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Gallo, part III

text and photographs © 2004 Tom Cannavan

Gallo part 1 - Gallo part 2

These tasting notes are for wines tasted in California on my visits to Gallo of Sonoma and E & J Gallo in Modesto, or from wines subsequently tasted in the UK. Approximate prices in UK pounds sterling and stockists are given.

Gallo of Sonoma

white

Gallo of Sonoma Coastal Vineyard Chardonnay 2002
The juice for this entry-level Sonoma wine is mostly barrel fermented in a slow, cool fermentation, before only partial malolactic fermentation. It is aged in older European and American oak barrels for around four months. It is very fresh and lemony on the nose, with a lightly toasty/nutty background and a creamy quality. Tangy, fresh and citrussy on the palate, there is bold, clean peach and yellow plum fruit with plenty of juicy citrus. It is medium-bodied, and really very pure and delicious, with a long, well-balanced finish. A lovely wine, and very good indeed. 11.99 Heyman, Barwell Jones (HBJ), Selfridges, Harrods

Gallo of Sonoma Laguna Vineyard Chardonnay 2001
Ocean fogs help make this one of the coolest Sonoma vineyard areas. This has a bright golden colour flecked with emerald. Very nice nose, with a touch of ripe vegatility, a buttery quality and a background of toast. On the palate there's a juicy nectarine character to the fruit which is quite plush and sweet, with limpid, pure flavours and a cutting edge of orangy acidity. Very crisp, the oak adding just a warming tone on the long finish. Very good indeed. 13.99 HBJ, Selected Sainsbury's, Harrods, Selfridges

Gallo of Sonoma Two Rock Vineyard Chardonnay 2001
Two Rock is located on the Sonoma Coast, an emerging appellation in Sonoma County. The vineyard enjoys a cooler climate due to heavy fogs and winds from the San Francisco Bay. The colour is a very pale green, and nose is a powerful mélange of ripe green figs and crisp pear with a honeyed, nutty undertow. The palate is concentrated and decisive, with a taut white fruit quality and lemony flavours. The texture is rich and full, and there is a savoury, lean quality to this that is very appetising and food friendly. Very good indeed. 13.99 HBJ & Waverley

Gallo of Sonoma Estate Chardonnay 1999
A limited production wine made in some years from the best fruit of the Laguna Ranch, planted in 1981. It is made with classic Burgundian techniques of 100% new French barrel fermentation, lees stirring, and no fining or filtration. It spends 12 months in new oak barrels, the majority toasted to a medium plus level, and sourced from 12 different French coopers. Less than 2,000 cases are produced. It has a very inviting buttercup yellow / gold colour and a savoury, buttery, softly inviting nose with very Burgundian aromas of honey, warm, charry toast and a fleshy vegatility. The fruit is quite clean and bright, with punchy citrus and a hint of orange. On the palate it is full and fleshy-textured, with powerful concentration and alcohol (14.6%) and a sweep of limpid pear and apple fruit that floods across the tongue, just hinting at a riper, more tropical spectrum. There is plenty of spice and toast, and a good core of mineral and lime acidity that freshens the finish. A sumptuous style, but not at the expense of balance and verve. Excellent. 29.99 Harrods, Selfridges.

MacMurray Ranch Pinot Gris 2003
I tasted this wine several times over the course of my visit, and really enjoyed it for its zesty, crisp but full-bodied style. The wine is whole-bunch pressed, and stirred on its lees to add texture and richness. The nose has plenty of ripe pear and melon, with an oatmeally richness and crisp lemon and mineral notes. The palate is full and creamy-textured, with very clean, precise white fruit flavours and a powerful, but balanced finish. Very good indeed.
  

red

Gallo of Sonoma Barrelli Creek Vineyard Zinfandel 1997
Very ripe and sweet, almost a touch of maderised quality, with sweet, leathery, quite fudge-like notes. Smooth, mouth-filling blueberry fruit floods the palate with hints of spice and smokiness and a good grounding of bitter cherry acidity. An interesting, complex wine showing maturity. Very good indeed. 14.99 Waverley Vintners

Gallo of Sonoma Frei Ranch Vineyard Zinfandel 2000
Frei Ranch is in the Dry Creek Valley, and this wine was made from whole grape clusters that were gently de-stemmed but not crushed prior to fermentation, to increase elegance and eliminate harsh tannins. It was aged for one year in new American and French oak. It has a dusty, schisty, blue/black-fruited nose with a glossy weight of cherry and blackcurrant. It is very finely-wrought on the palate - very silky - with luscious, ripe black cherry fruit and fine, ripe tannins. There's a note of liquorice, and a leathery, savoury character on the mid palate, with a long finish that is balanced and juicy, with moderate acidity. Lovely stuff and very good indeed/excellent. 14.99 HBJ

Gallo of Sonoma Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1997
I had really enjoyed the 1996 previously, which won world's best Cabernet Sauvignon in the International Wine Challenge. This is made from the best parcels of fruit from the Stefani and Frei vineyards, and spends two years in mostly new French oak barrels. Only around 800 cases are produced. The nose is cedary, dusty and tight, with violet-tinged black fruit that is aromatic. There are nuances of incense and exotic spices, and a background of charry, coffee-bean oak. The palate is beautifully composed, and although the initial attack is of sweet, glossy fruit, there's a real rasping bite of keen, taut, black plum-skin bittersweet fruit and acidity, that is savoury and keen. On the mid-palate this rich wine develops a chocolaty weight and flavour, with a herbal and smoky element adding complexity. A very well-made wine that combines power and substantial presence, with savoury finesse. Excellent. 59.99 Harrods, Selfridges

MacMurray Ranch Russian River Pinot Noir 2003
As planting of this former cattle ranch began only in 1996, this is obviously from relatively young fruit, but the winemaker has achieved excellent levels of concentration and a balanced style of wine. It has a really nice nose that is smoky and spicy, mildly tarry, with lots of mellow red fruits and a toasty warmth. This has a good mouth-feel, with a silky texture that is almost viscose, and a flood of sweet, smoky, autumnal berry fruit suggesting brambles and redcurrants. There's a long, vanilla-imbued finish, and a nice lift of cherry acidity. A really lovely Pinot that shows great promise for this estate. Excellent.

Rancho Zabaco Chiotti Vineyard Zinfandel 2001
The Rancho Zabaco label is relatively new, and so far this single vineyard wine is not in the UK. The lower-priced Rancho Zabaco Dry Creek Zinfandel has just arrived in the UK and is very good, though without the depth and power of this wine. From a drought year in Sonoma, fruit quality was excellent with a long hang time for the grapes. It has a sonorous, seductive nose laden with blackberries and ripe chocolaty berries, overlaid with vanilla and toast and a suggestion of earthy, tobacco character. On the palate it has a peppery, mouth-tingling quality, with plenty of deep-set black fruit and layers of spice and coffee. Gloriously easy to drink, this has ripe, sweet tannins that support without any roughness, and good balance into a long finish. Very good indeed/excellent.
  

Gallo Company Wines

white

E & J Gallo Turning Leaf Sauvignon Blanc 2003
Like all the wines in the Turning Leaf range, this is bottled in screwcap. The colour is a pale, almost translucent green. The nose has notes of fig and succulent ripe pear. On the palate more of a vibrant gooseberry-edged fruit quality emerges, but the fruit is rather weak overall, with a slightly artificial citric acidity on the finish. Not an entirely successful expression of Sauvignon Blanc for me. Moderate. 5.99 Selected independents

E & J Gallo Turning Leaf Chardonnay 2002
There's a creamy background note of cashew nuts to this pale gold/straw-coloured wine. With a little vanillin and buttery toast, the apple and pear-focused fruit emerges as dominant on the nose. On the palate there is a tropical sweet edge to the fruit, with pineapple and mango notes to a clean, crisp orchard fruit core. The lemony acidity is well-balanced, and the finish fills out with a little spicy weight. Very good. 5.99 Tesco, Sainsbury's, Safeway, Costco, Asda, Waitrose, Somerfield, Co-op, Budgens, Unwins

Mirassou Sauvignon Blanc 2003
Mirassou, established 150 years ago, is another recent acquisition for the Gallo's. This wine is not in the UK market at present. Very nicely balanced gooseberry and passion fruit nose, with some greengage and pear fruit quality. On the palate it is very crisp and flavourful, with a full texture and lots of crunchy Asian pear fruit. There's a big, decisive lemony finish and a streak of herbaceousness. Very good.

red

E & J Gallo Turning Leaf Merlot 2002
This medium-weight crimson red wine has a nose of bright cherry fruit, with a sweet raspberry jam edge and a hint of spice, though no obvious oak influence. On the palate the fruit attack is intensely sweet and ripe, with again plenty of brightly-focused raspberry and red cherry fruit and a dusty aspect. The fruit fades fairly rapidly, with gentle coffeeish tannins and decent acidity keeping it fresh. A simple, fruity wine and good. 5.99 Asda, Budgens, Selected independents

E & J Gallo Turning Leaf Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Slightly deeper, more dense crimson colour than the Merlot. The nose is brimming with glossy, deep-set blackcurrant fruit, with a little kirsch-like lift. There is little custardy, subtle oak influence from a couple of months in barrel. On the palate this is bold and considerably drier than the Merlot, with a real kick of spice and an earthier rough-edged depth, as well as some tight-grained tannins adding grip. The fruit is juicy, with black cherry and blackcurrant to the fore, and toasty oak fills out on the finish. Very good. 6.49 Tesco, Sainsbury's, Safeway, Costco, Asda, Somerfield, Budgens, Unwins, Co-op, Booths

E & J Gallo Turning Leaf Syrah 2002
Vivid, dark, crimson/purple colour. Quite a perfumed, high-toned cherry and floral nose with notes of Parma violet and hints of toast and spices. On the palate this delivers a surprisingly big, deep mouthful of ripe berry and juicy cherry fruit, wrapped in a sheen of vanillin oak with a robust tannic firmness. There is good balance here, and a smoky, chocolaty character develops in the finish which is quite long. Very good. 6.49 Selected independents.

E & J Gallo Turning Leaf Zinfandel 2001
This has a very bright, vivid purple colour and a similar nose to the Syrah, with a very bright fruit focus and floral nuances. There's a touch of pepper, and only the merest hint of sweet oak. The palate is very juicy with plenty of berry fruit that is sweet and easy to drink, though there is a nice warming edge of alcohol and oak adding richness and spice to the finish. Good/very good. 6.49 Tesco, Sainsbury's, Somerfield, Co-op, Unwins, Costco
  

Gallo Hearty Burgundy N.V.
I had to specifically request a tasting of this semi-legendary wine, which has sustained a huge following in the domestic market for decades. Though something of a joke to European wine lovers - given that it is a blend including large dollops of very un-Burgundian Petite-Sirah and Zinfandel - almost every sceptic I know who has tasted it ended up saying "not too bad at all". It has a powerful, earthy, sweet berry fruit nose with plenty of spice. On the palate there's just a flood of crowd-pleasing sweet fruit and a definite edge of residual sugar. It has plenty of richness and spice and is fun stuff. Good.

See all Gallo of Sonoma stockists on wine-searcher.

part 1 - Gallo Sonoma
part 2 - E & J Gallo
part 3 - Gallo tasting