Tongue Dancer: Exciting New Releases from Sonoma & Mendocino

James Mac Phail, one of California’s most accomplished winemakers, is with his wife and partner Kerry crafting some superb wines under his Tongue Dancer label.  The wines are reasonably priced in view of their high quality and the small volume produced. Mc Phail sources his grapes from excellent vineyards such as Pratt and Bacigalupi and follows Burgundian methods in the cellar.  His wines offer lovely texture and mouthfeel with richness in flavor. As we recognized in our report California Chardonnay: Terroir and Winemaking in Sonoma, his Chardonnay from the Pratt Vineyard in Russian River Valley is a real winner.

The Wines

Tongue Dancer 2020 Chardonnay Sonoma County ($55) 91  Clear, medium yellow straw. This vineyard blend reveals aromas of citrus, stone fruit and hazelnut. The texture is suave with a firm backbone and excellent acid balance. Precise and luscious with lemon curd, hints of tropical fruit, and a touch of honeyed, toasty oak. Sourced from premium Russian River Valley Vineyards: Bacigalupi, Pratt, Irwin Lane, Pratt, & Vine Hill. 13.5% alc.

Tongue Dancer 2019 Chardonnay Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley ($50) 93 Chardonnays sourced from the Russian River Valley’s famous Bacigalupi Vineyard have the reputation for making refined, somewhat subtle Chardonnays, and this 2019 Tongue Dancer fits the mold. Medium yellow gold straw in color, it offers a stony nose with lemon oil and honeyed oak notes. Beautifully balanced, it’s precise and focused on the palate with mineral notes and a smooth, creamy texture. This is a wine that requires a bit of attention, but that pays off with high dividends. Made from Bacigalupi’s Old Wente clones. pH 3.4, 14.2% alc.

Bacigalupi Vineyard

Tongue Dancer 2020 Chardonnay Pratt Vineyard Russian River Valley ($42) 94 Showing a unique bouquet of orchard and white stone fruit with floral and beeswax/almond notes that are mirrored on an elegant, concentrated palate. Beautifully textured with stony minerals and leesy notes giving the wine both good grip and fullness in the mouth. Made from certified organic grapes, Clones 69 & 72, from Jim Pratt’s Cornerstone Certified Vineyard; whole cluster pressed, fermented in an egg shaped, oak barrel with native yeast and matured 10 months our lie in 25% new French oak. pH 3.39, 13.5% alc. This wine has always been a favorite of ours, and it’s an excellent value, too.

Tongue Dancer 2020 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($55) 92  Showing a nose of dark red fruit, cooking spice and hints of toasty oak, this wine is all Clone 777 sourced from The Farm Vineyards overlooking the Laguna of Santa Rosa. Gently destemmed, cold macerated 5 days in open top stainless steel fermenters and matured 11 months in used French oak. The palate is dark fruited with subtle savory notes and cooking spice. 14.5% alc.

Tongue Dancer 2020 Fox Trot Pinot Noir Anderson Valley ($39) 93  Medium dark red. Introduced by a lovely nose of dark fruit and savory herbs, the Fox Trot Pino is firm on the attack and layered on the palate. It shows excellent depth and length and layered flavors of dark cherry accented by underbrush. Sourced from Martini and Dijon clones grown in high elevation (900′) vineyards near Philo. 14.2% alc.

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