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New wine reviews



When the wine comes in, I review. If it doesn’t, I don’t. For the last few weeks, it’s been coming in. I still get a kick from reviewing wines. Here are a few new ones.

Rock Wall 2014 Jack’s Dry Creek Petite Sirah (Sonoma County): $35. Alcohol 14.8%. An absolutely first-rate Petite Sirah that combines adorable drinkability with quite a bit of finesse and complexity. The vineyard, as the name suggests, is in Dry Creek Valley. There’s a lot of new oak, both French and American, but it’s perfectly balanced with the underlying fruit, which is vast. Blackberry jam, cassis, cherry compote, crispy bacon, white pepper, golden cured tobacco, Asian spices, it’s got everything in there, all wrapped into a fine balance of thick but smooth tannins and satisfying acidity. Considering the very high quality, the price is fair. Score: 94 points.

Rock Wall 2012 Le Mur de Roche Petite Sirah (Napa Valley): $60. Alcohol 16.3%. The alcohol level on this wine has to be mentioned, as it’s really high and heady, so be forewarned! It’s almost like Port. But it is an excellent wine. Superbly delicious, with decadent currant, blackberry jam, chocolate, sweet tea and toffee flavors, sprinkled with mulling spices and orange zest. For all the richness, the wine is dry. It’s also soft and tannic. The vineyard is Carver Sutro, although it doesn’t say so on the bottle (why not?), an old (1902) vineyard in the Palisade hills of Calistoga. I admire Rock Wall for holding this wine back more than four years before releasing it. It’s beginning to acquire some of the complexities of age. Score: 94.

Parducci 2014 “True Grit” Petite Sirah (Mendocino); $30. Alcohol 14.5%. I’ve been reviewing True Grit for many years. It stands out in certain vintages; this new release, the ’14, is one of them. The wine, which is 100% Petite Sirah, marries Pet’s exuberant personality with the elegant restraint of a fine Bordeaux. The color is saturated purple. The aroma brims with cloves, blackberry jam, white pepper, smoke. The flavors are similar, and flood the mouth, deliciously. The tannins, by the way, are gritty, suggesting rich, fatty meats for pairing. Score: 92 points.

Carol Shelton 2012 Florence Vineyard Petite Sirah (Dry Creek Valley): $40. Everything about this wine screams bigness: the inky black color, the super-mature aroma of raisins and currants, the massive raspberry jam flavors that sink deep into the palate. Dry Creek Valley is a companionable place for Petite Sirah. It’s warmish-hot enough to ripen the grapes, yet the cool nights make for crisp acidity. Containing 7% Zinfandel, as well as 8% of grapes from the neighboring Rockpile appellation, this is quite a successful Petite Sirah. It’s already throwing some tannins at the age of four years-plus. The official alcohol is 14.8%, and while it does have a little heat, it’s not too much, just a mouth-warming sensation for a cold winter night. Score: 92 points.

Carol Shelton 2013 Rockpile Vineyard Rockpile Reserve Petite Sirah (Rockpile): $40. Just in case you can’t figure out where this wine comes from, it’s Rockpile! And in true Rockpile fashion it’s inky black and huge. The official alcohol is 14.5%, but it feels headier than that. Whatever, it’s gloriously gigantic in blackberry and blueberry jam, with shaved chocolate and vanilla extract. The oak barrel aging is evident, as are the tannins. To use a Yiddish word, this is a zaftig wine that will be great with barbecue and roasted meats. Score: 90 points.

Parducci 2015 Small Lot Blend Viognier (Mendocino County): $14. It blew my mind when I saw the price on this, because it’s really quite good. Viognier is hard to get right, but this 100% varietal does a great job. With a kiss of neutral oak and refreshing acidity, it shows Viognier’s flamboyant side, with tropical fruit, peach, orange zest, vanilla bean and creamy honeysuckle flavors. Nice value, and a good restaurant wine. Score: 89 points.

Parducci 2015 Small Lot Blend Chardonnay (Mendocino County): $13. Alcohol 14.0%. This is a likeable wine, but it sure doesn’t taste like Chardonnay. More like Riesling, with a diesel or petrol aroma, along with plenty of fresh, tart Asian pears and honeysuckle flower. There’s a little bit of wood, just enough for a slight smokiness. All in all, a real success, even if it’s not particularly varietal. Score: 88 points.

Pamela’s 2013 Un-Oaked Chardonnay (Sonoma County); $?? Alcohol 12.4%. My first impression was that it tastes like a Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay. Very ripe, oozing in tropical fruits and vanilla honey, with a botrytis-type decadence. The grapes are from all over Sonoma: Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Carneros, Russian River Valley. It’s not particularly subtle, but it does provide plenty of flash. Could be nice with rich shellfish dishes, like lobster. Score: 87 points.

Justin Grace “Solidarity” Non-Vintage We Are Immigrants (California): $35. Doesn’t say so on the label, but the paperwork calls this a Petite Sirah blend. It comes from the Sierra Foothills. I love that the winery donates a portion of the price to immigrant rights groups—this is really important these days. The wine itself is so-so. It’s thick, soft and heavy, with blackberry jam, chocolate-covered raisin and pepper notes. Score: 84 points.

Justin Grace Shoe Shine 10th Anniversary Winemakers Blend Non-Vintage  Petite Sirah (California): $40. Drinkable, but kind of rustic. It’s very dark in color and bone dry, with muted aromatics. In the mouth, big and tannic, showing blackberry, molasses, anise and bitter chocolate flavors. Blended with a little Mourvedre and Merlot. Score: 84 points.

Berryessa Gap 2013 Petite Sirah (Yolo County): $28. Yolo County is where the cities of West Sacramento and Davis are located, inland from San Francisco in the Sacramento Valley. The name references Lake Berryessa, a vacation spot in the Vaca Mountains, east of Napa Valley, through whose coastal gaps cooling breezes supposedly blow into this hot region. The wine is uncomfortably vegetal, with asparagus notes to the blackberries. Score: 82 points.

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