“For sheer ‘Bang For Buck’, these are two of the best wines from the US that I’ve found yet.”
If you are over forty and have any more than a passing interest in American wineries, the name “Adler Fels” is probably going to ring a bell – loudly. AF, started in 1979 by David and Ayn Coleman, is named for the German translation of “Eagle Rock“, the property on which the Colemans started it all. As it is with me, your memory of that name may be a bit obscured by the mists of time, because AF, for all its Sonoma pedigree and its 2008 standing as the nation’s 27th largest wine producer, had definitely fallen a bit below the radar for “serious” wine fans. They were never bad; rarely fell short of excellent, in fact, but they were just not the Flavor of The Month, anymore, and the American Wine Consciousness, being the trendy, buzz-seeking labyrinth it is, simply lost track of them. I did, too. When I started selling wine, in 1998, I sold a good bit of AF’s bottles. Then, for almost ten years, the brand virtually vanished, here in Seattle. During that time, the Colemans sold the business to The Adams Wine Group, who set about throttling back on wines that under-performed and emphasizing those that were more popular.
Rumblings began to issue from Sonoma. Visitors returned to the Northwest with tales of having stopped in to Adler Fels and been dazzled by this Pinot and that Cabernet and the other Chardonnay. I was interested but diverted by my immersion in wines from Washington and the rest of Planet Earth, as I ran an online wine site that specialized in everything.
Then, about two weeks ago, two bottles show up at my door, return label marked “Adler Fels Winery“…? It was shocking, really; like having a deja vu moment that stops you in your tracks. Adler Fels…Oh,yeah. Great winery but…no Cabernet? Two bottles emerged from that sturdy shipper: Adler Fels Chardonnay “The Eagle Rock” 2015 and Adler Fels Pinot Noir “The Eagle Rock” 2014. I was a bit puzzled but distracted by some other shipments, so I set the box aside for about a week.
One Friday evening, we were having pasta and Judye asked “Do we have any whites?” I opened the fridge door and there sat the AF Chard. I opened it. Poured it. Tasted it.
And my jaw dropped to my chest.
This Adler Fels “The Eagle Rock” Chardonnay 2015 was a dead-ringer for several Burgundy whites that I’ve enjoyed in the past, especially a couple of Bouchard Pere e Fils vineyard designate Chards that I’ve made my sole concession, over the years, to my oft-expressed aversion to All Things Burgundy. It smelled, tasted, and felt like my old fave, Bouchard Meursault Genevrières, a fruity but earthy white that finished dry and drenched in sweet, tangy minerals. This young, happy Chard is sourced from half Monterey and half Russian River Valley grapes and was made by no less a personage than the estimable Linda Trotta, former winemaker at Gundlach Bundschu and Washington’s Swiftwater Cellars, after earning her stripes with Michel Rolland at South Africa’s Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons. She made a 2012 Swiftwater Cellars Zephyr Ridge Vineyard Cabernet that I thought was the best of its vintage made in this state, out of all Cabs under $60. But I had never tasted a white from her and was floored by the completeness, complexity, and gorgeous balance of this stuff. There are some very good winemakers who turn out classic reds with almost casual ease but can’t make whites, upon pain of death. Ms. Trotta, as it turns out, does both with equal and quite regal facility.
This lovely wine oozes aromas of warm pears, baked apples, mild spices, and a heathery forest tinge. Upon sipping, however, is when the magic happens. BIG, fat, sassy flavors of yellow apples, over-ripe pears, apricot jam, figs, buttermint, jasmine, honey, mango, tangerines, and a judicious touch of wood float atop a bed of earthy stone and loam notes. It is appealing and seamless and madly, stupidly drinkable and softens noticeably as the glass warms in your hand, developing hints of gooseberries, rosemary, and nuts as it aerates. This is a beautiful Chardonnay that completely and nimbly avoids every one of the cliches of California winemaking and shows its considerable Stuff in a sexy and alluring appeal that makes it both a stunning sipper and a food wine without peer. To say that I was knocked sideways by this wine is a huge understatement. 94 Points
Pinot Noir…the bane of my existence. I get five to one more emails when I review Pinot than with any other varietal. And I get ten to one more Pinot for review than any other grape. Most of my deedback is along the lines of “If you liked that one, you’re gonna LOVE _______!” The problem is, I tried _________ and said “Meh.” Pinot Noir, to me, is All Hat and No Cattle; all breadth and zero depth. Pinot is just not a rich,deep, voluptuous grape and attempts to make it that way have failed every single time. And, I’ve expressed a definite preference for California Pinot, which irritates the Oregon and Burgundy crowds no end. I like big Pinots and I cannot lie. (You tree-huggers can’t deny.) If asked to bring a Pinot to a dinner, unless it says Ken Wright on the label, it’s going to say California, usually Sonoma, Russian River, or Alexander Valley. And this stunning Adler Fels “The Eagle Rock” Pinot Noir 2014 stands squarely in that wheelhouse of stylistic appeal that can convince me to put the stuff into my piehole. This wine is 76% Santa Rita Hills appellation and 24% Russian River Valley fruit. It’s immediately and shockingly vibrant and profuse and even a bit flambouyant, in a way that American Pinot almost never is. During that first mouthful, the exact thought that flashed through my head was, “Boy, those Oregon Pinot weenies would HATE this stuff!“, a thought that made me like it a little more. Whether this is right or wrong or whether or not it makes me seem like a peasant, I want flavor in wines. I don’t want to be forced to sit and listen to Enya and center my chakras and search for the miserly subtleties and belly button-staring nuances of the wine. That’s true in ALL wines but especially in Pinot, which is partly popular because it usually begs that kind of wonky microspection of its profile, in much the same way that imported beer wonks genuflect for those hundreds of quarter-scale Pilners and lagers that are often distinctive, one from another, by such minute variations in their narrow range that you’d need an electron microscope to detect them.
Linda Trotta and Aaron Bader
There is no such restraint at work here. This wine explodes on the palate with bright, crisp flavors of teaberry gum, dried cranberries, Rainier cherries, rhubarb pie, stewed raspberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, sumac, black olives, bay leaf, white pepper, talc, and orange peel. Grace notes of minerals and earth abound and the finish delivers warm currants and a sweet caramel oak flavor. This is a gorgeous, exceptional, crown-pleasing bottle of this sometimes-forbidding grape and its parentage explains it all: Aaron Bader, former winemaker at Kendall Jackson’s Cardinale Estate and Darioush, crafted this gem and his deft hand is all over the textures and flavors. 96 Points
And the best part of these thoroughly exceptional bottles? Hang onto somethin’…
Adler Fels “The Eagle Rock” Chardonnay 2015: $19.99
Adler Fels “The Eagle Rock” Pinot Noir 2014: $27.99
These are two of the best wine values I’ve come across in the past three years. For sheer “Bang For Buck“, these are two of the best wines from the US that I’ve found yet.
Adler Fels has a whole New Outlook…and “serious” wine fans will do well to be on the Lookout…