The Latest Releases of FEL and Cliff Lede

One of the most impressive attributes of the FEL wines is their consistency at a high quality level. The Pinot Noir and the Chardonnay are especially notable. I always appreciate the FEL wines’ terrific balance and clearly defined varietal character. Year over year, I am entirely confident of what I will get in a bottle of wine from FEL. So, I was excited to taste the Pinot Gris for the first time.

In this tasting’s mix, I also tasted the 2017 Cliff Lede Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. The Napa-based cousin of the FEL property, this winery constructs wine from a different set of grape varieties but with just as much finesse. I love the Cliff Lede’s impressively reasonable $25 price point for a Napa Sauvignon Blanc!

FEL 2016 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 14.3% $38
Bold and lush in fruit with Damson plum, raspberry and black cherry tones, this wine splits the divide between the hedonistic and the varietally true Pinot Noir styles that often come out of two camps in California. This is full-bodied with feisty acidity and gentle tannins. It possesses the excellent balance to keep this wine well-aligned for aging, but its moderate finish suggests it’s best enjoyed within the first decade.
Drink: 2018-21

Cliff Lede 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 14.6% $25
This pale-colored Sauvignon Blanc is a fountain of gooseberry, pomelo and white grapefruit. It is a sensuous Sauvignon Blanc with ripples of ripe citrus fruit dusted with honey sugar on the perfectly even, palate-embracing finish. Its harmonious balance is astonishing given this wine’s very high yet discreet alcohol, full-body and nicely interwoven acidity. The wine has surprisingly excellent tension and refreshment! It was fermented mostly in French oak barrels, along with 37% stainless steel tanks and 5% concrete eggs. There is just a smidgeon of Sauvignon Vert and Sémillon in this bottling, too.
Drink: 2018-20

FEL 2017 Pinot Gris Anderson Valley 14.1% $25
The nose of this Pinot Gris is deeply true to the textbook varietal character with spice, earth and yellow apple character. The palate is nicely concentrated, lightly viscous and adds layered mineral tones that extend into the moderate finish. This is a stylish Pinot Gris that is resolutely dry yet pleasantly plump in an Alsatian sort of way. This should hold for a few years, but there’s no reason not to sip it this summer. N.B. The screwcap closure tends to tamp down a wine’s aromas and does so here. So don’t be afraid to pour this early or decant it then keep it in the fridge or on ice before serving. It easily takes an hour or two of air before it really opens up to reveal its more exotic palate tones of kumquat and persimmon.
Drink: 2018-19