Napa and Sonoma Burn Again. Horribly.

I don’t know how coherent this particular piece is going to be, as I watch the social media evidence of friends and loved ones fleeing their homes, and as I keep tabs on my sister Shannon, who is on the front lines fighting what has become known as the Glass Incident fire. Bear with me as I do my best.

At around 3:45 AM on Sunday, in the midst of a Red Flag warning, something (no one is yet sure what) sparked a fire in the hills to the northwest of Napa Valley. With 95 degree temperatures on Saturday, and an even hotter day on Sunday, very low humidity, and some offshore winds blowing, that fire, which was named the Glass Fire grew exponentially and tore down the hill towards Napa Valley and the towns of Calistoga and St. Helena

Later that day, two more fires started across the valley in the Mayacamas Mountains, possibly from blown embers. By the early hours of Monday morning, these fires had combined into a single fire that has, to date, burned more than 11,000 acres and is continuing to burn uncontained, as firefighters and first responders scramble to evacuate residents.

The fire crossed Silverado Trail late last night at Lodi Lane, south of St. Helena, and began burning the valley floor in a phenomenon known as spotting, as embers and fallen trees advance a fire into a new area, it does not seem to have spread rapidly from that point however, possibly due to the number of vineyards in the area, which burn quite poorly unless faced with massive walls of flame.

My sister spent the day on Sunday working the fire line near Rombauer Vineyards where this morning there was still a crew working to keep the fire away from the winery. Here’s a video she shared with me, taken by Bodega Volunteer Fire Department Captain Boone Vale.

I got a chance to see through my sister’s dash cam as she drove up Silverado Trail this morning around 10 AM, and I could see the fire burning down to, but not across the Silverado Trail between Zinfandel Lane and the Pope Street bridge.

She pointed out the huge column of black smoke from behind the hill to the right of Silverado Trail and said, “See that dark smoke? You don’t get that from just trees and brush burning. That’s structures on fire.” It’s unclear whether they were private homes or wineries or both, but that area includes wineries such as Joseph Phelps, Bulgheroni Estates, and more.

Damage reports, as they always are in these situations where access to the burn zone is highly restricted, are spotty and unreliable. We do have confirmation that Chateau Boswell has burned down, and that there is fire damage at the Schramsberg Property, Castello di Amarosa, Failla Vineyards, and Rombauer, but that so far, all of those wineries are still standing. Duckhorn, too, which my sister predicted might go overnight, was miraculously saved from the flames.

Despite fire maps that look like this…

The town of St. Helena is still relatively unscathed, as are wineries such as Charles Krug, which you can see peeking through as text in between the dots that indicate spot fires.

My sister was deployed to the ridge above Meadowood Resort around lunchtime today where she described large explosions (likely propane tanks) and said she was watching the golf course and a major building she thought was the restaurant on fire. An hour or two later I saw this photo on Twitter:

Napa and Sonoma Burn Again. Horribly.

That’s the restaurant burning, as she feared.

Crews, including my sister’s are working valiantly, but many are having to prioritize saving and evacuating people over structures, and structure defense over containing the fire, so it’s a big juggling act and unfortunately the fire is spreading unchecked through parts of Napa Valley.

Napa and Sonoma Burn Again. Horribly.
My sister “mopping up” hotspots on Madrone Knoll above Meadowood today.

Just got a text as I was writing this saying “Sterling didn’t make it.” So that’s an unconfirmed report that Sterling Vineyards may have burned. She says fellow firefighters claimed to have watched the winery’s famous gondolas plummeting to the ground. She has not yet seen for herself if the winery is a total loss yet, or not.

Over the hills towards Sonoma, my sister also reports hearing that Ledson Vineyards succumbed to the flames as the fire moved down towards Highway 12, where it continues to encroach on communities such as Kenwood, Glen Ellen, and the Santa Rosa neighborhoods of Oakmont.

Looking at the fire maps, and watching things unfold through the valiant reporting of people like Sarah Stierch here’s what has me worried at the moment.

There’s a whole area, marked in purple below, that seems like it will almost certainly burn fully. That’s where Schramsberg Vineyards is.

Napa and Sonoma Burn Again. Horribly.
Fire map showing Sonoma County evacuation areas and fire inundation zones.

The whole left side of that orange mandatory evacuation zone is the city of Santa Rosa, population 177,586. If the fire keeps moving west, there will be a lot of people losing their homes.

Farther to the south than is shown on the image above, a huge tract of open space called Trione-Annadel State Park is currently seeing spot fires from blowing embers. If it fully catches fire, we may see a repeat of the kind of behavior we saw when the fire first started: tons of virgin fuel from roughly 8 square miles of forested open space that may go up with a whoosh, and barrel down on Bennett Valley, where there are many wineries and private residences.

My sister and her fellow firefighters are working on just a few hours’ sleep and doing heroic work to keep people safe. Many have asked me to extend their thanks to her. She appreciates all the gratitude and encourages everyone to donate to her outfit, the Bodega Volunteer Fire Department.

Other worthy recipients of monetary support right now are Undocufund, which supports many of the undocumented workers whose livelihoods are likely to be most affected by this disaster, the Napa Valley Community Foundation and the Sonoma County Resilience Fund.

More to come as I hear it.

The post Napa and Sonoma Burn Again. Horribly. appeared first on Vinography.

Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 9/27/20

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the wine stories that I find of interest on the web. I post them to my magazine on Flipboard, but for those of you who aren’t Flipboard inclined, here’s everything I’ve strained out of the wine-related muck for the week.

California wildfires erupt in wine country, damaging Santa Rosa and prompting evacuations
Welcome to the “wildfire edition” of this news roundup.

Famed California winery destroyed as fast-moving fires take over wine country
Chateau Boswell gone, others, too.

Glass Incident Fire Damages or Destroys at Least Seven Vineyards, Many More Remain in Jeopardy
A decent rundown.

Fast-Moving Wildfires Erupt in Napa, Spread to Sonoma, Striking Another Blow to 2020 Harvest
Spectator’s take.

Wine – more sustainable than most crops?
When farmed well, especially.

About 350 Sonoma County farmworkers have contracted the coronavirus
Brutal situation. We have to do better by them.

California’s Next Generation Lead Women Winemakers and the Promise That Accompanies Their Success
A couple of nice profiles.

Concern over wildfire smoke’s impact on Washington grape harvest and wine quality
Washington, too.

I’ve Supported the Wine Industry for Years. Why Won’t it Support Me?
Worth reading.

In praise of the blockbuster wine
Robert Joseph has it right.

Life Lessons with… Stephen & Prue Henschke
Another of these cute Q&As

Lebanon Needs You to Buy Its Wines. And, Yes, They’re Really Good
Elin McCoy makes the case.

Winemakers Face Up to Smoke Taint Reality
It’s a problem for sure.

Missing 150-year-old madeira
Jancis describes her desert-island wine.

California’s wineries tossed into chaos with backlogged tests for smoke taint
Pandemonium.

Richard Hemming MW: Does wine education make any difference?
The stats say no. We need more wine appreciation, not education. And there’s a difference.

‘Wet ashtray’ wine grapes left to birds as fires choke West Coast vineyards
Reuters on smoke taint.

The Vineyards of the Canary Islands Are Covered in Volcanic Ash
A primer on the Canaries.

This year’s wildfires are likely ‘the single worst disaster the wine-grape growing community has ever faced’
And this article was written before the Glass fire.

Italian Wine Harvest Redeems a Dark Year
Some good news from Italy.

Exploring South Africa’s Pinotage Wine Grape
Mark Stock offers a primer.

How to Read a Wine Label, in 12 Easy Lessons
Eric Asimov analyzes quite a few.

Watch 60,000 Bottles’ Worth of Wine Burst from a Broken Tank in Spain
Just don’t call it ASMR.

The post Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 9/27/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up For September 28, 2020

I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes in a “mini-review” format.
 
They are meant to be quirky, fun, and (mostly) easily-digestible reviews of (mostly) currently available wines (click here for the skinny on how to read them), and are presented links to help you find them, so that you can try them out for yourself. Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up For September 28, 2020 from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Daily Wine News: Fires Strike Again

In Wine Spectator, Aaron Romano reports on new wildfires in California. “The Glass fire, which ignited just before 4 a.m. Sept. 27 near the community of Deer Park, quickly spread to the eastern foothills between Calistoga and St. Helena in the heart of Napa Valley; as of 6:37 a.m. PDT Sept. 28, it has burned 11,000 acres, with 0 percent containment. St. Helena’s Château Boswell has fallen victim to the fire. Photos show the winery, which is just across the Silverado Trail from Rombauer winery and a mile north of Duckhorn, engulfed in flames.”

Cyril Penn offers a California harvest update on WineBusiness.com. “That there were uncontracted grapes available before the fires started and coastal wineries are long will escalate the number of grapes left on the vine this year. Smoke exposure is a concern as is the uncertainty of how consumers will respond to the 2020 vintage.”

In Wine-Searcher, Tom Hyland looks at the redeeming harvest Italy is experiencing in the most challenging of years.

Alder Yarrow explores Cameron Hughes’ latest endeavor, de Négoce Wines. “Hughes goes out, as he always has, and finds parcels of high-quality wine on the bulk market. He signs a purchase contract with the winery with fairly generous payment terms that give him a little while to pay the bill. He then turns around and offers most, but not all, of that wine via e-mail to his customers for sale at a shockingly low price per bottle, with the stipulation that customers must purchase in quantities of 12 bottles… Money in hand, Hughes then pays the producer, buys the bottles, fills them, and ships the wine off to his soon-to-be-very satisfied customers.”

Rebecca Toy explores the growth of New Hampshire’s wine scene in Wine Enthusiast.

In Food & Wine, Mike Pomranz watches the video of a 13,000-gallon tank of red wine that broke at a Spanish winery last week.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 9/20/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a recent vintage of what I regularly describe as the best Riesling made in Napa (not that it has a lot of competition). Smith-Madrone has been making Riesling on the slopes of Napa’s Spring Mountain for a long time, and the wines are predictably tasty. The 2016 vintage is showing extremely well at this point, and I think it is my favorite in recent memory.

I’ve also got a couple of whites from New Zealand to share this week, including a small-production from Jules Taylor wines, which is a lush Sauvignon Blanc that doesn’t fall into the trap of tasting like the “standard” Kiwi Sav Blanc, but instead forges its own path of deliciousness. Her Pinot Noir is also worth paying attention to.

From slightly farther south, I’ve got the Golden Egg Chardonnay from Tony Bish. As opposed to last week, which was a bottling from a special barrel, this week there’s a bottling from, you guessed it, a special egg. Supposedly the first concrete egg made in New Zealand. I didn’t miss the oak, and neither will you.

While we’re in New Zealand, and in Hawke’s Bay, let’s not leave off without mentioning this really pretty (and first I’ve tasted of the variety from Hawkes Bay, at least that I can recall) Gamay from Easthope Family Wines. It’s delicious and intriguing and makes me want to taste other examples from the region.

And now for something completely different. Let’s go way up into the northern part of Italy’s Piedmont region to the little hill town of Castagnole Monferrato for one of Piedmont’s best-kept secrets: the grape known as Ruchè. Thought to be indigenous to this town and the surrounding communities, it is only grown in dribs and drabs, having been replaced by the much more popular Nebbiolo and Barbera. It’s an incredibly floral, juicy wine that smells like few other grapes, and is bound to turn heads. Given its relative obscurity, if you can find it, you’ll also find it affordable.

Luca Ferraris is the largest producer of Ruchè in the region, and makes several bottling of which I have notes on two this week. The first is their “Clasic” which is fermented in steel and then aged in large oak casks for six to nine months before bottling. It is released young and fruity.

The second bottling is their Vigna Del Parroco, or “Parson’s Vineyard” Ruchè, which comes from a parish vineyard tended by Don Giacomo Cauda, the man given significant credit for keeping Ruchè alive as a tradition. This bottling is a more serious, more savory rendition of the grape, and ages for longer in oak casks before release.

Back closer to home, I’ve got a nice current-release Syrah from the Alder Springs Vineyard up in Northern Mendocino, and three of Nickel & Nickel’s single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa. My favorite of the three was the State Ranch, but all three are worthy, and feature that wonderful acid balance and supple tannin that I think of as a hallmark of Napa’s 2018 vintage.

Tasting Notes

2016 Smith-Madrone Riesling, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Light blonde in color, this wine smells of citrus oil and Asian pear juice. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy tangerine, Asian pear, and lemon pith flavors have a gorgeous honeysuckle edge to them that makes for a perfect balance to the zippy acidity in the wine. Excellent, as usual, but perhaps even better than recent vintages. 12.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2018 Jules Taylor Wines “OTQ – On the Quiet – Meadowbank Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of golden apples and a touch of passionfruit. In the mouth, apple and star fruit flavors turn citrusy and bright as the wine finishes. Crisp and juicy, with a nice silky texture. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $21. click to buy.

2017 Tony Bish “Golden Egg” Chardonnay, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Light greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd with a hint of yellow flowers. In the mouth, bright and juicy lemon curd flavors mix with a touch of honeysuckle. Excellent acidity keeps the mouth-watering, and I’m not missing the oak in the slightest. Fermented and aged in a concrete egg which the winery says is the first to have been made locally in New Zealand. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2017 Easthope Family Winegrowers Gamay, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of potting soil and chopped green herbs with a few red berries mashed up alongside. In the mouth, raspberry and strawberry flavors are shot through with thyme and other dried herbs along with a touch of peeled willow bark. Excellent acidity, and nicely savory. 100% whole cluster fermentation, and aged in neutral oak for 9 months before bottling. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $39. click to buy.

2018 Jules Taylor Wines Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand
Medium ruby in color, this wine smells of raspberry and pomegranate fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry, cranberry and raspberry fruit is juicy with excellent acidity. Hints of citrus peel enter the finish along with the faint rasp of tannins. Juicy and uncomplicated, with just a touch of herbaceousness. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2019 Luca Ferraris “Clàsic” Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry jam and sage and a hint of exotic camphor wood. In the mouth, juicy and bright strawberry and cedar and herbal notes have a zingy quality thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of flowers linger in the finish with ghostly wisps of tannin. I’d be hard pressed to guess this wine was 15% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $15.

2018 Luca Ferraris “Vigna del Parroco” Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry jam, dried cherries, and dried flowers. In the mouth, notes of licorice root, strawberry jam, and dried sage have a wonderful brightness and citrusy notes that linger in the finish with the barest hint of gauzy tannins. There’s some heat on the finish as well, but wonderfully savory notes. 15% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2018 Nickel & Nickel “State Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville, Napa, California
Very dark purple in color, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry. In the mouth, excellent acidity keeps flavors of cassis, black cherry, and blackberry extremely fresh and bright. Tightly wound tannins are fine-grained and built for the long hall. Excellent, with well-integrated oak that leaves only a hint of mocha on the finish. Supple, faint tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $125. click to buy.

2018 Nickel & Nickel “Martin Stelling Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Inky purple in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and earth with lovely floral high notes. In the mouth, black cherry and cassis flavor have a dark savory licorice-root character, but are kept fresh thanks to excellent acidity. Very fine-grained tannins show remarkable restraint. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $185. click to buy.

2018 Nickel & Nickel “C.C. Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa, California
Very dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries and black cherry. In the mouth, dark licorice, earth, and black cherry flavors have a brooding savory note to them as faint tannins grab at the edges of the mouth. Excellent acidity keeps it fresh, but a tiny bit of alcoholic heat creeps into the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $125. click to buy.

2016 Alder Springs Vineyard Syrah, Mendocino County, California
Medium to dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries and blackberries. In the mouth, rich blueberry and blackberry fruit join cassis and a touch of licorice as hints of dried herbs and wet chalkboard, along with excellent acidity, keep the wine fresh. Faint tannins. Grown at 2600 feet on a relatively steep vineyard site. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $44. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 9/20/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Images: Frankly Ripe

Frankly Ripe
LOS OLIVOS, CA: A cluster of Cabernet Franc grapes is approaching harvest at Foxen Canyon Road in Los Olivos, California. In anticipation of heavy heat this weekend, growers are either picking fruit or looking forward to how this next heat wave will push their fruit to where they want it to be in terms of ripeness.

INSTRUCTIONS:
Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting “save link as” or “save target as” and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops.

To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should follow these instructions, while PC users should follow these.

BUY THE BOOK:
This image is from a series of photographs by George Rose captured in the process of shooting his most recent work WINE COUNTRY: Santa Barbara County, a visual celebration of one of California’s most beautiful wine regions. The book can be ordered on George’s web site.

PRINTS:
Fine art prints of this image and others are available at George Rose’s web site: www.georgerose.com.

EDITORIAL USE:
To purchase copies of George’s photos for editorial, web, or advertising use, please contact Getty Images.

ABOUT VINOGRAPHY IMAGES:
Vinography regularly features images by photographer George Rose for readers’ personal use as desktop backgrounds or screen savers. We hope you enjoy them. Please respect the copyright on these images. These images are not to be reposted on any web site or blog without the express permission of the photographer.

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Wine Reviews: Steele Wines

Long-time readers may have seen me focus on Steele Wines in the past. And that’s because there’s something about this producer’s old-school aesthetic, budget friendly appeal, and diverse and delicious portfolio, that I think deserves attention. Owner/winemaker Jed Steele has been vinifying grapes for 50 years; this year Steele Wines marked its 28th anniversary.

This old school Lake County producer puts out a staggering array of wines. There are different brands, price-points, and lots of different sources of fruit from around California. Thing is, from entry-level to their upper tier wines, these wines are reliably well-made, delicious, and frequently complex, offering a lot of bang for the buck.

I recently tasted a batch of new releases and found a lot of wines that I would recommend for those looking to try something yummy and a bit off-the-beaten path without spending a lot of money.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

White wines

2019 Steele Wines Sauvignon Blanc Shooting Star USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $15
Light yellow color. Interesting notes of lemon verbena, clover and honeysuckle, on top of grapefruit and white peach. Plush texture, medium/full body, with zippy acidity, this has a real sense of precision and balance that is rare for the price point. Lemons, peaches, with minty, chalky, steely, mineral tones. From 30-year-old vines in Kelseyville, Lake County, this is fermented and aged in stainless steel. Really solid value here. (88 points IJB)

2018 Steele Wines Cuvée Chardonnay USA, California
SRP: $24
Light yellow color. Fresh aromas of green apples and kiwi, with hay, sea spray and honeysuckle. The palate is fresh and vibrant with zippy acidity, but solid depth and texture as well. A bright, accessible style with flavors of green apples, limes, white peach. Notes of white tea, honeysuckle, raw almond and floral perfume add complexity. Solid value here, especially for fans of brighter, less heavy styles. Blended from five vineyards in Sonoma, Santa Barbara and Lake Counties, aged eight months in 20% new French oak. (87 points IJB)

2018 Steele Wines Chardonnay Parmelee-Hill Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
SRP: $36
Medium yellow color. Gorgeous nose of honey, ginger, almond, toasted nuts, but also these brighter, sea breeze tones, all on top of juicy yellow pears. Plump and lovely texture on the palate but vibrant acidity, matched with pure, deep fruit (honeydew, lemon, yellow pear. Nuanced notes of nougat, honeycomb and ginger snap contrast with these crushed shells, sea salt and mineral elements really well. This is Sonoma Valley Chardonnay goodness at a great price, aged 12 months in 30% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

2018 Steele Wines Chardonnay Durell Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Carneros
SRP: $38
Medium yellow color. Creamy nose with salted almond, dried straw, shaved ginger, over top of juicy yellow apples and pears. Lively acidity frames the wine well, supported with a creamy texture and ripe but lively fruit (yellow apples, lemon curd, white peach). Complex, racy elements of minerals, crushed seashells, rocky stream add lip-smacking elements while notes of graham cracker and honeycomb add depth. Balanced, serious, age-worthy stuff here. Aged 12 months in 30% new French oak. (92 points IJB)

Red wines

2017 Steele Wines Merlot USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $20
Deep purple color. Nose of currants and juicy plums, fig paste, with anise, violets, toffee and cedar. Full and suave with fresh acidity, this has chunks of plum, crunchy blackberries, suave but fresh fruit. Pepper, tobacco, cedar and coffee grounds, this has a lot of nuance and freshness for a Zinfandel at this price point. Serious Zinfandel from the Kelsey Bench AVA, this spends 14 months in 30% new French and American oak. (89 points IJB)

2017 Steele Wines Pinot Noir “Shooting Star”  USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $15
Light ruby color. Spicy rhubarb and pepper on the nose with rose petals, red currants and wild raspberries. Medium-bodied with silky-light tannins, fresh acidity, this is zippy and crushable, which is great, whole sporting some fun flavors. Wild strawberries and raspberries, crunchy red apples, with cinnamon sticks, pepper, tobacco and clove. Fun, fresh, vibrant, this has a lot of appeal for a Pinot at this price point, which is rare. Aged nine months in French and Hungarian oak. (86 points IJB)

2018 Steele Wines Zinfandel “Shooting Star” USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $15
Deep ruby color. Smells of jammy cherries and raspberries with smoky earth, chewing tobacco, mocha and root beer. Full-bodied on the palate with chewy texture, light tannins, rich, ripe and summer-friendly stuff. Jammy black cherries and plum sauce fruit mixed with cola, toffee and vanilla. Fun, grill-friendly stuff. Aged eight months in American and Hungarian oak. (86 points IJB)

2017 Steele Wines Zinfandel Old Vines Pacini Vineyard USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $20
Light purple color. Aromas of cherries, wild blueberries, raspberries, with integrated notes of mesquite, anise cookie, scorched earth. Full-bodied, chewy texture, velvety tannins, but stays lively and fresh with some moderating acidity. Black cherries, tart plums, wild raspberries, with bold notes of earth, tobacco, roasted chestnut, along with vanilla, coffee and dark chocolate Forward and packed with fruit but this shows a lot of complexity as well. Aged 12 months in 30% new American oak. (89 points IJB)

2016 Steele Wines Zinfandel Century Old Vines Catfish Vineyard USA, California, North Coast, Clear Lake
SRP: $25
Bright purple color. Nose shows jammy raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, with violets, coffee and vanilla. Vibrant acidity makes this a pleasure to drink from start to finish, the smooth tannins have some structure, but the wine feels accessible with tart black cherry and blueberry fruit. Notes of scorched earth, pepper, graphite, loamy earth. Deep but fresh, showing mineral tones, this is just entering a good drinking phase, and I’d love to see this in two or three years. Seriously impressive Zin for this price point. Originally planted in 1901, own-rooted, head pruned vines that include small amounts of Carignan, Alicante, and others. (91 points IJB)