New Reviews

About my ratings: I’m not a fan of assigning numbers to reviews, yet the industry, and many consumers, expect them. Here, I use the 100-point scale because it’s the system most embraced in the U.S. and increasingly, the world. Yet I hope readers will pay as much attention to the tasting notes for each wine as they do its score.

WHITE

Dutton-Goldfield 2016 Pinot Blanc Shop Block Green Valley of Russian River Valley ($30) 
Crisp honeydew melon, white peach and pear flavors ride a wave of bracing, mouthwatering acidity, with a minerally finish. It’s not a fruit bomb, but rather a layered, elegant wine that’s compatible with a wide range of summer fare. It does the Pinot Blancs of Alsace proud. 92

Eighty Four Wines 2016 Albarino Carneros Napa Valley ($28)
Eighty Four is a collaboration of Shafer Vineyards president Doug Shafer and Shafer’s longtime winemaker, Elias Fernandez. Under the Eighty Four label, they produce varietals that don’t compete with Shafer’s Chardonnays, Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons. Here, the white grape native to Spain’s coastal Rias Baixas region makes for a stunning white wine from Carneros. Layers of pear, peach, Meyer lemon, papaya and lime zest unfold with each sniff and sip. Fernandez eschewed malolactic fermentation and oak contact, and the result is a super-crisp wine with flashes of wet-stone minerality and a long, mouthwatering finish. 95

Groth Vineyards & Winery 2015 Chardonnay Hillview Vineyard Napa Valley ($30)
High-quality Napa Chardonnay for 30 bucks? You bet. But don’t expect lavish notes of creme brulee, butter, toasty vanillin oak or supreme richness. Instead, this is a focused, non-malolactic, mouthwatering Chardonnay from the cool Oak Noll District AVA, with energetic pear, peach and citrus aromas and flavors, kissed by subtle hints of caramel and vanilla. Serve it now with lemony petrale sole; cellar it for three years for more depth and richness. 91

Groth Vineyards & Winery 2016 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley ($22)
I have appreciated this wine for more than 25 years, having first tasted it in my initial year in the wine business. It’s remained true and honest, with only incremental price increases. Director of Winegrowing Cameron Parry co-fermented Sauvignon Blanc with estate-grown Semillon from Oakville (21% of the final blend) in neutral oak barrels and left the wine on the lees for five months. The result: A wine with citrussy tang, fleshy pear and canteloupe flavors, and a slight rounding of the edges from barrels and lees. 92

St. Supery 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Dollarhide Estate Napa Valley ($35)
Prices for Napa Sauvignon Blanc continue to rise, and the increases keep Sauv Blanc vines in the ground. Cabernet Sauvignon could be planted in the same site and command five times the price of SB; price hikes ensure Sauvignon Blanc’s continued presence in the valley. St. Supery, long a Sauvignon Blanc advocate, took grapes from its Dollarhide Estate,  Pope Valley for this high-end white wine, and it delivers a mouthful of flavor cut by bracing acidity. Its honeydew melon, green apple, grapefruit and lemon-zest qualities gain depth from French oak aging and contact with the spent yeast cells after fermentation. Unusual and utterly delicious. 93

Valley of the Moon 2014 Pinot Blanc Sonoma County ($19)
Friendly as a Golden Retriever, this wine delivers an ambrosial mix of tropical, citrus, pear and apple aromas and flavors, with a vibrant and pleasantly salty finish. It’s juicy, generous and crowd-pleasing. Hello, roast chicken and crab cakes. 89

Whitehaven 2016 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand ($20)
Widely available, consistently well-made and often discounted in chain stores, this Kiwi SB is less pungent and grassy than many, with vibrant, palate-whisking lime and grapefruit character. It’s a refreshing summer sipper, particularly with oysters, fish tacos, citrus salads and fried chicken. 90

ROSÉ

Fleur de Mer 2016 Rosé Cotes de Provence ($17)
Any wine lover who’s visited Provence appreciates the straightforward, refreshing deliciousness of the region’s rosés. E. & J. Gallo brought this one to the U.S. from France, and it’s summery, crisp and dry, with light strawberry, watermelon and Queen Anne cherry flavors, tinged with lavender and wild herbs. Blend of predominantly Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. 88

Paraduxx 2016 Rosé Napa Valley ($30)
Expensive, yes. Delicious, amazingly so. Worth it? Depends on one’s bank account. Mine is low, but this is the best California rosé I’ve tasted in a long time. It has a great balance of succulent, just-picked-from-the-vine strawberry and raspberry fruit, with some watermelon and citrus kick and a firm acid backbone. I repeat: succulent. Comprised largely of Syrah, with 10% Grenache, and with no oak to muck things up, it’s an outstanding dry rosé that works as a summer quaff, at a casual lunch, and as a start-to-finish wine the Thanksgiving meal. 13.9% alcohol. 95

RED

Canvasback 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain ($40)
From Duckhorn’s northernmost winemaking outpost in eastern Washington state comes this juicy, supple Cab made by Brian Rudin. It’s a suave charmer, with rich cherry and plum flavors accented by hints of black olive, licorice and mint, all wrapped in silky tannins. It’s delicious now and should improve over the next five years. 92

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Canoe Ridge Estate Horse Heaven Hills ($36)
Don’t ignore Washington state’s largest winery (by volume), because it turns out intriguing wines, particularly at the single-vineyard and “reserve” tiers. This Cabernet is fresh and mouthwatering, yet with the palate weight and tannin structure expected from the variety. Savory aromas of oak, cedar and espresso meld with vivid black cherry and currant fruit, with hints of licorice and vanilla. Full-bodied yet refined. 91

Decoy 2015 Sonoma County Zinfandel ($25)
Napa Valley’s Duckhorn Vineyards smartly relies on Sonoma grapes for its Decoy line of wines. Value-priced (for a Napa-based producer), the Decoy Zin is widely available and approachable, with juicy red-berry fruit, baking spice, supple tannins and relatively low alcohol (13.9 percent) for ripe Zinfandel. It’s medium-bodied, balanced, and delicious with barbecue. 88

Decoy 2015 Pinot Noir Sonoma County ($25)
From the Duckhorn crew comes this well-priced Pinot that’s plush and juicy, with vibrant black raspberry and boysenberry fruit. It’s 100% Pinot Noir, aged in French oak barrels – 30% new – and while it’s not incredibly complex (complexity typically starts at Pinots priced $35 and higher), it’s fresh, engaging, and super-drinkable. 89

Dutcher Crossing 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Proprietor’s Reserve Dry Creek Valley ($32)
Winemaker Kerry Damskey added 25% Syrah to this Cabernet Sauvignon, infusing a meaty, smoky character to the wine – making it a culinary complement to grilled meat, particularly lamb. Black cherry, cedar, barrel spice and gentle leafy herbs linger on the long, structured finish. Good value. 90

Francis Ford Coppola Winery 2014 Pinot Noir Director’s Cut Russian River Valley ($27)
Don’t be thrown by the Bordeaux-shaped bottle: The wine inside is 100%, Pinot Noir, the glass chosen by filmmaker Coppola to accommodate the wrap-around zoetrope-style label. Firmly structured yet generous, the wine boasts black cherry, plum and blackberry fruit and dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. 90

Gundlach Bundschu 2013 Mountain Cuvée Sonoma County ($20)
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec from the winery’s Rhinefarm vineyard and sites in the Mayacamas Mountains mesh in this bargain red. It’s soft and easy, with blackberry, black cherry and pepper character.  It’s a good drink at a fair price. 88

Prophecy 2015 Pinot Noir California ($14)
Most critics appreciate an inexpensive wine done well. They just might not say so. Prophecy a new label from E. & J. Gallo, offers ripe, juicy plum, dark berry and cherry liqueur character on a supple frame, with a pleasant fruit sweetness on the finish. Is it 100% Pinot Noir? Who cares? Where were the grapes grown? Immaterial. It’s tasty. 87

Rodney Strong Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County ($20)
This solid, straightforward Cab delivers everything one would want to drink with a hamburger or grilled steak: firm tannins to cut through the fat, textbook black cherry and cedar character, a hint of vanillin oak, and enough acidity to refresh the palate. 88

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