Wine Reviews: Wine Across America

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-01-2023

I can’t believe it’s July. This summer is speeding past, but I’m making plans to take advantage of the weather and time with friends and family. I wish you all a great summer break, wherever and whenever you find it. And as the Fourth of July approaches, it’s a good time to highlight some diverse wines from all across America.

Long-time readers know I’m a big Virginia wine fan, and recently wrote about the Governor’s Cup winners. I’m back with a producer I’ve talked about before, and will do again, because they’re great: Stinson Vineyards. They make some Virginia gems and are not afraid to experiment, from Tannat rosé to skin-ferment Rkatsiteli, I find anything with their label worth buying.

From sea to shining sea on the West Coast, I have some delightfully zippy and coastal Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Fort Ross Seaview Winery that brings serious value to the table. And Fiddlehead Cellars has two seriously complex summer-friendly wines from the Central Coast.

Napa’s Newton comes out swinging with some heavy hitters. Their unfiltered Chardonnay is a regional classic. And the single vineyard Cabernets do an incredible job of showcasing the diversity of Napa regions through their different properties. Taken together, these wines represent a celebration of Napa Cabernet and the varied, exquisite sites where it thrives. The 2019 and 2018 vintages are both singing, and these elegant Cabs would make great gifts or cellar stockers.

From the sun-roasted, high elevation Sonoran Desert comes Aridus, an Arizona-based winery that puts out solid Southwest wines at very reasonable prices. I’m a huge fan of Arizona wines, and this producer offers a nice intro into the state’s industry.

These wines were received as samples and tasted sighted.


2022 Fiddlehead Cellars Pinot Noir Pink Fiddle Fiddlestix Vineyard USA, California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
SRP: $32
Deep watermelon color. Ripe and vibrant on the nose with white peaches, red apples, watermelon, with fresh, floral tones of lilies, grassy meadow, crushed shells and white pepper. The palate shows a creamy depth of texture and lip-smacking acidity. Beautiful flavors of watermelon, orange slices, white cherry and peach. The non-fruit nuances are great – minerals and stones, rushing mountain stream, with notes of fennel, hay, white pepper, dried flowers. A beautifully complex and focused single-vineyard Pinot Noir pink that offers deliciousness and a unique vibe. (91 points)

2022 Fiddlehead Cellars Sauvignon Blanc La Presa Vineyard USA, California, Central Coast, Los Olivos District
SRP: $32
Pale lemon color. So juicy on the nose, with guava, white peach, and papaya, along with fresh lime zest, sliced flower stems, wild green onion, chalk dust. The palate is so crunchy and fresh, a bright appeal but a pleasantly creamy texture adds to the experience, with flavors of yellow apples, papaya, and white peach. It has these racy undertones of chalk dust, minerals, saline, and plenty of perfume and nuanced white pepper and green herbs. Lively and complex, this is a gem of a Sauv Blanc from a special site (La Presa Vineyard). Stainless steel, no maloactic fermentation. (92+ points)

2022 Ancient Peaks Sauvignon Blanc USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles Santa Margarita Ranch
SRP: $18
Light yellow color. Aromatically, this pops with flavors of nectarine, guava, and white peach, with a big dose of tropical flowers, dandelion, hints of honey and sliced cucumber – love it. In the mouth, this wine has delightful texture, rich but balanced with moderate acidity, and juicy flavors of cantaloupe, guava, and orange peel. Nuances of yellow and white flowers, some honey, and salty, flinty notes on the finish. For summer outdoor gatherings, this would be perfect. Serious value alert in this dynamic, balanced Paso Sauvignon Blanc. (90 points)

2021 Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc USA, California
SRP: $13
Light yellow color. Peachy keen on the nose with guava and banana, with tropical flowers, orange marmalade, some chalky tones. The palate is medium-bodied and creamy with moderate acidity and a fun, summery feel. Creamy and fruity with peaches, guava, and lime zest, mixed with yellow flowers and honey. A fun, crowd-pleasing Sauv Blanc that has a lot of personality and complexity for the price. (86 points)

2021 Newton Chardonnay Unfiltered USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $60
Unabashed yellow color. The nose sports richer tones of honeycomb, ginger snap, whipped honey, with brighter tones of white flowers and dandelions, along with limes, lemon curd, and yellow apple fruit. Deep texture on the palate with racy acidity and a pretty display of yellow apples, golden pears, drizzled with limes. There are a lot of chalky, salty vines in here, and the wine maintains this clear presence throughout, with notes of mountain stream and minerals that accent the honey and nougat nuances. Delicious, balanced, beautiful. Barrel-fermented and aged 10 months in 25% new French oak. (92 points)

N.V. Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay Simply Cutrer USA, California
SRP: $20 – 4/250ml cans
Light yellow color. A lively nose of pineapples, lemons, orange peel, bright and sweet tropical fruits, with notes of celery seed, honey, and yellow flowers. The palate has medium acidity and a nice creaminess with a steely, crisp appeal. Crushable, medium-bodied with flavors of lemon, green and yellow apples, and pineapple. Notes of crushed sweet tarts and chalk add a nice kick. Fresh, enjoyable vibes in this canned Chardonnay that would be a good call for summer camping or outdoor enjoyment. (87 points)

2021 Fort Ross Winery Chardonnay Sea Slopes USA, California, Sonoma County, Fort Ross – Seaview
SRP: $30
Deep yellow color. The aromas show a pleasantly balanced blend between richer tones (honey, nougat, apricot, ginger, almond) with brighter ones (white flowers, sea salt, crushed limestone). The palate shows rich texture and racy acidity, making for a juicy but lip-smacking Chard with flavors of apricot and yellow apple. Notes of chalk, flint, almond shell, ginger snaps, and honey add complexity. Rich but nuanced, this would please many a Chardonnay-loving palate. Aged eight months in neutral French oak. (90 points)

2021 Fort Ross Winery Pinot Noir Sea Slopes USA, California, Sonoma County, Fort Ross – Seaview
SRP: $35
Medium ruby color. Such a fresh, floral nose with tangy red plums, wild raspberries, bright strawberries, along with complex notes of rhubarb, rose petals, deep earth, violets. The palate shows moderate but chewy tannins and vibrant acidity, which makes for a lovely, balanced wine, with flavors of zesty cranberry relish and juicy black cherries. There are a host of savory but vibrant accents in this wine (rhubarb, spiced tea, anise). Fun and fresh but serious complexity and balance, not to mention value. Aged nine months in 20% new French oak. (91 points)

2018 Newton Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
SRP: $210
Dark purple color.  A deep core of blackberries, currants, wild blueberries on the nose, along with rich soil, graphite, charcoal, cedar, some anise and chewing tobacco – a lot to go through and enjoy. Full and grippy but the acidity is delightfully tangy and keeps this wine so energetic. A dark mix of tangy blackberries, currants, and blueberries, along with complex notes of pencil shavings, coffee grounds, mocha, black tea, and there are complex notes of rocks and minerals to enjoy. A long life ahead of this one. All Cab, aged 18 months in 65% new French oak. (93 points)

2018 Newton Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
SRP: $210
Beautifully deep purple. The nose has such a lovely mix of fresh/tangy with deeper, darker elements – juicy black cherries, roasted figs, tangy wild blueberries, the fruit blends so well with graphite, anise, tar, stony, herbal vibes. A solid frame of grippy tannins with refined edges, balanced wonderfully with fresh acidity. The black cherry and tangy currant fruit is lively and focused, and laced with a host of complex earthy, stony elements – minerals, graphite, smashed rocks, with savory black pepper and mushroom glaze notes. Complex and beautiful, this needs a serious decant or to be forgotten in the cellar for a while to show its full potential. All Cabernet, aged 18 months in 65% new French oak. (95 points)

2018 Newton Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville USA, California, Napa Valley, Yountville
SRP: $210
Lush, dark purple. On the nose, I get a deep compote of blueberries, plum sauce, tart black currants, mixed with loamy earth, a lot of stony and mineral essence, with dried violets, iron, tobacco, spiced black tea and clove – wow, give this serious swirling or a decant. Grippy but suave on the palate, lovely balance between well-build tannins and lively acidity. Dark and tangy, with pure fruit (black cherry, tart currant, plums, blueberries), blended expertly with pepper, anise, nuanced herbal vibes, spiced tea, graphite and minerals. Deep but effortless feel, and the finish is so long and lovely. This has so much more to show in a decade, but what a beaut. 100% Cab, aged 18 months in 65% new French oak. (95 points)

2019 Newton The Puzzle USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $135
Deep purple color. The aromas show a rich tapestry of figs, plum compote, black cherries, along with savory tones of spiced tea, black pepper, anise, with cocoa and some roasted herb tones – really needs swirling or a decant to get these beautiful tones going. The palate is full but fresh with solid but supple tannins and really fresh acidity. The fruit is a mix of crunchy black currant, roasted figs, and juicy plums, gorgeous concentration, with nuances of black tea, menthol, graphite, flinty mineral tones. This is a long ager for sure, but has such freshness that it makes it enjoyable young as well. Cabernet Sauvignon with 8% Cab Franc, 7% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, and 1% Grenache, aged 18 months in 50% new French oak. (94 points)


2019 Aridus Viognier USA, Arizona, Cochise County
SRP: $40
Rich yellow color. Aromatically tropical but with these floral, succulent accents: pineapple, peaches, lemon curd, with notes of tropical flowers, honey, graham cracker and some slight white pepper and sea salt. So fun on the palate, a creamy texture with a waxy appeal, but it stays lively with medium acidity. Flavors of orange marmalade, yellow pears, and lemon cake mix with notes of orange blossom, dandelion, with honey and some white tea. This wine was fermented and aged 14 months in sandstone jars (which is very interesting). A unique and clear expression of Arizona Viognier that is getting more expressive with age. (90 points)

2019 Aridus Tempranillo – USA, Arizona
SRP: $50
Vibrant plum color. Lovely aromas of cranberry sauce, ripe black and red cherries, along with a cool mix of savory tones, like tar, pepper, potpourri, creosote. The palate shows smooth tannins and medium acidity, which supports a mix of gushing black cherry and plum fruit, ripe but nuanced. There are a lot of interesting spicy, meaty, peppery tones, with tar, smoky earth, dried roses. A really fun and accessible style, super juicy and easy-drinking but it sports solid complexity as well. Delicious example of AZ Tempranillo. Includes 14% Graciano, aged 28 months in oak. (90 points)

2019 Aridus Syrah USA, Arizona, Cochise County
SRP: $60
Medium purple color. The nose explodes with roasted figs, currant jam, cherry jam, along with complex notes of smoky earth, sage, pepper, clove, dried rose petals, eucalyptus. On the palate, this is suave and ripe with smooth tannins and medium acidity. Roasted plums and figs mix with tangy cherries, and the fruit is mixed with nuances of white pepper, warm clay, desert herbs, and black pepper. I’ve grilled steak in the Arizona desert with a different vintage of this wine, and I highly recommend it, or wherever you’re grilling. 100% Syrah, aged 30 months in oak. (90 points)


2022 Stinson Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc USA, Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $25
Medium yellow color. Smells like a burst of guava and white peach, drizzled with lime, topped in sudsy floral brightness, white pepper, fresh basil and sliced cucumber. The palate shows waves of textural depth and pristine acid, with flinty mineral tones. Creamy yellow apples mixed with crunchy green pears and lime, and the floral, herbal, and saline complexity sings. A consistently exciting and clear Virginia Sauvignon Blanc, and this vintage keeps that going. Virginia doesn’t have value? This wine says otherwise. Fermented in a mix of concrete and stainless steel. (91 points)

2022 Stinson Vineyards Tannat Rosé USA, Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $23
Ripe watermelon color. The wine smells of bright red fruits and floral perfume, with red apple and wild raspberry, along with rose petals, floral perfume, and notes of hay, celery seed, sea salt, spicy white pepper. Texturally, this is plush but bright, with juicy texture and a streak of minerals. Flavors of white cherry, crunchy red apple, and watermelon blend well with mint, spiced white tea, and flowers, chalk dust. Classic flavors and feel. A reliably delicious Virginia rosé that continues the streak of excellence. (90 points)

2019 Stinson Vineyards Meritage USA, Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $41Deep ruby color. The palate is a ripe and tangy compote of raspberries, wild blueberries, black cherries, with menthol, earth, clove, anise, all sorts of cool smoky, tar, spicy, violet vibes. Upon sipping, this wine is ripe but nuanced with solid structure, fine-edged tannins, and fresh acidity – each sip is lip-smacking. The black cherry and currant fruit is mixed with spiced cranberry relish, roasted chestnut, dusty earth, tobacco, warm clay – lots of cool things to parse through. A Virginia Meritage worth seeking out for sure: 38% Cabernet Franc, 33% Merlot, 17% Petit Verdot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. (91 points)

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