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California time again! I’m really excited about a lot of the wines in this report.
J McClelland wows with a Napa Malbec and Petit Verdo...
2013 J. McClelland Petit Verdot- California, Napa Valley
Inky purple color. On the nose, waves of juicy dark plums, blackberry, black currants, along with violets, pepper, cardamom, chestnuts. Full-bodied, bold grip to the tannins, medium acidity keeps it lively. Black cherry, cassis and blueberry, dark and punchy fruit, laced with pepper, violets, cedar, coffee and iron. Lots of depth, cellar-worthy for 5-8 easily, but gorgeous now, especially with air or time in the decanter. Includes 10% Malbec, aged 26 months in French oak. (91 points)
2013 J. McClelland Malbec- California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
Bold purple color. Bold purple color. Rich, intoxicating aromas of blueberry, blackberry, summer plums, violets, chestnut, cocoa, graphite, vanilla – complex, evolving aromas that will pop with cellar time. Structured well but velvety, yet vibrant acidity. Tart black cherries, currants, the fruit is rich but tangy. Complex elements of tobacco, pencil lead, sage, paved road, with some earthy/rocky soil elements. Long time ahead, but this is a stunner of a Napa Malbec already. 100% Malbec. (91 points)
2013 J. McClelland Cabernet Sauvignon
"A super red with berry and chocolate character. Hazelnuts, too. Full body, a solid core of fruit and a savory finish. Drink or hold."
— James Suckling
This week I’m back with another round-up of new releases from all over California.
J. McClelland is producing some exciting wines from Napa’s Oak Knoll appellation, three of which I tasted for this report. Named for John McClelland, who spent 50+ years making wine in California for labels like Steele Canyon Cellars, these are moderately priced but very high quality wines.
2014 J. McClelland Chardonnay- California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
Rich yellow color. Aromas of yellow pears, juicy green apples, buttered toast, a host of honey and floral tones. Creamy and plush texture with vibrant acidity makes a balanced but bold Chardonnay. Lime drizzled on apricots and baked pears, followed up with integrated elements of almond, nougat and butter with some mineral dust on the finish. Delicious, long, impressive depth. 30% barrel-fermented, aged in oak for 12 months. (90 points IJB)
2013 J. McClelland Merlot- California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
Light purple color. Rich, pretty aromas of violets, sweet pipe tobacco and cola on top of juicy red and black cherries and plums. Full but not heavy with velvety tannins and moderate acidity. Dark plums, tart black cherries, the fruit meshes with tobacco, violets, potting soil and notes of cedar and vanilla. This could unfurl for a few years, but it’s good to go now, although it really opens up with air. Includes 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine spends 28 months in French oak. (90 points IJB)
2013 J. McClelland Cabernet Sauvignon- California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
Light purple color. Nose shows juicy blackberries, saucy dark currant, and a whole lot of chewing tobacco, mint, coffee grounds, fallen leaves, bell pepper – the aromas are complex and firing. Full-bodied on the palate with nice grip to the tannins with medium acidity to balance it all out. Tart but rich black currants and black cherry fruit, and I love the level of earth and spice complexities: tobacco, mint, charcoal, charred herbs, bell pepper. Notes of cedar linger on the finish. Structure and depth are impressive but it maintains a spicy and fresh style, which balances out very nicely. (92 points IJB)
If you’ve been paying attention to wine for the last 60 or so years, a new brand now appearing on many store shelves might catch your eye, and raise at least one brow. And if you had the least doubt, yes, J. McClelland Cellars is a recent development that pays homage to a man whose career in the wine industry spans six decades, going back to the 1950s(!), and who remains actively involved in this new venture bearing his name, one many older wine lovers may know.
John McClelland was vice president of sales for Almaden Vineyards more than four decades ago (he was at Almaden for 25 years), when that iconic brand was making 13 million cases of wine per year and was one of the largest wineries in the world. He subsequently joined Geyser Peak Winery in Geyserville, when its then-new wine maker Daryl Groom created such excitement for that brand that production in the early 1990s exploded.
John also has been chairman of the Wine Institute in San Francisco, and as gregarious as he is, to this day, he became one of the best-known California wine executives for decades; hardly a public event existed without his presence.
“John is simply one of the great historians of our industry, and I just love listening to him hour after hour,” said Anthony Scotto, who John mentored and who is the creator of the new J. McClelland brand.
“I just love history, especially the history of our industry,” said McClelland, 83, over lunch the other day. And it’s no wonder that Scotto appreciates John, since his own family started in the wine business in 1883 in Italy, and is himself the head of the fifth-generation to make wine.
Anthony is sole owner of Scotto Cellars, based in Lodi but which uses fruit from all over the state. It produces some of the best value wines in California, and uses some 40 different labels. A good friend says of the main brand, “Scotto is the largest winery no one ever heard of,” and he noted that its primary calling card is value wine.
One popular Scotto wine is called Rare Red, produced in large quantities and which carries a suggested retail of $8, but almost never is that expensive!
To create a new brand dedicated to an iconic figure in the wine industry requires a higher quality image, Scotto knew, so he decided to call upon John’s connections with Napa growers, as well as longtime brilliant wine maker Mitch Cosentino, who was hired to be the wine maker for this project five years ago.
To be sure the grapes would not have to be trucked far, Scotto leased a facility in Napa Valley and in 2012 began making high caliber wines under the J. McClelland label.
Most of the wines for this project come from high-quality growers in the prestigious Oak Knoll District, which has produced some of the Napa Valley’s finest red wines.
Since John has always been sensitive to pricing that puts wine out of the reach of ordinary folks, price was a major factor. As a result, the McClelland wines are priced significantly lower than most other Napa Valley wines.
An example is the recent release of an excellent 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon priced at $45. It is one of the least expensive Napa Cabernets on the shelf, and is extremely well-made with wonderful structure, and has the opportunity to age for several more years in the cellar.
I also liked a 2013 Merlot ($35), also from Oak Knoll, both wines exhibiting splendid character and balance.
The new J. McClelland brand is still relatively new, so distribution isn’t as broad as Scotto would prefer, but the company has recently opened a joint tasting and sales room with Cosentino’s Pure Cru wines and Jean Edwards Wines on First Street in Napa.”
“Ripe berry nose; smooth textured with deep plum and toasty oak; supple and luscious with vanilla notes and lovely balance; rich, dense and elegant with good length.”
94 Points - Double Gold
-Anthony Dias Blue