The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2018

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Page 67 of 112

march 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  67 Contour 2016 Pinot Noir, Mendocino, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo Counties ($16) Divided fairly evenly through these three cool climate California AVAs, this ambrosial red offers up ripe strawberries, root vegetable, and forest floor. Blackberry comes in mid-palate with dark- skinned cherry and tomato leaf, and spices include nutmeg, cinnamon, and a hint of black pepper. 92 M.S. WALKER J. Lohr Estates 2016 Falcon's Perch Pinot Noir, Monterey County ($17) Grapes from cool-climate vineyards in Arroyo Seco and Santa Lucia Highlands perform fantastically for this high-flying Pinot. With its nose of red tea and oregano, the fruit develops on the palate, showcasing ripe red cherries, sage, powdered "talc" tannins, and a lean acidity. 91 Fort Ross Vineyard Sea Slopes 2015 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($35) From the edge of the rugged ridges of the Sonoma Coast comes this full-bodied, fruit-driven Pinot. Aromas of black cherry make way for a plethora of flavors and scents: Salty rhubarb startles as dried herbs usher in savoriness. Graphite enters at mid-palate, with notes of juicy strawberries, Cara Cara oranges, cranberries, and black tea. Winemaker Jeff Pisoni ages this small-production red in 30% new French oak for nine months, creating satin-like tannins and a creamy finish. 92 Perfusion Vineyard 2014 Pinot Noir, Richmond County, San Francisco Bay AVA ($40) Produced from grapes sourced from an estate vineyard in Wildcat Canyon on the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay AVA, Perfusion is a micro-batch label. Tom Leaf, the original Head Winemaker at Crushpad (the San Francisco winery that pioneered the concept of custom-crush winemaking) crafted this boutique and well-balanced Pinot Noir. The brand's owner is John Bry, a vascular surgeon whose grapevine label design mirrors the human circulatory system. Dense notes of blackberry cream and violets are aromatic as well as flavorful, and the bright berry fruit is lit from within. The mid-palate shows off ripe cherry and toasty oak. 93 Smith-Madrone 2015 Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley ($34) Grown at an 1,800-foot elevation on Spring Mountain, these grapes are dry-farmed on red Aiken soil (a result of volcanic materials and sedimentary rock) on the estate property surrounding the winery. Barrel fermented for ten months in 80% new French oak, this Chard is a charmer with multiple personalities and an alcohol level of 14.9%. The nose goes from savory to sweet in 60 seconds, alluding to basil, capers, and vanilla pudding. The palate follows suit, with herb-y chamomile morph- ing from pineapple and mustard seed to orange-lemon drops. The finish pursues both crispness and creaminess, ensuring this wine offers options. 93 Maddalena 2016 Pinot Grigio, Monterey ($18) Perfumed with lime and basil, this white is one of the most aromatic PGs out there. It takes a turn with crispness on the palate and green apple leading the acidity march. The wine is spiced with white pepper, or perhaps a salinity that's mineral- based from sandy soils. White flowers bloom from core to finish. 92 Robert Mondavi Winery 2014 Merlot, Napa Valley ($25) Italian herbs and soy sauce may sound like the beginning of a favorite recipe, but Winemaker Joe Harden ensured this velvet-lined red was made to pair with a variety of foods. Thanks to its lean acid structure, rich texture, and ripe fruit, this wine scored high with us. While the majority of the fruit hails from the Stags Leap District (42%), a small amount also comes from selected Napa Valley AVAs like Oak Knoll, Yountville, and Rutherford. The palate offers chocolate plum and is dense with spice and gritty new cedar tannins. Blackberry-coffee notes even out the finish. 93 The Lost Chapters 2014 Petite Sirah, Napa Valley ($30) From winemakers Mitch Cosentino and Paul Scotto comes this colorful, small-production red. The nose is delicately scented with vetiver and plum, and black fruit is seasoned by black pepper, bergamot, and beetroot on the palate. The grapes are sourced from the prestigious Oak Knoll District and the wine is aged for 30 months in neutral French oak barrels. Balanced at 14.5% ABV. 90

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