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New Wine Reviews: Loring Wine Co.

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I’ve reviewed a lot of Loring wines over the years, and in going over my scores, I note that very few were lower than 90 points. Loring is one of those California wineries, like Testarossa and Siduri, that don’t own vineyards of their own, but take advantage of grower relationships to purchase fruit from some of our most famous vineyards, and then designate them on the label. The wines are almost always impeccably crafted, but due to their ripe, fruity style, are not particularly ageworthy. If there’s a certain sameness to them, it’s a delicious, food-friendly sameness. All Loring’s wines are bottled in screwtops. If this bothers you, you’re a snob.

Loring 2015 Clos Pepe Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills); $54. The first word that popped into my head on tasting this wine was: “Pretty.” And that is a compliment, not a slight. “Ravishing” works, too: raspberries and strawberries, with hints of bitter cranberries and pomegranates, wrapped into a tart, silky Pinot Noir that finishes with oaky vanilla and spicy-sweet coffee and mushroom earthiness. It is so easy to drink, you might not even appreciate how layered it is. The vineyard is, of course, a pioneer in the Santa Rita Hills, in the tenderloin of the appellation, along the Highway 246 corridor. As pretty as it is, there’s a young, grapey sappiness that suggests midterm ageability. Drink now, after decanting, and through 2021. Alcohol 14.8%, 150 cases produced. Score: 94 points.

Loring 2015 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands): $54. This is an excellent Pinot Noir. It tastes a bit more “cold climate” than Loring’s other 2015s, to judge from the cranberry and heirloom tomato notes, but there’s still a ton of riper plums, and oak gives it the most delicious vanilla-smoke nuances. It also shows a spiciness that intrigues, especially on the finish. Like Loring’s other single-vineyard Pinots, the acidity is perky, the tannins soft and silky. Lip-smackingly good. Alcohol 14.8%, case production 300. Score: 94 points.

Loring 2015 Sierra Mar Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands): $54. Strikes a careful balance between the exuberance of its fruit and the integrity of its structure. The result is just fine, perfect for upscale drinking wherever Pinot-friendly food requires liquid partnership. The raspberries, cherries and plums have a mushroomy earthiness. The tannic grip is sandy and refined, the acidity mouthwatering. Really a nice example of Pinot Noir’s silky, sexy nature. Will remain delicious over the next six years. Alcohol 14.5%, case production 150. Score: 94 points.

Loring 2015 Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands): $54. Garys’ Vineyard is the joint effort of the two Garys, Franscione and Pisoni. It’s in the tenderloin of the Santa Lucia Highlands. This bottling is so delicious in cherries and plums, and so balanced in acidity, oak and tannins, you’d be hard pressed to find something better to drink now with filet mignon, grilled salmon or ahi tuna. The alcohol is 14.8% and the case production was 150 cases. Score: 93 points.

Loring 2015 Kessler-Haak Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills); $54. Juicy, crisp and fruity are the highlights of this single-vineyard Pinot Noir, whose wines I’ve given good, sometimes great, scores to for many years. With lowish alcohol (14.2%), it’s lithe in the mouth, showing a silky delicacy. But there’s nothing delicate about the flavors: raspberries, cherries and pomegranates, spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon and crushed black pepper, and accented noticeably by toasty oak. It’s really complex and approachable now. Score: 93 points.

Loring 2015 Sierra Mar Vineyard Chardonnay (Santa Lucia Highlands): $44. Tropical fruits are the theme here: ripe, sweet papayas, golden mangos, juicy nectarines, tangerines, even sautéed bananas. Throw in some buttered toast, vanilla custard and brown spices, and you have this insanely rich, but balanced, Chardonnay. Such pretty acidity, the kind that makes your mouth water. And a hint of creamy lees for good measure. It’s a definite crowd-pleaser. The vineyard is yet another effort from Gary Franscioni, one of the partners (with Gary Pisoni) of Garys’ Vineyard. Alcohol 14.3%, 100 cases produced. Score: 93 points.

Loring 2015 Rosella’s Vineyard Chardonnay (Santa Lucia Highlands): $44. The trick to California Chardonnay is to take advantage of the summer sun that ripens the grapes to fruity richness, but also to maintain an architectural precision that gives the wine structure, and keeps all that sweetness from cloying. This Chard succeeds. I love the tropical fruit, Key lime pie, white peach, butterscotch, sweet cream and toasty vanilla flavors, but there’s also a flinty minerality and keen acidity that are so balancing. I went over all my past scores for Rosella’s Chardonnay, from all wineries, and, except for a handful of instances, all were 90 points or above. Alcohol 14.3%, 100 cases produced. Score: 93 points.

Loring 2015 Keefer Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir (Green Valley): $54. On the spectrum of Pinot Noir, this bottling plays it down the middle: rich, but tart; fruity, yet elusive; dry, yet sweet in fruit. The raspberries and pomegranates have a touch of bitter cranberry, which certainly makes the mouth water. The oak is perfect, bringing sweet toast, vanilla and wood sap to the formula. And the finish is dry and long in fruity essence and cola spice. All in all, a lovely Pinot Noir, delicate and feminine, super-drinkable now and over the next five or six years. Score: 93 points.

Loring 2015 Rancho La Viña Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills); $54. I tasted this blind and knew right away it was Santa Rita Hills from the acidity, which is so fresh and keen. Clearly a cool-climate Pinot Noir, it has a cranberry tartness, but is also rich and decadent in black cherry and raspberry jam, with an earthy coffee-bean quality. The vineyard is along Santa Rosa Road, in the southerly part of the Santa Rita Hills; the owners also sell fruit to several other wineries. I like the way the wine balances voluptuousness with a streamlined, tantalizing, elusive personality, which really is what Pinot Noir at its best should do. Alcohol is 14.3% on the label, and case production was 300. Score: 93 points.

Loring 2015 “Cooper Jaxon” 2015 Pinot Noir (California): $60. This looks like a second label from Loring, with its “California” appellation and old-fashioned label, but in fact, it’s their most expensive Pinot Noir. Apparently it’s a blend of two of Brian Loring’s “favorite barrels,” and named after his young nephew. It’s a big wine, bursting with all kinds of wild berry aromas and flavors, cherries especially, but notes of licorice, dried herbs, cocoa powder, tea, espresso, white pepper, nutmeg and black pepper. It is, in other words, an incredibly complex wine. Acidic and fresh, with fine, intricate tannins, the sort of Pinot Noir that belongs on a fine wine list. The alcohol is fairly hefty, officially 14.9%, and there’s a bit of heat, for which I deducted a point or two. Only 35 cases were produced. Score: 92 points.

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