2020 was a challenging year everywhere. In California, growers and vintners had to deal with a lot of their own: the novel coronavirus’ impacts, heat waves, wildfires in parts of the state. And while conditions were varied across the vast growing regions, a lot of the yields were lower. From what I’m hearing and tasting so far, the fruit quality seems to be really high and the resulting wines are very pretty and expressive.
Sonoma’s Merry Edwards likely needs no introduction here – I’ve focused on their wines before and will continue to do so because, well, they’re great. I’ve been a huge fan of their Pinots for about 15 years now, and the 2020s are stunners, and a great follow-up to the epic 2019s.
Another reliable Pinot producer, Siduri, brings some value-driven Pinot to the table. I had always been a fan of their single vineyard bottlings, but these appellation-level wines (from Anderson Valley, Santa Barbara and Willamette in Oregon) offer a nice snapshot of the region at an enticing price.
And to round things out, I also have an exceptional Chardonnay from Sonoma’s Chalk Hill.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
2020 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Deep yellow color. Lush and inviting on the nose, with pineapple, apricot, key lime pie, and with this richness I also get brighter elements of dandelion, honeysuckle, talc, sliced ramp leaves and cucumber tones, and the whole aromatic package is just great. Gorgeous texture on the palate, honeyed and plush but focused and bright at the same time. Pineapple, yellow apple, apricot, drizzled with lime, the fruit is matched with a mix of chalk dust and saline, and these honey, graham cracker and almond nuanced. Floral tones in here, too, with orange blossom and dandelion, and it finishes with oceanic, salty goodness. Merry Edwards Sauv Blanc does it again. This is still exciting, praise-worthy, and you get a lot of great Sauvignon goodness for the price. Aged sur lie six months in 18% new French oak. (94 points IJB)
2020 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Medium ruby color. Really inviting and exciting aromas of juicy strawberries and chilled black cherries, laced with rhubarb, rose petals, warm black tea, roasted red pepper, and subtle coffee and cocoa tones. Juicy but super fresh on the palate, nice tannic grip, things are balanced really well, and I get delicious black cherries, raspberries and strawberry fruit. The complexities of tobacco, rhubarb, oregano and pepper add a lot to contemplate, with subtle cola and toffee tones woven in. Beautiful, fresh, delicious Sonoma Pinot. Aged 10 months in 25% new French oak. (93 points IJB)
2020 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
Deep ruby color. Vibrant aromas of pomegranate, strawberry rhubarb pie, bright cherries, with complexities of pepper, rose petals, savory spice and earthy tones. The palate is tangy and brisk with dusty tannins and a lively, balanced appeal. Fresh raspberries and strawberries mix with black cherries, and the fruit is tossed with pepper, clove, earth, and sauteed mushroom elements. Nuanced cola and light roast coffee round out the finish. Vibrant, exciting stuff. Aged 10 months in 20% new French oak. (92 points IJB)
2020 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Meredith Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Dark ruby color. The nose shows a deep core of plums ad black cherries, mixed well with tones of coffee, pepper, violet petals, clay soil, some rhubarb and white pepper – a lot going on. Lively acidity kicks off the palate, structured tannins but they have a suave appeal, supporting juicy black cherries and bright strawberries. The texture and balances are just delightful. Notes of pepper, roses, rhubarb and tobacco add complexity, while these underlying mineral, clay and dusty earth tones add a lovely touch. A pretty, seamless Pinot that will age wonderfully. Give it air or four or five years. Aged 10 months in 54% new French oak. (94 points IJB)
2020 Siduri Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
Medium ruby color. The nose has a nice spicy-floral kick, with white pepper, rhubarb, cola and leather over top of raspberries and strawberries. Juicy and fresh on the palate with smooth, light tannins and vibrant acidity, making for a balances, refreshing wine. Tangy raspberry and spiced cranberry relish flavors play well with tones of white pepper, rhubarb and tomato leaf. Nuanced cola and light roast coffee tones. Accessible but complex, solid value. (89 points IJB)
2020 Siduri Pinot Noir Anderson Valley – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
Bright ruby color. The raspberry and juicy strawberry aromas of delightful, backed up with anise, black pepper, clay and tilled soil, some rose potpourri. Dusty tannins frame the palate nicely, medium acidity keeps it vibrant, and I get flavors of red plums, wild raspberries and saucy cherries. Notes of spiced black tea, white pepper, violets, clay. Fun and fresh, but sports solid complexity and depth. (90 points IJB)
2020 Siduri Pinot Noir Willamette Valley – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
Bright red cherry colored. Similarly bright and cherry-driven on the palate, with raspberries and tangy red cherries and cranberries, along with rhubarb, white pepper, some sage – nice herbal, spicy vibes. Smooth tannins and fresh acidity on the palate, a tart and juicy appeal with flavors of cranberry relish and juicy black cherries. Spicy, floral, fun, I get elements of earth, sage, leather and pepper, some rhubarb and dried rose petals. Really fun Willamette juice that drinks well, offers complexity, crowd-friendly appeal and bang for the buck. (90 points IJB)
2020 Chalk Hill Chardonnay Founder’s Block – USA, California, Sonoma County, Chalk Hill
Rich yellow color. Wow, there’s a lot of depth and complexity on the nose. Apricot, almond, honey, pear butter, with cinnamon crumb cake, but also these floral and flinty nuances to parse through. Rich and creamy on the palate, but the medium acidity keeps it focused. Creamy pear, lemon curd and apple butter fruit, gorgeous concentration but this isn’t dense – it has a focused appeal throughout. Notes of seashells, chalk dust and saline mix with almond, butterscotch, hay and honey. Lingering minerals on the finish. This is rich but beautiful and I imagine it will age very well. The first vintage from when this block was replanted in 2014, this is made with native years and spends 13 months in new and used French oak. (94 points IJB)