Back in 2001 I drank the 1997 Nichols Chardonnays and enjoyed them. Curiosity got the better of me so I decided to try them again along with the Swanson Syrah. The Swason Syrah was by far the best of the three wines and certainly useful to drink as a reference point but not one I’d buy again. I didn’t much care for the Nichols.
1997 Nichols, Chardonnay, Talley Vineyards, Arroyo Grande Valley – $23
This is fermented and aged in 100% oak. A honey-yellow color that is lighter than the Soleil. A very light floral nose. There are faint toast overtones but the soft tropical fruit comes across. There is a pleasant light finish, that slowly develops.
1997 Nichols, Soleil & Terroir Chardonnay, La Colline Vineyard, Arroyo Grande Valley – $23
This too is fermented and aged in 100% French oak for 12 months. A light, golden yellow in the glass. A light nose of toasty-oak, somewhat sour. In the mouth an oak-fest with minimal fruit followed by a toasty oak finish.
1997 Swanson, Syrah, Napa Valley – $28
This is still primary in aroma and flavor. There are tart, dark fruits in the mouth that fade to some tannins and moderate acidity. I was surprised that it comes across as a lighter bodied wine. In short, this wine is surviving rather developing complexity.
Here are a few zins that we’ve had lately. We preferred the Sotelo followed by the Vineyard 29. The Dashe was an under-performing bottle and the Sextant was not my style.
2005 Sextant Wines, Holystone, Zinfandel, Paso Robles – $27
The Sextant Wines was formed in 2004 and the vineyards are based on a vine nursery. This is a 78% Zinfandel, 23% Syrah, and 2% Mourvedre blend. The grapes come from a 10 year old irrigated vineyard and a 40 year old dry farmed vineyard in Willow Creek. It was aged for 8 months in oak of which 20% was new French oak. This light to medium opaque wine is purplish ruby. On the first day there was a strong nose and palate of butter with a touch of red fruit. On the second day the butter became muted and a raspberry candy nose developed. In the mouth there was raspberry and cherry candy. This is skewed towards up front fruit that fades to a finish of one-dimensional flavor and tannins. This is not my style of wine.
2001 Vineyard 29, Aida Vineyard, Zinfandel, Napa Valley – $??
The Aida Vineyard dates back to the 1920s. Turley produced a zinfandel and Petite Sirah for a while. This wine was aged for 24 month in oak. This is medium to dark garnet in the glass. It is a dark, brooding wine with good blue fruit flavors and herbs. There is mildly round fruit at first yielding to a tannic finish and a good, calm aftertaste. It is a well made wine but I wonder if larger formats will show more fruit right now, which would give it a step up.
2003 Alex Sotelo, Dalraddly Vineyard, Zinfandel, Napa Valley – $29
Alex Sotelo spent nine years working at Robert Pecota Winery until he launched his own label in 2002. This wine is 100% zinfandel. The Dalraddly vineyard is located near St. Helena and contains a zinfandel block planted in 1973. It is less opaque than the Dashe. There is a light nose, with hints of complexity, red and blueberries, and hints of tobacco. In the mouth it is somewhat creamy with a smooth opening. This medium bodied wine has a moderate amount of fine tannins that stick around through the simpler finish. This needs a little more time to become more expressive but is still enjoyable. It is more complex and less jammy than the Dashe.
2003 Dashe Cellars, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley – $20
This is 90% Zinfandel, 5% Petite Sirah, and 5% Carignane. It was aged in French and American oak, 18% of which is new, for 14 months. This wine is an opaque, rather dark garnet reflecting the intent to make a jet black wine. The nose is light to medium in intensity of dark fruits. In the mouth there are red and blue fruits, that are immediately ripe in the mouth that give way to tannins. There is moderate acidity, medium textured tannins, and a simple, brambly finish. I liked this wine at first but after 1-2 hours it started to develop a strong funk on the nose. So I suspect this bottle was slightly off but the wine is certainly worth trying again.