Wine Reviews: Special Selections from California and Oregon

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 01-29-2023

California’s been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve been following these crazy winter storms from afar, and hoping for the best for you all. I’m also excited to visit soon, and very much looking forward to seeing family and friends in Sonoma, doing some surfing, going on climbing adventures, and visiting some of my favorite wine country.

In anticipation, I’ve had the pleasure of tasting through some lovely California wines recently, and I have some selections this week that keep my love for California wine thriving. There are some real Cabernet-based gems in here, from the likes Napa’s Kelly Fleming and Priest Ranch, and from Sonoma’s Chalk Hill and Hamel Family.

From Oregon, I have some new options from the always inventive, reliably delicious Troon Vineyard. This crew does a whole lot, from Vermentinos to skin contact whites, deep Tannats and spicy Syrahs. But this week I want to highlight their Druid’s Fluid blends, which are really tasty and do a good job representing a cross-section of their different estate grapes.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2019 Kelly Fleming Wines Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $185
A deep, lively purple color. The nose shows a pretty core of plum, tart currant, suave black cherries, with a wrapped-up mix of violets, cocoa, cedar and eucalyptus. The palate has deep texture, structured tannins and vibrant acidity, all balanced very well. Tart black currant and juicy black cherry fruit blends well with stony, earthy, graphite, violets and anise. Time and air coaxes out so many nuances, and the mouthfeel is pristine throughout – very long finish. The crisp, tart appeal is gorgeous. This will age gracefully for many years, and a great example of the vintage. All estate vineyard Cabernet aged 20 months in 85% new French oak. (95 points IJB)

2011 Kelly Fleming Wines Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
Library release

A vibrant purple color. Gorgeous aromas of currants, black cherries, dark plums, a compote of deliciousness, mixed with mint, eucalyptus, clove, some coffee and black pepper. Still so alive, but those secondary nuances are really popping. The palate has structured but suave tannins and crisp acidity, and lots of juicy, tart currants and plum fruit. The accents of dusty earth, smoked meat, mint, some black olive, mushroom and spice rub – it all adds a fascinating and delicious display. The fruit is still so full, but has that tangy, edge from the age and vintage, but it’s holding up really well and has a lot more evolution to go. I’d love to re-taste this in five to seven years to see where the savory tones go and how the tannins and fruit integrate further. (94 points IJB)

2019 Priest Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon Snake Oil USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $110
Deep purple. Dark and saucy aromas, blueberries and wild blackberries, laced with gravelly, loamy, stony, earthy vibes, and a mix of eucalyptus, mint and white pepper – wow, really interesting. Deep but crunchy and lively on the palate, grippy tannins but refined edges. Tangy blackberry fruit, laced with a unique blend of these graphite, riverbed stones, tar, iron elements. There’s plenty of anise, clove and coffee in here as well, it’s a bold but nuanced and complex wine that will benefit from many years in the cellar, but it’s also great to drink young, with plenty of air and a big meal. Exceptional 2019 Napa Cab. (95 points IJB)

2018 Chalk Hill Estate Red USA, California, Sonoma County, Chalk Hill
SRP: $75
Deep purple color. The nose exudes gorgeous plum, fig, black cherries, along with complex tones of tobacco, mint, anise, violets, with leather and graphite and coffee. The palate is full but pretty and nuanced with suave tannins and fresh acidity, sporting tart black currant and juicy black cherry fruit. The nuances in the savory, spicy elements are great, with tobacco, earth, roasted red pepper and dried flowers. Complex and elegant, drinking great now but will have a lot more to show in the next few years. A blend of estate Cabernet Sauvignon (54%), Malbec (34%), Petit Verdot (10%) and Carmenere (2%) aged 21 months in 61% new French oak. Wow, what a stunner for the price. (94 points IJB)

2018 Hamel Family Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Nuns Canyon USA, California, Sonoma County, Moon Mountain District
SRP: $110
Dark purple color. The nose starts with earthy, smoky, spicy tones and then opens up into a deep, tangy core of mountain blueberries, black currants, with dark floral and coffee tones. The palate is full but really fresh, and the fruit is a juicy, cool mix of blueberries and black cherries, highly delicious. There’s a lot going on, with this mocha/toffee/charcoal vibe playing off the anise/pepper/paprika, and it’s a blast parsing everything out. Deep and dark, this needs some years in the cellar or a decanter and a grilled steak, and will age for so long. Gorgeous stuff. Cabernet Sauvignon with 26% Cab Franc, aged 20 months in 36% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

2021 Troon Vineyard Druid’s Fluid White USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Applegate Valley
SRP: $25
Rich yellow color. The nose pops with peaches, nectarines and lemon curd, tossed with yellow and white flowers, some sea salt, candlewax – a lot going on. The palate shows a creamy, rich texture but the acidity is so focused and pristine, and the balance is lovely. Lemons, pineapple and orange peel fruit blends well with tones of shaved ginger, crushed shells, honeycomb, and it finishes with this pretty, flinty, mineral and chalky vibe. Complex and beautiful, and a great value. Vermentino, Marsanne and Roussanne. (91 points IJB)

2021 Troon Vineyard Druid’s Fluid Red ­ USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Applegate Valley
SRP: $25
Vibrant purple color. The nose has a great mix of spices and seasonings over top of violets, charcoal and juicy red and black plums. The palate shows smooth tannins and a chewy but balanced feel, lively acidity. Juicy cherries, raspberries and plum fruit blends well with a complex mix of herbs and spices (pepper, paprika, oregano) and earthy, soil-y vibes as well. This is a lot of fun with an accessible appeal but the complexity and balance are on point. A delish blend of Tempranillo, Malbec, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan. (90 points IJB)

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