these tart but deep vibes (black cherries, blueberries, currants), mixed with these scents of iron, graphite, sage, tobacco and pepper. Give it air, and there’s a ton to coax out. On the palate, this is full but fresh with nice grip and crisp acidity. The black currant and cherry fruit is juicy and tangy, and the mouthfeel is smooth and effortless. The fruit is woven in well with flavors of tobacco, roasted red pepper, sage and clove. Nuanced, gorgeous complexity, this is a stellar 2019 Cab that deserves time in the cellar and some great company. Includes 12% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot, aged 18 months in 55% new French oak. (95 points IJB)

2019 Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $60
Vibrant purple color. Warm and inviting on the nose with fallen leaves, clove, potpourri and tobacco over top deep black cherries and dark plums, with herbal tea and toffee tones. Juicy and fresh on the palate, with chewy tannins and a ripe but nuanced feel. Tangy black cherry and red and black currant fruit, with complexities of eucalyptus, mint, pepper and earth. The savory tones and fruit nuances need time to come out, but this is such a delightful Cab. Aged 20 months in 33% new French oak. (92 points IJB)

2019 Sullivan Rutherford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Coeur de Vigne USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
SRP: $110
Deep purple color. Gorgeous concentration on the nose, with plums, currants, blueberries, laced with graphite, stony, dusty tones, some leather, sage and deep earthy tones. The tannic grip is fantastic and the acidity is in line and balanced, with a core of deep but tangy fruit (black cherries, currants). I get notes of leather, graphite, along with potting soil, tar and some smoked meat tones as well. A stony, rocky, mineral-laden essence pervades this wine, and the savory complexity needs time to show it’s full stuff, but this is a beautiful 19 Cabernet that will do wonders in the cellar. Includes 8% Petit Verdot, 2% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. (95 points IJB)

2019 Ram’s Gate Chardonnay El Diablo Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $70
Rich yellow color. Beautiful aromatic depth, with yellow apples, limes and pears, tossed with honey, ginger, graham cracker, and notes of meringue, chalk dust and white tea – just lovely. The palate shows crisp acidity and a gorgeous, creamy texture, and the balance between all these elements is pristine. Yellow apples, lemon curd and green pear fruit blend well with these chalky, flinty, mineral vibes. The creamy, honeyed, almond and cheese rid notes are balanced well, and notes of flowers and mountain stream linger long on the finish. A beautifully textured and delicious Chardonnay that should age wonderfully. Aged in 28% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

2020 Gary Farrell Chardonnay Russian River Selection USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $35
Deep yellow color. Beautiful nose of yellow apples, lemons, pineapple, with white flowers, sea salt, chalk dust and crème brulee tones. The palate shows racy acidity which keeps things in balance and contrasts nicely off the rich yellow apple, lemon curd and zesty lime fruit. Chalky, flinty undertones, with nuanced walnut and graham cracker. This is a fresh, delightful Russian River Chardonnay that would please so many a palate. Great value, too. Aged nine months in 30% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

2020 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River Selection USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $45
Lively cherry color. The aromas pop with crisp cherry and raspberry, strawberry, red apple peel, so vibrant and mixed with tones of tobacco, rhubarb, mint, some clay and cola. The palate shows crisp acidity and a plush feel, smooth tannins. The fruit tastes crisp, cool and delightful (black cherries, raspberries, juicy strawberries). Pretty elements of rhubarb, white pepper, bay leaf, mixing with nuanced cola and toffee with floral, spicy tones on the finish. Crisp, fresh, balanced Pinot. (92 points IJB)

2021 Head High Zinfandel USA, California, Sonoma Valley
SRP; $28
Deep ruby color. Bright yet deep fruits (black cherries, raspberries) mixed with scents of violets, cola, light roast coffee and some roasted chestnut. Ripe but tangy on the palate, supple tannins, zippy acidity, with a juicy, jammy appeal to the fruit, with raspberries, plums and black cherries. The complexities of earth, pepper, anise and light roast coffee make this delicious, and there’s some gravelly, mineral tones on the finish. Juicy, warm stuff for cold autumn nights. Aged nine months in French oak. (90 points IJB)

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