The 2016 MacArthur Beverages 31st California Barrel Tasting
This May I attended the 31st California Futures Tasting organized by Andy Creemer of MacArthur Beverages. This event is sponsored by MacArthur Beverages for the benefit of The Addy and Bruce Bassin Memorial Cancer Research Fund. This year some some three dozen wineries poured 100 different wines at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Each winery generally brought a Cabernet Sauvignon based wine from the 2014 vintage, still aging in wood, and an older vintage such as 2013. There are exceptions as each year there is an increasing selection of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and other blends.
This year I attended both the afternoon and evening sessions. Despite spending a large amount of time tasting wine, it is impossible to get through everything in a meaningful fashion. I tried to balance new wineries and rotate through the veterans. The 2014 vintage was largely positive throughout California. The wines I tasted are not tannic monsters. Instead most of the wines offer plenty of flavor and supportive acidity. This made for the least palate fatiguing tasting of the last few years. You will find my tasting notes below. Please note that most wines tasted were samples. To order these and other wines please check out the California Futures page at MacArthur Beverages.
Arns Winery is located within a 160 acre estate of which only a small portion is planted with vines.
2012 Arns, Syrah
The nose is subtle with dark aromas yet leaves a fresh sensation. The creamy start moves to a core of racy, dark red and purple fruit. The wine is infused with glycerin and spice, seductive, and nice.
2012 Arns, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
A familiar seduction but with more greenhouse and more grip. In a sense the wine is lighter but well framed by fine, ripe tannic texture. It mixes in some baking spices and leaves a cool aftertaste.
2014 Arns, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
The subtle, dark nose is a touch rugged. The fruit is redder, mixing with vanilla, black tea, and a spicy finish. It is attractive but really needs time to integrate.
Banshee was started in 2009 by three friends who to make distinct wines. Katy Wilson is part of the winemaker team.
2014 Banshee, Pinot Noir, Marine Layer, Sonoma
This wine is tart with tightly rounded flavors supported by a lighter framed structure. Despite the youth there is a perfumed flavor towards the finish.
2014 Banshee, Pinot Noir, Tina Marie Vineyard, Russian River
The nose remained subtle and tight. The bright start brings dense, clean, red fruit flavors that take on a creamy edge as the wine expands. It becomes almost savory with some spice and supportive structure.
Barnett Vineyards was created by Fiona and Hal Barnet in 1983. Originally focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon wines the estate vineyards are located on steep terraces at the top of Spring Mountain located at 2,000 feet. Today they produce a variety of white and red wines with fruit sourced from estate and single-vineyard fruit.
2014 Barnett, Merlot, Spring Mountain
Ample fruit on the nose. In the mouth the savory, ripe fruit has no hard edges as it moves to a spicy middle. The weighty fruit persists through the end as does plenty of texture.
2014 Barnett, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa
The wine is rich and spiced but bears a touch more of a grapey, purple personality. The wine is rather ripe and forward with less obvious acidity. This wine is all about seduction topped off with creamy flavors.
2014 Barnett, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rattlesnake, Napa
There is a touch more red fruit mixing with the core of ripe, black fruit. Though seductive and enveloping in flavor there is tang and spiciness to keep it balanced.
Russell Bevan and Victoria de Crescenzo were inspired to produce wine after meeting Philip Togni, Bob Foley, Greg La Follette, and Kal Showket.
2014 Bevan Cellars, Chardonnay, Ritchie Vineyard, Russian River
The wine is aromatic with tart yellow fruit and toast. In the mouth is a creamy, rounded start with toast and some citrus notes. This is all about the seductive mouthfeel.
2014 Bevan Cellars, Pinot Noir, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma Coast
Rich varietal aromas. This is a very fruity wine of red then black fruit which shows grip and has a vein of acidity. The finish continues the ample fruit with baking spices and ripe tannins.
Chateau Boswell has been releasing wine since the 1979 vintage when Andre Tchelistcheff was the winemaker. Today they focus on Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
2013 Boswell, Chardonnay, Ritchie Vineyard, Russian River
The nose is slightly nutty with both yellow and white fruit aromas. The creamy, rounded, toasty start is seductive. This wine is all about the body with glycerin and fat. There is a hint of yeast and baking spices as well.
DONELAN FAMILY WINES
Donelan is a small family winery in Sonoma County which aims to express the terroir of their vineyard sites.
2014 Donelan, Two Brothers, Pinot Noir
Varietal aromas. There is a cool start of red and black fruit, a rich middle, acidity, and texture tannins. A core of tasty flavors carries through the end.
2013 Donelan, Syrah, Cuvee Christine, Sonoma County
A rounded start moves on to tart fruit then this youthful wine becomes inky and dense. The structure is supportive for aging.
2014 Donelan, Syrah, Cuvee Christine, Sonoma County
The nose is a little grapey. The rich flavors of ripe red and blue fruit have a lighter frame with less structure.
2014 Donelan, Syrah, Obsidian Vineyard, Knights Valley
There are tight flavors of blue and black fruit with fine grained tannins which make for a spicy, stone-flavored finish.
EMH Vineyards originated in 1999 when Merrill Lindquist purchased her estate. The Special Selection is produced using just a portion of the wine from the various barrels. This maintains the quality of the base wine.
2014 EMH Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Black Cat, Napa
The good aromas of cassis make way to flavors of licorice and herbs.
2014 EMH Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Selection, Napa
This wine stands up right away with dense flavors of tart red fruit, puckering acidity, and a touch of ink.
2012 EMH Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Black Cat, Napa
The tart red fruit takes on some black fruit in this tangy wine. I particularly like the grip. This is showing well in its youth.
2013 EMH Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Black Cat, Napa
The nose is perfumed. In the mouth are dense, lower-lying flavors of dark red fruit and black fruit. With good texture and a seductive nature, this wine is drinking well.
MARK HEROLD WINES
Mark Herold started working in the wine business as a Research Oenologist at Joseph Phelps Vineyard. After his own 1998 Merus he started a consulting business where he has worked with Kamen, Kobalt, and others. Amongst other vessels he employs concrete cubes and not eggs.
2012 Mark Herold Wines, Flux
The dense, tart red flavors of strawberry come to a tangy middle. The good fruit persists with the structure.
2012 Mark Herold Wines, Collide
A youthful, rugged nose is followed by tangy, drying berries in the mouth. The uncrushable fruit expands by the finish where the integrated structure bears out.
2013 Mark Herold Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon
The nose is pure and aromatic. With a cool profile, there is an ample core of fruit. It is showing well with the structure and acidity in balance.
2013 Mark Herold Wines, White Label
The brighter start soon makes way to some good, inky fruit, all framed by structure. Needs age.
2014 Mark Herold Wines, Flux
Young oak aromas on the nose. There are flavors of tart, red fruit and very fine tannins as the wine becomes drier towards the finish. Tight.
2014 Mark Herold Wines, Collide
The red fruit is clean and deep, standing up to the good dose of fine tannins. It takes on spices and leaves a dry, red fruit fruited finish.
2014 Mark Herold Wines, Brown Label
The nose sports herbs. This savory, herb infused wine leaves textured fruit on the tongue. It has an attractive mouthfeel.
Paul Hobbs Wines was founded in 1991 and produces small production wines from fruit sourced from the highest quality vineyards. Today he also produces wine in Argentina under the Vina Cobos label and additionally imports wines.
2014 Paul Hobbs, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Youthful fruit aromas make way to dense, similar fruit in the mouth. This savory wine has seamlessly integrated structure and the right amount of supportive acidity.
2014 Paul Hobbs, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nathan Coombs Estate
With more fruit on the nose there are flavorful, racy, purple flavors in the mouth which persist through the aftertaste. There is a slightly salty aspect. The lovely structure is firm but not overbearing as the wine wraps up with a spicy finish.
Keever Vineyards is a family winery located in Yountville.
2014 Keever, Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Napa
Ripe fruit aromas mix with attractive, sweet greenhouse notes. In the mouth are rich, racy, mineral flavors that turn blacker towards the finish. This flavorful wine is supple at first before it firms up from the structure.
2011 Keever, Cabernet Sauvignon Blend, Inspirado
There are good aromas of mixed herbs and greenhouse. The wine is surprisingly mouthfilling with ripe and spicy flavors that are in no way heavy. The somewhat savory wine continues to expand with thick texture, ripe spices, and some softening structure.
The Jack Larkin estate is named after Sean Larkin’s son. The Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from Pritchard Hills Melanson Vineyard which is farmed by John Arns. The Cabernet Franc is sourced from a family vineyard just north of Napa.
2014 Jack Larkin, Cabernet Franc
There is a subtle, grapey nose. In the mouth is enveloped with ripe blue fruit and strawberries. This sexy wine sports a lot of baking spices, less obvious acidity, and spicy finish of drying tannins.
2014 Jack Larkin, Larkin Red
The flavors are tautly coiled with spiced blue and black fruit, the right amount of acidity, and a black stony finish. A big wine.
MINER FAMILY WINES
Miner Family Wines was founded in 1996. They produce a wide range of wines using many vineyards. The wines are aged in underground caves.
2012 Miner, Oracle, Napa
This wine is linear, tight, and well-focused. Right now it is less forgiving and more structured.
2014 Miner, Oracle, Napa
The muted nose does not hint at the sweeter, fruity start. The spicy structure soon comes out as the wine fills the mouth with flavor and very fine tannins. There is acidity moving it along with an aftertaste of cocoa.
Pahlmeyer history begins when Jayson Pahlmeyer and his friend John Caldwell traveled to Bordeaux in 1972 where they acquired cuttings from five varietals. The Caldwell family owned a 55-acre parcel where they set about creating a vineyard. It took six years for the vineyard to be productive. The history is marked by amazing connections such as Randy Dunn’s period as winemaker, Bob Levy work with Chardonnay, and Helen Turley’s period as winemaker. Today Helen’s assistant Erin Green is now the winemaker.
2013 Pahlmeyer, Proprietary Red, Napa
The nose is subtle, not yielding much. In the mouth are tart, red fruit flavors that become puckering with a spicy, inky finish.
This wine is produced from vines on a ~6 acre vineyard located at 1,000 feet in elevation. The vineyard is west-facing so it receives the afternoon sun. There is only one tank so everything is blended in then fermented with indigenous yeasts.
2014 Peacock, Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain
This aromatic wine is accessible in the mouth with its almost inky, ripe black fruit. The fruit mixes with spices, both good acidity and structure, and an attractive herbal/spiced note. Quite approachable.
Priest Ranch wines are produced by Craig Becker of Somerstone Winery, drawing fruit from vineyards located throughout the 1,600 acre estate.
2014 Priest Ranch, Sauvignon Blanc
The nose is grassy with floral pastille aromas. The good acidity on the start brings a floral middle with tart flavor and more acidity on the sides of the tongue. There is a good mouthfeel with tart white fruit and a textured finish.
2014 Priest Ranch, Grenache Blanc
The brighter nose leads to an almost piercing start before the fruit comes out in the mouth. There are rounded edges to the wine with both weight and texture leading to peach flavors in the finish. It wraps up with some tang and tannins.
2013 Priest Ranch, Cabernet Sauvignon, Celestial Block
This tangy wine has a dense start with slowly building power and flavor through the finish. It culminates with salty, minerally, black fruit.
2014 Priest Ranch, Cabernet Sauvignon, Celestial Block
The cranberry accented nose makes way to a good tart flavors and fuzzily textured red fruit. The watering acidity moves the wine towards a finish of nice, coating ripe tannins.
2012 Priest Ranch, Coach Gun, Napa
This wine quickly builds a punch of flavor. With mouth coating tannins this young wine brings forth blacker fruit by the finish which pairs well with the cream and spiced aftertaste. This is a sense of minerality in this taut wine.
2014 Priest Ranch, Coach Gun, Napa
A more approachable wine with an herbal hint, cocoa notes, and a powerful, very fine structure. The dense black fruit is there for the structure to integrate with over time.
Ravenswood was founded in the 1970s by Joel Peterson. Though he began with Zinfandel he soon expanded to use Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Today he also produces blends reminiscent of wines from before Prohibition.
2014 Ravenswood, Icon, Sonoma
There are darkish aromas of rich fruit. In the mouth the good acidity moves the blue and red fruit flavors. The oak is supportive, coming out as fine dry tannins at the end.
2014 Ravenswood, Pickberry, Sonoma
The nose is subtle but the medium weight flavors are forward and mouthfilling. The good dark flavors exist with good acidity and gobs of tannin.
Relic began in 2001 by making a few barrels of Pinot Noir. Today they produce wine from many different varietals sourced from Napa Valley and the Sonoma Coast.
2015 Relic, Pinot Noir, Putnam Vineyard
Good nose with spices. The flavors are quick to expand in the mouth but are not heavy and supported by tart acidity. The fruit has good depth and a citric hint in the finish. Spicy aftertaste.
2014 Relic, The Prior, Cabernet Franc
Good fruit aromas mix with herbs and black tea. The dense fruit mixes with herbs before weaving in ripe texture in this savory wine. The herbs come back in the finish along with a mineral streak. It exhibits good power and eventually some creamy black notes.
2014 Relic, Artefact, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma
Savory, herbal aromas move on to low-lying, dense, sweet fruit in the mouth. This seductive wine has blacker ripe fruit with good, seductive texture. Though there is a strong dose of fine ripe tannins but the wine packs deep flavor to match it.
The Monte Bello vineyard was originally planted in 1886 in the Santa Cruz mountains. The vineyard fell into disrepair during Prohibition and was essentially abandoned in the 1940s. In 1949 eight acres of Cabernet Sauvignon were replanted with the rest of the vineyard following suit. Ridge continued the tradition of presenting two barrels samples.
2015 Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountain
Aromas of cassis, florals, some greenhouse, and perhaps oak. This is a lively wine with great integration of the acidity. The textured purplish fruit builds towards the black fruited finish which then leaves persistent red fruit in the mouth. Fine drying tannins.
2014 Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountain
Rather aromatic with flavors that follow the nose. The deep fruit and citric grip is a good match for the dose of tannins. The core of flavors shows good potential for the future.
2013 Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountain
The dense, flavors of tart red fruit mix with some herbs. The flavors become deeper with extended air, showing fine harmony, good fruit and acidity.
La Rue was founded in 2009 by winemaker Katy Wilson. She produces Chardonnay and Pinot Noir sourced from vineyards on the Sonoma Coast. She also makes wine at Banshee.
2013 La Rue, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
Great varietal nose. The fruit weighs on the tongue with clean flavors that take on good acidity. There wine is lighter in weight with some toasty tannins. Needs time to open up.
2013 La Rue, Pinot Noir, Rice-Spivak Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
The nose bears low-lying, attractive musky red fruit. There is a more electric start of tart cranberry fruit and a creamy middle. There is a sense of lightness with more structure evident through the finish. Will certainly age.
Sanguis is the result of Matthias Pippig’s farming and winemaking efforts. His Loner series of wines are all single-varietal wines, two of which are sourced from the John Sebastiano Vineyard. This vineyard spans over 1200 feet in elevation. It is cool and always windy, so much so that rye grass is planted between the rows to control the wind. The vines were planted in 2007 and though they are only pruned 20-25% the yields are very low. For the Loner series of Chardonnay the fruit from the different vineyards is treated the same.
2013 Sanguis, Chardonnay Loner W-13a, Bien Nacido
A yeasty nose moves on to an effortless and ethereal start before roundted and subtly textured flavors drape the tongue. The acidity is there as the wine picks up interest from biking spices and lees. There is some dryness and good structure.
2013 Sanguis, Chardonnay/Roussanne Borrowed, Santa Barbara
Higher-toned aromas with a touch of rich, botrytis like influence. The dense start brings racy, complex, tropical fruit in the middle and white nuts in the end. It is gentle in a sense.
2013 Sanguis, Pinot Noir Loner R-13 Santa Barbara
The scented nose has tart aromas of berry punch. A softer start brings low-lying, complex red fruit, black tea, then blacker fruit flavors. The black tea and mixed herbs bring interest. It wraps up with drying structure for aging.
2013 Sanguis, Grenache Verve, Santa Barbara
This fruit forward wine is rounded with sweet strawberries and cream accented by spices. It is salty in the midpalate with dense textured fruit, perfumed finish, and spices galore. Very drinkable.
2013 Sanguis, Syrah Pilgrim, Santa Barbara
A good clean nose entices before the blue and black fruit. This is a rich wine with baking spices and structure packed in there. The fruit can handle it but there is a sense of heat. The spicy aftertaste climbs up the nose.
The fruit for the Esprit de Tablas is sourced from vines propagated from budwood cutting from the Chateau de Beaucastel estate in the Rhone. The 120 acre vineyard is certified organic. The fruit is fermented in open and closed stainless steel fermenters using native yeasts. The wines go into barrel then are blended and aged in 1200-gallon French oak foudres.
2014 Tablas Creek, Espirit de Beaucastel, San Luis Obispo
There is plenty of berry fruit on the nose. The rounded, tart red start is followed by pastilles and lots of strawberry flavor. There is texture, a good mouth feel, and very fine structure before the spicy aftertaste.
David Tate is the winemaker at Barnette yet produces small lots of wine under his own label using fruit from micro-vineyards.
2014 Tate, Cabernet Sauvignon, St Helena
There is a good nose of cassis and licorice. There is a ripe start but the acidity and structure are immediately supportive. This enveloping and generous wine finishes with baking spices and textured, ripe tannins.
Three Clicks is named on account of the first journalist, Harry Allen Smith, to legally drink alcohol after the repeal of Prohibition. He allegedly received a “three click” telegraph notifying him of repeal. The Grenache Blanc is sourced from Gary Branham’s vines at Rockpile. This area is known for its red wines so it took some convincing to get these vines planted. As such they were only planted several years ago and this is the first bottling from them.
2015 Three Clicks, Grenache Blanc, Rockpile Vineyard, Napa
Aromas of fruit punch on the nose. A tangy, tart start of citrus fruit comes off the tongue tip to bring a creamy, textured midpalate of tropical fruit. There is a good cut of dryness, texture, and acidity at the end.
Wayfarer Vineyard is the project of Jayson Pahlmeyer. The vineyard was planted in 2002 with the fruit originally blended under the Pahlmeyer label. It was in 2012 that the fruit was produced under the Wayfarer label.
2013 Wayfarer Vineyard, Fort Ross Seaview
The nose is aromatic with mulberries. In the mouth is a compact, darker start that soon fills the mouth with red fruit, stones, and black fruit all bound together. It takes on some cocoa, sweet tannins, and a mineral hint. This is a fruity, forward wine.
The deLeuze family have been producing wine since the first vintage of Pinot Noir in 1969. Since 1987, the winery has focused in on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
2014 ZD Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa
The acidity driven black fruit is well matched by the structure. There are hints of cocoa in the tannic finish. Quite a nice wine for aging.
2013 ZD Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Napa
The nose is a little deeper and meaty leading to a savory, dense wine. It exhibits good play between the black fruit and structure.
2013 ZD Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa
This dense, black flavored wine becomes savory with great structure that is well integrated. There is a sense of electricity making this a compelling wine.