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Today we have a flurry of new releases from some of our favorite California producers. No heartfelt storytelling or glib quips, just bottles we are excited about.
Jolie Laide 2021 San Benito County Sauvignon Gris
This is a fabulous example of an underappreciated variety. The Jolie-Laide 2021 Sauvignon is beautifully pungent on the nose, redolent with green tropical fruit, orange peel and lilies. It's got more of this on the palate and plenty of driving acidity. There is something that is reminiscent of great Thai food - the lime acid and salty notes from fish sauce, with vibrant fresh green herbs. In general, I was surprised and delighted by this lovely bottle. Sam Ehrlich
Jolie Laide 2021 California Glou D'Etat
This Rhone-ish blend from Jolie-Laide is a treat, priced in an approachable way so that one might re-visit the wine a few times. There is juicy dark red fruit here and plenty of spice but the grapes are gently handled throughout fermentation to keep a feeling of brightness and buoyancy in the wine. Think Tavel rather than Vacqueyras. Eminently drinkable but plenty of character to hold up to braised dishes and mushrooms as we head into cooler weather. Sam Ehrlich
Jolie-Laide 2020 Chalone Grenache
Mountain Grenache from one of the coldest winemaking regions in California. This is outstanding, snappy red raspberry and strawberry fruit and a fine chalky spine giving the wine real presence. Like many of my favorite Grenache-based wines, this has a Pinot Noir-like elegance - understated rather than powerful, and a great bottle to have on the table with almost anything. A tremendous effort. Sam Ehrlich
Railsback Freres 2021 Santa Ynez Clairette Blanche
Inspired by the complex and age-worthy wines of Bandol, brothers Eric and Lyle Railsback started Railsback Freres in Santa Ynez first as a rose project, eventually branching off to work with other southern French varietals. This Clairette Blanche comes from a small parcel in the northwest hills of Nolan Ranch, located within the Alisos Canyon AVA, and the plant material was originally sourced from the Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel. The soils here are full of limestone and fossils which contribute to the wine's freshness and strong mineral core. There's delicate fruit and white flowers with a subtle waxy texture that lends itself to pairing but it's equally enjoyable on its own--a wine that feels elegant but still endlessly quaffable! Jeff DiLorenzo
Presqu'ile Winery 2019 Santa Barbara County Bien Nacido Chardonnay
Coming from the legendary Bien Nacido vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley, this Chardonnay is a perfect example of what you get when you combine great source material with meticulous winemaking and a philosophy of minimalism. The vines range in age from about 20-50 years and are planted in rocky clay and sandstone soils. This is a pure and focused Chardonnay, not overly ripe but still luxurious, with a dreamy texture and singing acidity that resonate in perfect harmony. There is some lemon and pear fruit with chalky minerality and a long finish. A real treat! Jeff DiLorenzo
Presqu'ile Winery 2019 Santa Maria Valley Presqu'ile Vineyard Syrah
While Presqu'ile makes outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this Syrah was perhaps the standout wine from their lineup when we tasted recently. Made with about 35% whole clusters and aged in French oak for 18 months, there is an abundance of deep, brooding blackberry and plum fruit with some olive, black pepper and meaty savory notes that make it more reminiscent of something from the northern Rhone than California. It's powerful but not weighty, with a strong mineral component and precise acid that make it an ideal partner for rich, fatty meats. It's a wine you can get lost in, with layers of complexity that continue to evolve in the glass. This is outstanding now but should continue to develop nicely for years if you can hold off! Jeff DiLorenzo