California


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I wrote last week about eight sauvignon blanc wines from Napa Valley. Here’s one from Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, that ought not to be missed. Half of the Trione Winery River Road Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Russian River Valley, aged four months in neutral French oak barrels — meaning used many times before — lending the wine subtlety, shape and suppleness without detonating a blatant woody influence. The color is shimmering pale gold; first come notes of lime and grapefruit, heather and lemongrass, followed by hints of lilac, talc and tangerine. On the palate, this sauvigvov blanc is sleek and chiseled, tart and sassy, powered by bright acidity and flush with limestone minerality that generates a burst of graphite and flint. Flavors tend toward leafy figs and yellow plums, permeated by ripe citrus and stone-fruit, all flowing to a finish packed with savory spice and a touch of grapefruit bitterness and every element etched with delicacy and elegance. Alcohol content is an eminently sensible 13.3 percent. Winemaker was Scot Covington. Now through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $23.

A sample for review.

My Wine of the Day back on November 19, 2015, was the Chateau Montelena Riesling 2014, Potter Valley. That wine went on to be included in my list of “50 Great Wines of 2015.” Why would I montelena rieslingfeature, only nine months later, the version of this riesling from 2015? Because it illustrates how perfectly consistent and well-made the wine is; it certainly can claim its place among the best rieslings produced in California. The Chateau Montelena Riesling 2015, Potter Valley, which aged six months in a combination of stainless steel tanks and French oak barrels, exhibits a pale but radiant gold hue and immediately appealing notes of lemon balm, quince and ginger, with hints of lychee, peach and pear and an upper register of lilac and jasmine. On the palate, the wine is lively and vivid, offering an extraordinary texture and body like dusty graphite, talc and loam cut by riveting acidity and a bright limestone element. The balance here, the poise among all elements is exciting, racy, a little risky, yet it also delivers a pleasing and paradoxical softness, a cloud-like suspension of ripe citrus and stone-fruit flavors. 13 percent alcohol. We drank this bottle last night with dinner: swordfish marinated in lemon juice and olive oil, maresh and urfa peppers and smoked hot paprika; a mash of Yukon Gold potatoes and one sweet potato; and green peas cooked in riesling and mint, all pretty damned perfect. Drink now through 2018 or ’19. excellent. About $25.

A sample for review.

Back in July, I used as a Wine of the Day the Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley, follow the link here for the review, a selection that could, of course, have fit right in with this group of eight sauvignon blanc wines, also from Napa valley. Based on these models and others I tasted over the past few years, I would say that the world-famous wine region should be as well-known for this white grape variety as for the red cabernet sauvignon, of which it happens to be a parent (along with cabernet franc). Today I offer brief reviews of six sauvignon blanc wines from 2015 and two from 2014. The ratings divide into one Exceptional, six Excellent and one Very Good+. Scoring aside, however, this was a satisfying and exciting group of wines to taste, and I encourage my readers to stock up on such wines or order them in restaurants. These reviews are quick and incisive, ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebooks and simply fleshed out to complete a full profile of each wine. Typically in the Weekend Wine Notes I eschew technical information, but for two of these selections I include a bit of data that I found interesting. Enjoy!

These wines were samples for review.
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Acumen Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Napa Valley. 14.45 alc. Very pale gold; leafy and grassy, celery seed and caraway; lime peel and grapefruit, with undercurrents of limestone and flint; a few minutes in the glass bring in intriguing notes of preserved lemon and lemon balm; a suave saugivnon blanc with plenty of verve and energy, a pleasing texture balanced between softness and crispness and a fluid spice-and-limestone infused finish. Super attractive. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $30.
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Cliff Lede Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 14.4% alc. Pale gold color; interesting regimen in the winery: 52% French mainly neutral oak barrels, 42% stainless steel tanks, and 6% concrete eggs, no malolactic fermentation; elegant yet assertive in character, with hints of lemon rind and curd, jasmine and honeysuckle, quince and ginger; undertones of sunny, leafy figs, heather and meadow flowers, and a bell-note of currant at the center; an absolutely lovely texture poised between a soft, slightly powdery effect and the propulsion of vivid acidity and flint-chalk minerality. Now through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $25.
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Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2015, St. Helena, Napa Valley. NA% alc. Very very pale straw-gold hue; so attractive and appealing in body and presentation and feeling quite deliberately and thoughtfully wrought; roasted lemon and lemon balm, tangerine and honeydew, heather and flowery meadows; pert acidity and burgeoning limestone minerality lend an almost glittering quality to the palate; a soft, powdery texture that’s still lithe and supple; citrus and stone-fruit flavors — notes of grapefruit and peach, with a hint of greengage — are slightly leafy and grassy, all devolving to a delicate, elegant finish. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $28.
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Flora Springs Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 14.4% alc. Very pale gold hue; the most tropical of this selection, with notes of mango and passion fruit and touches of lime peel, peach and nectarine; a sleek and lively sauvignon blanc that unfolds a soft sfumato effect heightened by a saline and savory character, poised over layers of limestone and chalk minerality. Starts simple and direct and builds to surprising complexity; the wine aged 9 months in a combination of concrete and stainless steel tanks, French oak barrels and stainless steel drums. Now through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $25.
Label date is one vintage behind.
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Gamble Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 13.1% alc. Pale gold color; lime peel, nectarine, talc and lilac; hints of celery seed and fennel, lychee and almond skin; some moments in the glass bring in elements of roasted lemon, ginger and quince and penetrating notes of gunflint and graphite; lively and vital on the palate, with a lovely talc-like texture riven by bright acidity and a scintillating limestone quality; stone-fruit flavors are slightly leafy, with a touch of fig in the background; a long, lithe, minerally finish. Really beautiful tone, presence and balance. Now through 2019 to 2020. Exceptional. About $25, a Bargain at the Price.
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Grgich Hills Estate Fumé Blanc 2014, Napa Valley. 14.1% alc. Pale gold color; generously woven notes of mango and pear, lilac and lemongrass, lemon balm and lemon curd, all wrapped around an intense core of leafiness and heather, fig and graphite; a whisper of oak adds hints of woodsy spice; very dry, with a fleet arrow of acidity and a scintillating limestone character; penetrating personality and august character in a perfectly balanced package. Now through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $31.
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Priest Ranch Sauvignon Blanc
Priest Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Napa Valley. 14.3% alc. Pale gold hue; very pleasing effect of lime peel, grapefruit and gooseberry, fennel and celery seed, talc and jasmine and leafy fig; jazzy and snappy, the most New Zealandish of these sauvignon blancs, but more subdued than those models can be; very dry, clean and bright, lithe and fluent, and overall very appealing. Now through 2017. Very Good+. About $22.
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Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 13.5% alc. Very pale gold; subtle and nuanced, with hints of peach and mango, celery seed, lemongrass and spiced pear; a little airing unfurls notes of graphite and gunflint, lilac and celery leaf and a touch of ripe yellow plum; quite dry, sleek and polished, lithe and supple, animated by keen acidity and avid limestone minerality; lovely presence and weight. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $22.
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Here’s a wine that delves into the heart and soul of Sonoma County’s history and essence as a Acorn-2013-Heritage-Vines-Zinfandel-rgb-72dpivineyard and winemaking region. The Acorn Heritage Vines Alegría Vineyards Zinfandel 2013, Russian River Valley, derives from a vineyard planted in 1890. Some of those remaining vines contributed to a wine that, following old tradition, is a field blend of a wide variety of grapes planted side by side and randomly interspersed. The proportions for this wine are 78 percent zinfandel, 12 percent alicante bouschet, eight percent petite sirah and a whopping two percent mix of carignane, trousseau, sangiovese, petit bouschet, negrette, syrah, black muscat, cinsault and grenache. The wine aged 12 months in 54 percent French oak, 41 percent American and five percent Hungarian, with a total of 39 percent new barrels. While this zinfandel blend is robust and wild, it’s never hyperbolic or extravagant, feeling perfectly balanced in all aspects from beginning to end. The color is dark ruby with a lighter magenta rim; aromas of plums, blackberries and currants offer a hint of blueberries, fruitcake and bittersweet chocolate, all wrapped around an intense core lavender, licorice and dusty dried herbs. These elements segue seamlessly to the palate, where the wine delivers beautiful tone and presence, subtle complexity and a texture buoyed by moderately dense, dusty brushy tannins and animated by bright acidity. The ripe black fruit flavors are boldly spicy and a little plush, though always subdued to the wine’s deliberate acid-oak-tannin-and-mineral structure. 14.4 percent alcohol. Production was 548 cases. Drink through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $45.

A sample for review.

It’s not often that a wine writer or blogger gets to use the word “delightful” in reference to a chardonnay — which too often in California come across as heavy and dour — but I’m here to ChardFrnttell you that the Toad Hollow Unoaked “Francine’s Selection” Chardonnay 2015, Mendocino County, is as delightful as chardonnay gets. Though designated Mendocino County, the wine includes grapes from Monterey (12 percent) and Sonoma (10 percent). It’s made completely in stainless steel, and for 2015 malolactic fermentation was reduced to 80 percent, resulting in a wine even more clean, fresh and crisp than usual. The color is bright medium gold; aromas of green apples and pears, with backnotes of pineapple and grapefruit, are lightly spiced and delicately threaded with a leafy, sunny floral element tending toward jasmine and honeysuckle. This chardonnay is dry, but juicy with ripe citrus and stone-fruit flavors supported by decisive acidity and scintillating limestone minerality. 13.9 percent alcohol. No, this won’t challenge any of the world’s great chardonnay wines for preeminence, but for sitting out on the porch or patio, for taking along on a picnic, you can’t beat it. Very Good+. About $15, representing Real Value.

A sample for review.

The Amici Pinot Noir 2014, Russian River Valley, serves as an exemplar of the manner in which a perfectly balanced wine may embody a slight edge of risk, making it exciting as well as amicisatisfying. The wine aged 11 months in French Oak, 30 percent new barrels; winemaker was Tony Biagi. The color is an entrancing transparent medium ruby hue shading through magenta to an invisible rim. This pinot noir begins with pure raspberry and cherry aromas permeated by notes of sour cherry, melon and cherry pit, with hints of sassafras and sandalwood, pomegranate and cranberry and tinges of briers, brambles and loam. Readers, if you don’t find that bouquet irresistible, you are dead to the better things in life. The texture is superbly satiny, lithe and supple, though a shift occurs on the palate from the openness and sensual appeal of its aromas to the dark side of pinot noir spice and fruit, to the foresty and autumnal. A spine of graphite supports bright acidity that cuts a path, while slightly dusty tannins forge into the finish freighted with nuances of cloves, allspice and wild berry flavors. A few moments in the glass bring out elements of leather and lilac. 14.2 percent alcohol. Production was 2,770 cases. Drink now through 2019 to ’22. Excellent. About $35.

A sample for review.

One sniff of the Michael David Petite Petit 2014 tells you that it could only have been made in California. Well, O.K., perhaps in South Australia. Anyway, it’s a wine that brims with the sort PetitePetitFrontof full-bore, pedal to the metal, motorcycle boots in hot tar, dark, feral plummy-jamminess that you could even narrow the scope down from generally California to specifically Lodi. Right now, My Readers are thinking, “Whoa, F.K., this is exactly the sort of wine that you deplore!” It’s true, mes amis, that I prefer wines that balance elegance and power, that reveal themselves through hints, nods and nuances, but when you’re sitting down to a trencher of chili or a platter of barbecue ribs, you can toss subtlety out the window. It’s a clever concept, though I don’t know if the name or the concept came first. A unique blend of 85 percent petite sirah and 15 percent petit verdot, the Michael David Petite Petit 2014 offers an opaque yet radiant ebony hue shading to thermonuclear purple at the rim; aromas of supernaturally-ripe blackberries and blueberries unfurl an intense core of lavender and violets, leather and loam, all bolstered by a tremendous dusty graphite element, and all factors replicated on the palate, where the wine is, not surprisingly, defined by dense, dusty, chewy tannins, incisive acidity and slash ‘n’ burn granitic minerality. For all that, the wine is lively, engaging and — paradoxically — rather light-hearted. It is certainly drenched in juicy, spicy black and blue fruit flavors. Also unexpectedly, the alcohol content is only 14.5 percent, I say “only” as compared to the 15 percent and higher commonly seen in red wines from Lodi. Drink now through 2018, maybe ’19, though freshness and immediacy are essential to this wine’s enjoyment. Excellent. About $18.

A sample for review.

Somerston
Made in stainless steel drums and tanks, fermented with natural yeast, the Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc 2015, Napa Valley, allows the eloquence of the grape to express itself with clarity and elegance. The color is very light gold, almost colorless, but displaying an elusive shimmer of pale green; aromas of dusty lilac, pear and apricot are highlighted by notes of dried thyme and sage, heather and meadow flowers, while a few minutes in the glass bring in hints of woodsy spice and acacia. The wine is quite dry but juicy with ripe citrus and stone-fruit flavors and enhanced by incisive acidity and scintillating limestone and flint-like minerality. Though it flows with surprising density on the palate, it remains lithe and lively and vibrant. 14.8 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Craig Becker. The wine is perfectly suited for drinking with grilled fish, seafood risottos, shrimp salad and the like, through 2018. Production was 1,643 cases. Excellent. About $22.

A sample for review.

A movement is afoot to create rosé wines that are more robust, darker, more flavorful and emphatic than the classical spare, delicate, elegant models that originate in the South of France or the Loire Valley. At the same time, there’s quite a push to produce more rosé wines across the board, as wineries and estates around the world became aware, over the past decade, that Americans now love rosé. And let’s face it, friends, the American palate rules the world of wine. Today’s post looks at 15 examples of rosé wines from various regions in California, Italy, France, Spain and Argentina. The ratings for these wines range from Excellent down to Good, an indication as to quality and perhaps some wrongheaded choices in terms of grape varieties. I think, for instance, that the malbec grape isn’t a rational choice for rosé, perhaps being inherently too rustic. The best rosés still derive from the prototype varieties of the Rhône Valley and Provence — grenache, cinsault, mourvèdre, syrah — and from pinot noir, as in Sancerre, and yet I’m constantly surprised what great rosés can be made from outliers like refosco and tempranillo. So, I say to the winemakers of the world, Experiment, go ahead and surprise us! But keep it simple. The best rosé wines offer direct appeal; a finely-woven and fine-boned fruit, acid and mineral structure; and pure refreshing deliciousness.
These wines were samples for review.
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Aia Vecchia Solidio Rosato 2015, Toscana, Italy. 13.5% alc. 90% sangiovese, 10% merlot. Medium copper-salmon shade; spicy and peppery (white pepper), strawberries and raspberries, both dried and macerated; notes of melon and sour cherry; fairly earthy and a bit too rooty; lacks charm and finesse. A first rosé for this estate, not exactly a success. Good only. About $14.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif.
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Alta Vista Malbec Rosé 2015, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina. 12.5% alc. Bright medium copper-salmon hue; vivid aromas of strawberry, raspberry and tomato skin, with a fairly lush texture; a bit too florid and blowsy … and with a sweetish finish. Doesn’t work. Good only. About $13.
Kobrand Wine and Spirits, Purchase, N.Y.
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Chronic Cellars Pink Pedals 2015, Paso Robles. 12.4% alc. 89% grenache, 11% syrah. Delicate salmon-pink shade; yes, petal-like — heehee — as in roses and violets, with notes of peach and cherry, some melon comes to the fore; engages the palate with bright acidity and a hint of graphite-dusty tile minerality, but mainly this is fine-boned and honed. Very Good+. About $15.
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Cune Rosado 2015, Rioja, Spain. 13.5% alc. 100% tempranillo. Vivid scarlet with a pink-orange blush; pure strawberry and raspberry with a tinge of melon; bouquet is as fresh as raindrops on roses, but this is fairly robust for a rose and even exhibits a bit of tannin and a definite saline-limestone edge, like a seashell just plucked from the waves; a note of peach comes up in a dry, almost chewy package. Unusual, but Very Good+. About $13.
Europvin USA, Denver, Colo.
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E. Guigal Rosé 2015, Côtes du Rhône, France. 13.5% alc. 60% grenache, 30% cinsault, 10% syrah. Pale salmon-pink color; peaches, watermelon, raspberries; touches of raspberry sorbet, lilac and talc; crisp and clean but moderately lush; notes of strawberry leaf and sage; tasty and nicely balanced. Very Good+. About $15.
Vintus LLC, Pleasantville, N.Y.
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lazy creek rose
Lazy Creek Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir 2015, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 14.2% alc. Pale copper-salmon color; a subtle and delicate melange of strawberries, raspberries, orange rind, heather and meadow flowers; these fruit flavors feel lightly spiced and macerated, balanced by bright acidity and a pointed element of limestone and flint minerality; lovely balance and texture on the palate. Excellent. About $22.
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Luigi-Bosca-Rose
Luigi Bosca A Rosé Is a Rosé Is a Rosé 2015, Mendoza, Argentina. 12% alc. 60% pinot gris, 40% syrah. The rather defensive name of this wine probably derives from the fact that it consists of more white wine than red wine in a quite unusual blend. Very pale smoky topaz-onion skin hue; melon and strawberry, delicately etched with tangerine and lemon balm, a hint of jasmine and red currant; the pertness of pinot gris with syrah’s alluring slightly dense texture; the finish offers the tang of lime peel, pomegranate and pink grapefruit. Intriguing. Excellent. About $22.
Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York
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Masi Rosa dei Masi 2015, Rosato della Venezia, Italy. 12.5% alc. 100% refosco grapes. Beautiful coral-pink color; pure strawberry and melon, with touches of almond skin, faint peach and Rainier cherry; lovely balance between a delicate nature and deeper intensity; attractive rainy-dusty-lilac aura and a very dry finish. Just terrific. Excellent. About $15, marking Great Value.
Kobrand Wines and Spirits, Purchase, N.Y.
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McBride Sisters Truvée Rosé 2015, Central Coast. 12.5% alc. 92% grenache, 5% syrah, 2% tempranillo, 1% roussanne. The color is a very pale Mandarin orange hue; the wine is very delicate, absolutely lovely; whispers of cherries and red currants open to notes of lilac and lavender, with nuances of talc and limestone; the floral element grows into an aura that’s tenderly exotic, while the wine remains dry, crisp and vibrant. Excellent. About $15.
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monaci
Castello Monaci Kreos 2015, Salento, Italy. 13% alc. 100% negroamaro grapes. Bright salmon-pink color; peaches and melon, ripe strawberry and tomato skin; undercurrent of damp stones; vivid acidity; slightly saline, loamy finish. Very Good. About $16.
Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York.
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MURIEL ROSADO 2011
Bodegas Muriel Rosado 2015, Rioja, Spain. 13.55 alc. 50% tempanillo, 50% garnacha. Smoky topaz-copper hue; peach, strawberry, orange zest; dusty gravel; lithe, fluid, tasty, lovely body and surface; juicy core of pink fruit but quite dry and classic in its delicacy and lightness; impeccably balanced between a nicely lush texture and vivid acidity, leading to a spare, chiseled finish. Very Good+. About $12, so Worth Buying by the Case.
Quinessential, Napa, Calif.
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Pedroncelli Winery Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2015, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. 13.9% alc. Bright cerise-mulberry color; melon and raspberry, thyme and sage, orange rind, pomegranate and mint and a whiff of white pepper; fairly intense for a rose, very dry, mouth-filling, not quite robust; chiseled acidity and flint-like minerality yet generously proportioned. Excellent. About $12, a Fantastic Bargain, buy it by the case.
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Q rose 15
Quivira Rosé 2015, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. 13.5% alc. 988 cases. 55% grenache, 20 mourvèdre, 10 syrah, 10 counoise, 5 petite sirah. This aged four months in neutral French oak barrels. Light salmon-copper hue; peaches with notes of strawberries and raspberries, damp stones and hints of dried thyme and sage; very dry and flinty with bright acidity and a jewel-tone of cherry-pomegranate at the core. Excellent. About $22.
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RC ROSADO FT
Real Compañia de Vinos Rosado 2015, Meseta Central, Spain. 13.5% alc. 100% garnacha grapes (grenache). Florid copper-salmon color; starts out pretty, with rose petals and violets, strawberries and raspberries, orange rind and dried mountain herbs; needs more vibrancy, more nerve and bone. Pleasant though. Very Good. About $10.
Quintessential, Napa, Calif. The label image is one year behind.
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The Seeker Rosé Wine 2015, Côte de Provence, France. 13% alc. Grenache and cinsault. Very pale onion skin hue; a very delicate amalgam of hints and nuances, with notes of strawberry and raspberry, melon and dried thyme in a crisp lithe package that concludes with a slightly chiseled flinty edge. Pretty classic and very pretty too. Very Good+. About $14.
Kobrand Wine and Spirits, Purchase, N.Y.
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Unlike designations for, say, Sonoma County or Mendocino County, the Napa County indication on a sterlingwine label is rare. That’s because the world-famous Napa Valley AVA and its sub-AVAs occupy most of Napa County, from top to bottom and side to side, except for Lake Berryessa and an area in the northeast, beyond the Chiles Valley sub-AVA. So the designation on the Sterling Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Napa County, probably involves a cross-county origin for the grapes, with Napa County providing the preponderance. This is a sauvignon blanc that offers terrific character and personality for the price. The color is very pale gold; aromas of tangerine, lime peel and pink grapefruit are permeated by notes of grass, hay and heather, wrapped in an intensity of talc, graphite and gunflint. Give this a few minutes, and it unfurls hints of pea-shoot and caraway, fig and sun-warmed leaves. A nicely powdery texture bathes the palate, as well as juicy citrus and stone-fruit flavors, but riveting acidity brings liveliness and crispness, while the finish dredges from a deep grounding in limestone minerality. 13.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2017 as a pert and sassy aperitif or with grilled fish or seafood, chicken salad or shrimp salad. Excellent. About $18.

A sample for review.

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