Notes on new releases from California:
Duckhorn Vineyards – This Napa Valley estate has been producing noteworthy Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon since 1978; their most famous wines have been their various offerings of Merlot from several sites and appellations in the Napa Valley.
Duckhorn Merlot Carneros 2017 – Bright purple; aromas of black cherry, blackberry, hint of anise. Medium-full, with ripe, expressive fruit, good acidity, youthful tannins and a tightly packed finish with impressive persistence. This needs several years before it is settle down- try in 2023 with peak from 2026-2028. Excellent
Duckhorn Merlot Atlas Peak 2017 – Atlas Peak is just northeast of the city of Napa, above the foothills of the Stags Leap District. Deep ruby red; rich, deeply fruit-packed aromas of black raspberry, oolong tea and hints of black licorice. Medium-full to full-bodied, with a layered mid-palate, excellent persistence, good acidity, medium-weight tannins and well-integrated oak. This is a hedonistic Merlot, where you are enhanced by the lush aromas, delicious fruit and elegant finish. This is a powerful Merlot in the mouth, but not on the finish. Lovely wine that can be enjoyed now, but will offer greater pleasures in another 2-3 years, with peak drinking in 7-10 years. I would consider this wine to be a signature style of Duckhorn when it comes to Merlot – rich, ripe, complex, elegant and delicious! Outstanding
Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (Napa Valley) – Deep ruby red/light purple; rich aromas of black currant, black cherry and purple orchid. Medium-full with excellent depth of fruit, ample oak, velvetly tannins and balanced acidity. A rich, ripe, somewhat forward wine that is quite gentle in its approach – and quite appealing. Approachable now, but better in another year or two, with peak drinking in 7-10 years. Excellent
Cade – This Napa estate was established in 2005 on Howell Mountain, 1800 feet above the valley floor; founding partners were musician Gordon Getty along with Gavin Newsom, former mayor of San Francisco and current governor of California; John Conover, general manager at Plumpjack vineyards in Oakville, serves as managing partner. The winery is known for its fruit-driven Sauvignon Blanc and especially its various offerings of Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain that offer excellent complexity and aging potential.
Cade Sauvignon Blanc 2019 – Straw; beautiful aromas of mint, freshly cut hay and melon. Medium-full, this has lovely ripe varietal fruit flavors, no wood notes, juicy acidity and a lengthy, refreshing finish with notes of tangy lime. Very appealing wine – delicious! Pair this with ceviche or lighter Thai cuisine. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. Excellent
Cade Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (Howell Mountain) – Deep purple; intense aromas of black cherry, black plum, and granite. Full-bodied, and full-throttle, this is very ripe (again, due to the conditions of the 2017 growing season), with rich, firm, but balanced tannins, nicely integrated wood notes, balanced acidity and excellent persistence. As powerful as this wine is, it is impeccably balanced and offers textbook varietal character. Give a few years; peak drinking in 12-15 years. Outstanding
Donum Estate – This estate in Carneros Sonoma is memorable if only for its setting, with numerous fine art sculptures dotting the landscape, as well as its beautiful palm trees and lavender fields. Oh, and by the way, the Pinot Noirs produced here are quite impressive as well.
Donum Pinot Noir “Single Vineyard” 2017 (Carneros) – Beautiful young garnet; intriguing aromas of bing cherry, wild strawberry and cardamon. Medium-full, with youthful tannins, ample oak and a rich, fruit-driven finish, this has big red spice notes in the finish and impressive complexity and varietal character. A bit ripe and forward (no doubt due to the vintage), this will benefit from another year in the bottle. Peak in 5-7 years. Excellent
Donum Pinot Noir “Single Vineyard” 2017 (Russian River Valley) – Beautiful young garnet; aromas of maraschino and bing cherry, turmeric and a hint of sage. Medium-full, this is more subdued in style, with distinct brown spice notes in the finish. There is good acidity, medium-weight tannins, well integrated wood notes and very good complexity. This will be better in two or three years, and should be at peak drinking in 5-7 years. Excellent
Chappellet – This estate on Pritchard Hill in eastern Napa Valley, was established way back (for Napa, that is) in 1967. A lovely dry Chenin Blanc continues to be produced, as well as the signature Donn Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon. Recent additions to the portfolio include the Growers Collection wines from Sonoma County.
Chappellet “Molly Chappellet Signature” Chenin Blanc 2019 (Napa Valley) Straw- lovely aromas of green melon and lilacs. Medium-bodied with very good concentration,very good acidity and a lengthy, off-dry finish. Lovely varietal character, beautful harmony and a nice sense of charm. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. Excellent
Chappellet Grower Collection Chardonnay El Novillero Vineyard One Block (Carneros) 2018 – Bright yellow; aromas of Meyer lemon, pineapple and pippin apples. Medium-full, this is quite ripe with lush tropical fruit, very good acidity, ample wood notes and impressive persistence. Pair this with Asian cuisine. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. Excellent
Chappellet Grower Collection Pinot Noir Apple Lane Vineyard 2018 (Russian River Valley) – Rich young garnet; aromas of black cherry cola, wild plum (slivovitz) and marjoram. Medium-full, this is very ripe with abundant black plum fruit and hints of numteg and marjoram. Good acidity, rich tannins, ample wood notes and very good complexity. This is a bold, forward style of Pinot Noir that needs a year or more to settle down. Peak in 7-10 years. Very Good
Chappellet Hideaway Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (Napa Valley) Chappellet Mountain Estates – Bright purple; aromas of blackberry, blueberry, black plum and a hint of molasses. Medium-full to full-bodied with a rich mid-palate offering ripe expressive black fruit. Balanced acidity, rich, supple tannins, well integrated wood notes and very good persistnece. This is a bit showy now, but an engaging wine. Give this time to come together. Try again in 2-3 years, with peak drinking in 7-10 years. Excellent
Chappellet “Donn Chappellet” Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (Napa Valley) – Bright deep purple; aromas of black currant, clove and hints of cigar box. Medium-full, this offers excellent depth of ripe black currant fruit, well integrated oak notes, good acidity and firm, but well balanced tannins. Given the heat of this vintage, this is an impressive achievement! The harmony of this wine allows for current drinkability, with peak drinking in 10-12 years. Excellent