Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Northern California Fall Release Report

Toast to another great year with the tart strawberry, lemon peel, and Campari-esque nv Scharffenberger Brut Rosé Excellence Mendocino County $18. Despite unusually cool weather throughout much of the North Coast in August, particularly in Napa Valley, 2013 is looking similar to 2012 in both quantity and quality. Lodi and Lake County enjoyed an even, Mediterranean summer, with Lodi cooled by Delta breezes and Lake County by altitude. While we won’t see those wines until next year, some 2012’s in the pipeline to watch for include the 2012 Argus Chardonnay Atlas Peak Napa Valley $24, with honeysuckle and quince notes and a soft apple-butter finish,
the lemony 2012 Vigilance Sauvignon Blanc Red Hills Lake County $15, bone dry with a rich vein of volcanic minerality, the 2012 Trione Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley $23, rich, creamy with a Chateau Carbonnieux-like vein of gooseberry, and the fresh and easy 2012 Dry Creek Vineyards Dry Chenin Blanc Clarksburg $12 from a vineyard in the Sacramento Delta just outside Lodi. Producers are ecstatic about 2012 reds as well. Marissa Lange of Lange Twins in Lodi says, “2012 was universally spectacular.”  Tony Britton, winemaker for Marimar Estate adds, “2012 was the perfect growing season, nice and even. Everyone is completely stoked.”

His 2011 Marimar Estate Chardonnay Don Miguel Vineyard “Acero” Russian River Valley $29 is peachy and round with butter but no oak, in the trend that is upsetting barrel makers (Acero is Spanish for “steel’).
In its second release, the 2011 DuMol Estate Chardonnay Russian River Valley $55 is creamy and tangy, Meursault-like, with a feral quality and minerality. 2011 was cooler and more difficult, but with wines like the 2011 Harney Lane Lizzy James Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi $35 you’d never know it. An absolute steal and made with 109 year old vines, it has layers of chocolate, raspberry, cherry cola, and tar and subtle vanilla from aging in French oak. The 2011 Dry Creek Valley Old Vine Zinfandel $30, made with 90-year old vines, is dark, rich and spicy, perfect for the cooler months ahead. 
The 2011 Sorelle Winery Sangiovese Troppo Bella Lodi $25 is full-bodied with deep cherry notes and a tart finish, very Mediterranean in style.

The dark, fruity, and very tannic 2011 Rosa D’Oro Aglianico Lake County $24 is a standout but like its counterparts in Campania needs food to really shine.
This unique Carmenere-based Bordeaux blend, 2011 Trigrammaton Nova Vineyard Yolo County $35 from Pietro Buttita of Rosa D’Oro, is elegant with rich red fruits and very subtle oak spice. The 2011 Dutton-Goldfield Fox Den Vineyard Pinot Noir Green Valley of Russian River Valley $58 is savory, minty, and floral and has that classic Green Valley sarsaparilla. New Arista winemaker Matt Courtney has just released their 2011 Arista Ferrington Vineyard Pinot Noir Anderson Valley $45, a sinewy, richly fruity Pinot, a total opposite to Nathan Kandler’s punchy raspberry and cherry fruited 2011 Thomas Fogarty Rapley Trail Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains $55. 
The 2011 Esterlina Estate Pinot Noir Anderson Valley $45 may be their best ever, with dark berry fruit, a bit of mocha, and a fresh, tart cranberry finish. The balanced but big, bright, bold, and spicy 2011 Martinelli Zio Tony Ranch “Grace Nicole” Pinot Noir Russian River Valley $60 is not for everyone at 15.1%, while the 2011 Brassfield Estate Winery Eruption Volcano Ridge Vineyard High Valley Lake County $24, rich and juicy at the same time, with bold deep dark berry fruit and spice and a zesty strawberry finish is more of a crowd pleaser. A premium selection for the holidays, the 2011 Shafer Vineyards Merlot Napa Valley $50 is a sensuous, sleek, rich and full-bodied beauty.

From a cooler vintage, the well-bred and impressive 2010 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red Napa Valley $150 offers layers of blackcurrant, fig, wildflowers, grilled meats and smoke, while the 2010 Cloud’s Rest Pinot Noir Femme Fatale Sonoma Coast $38 is delicate and earthy with rich bright fruit, cherry tomato and mushroom notes. Marco Capelli’s 2010 Miraflores Methode Ancienne Syrah Estate El Dorado $26 is a more delicate Foothills Syrah reflecting a St. Joseph or Crozes-Hermitage style.

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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