California New Releases from Livermore, Monterey, Santa Lucia Highlands & Russian River

We review vibrant Chardonnays from Wente and Morgan; crisp Sauvignon Blancs from Morgan and Owl Ridge; and flavorful Red and White Blends from Murrieta’s Well and Pinot Noir from Willowbrook.  These are good quality wines that are also good value.

Here are three attractive Chardonnays from Wente’s own estate vineyards in Livermore Valley and from Riva Ranch in Arroyo Seco.   These are wines showing ripe fruit, crisp acidity, and restrained use of oak offered at highly affordable prices.

 WenteWente 2013 Morning Fog Chardonnay Livermore Valley ($15) 89+  The 2013 Morning Fog Chardonnay offers aromas of apple, toasted almond and orange zest. It has a creamy mouth feel with good overall richness of ripe orchard fruit and a hint of smoke. Fermented 50% in neutral barrels and aged sur lie for seven months with battonage and 50% in stainless steel.  Wente 2014 Chardonnay Eric’s Unoaked Small Lot Livermore Valley ($28) 90  This unoaked Chardonnay offers fragrant aromas of ripe apple and citrus. It has a creamy mouth feel with crisp acidity and vibrancy on the palate, excellent balance and a nice finish. Aged four months in stainless steel tanks.  Harvested from selected blocks of estate-grown fruit.    Wente 2013 Chardonnay Riva Ranch Arroyo Seco ($22) 91  The 2013 Chardonnay Riva Ranch displays a yellow gold color with aromas and flavors of stone fruit with hints of tropical fruit and oak. It is bright and flavorful on the palate with excellent balance and acidity and a persistent finish.

downloadThese two delicious wines from Murietta’s Well, a separate Wente label,  are sourced from historic vineyards in Livermore Valley dating back to the 19th century and revitalized in 1990.

Murrieta’s Well 2013 the Whip Livermore ($21) 90   The 2013 the Whip is a blend of 28% Semillon, 24% Chardonnay, 14% Sauvignon Blanc, 11% Orange Muscat, 11% Viognier, 11% Gewurztraminer, 1% White Riesling. Cold fermented in tank and aged in stainless steel and neutral barrels it offers attractive floral and tropical fruit aromas. On the palate it is dry and crisp with ripe fruit and herbal notes, good acidity and a pleasant finish.

Murrieta’s Well 2012 The Spur Livermore ($25) 89  The 2012 The Spur blands 33% Petit Sirah, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Petit Verdot, and 4% Merlot. It is an aromatic and fruit forward wine with a spicy chalky mouth feel and flavors of plum and black cherry. Aged for 14 months in a combination of American, French, Eastern European and neutral oak barrel, it is a delicious wine for everyday drinking with soft round tannins and a pleasant finish.

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One of our favorite producers in Monterey and the Santa Lucia Highlands has recently released three magnificent whites: their Sauvignon Blanc, Highland Chardonnay and Double L Vineyard Chardonnay

Morgan 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Monterey ($17) 88  The 2013 Morgan Sauvignon Blanc displays ripe citrus with hints of stone fruit and herbs on the nose. It has a full round mouth feel with good acidity and a crisp finish.   Morgan 2013 Highland Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands ($28) 90  The 2013 Highland Chardonnay offers fragrant aromas of fresh orchard fruit. It is round and creamy on the attack with delicious ripe fruit and hints of light oak. It displays good acidity and balance and a long finish.  Morgan 2013 Chardonnay Double LL Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands ($42) 92  This is Morgan’s top-of-the line Chardonnay sourced from the estate vineyard. It displays fragrant tropical fruit aromas with hints of toast and a touch of honeysuckle, It has a round and creamy palate packed with fruit, toasted oak and vanilla. A lovely wine traditional in style with all the elegance and refinement of a first-class California Chardonnay.

download (1)Owl Ridge wines  are sourced from vineyards in Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Sonoma County vineyards. They are crafted by winemaker, Joe Otos,  who is also a partner in Willowbrook Winery which was launched in 2001 in Sebastapol.

 Owl Ridge 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Dry CreekValley ($18) 89+  This is an attractive Sauvignon Blanc offering fragrant aromas of ripe melon and herbs. On the palate it reveals rich flavors of sweet fruit and a round mouth feel with good acidity, freshness and a crisp lively finish. Delicious.   Owl Ridge 2012 Syrah Russian River Valley  89 This is a ripe and flavorful Syrah offering black raspberry and violet aromas. On the palate it shows good density of flavor, good balance and acidity and firm round tannins on the finish. Still young, the wine would benefit from bottle aging to round out the tannins and acidity.

willowbrooklogosecondWillowbrook 2013 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($24) 88 The 2013 Pinot Noir is light ruby in color and displays aromas and flavors of dried cherries. On the palate it reveals high acidity and a chalky mouth feel. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, it is dry and bitter on the finish.

July 2015




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