Wine Reviews: California Specialties

California has been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve been following harvest reports and wineries as they prepare the 2022 vintage. And with the long-term drought, the recent heat wave, and now there’s a threat of flooding from hurricane leftovers? Sheesh! I hope you any California readers have been staying cool and well over this stretch.

So, this week, I have some really special wines from California to share – some chosen selections from producers I’ve grown to respect and appreciate.

Singer Wines at Baker Lane Estate really comes out swinging with two exceptional Rhone wines. Made by legend Stephen Singer, the wines from this west-facing site in the Sebastopol Hills speak with a crystal-clear voice to their place and grapes. If you’re looking for highly delicious yet nuanced Syrah and Viognier, these small-production wines are definitely worth your time and money.

Eden Rift makes some focused and singular Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, and it was a privilege to taste their 2019s. From the limestone-rich soils of the Cienega Valley, these are wines you taste and can just tell they come from a very special place. Especially considering the prices, the wines consistently overperform, and the 2019s are singing.

Sonoma is well represented here, including by Sonoma-Cutrer’s new Grand Brut Rosé, which certainly overdelivers for the price. LaPelle performs with a striking Bien Nacido Pinot Noir, and DuMOL’s Pinot offering is also delightful. Lastly, I also have a Paso Robles Cab that’s a whole lot of fun — Tooth and Nail’s wines are reliably delicious and this Cab is like a chunky slab of rock-and-roll in the glass, for a solid price.

These wines were received as samples and tasted sighted.

2019 Sonoma-Cutrer Grand Brut Rosé Winemaker’s Release USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $55
Deep copper color. A gorgeous aromatic display that combines raspberries, white cherries and tart yellow apples with richer tones of honey and biscuits and bracing elements of chalk and talc. On the palate, this is crisp and nervy, pure and racy, with a core of red apple, raspberry and white cherry fruit. The balance is delightful, and it has this deep but crunchy feel, with tones of biscuits, honey and hay tossed with seashells, minerals, flowers, combining for this ocean meets spring meadow appeal. Complex and nervy, this should age wonderfully and is one of the best California sparkling wines I’ve tasted in a while. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. (93 points IJB)

2021 Singer Wine Viognier Baker Lane Estate USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $75
Medium yellow color. Classic deep Viognier aromas, but it has a lot of unique twists and turns that are a delight to follow: banana, kiwi, white peach, with honeycomb and raw almond, notes of chalk dust and sea salt. On the palate – wow! – the acidity is racy and fresh (thankfully) which balances well with the deep, waxy texture and juicy papaya and pineapple fruit (a drizzle of lime in there, too). The floral tones are perfumed but nuanced, and tones of chalk dust and saline are welcomed. Creamy but fresh, a delightful Sonoma Viognier worth seeking out. From a cool, west-facing site that really shines through, this is 13.8% alcohol and aged five months in neutral oak. (93 points IJB)

2019 Singer Wine Syrah Baker Lane Estate USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $95
Deep purple color. The nose is delightfully spicy, with these paprika, red pepper flakes and black pepper dusted over a host of fresh blueberries and tart red plums – and it works so, so well. The tangy acidity sets the stage, dusty but structured tannins offer structure and grip, while the balance and freshness are on point. Tangy blackberries and red/black currant fruit mixes with lots of violets, clove, black pepper, with loamy earth and a hint of barbecue sauce and grilled meat. Spicy, fresh, floral, delicious, this will do wonders in the cellar,…

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