2019 GSM by E16 Winery, Fair Play, Sierra Foothills, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 GSM (Red Blend – Baby Rattlesnake Vineyard, El Dorado) by E16 Winery, Fair Play, Sierra Foothills, CA

43% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 27% Mourvedre

Dark, slightly opaque color. Intense aromatic nose with slightly ripe plums, dark cherries, granite leather with a hint of butterscotch and licorice.

Body shows good balance front to back. Weighted. Fruit carries over albeit in the form of slightly under-ripe plum and dark cherries. Interesting. It is fairly dry, with bold fruit character. This is very much in line with this region. Longer ripening season yields intense fruit flavors. Tannins are a fully integrated, fine grained dusty suspension that slowly precipitates upon the palate, building up layers of intensity. A slightly dry, bitter cola takes over the transition to finish leaving the palate slightly dry with a mild warm spice.

This is a Classic GSM from the Sierra Foothills. Nicely done with a great expression and sense of place. I love what Robert and his team at E16 are doing. I highly recommend taking a look at their wines. All very small batch, limited production, expressive wines.

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2018 Meritage by Oakstone Winery, Fair Play, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Meritage by Oakstone Winery, Fair Play, CA

Rich intense ruby color. Out of the bottle nose is a bit shy with notes of ripe dark plums, damp wood leather and a honey beeswax essence. Swirling unlocks subtle cranberry, ripe dark cherries and a touch of granite. It is clean, crisp and fairly restrained. As it opens up, granite rock turns to a fine dust. Hours later, it develops a noticeable star anise, a note characteristic of this region. Great sense of place.

Body is balanced right down the middle, front to back. Crisp dark plum and cherry skins greet the palate immediately, hand in hand with just enough acidity to pull the stage slightly taught. It is fairly dry, despite its ripe nose. This is a faithful characteristic of this region. Dusty suspended tannins precipitate a firm crisp structure towards the middle. A subtle banana peel essence lingers along, Iikely a play between the mineral and wood notes. This act eventually dissipates leaving behind an ever tightening, dusty tannic grip eventually cementing a finish of subtle bitterness upon the palate.

I see why I picked out this wine during my visit to the winery. It is fairly mature for its age, well executed if not classy with a touch of flair. It may be showing well right now however I can’t help but wonder what it would look like another decade from now. The intense fruit expression typical of this region is channeled very nicely and with a little more integration it should make for a beautiful wine. Nicely done folks!

2018 Tempranillo by Bumgarner Winery, El Dorado, CA

I am pleased to present you with the 2021 Winemaker of The Year – Bumgarner Winery, Fair Play, El Dorado, CA. There’s a WineSnob TV segment coming but for now we look at one of their current releases.

2018 Tempranillo by Bumgarner Winery, El Dorado, CA.

Dark semi-opaque color. Big black plum and blackberries on the nose. A touch of buttery vanilla and anise lingers in the back. Great sense of place. Swirling vigorously intensifies the star anise, old wet wood and dusty granite leather. As it breathes a subtle ripeness develops in the background likely due to oxidation/caramelizing of those big tannins.

Body greets with a slightly acidic attack, introducing good firm tension to the palate. This is quickly countered by tart dry black plums, blackberries and a crisp caramel, immediately lending firm structure and full mouth feel. A slow burning spice heat works its way through all corners of the palate and down to the chest. Dusty, fine grained tannins precipitate, further anchoring the palate and asserting this wine’s character. Subtle, crisp caramel re-emerges momentarily signaling curtain call. Transition to finish is swift, leaving the palate bone dry, lips parched shut, tingling.

This a massive wine that shows some restraint. Good balance and execution renders it approachable to a broad spectrum of palate. However the finish give its youth away. This wine, while beautiful now, is just barely getting started. Another decade should reveal the true gem within. Get yours now but don’t drink it all. Lay the rest down and forget about it. You’ll thank me later. Nicely done Brian, Jennifer and the entire Bumgarner family!

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2013 La Mancha by Wofford Acres Vineyards, El Dorado, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2013 La Mancha (estate field blend) by Wofford Acres Vineyards, El Dorado, CA

Out of the bottle nose is a little shy with an unmistakable tart black cherry, plum, and a touch of buttery vanilla on the back.

Body is smooth, crisp, balanced from front to back. Dark tart plums pull forward. This wine is bone dry and a Nebbiolo based field blend. There is good fruit but overall this is unmistakably Nebbiolo, unapologetically brute and brash. Bold tannins and bold acidity maintain firm tension across the palate. It drinks like a Barolo or big Barbaresco. Breathing only emboldens it’s expression, tannins develop a vise grip, mouth feel broadens, a hint of banana peel emerges so faint you’d likely miss it. This is likely a play between the fruit and granitic minerality typical of this region. Finish is massive, long, lingering, punctuated by faint pops of star anise, ahhhhh El Dorado and the Sierra Foothills.

This wine isn’t for everybody but it certainly is for me! I love a Nebbiolo! I love how understated it’s expression is. I love its unpretentious, unapologetic, even brutish disposition. La Mancha is a field blend typically of Nebbiolo, Petite Sirah and a little Merlot. The proportions vary with each vintage and harvest. This makes every vintage unique in its own way. I think it takes some courage to commit to a field blend. This means the varietals were blended right at harvest with no room to walk back the ratios. It is a massive, dry wine built for the long haul. 2013 needs at least 15yrs. I will likely add some to my very long-term reserve.

2013 Petite Sirah by Cedarville Vineyards, Fair Play CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2013 Petite Sirah by Cedarville Vineyard, Fair Play CA

Dark opaque color. Firm nose with an intense dry dark plum and dusty cedarwood essence. Swirling vigorously unlocks sweet ripe dark cherries and licorice. There is a clear separation between the notes.

Body is firm on the attack, balanced from front to back. A slight citrus tension persists, as a counterpoint to a slightly restrained dry dark plum structure. Blackberries and dark cherries fill the body with fine grained dusty mouth feel. Oak is barely noticeable if not for a slight softening of the edges. This wine is pretty dry, but retains a bold fruit expression – a hallmark of this region and its extended ripening season or hang-time as folks up the hill call it. A warm spice heat permeates the entire experience. Transition to finish is marked by subtle black currants and crisp fresh palate right before succumbing to firm dry dusty tannic grip. As it opens up, licorice turns to a bold star anise. Another hallmark of this region.

This wine is unmistakable, clean, crisp, structured and highly delineated. A textbook representation of this region. For those who wish to familiarize themselves with this frontier of California winemaking, I highly recommend studying Jonathan’s wines. Decades obsessing over every detail has yielded, for the enlightened palate, an uncompromising look at the Sierra Foothills. Nicely done Jonathan!

Jonathan’s Petite Sirah is surprisingly consistent across vintages. I had a distinct pleasure and privilege to look at the 2002 not long ago and despite the clear age difference, they share more similarities than not. The 2013 vintage is just now beginning to shine. I think it will only develop more beautifully over the coming decade. These wines age very gracefully over long periods while maintaining excellent structure and balance. Because they are so good, the hardest part is to not open the younger vintages. Give them a decade and you won’t be disappointed.

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2008 Cabernet Sauvignon by Windwalker, El Dorado, California

Tonight’s Occasion: 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon by Windwalker, El Dorado, CA

Dark opaque color. Out of the bottle nose is a little shy but there is an unmistakable honeysuckle and beeswax essence. As it opens up, the nose fills up, thickens into a melange of lemon zest, tangerine, ripe, red berries, and a sharp star anise, it’s sense of place, a hallmark of the Sierra Foothills. Pine, cedar-wood and dusty granite linger in the background. This wine is ripe!

Body is nicely balanced up front. It is slightly fruit forward but nowhere near as much as the nose would suggest. A mild acidic attack quickly hands off to a bold spice heat that intensifies through the body. Ripe plums and Dark cherries add a thick chassis of soft tannins. Oak accentuates the berry and citrus notes nicely. Transition to finish is seamless as the body slowly soaks into the palate leaving behind a slightly moist lips, a fine grained, dusty tannic grit a warm but firm heat. Faint notes of cocoa and caramel linger. This is how this wine was meant to be enjoyed.

There’s endless ways to make a wine. What I find interesting about this winemaker is their willingness to embrace what is most characteristic of this region – hang time. They have a longer ripening season which yields higher sugar, and more intense flavor profiles. At 13.9% ABV it is fairly restrained for this region but the flavors are intense. At 13 years of age, it has had time to integrate very nicely. This is a beautiful wine.

2016 Zinfandel by Madroña, El Dorado, California

Tonight’s Occasion: 2016 Zinfandel by Madroña (@madronavineyards), El Dorado, CA

Dark semi opaque color. Nose is a little shy and restrained especially for a Zinfandel from this region. Tart plum skins, blackberry and a faint soft oak vanilla. Swirling vigorously intensifies the nose and unlocks a gentle granite leather l, anise and cola. Great sense of place. Classy expression.

Body is balanced from front to back. Slightly restrained. Soft gentle mouth feel with slightly ripe plums, dark cherries and granite leather. Good unobtrusive structure is further softened by an almost unnoticeable oak vanilla. Midway through, a firm spice heat emerges and dominates the palate. This marks the transition to finish characterized by gentle, dusty tannic grip, cola, and spice. What a masterfully crafted Zinfandel. Very classy. After a couple hours the grip intensifies along with the mineral leather and bitter cola. Love it!

It’s so easy for Zinfandel from this region to get out of control if not way off balance with overbearing fruit, pepper spice and residual sugar. This Zinfandel gives the palate space to indulge and take it all in, its nuance, character and sense of place. This expression stood out the most for me when I visited the Estate.

Great wines Madroña!

2017 Viognier, by Skinner Vineyards, Fair Play, California

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Viognier (El Dorado), by Skinner Vineyards, Fair Play, CA

Peach, cantaloupe, subtle honeysuckle, faint strawberry over a granite leather underlayment. Swirling vigorously intensifies the nose especially the peach and cantaloupe which turns slightly sweet. Leather develops a mineral character. Beautiful!

Light body is precisely balanced right down the middle, front to back. Greeting with not so much as a suggestion which gently reveals a soft, plush somewhat creamy mouth feel. Stone fruit and cantaloupe carry forward ever so slightly. It is fairly dry but a masterful play between crisp caramel, mineral leather and citrus create a pleasing effect. Transition to finish seamless as body slowly fades into the sunset leaving the palate slightly dry, under a gentle spice heat. You’d likely miss it but there’s a sweet nutty after taste, not unlike coconut and walnut. It’s very faint.

I just love it when visiting a winery and the first wine you are greeted with is a wine of this caliber and finesse. That’s what caught me about this wine. For me, Skinner Vineyards is a solid reference for the region and California at large. You won’t find any compromises here. I love what they are doing. Winemaker Adam Smith brings a complementary perspective to the region. You cannot go wrong with Skinner. A Vineyard and organization with a great story, people behind it. Always a treat! To the entire team at Skinner, Thank you!

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WineSnobTV: Off The Beaten Path – Bumgarner Winery

Today Off The Beaten Path we are looking back in retrospect. We pay a visit to one of my all-time-favorite winemakers. I have been following Brian Bumgarner’s work for well over a decade now. His wines are some of the longest lived, oldest vintages in my cellar.

I spent the day chatting with Brian at their Estate, getting caught up and filling in the blanks on his story and journey up to that point. It was an honor, distinct pleasure and I am thrilled to take you with me.

This is a long form, free-flowing conversation. I recommend opening a bottle (I recommend, Bumgarner wine), kicking back and following along. I have added time-stamps below to help you navigate or skip ahead:

00:15 – Intro and background
03:58 – The beginning, chat with Brian Bumgarner
13:40 – Bumgarner Estate
17:08 – Winery dog Figgy
17:20 – A family business
19:09 – Greece and the journey through Europe
21:46 – What I love about Bumgarner Wines
22:26 – A look at 2018 Alicante Bouschet
23:56 – The story of Alicante
25:50 – Tasting notes
27:14 – Bumgarner Apple Cider
28:55 – Bumgarner Bumbly
30:28 – Always relishing the New
31:50 – 2020 Harvest
33:05 – The Pandemic and aftermath
34:49 – Reinventing and adapting to adversity
37:54 – Artisanal production
39:49 – Winemaking is challenging
40:46 – Exploring older vintages
46:54 – Walking the Semilion
51:00 – Walking the Sauvignon Blanc
51:30 – New graftings
52:50 – Aerial views of the Estate
53:25 – Sunset views with Brian Bumgarner
53:35 – My thoughts in closing
55:03 – A look at the 2016 Tempranillo

For more reviews, exploits and content on Bumgarner Winery, you can visit the following link:
https://winesnob.blog/tag/bumgarner/

Visit Bumgarner Winery official website here:
https://www.bumgarnerwinery.com/

Check out some of my favorite wines from the Sierra Foothills here:
https://winesnob.blog/tag/sierra-foothills/

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Sierra Midnight (Lot #1) by Windwalker

Tonight’s Occasion: Sierra Midnight – Lot #1 by Windwalker, Fair Play, CA.

Dark opaque color. Thick aromatic nose out of the bottle with firm notes of dark plum, sawdust and a subtle but unmistakable tangerine peel. I remember while barrel tasting with Zach this spring, owner Jim opened one for us to try, this one note was haunting. We both obsessed over it for a while until we finally pinned it down – tangerine skins with a distant hint of all spice. As it breathes a soft licorice emerges, this wine’s sense of place. It only intensifies from here on.

Big, bold and beautiful. The body greets with a thick, somewhat viscous, silky if not slightly chewy mouth feel. Big fruit, matches bold fine grained dusty tannic structure. Ripe dark plums, blackberries and blueberries dominate. A subtle old wet wood leather permeates the entire experience. Gentle spice emerges midway, slowly intensifying through the finish. Transition to finish is seamless, ending with a slightly creamy, dusty, enduring tannic grip and spice heat.

Unshackled from time, this unique signature cross-vintage blend is an exercise in shunning the rules of rigid conventional thinking. Why not? Lot #1 is the first of its kind by this winemaker. After 10 or more years it has had time to integrate very nicely. Layers blend and transition together nicely. It is showing really well. It makes no apologies and embraces what this region is all about.

If you can get your hands on any of the Sierra Midnight lots, I highly recommend you lay them down for at least 10 or more years.

Nicely done Jim, Zach, Ryan and the entire crew at Windwalker.