Lake County’s Steele Wines is a source of deliciousness and value


Jed Steele has been making wines for 50 years. His career started at Napa Valley’s famed Stony Hill. After a number of stops along the way, he founded his eponymous label more than 25 years ago. Located in Lake County California, which sits north of Napa Valley, they source fruit in their own region as well as from other areas in the state.

Over the last handful of years, I’ve tasted quite a few of the wines from Steele and Jed’s other label. What I have found is a plethora of well-made wines that offer good or better value across the board. His portfolio includes blends, varietal wines and a number of particularly distinct single vineyard offerings. The diversity will keep you engaged and the value means you can buy more wine, so give Steele Wines a shot!

Steele 2017 Parmelee Hill Vineyard Chardonnay ($30)

All of the fruit for this wine came from the well-regard Parmelee Hill Vineyard located in the Sonoma part of Carneros. Papaya, stone fruit and a hint of mesquite honey emerge from the nose. Continued papaya, peach and Anjou pear are apparent on the palate. The long finish shows off hints of vanilla and caramel.

Steele 2017 Durell Vineyard Chardonnay ($36)

Fruit for this wine comes from the namesake vineyard located in Carneros. Bits of orange zest and white peach are evident on the nose. The palate is loaded with apple, pear, bits of mango and a complement of baking spice. Bits of crème brulee are evident on the weighty finish. Pair this Chardonnay with a cheese and fruit plate for excellent results.

Shooting Star 2016 Pinot Noir ($15)

Pinot Noir under $20 is a mixed bag at best. Too often they don’t taste much like Pinot at all. Here’s an exception: a $15 Pinot Noir with good varietal character. A myriad of red fruits and spice light up the nose. Pomegranate, cranberry, cherry and more provide delicious flavor. The finish has spice and hints of savory herbs. This will pair really well with Indian cuisine in general.

Steele 2015 Persona Non Grata Red Blend ($16)

This red blend is composed primarily of Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel from Lake County. Dark fruit aromas and hints of kirsch liqueur are prominent. Blackberry, boysenberry and wisps of chocolate sauce are all evident on the palate. The finish is above-average in length and loaded with continued fruit and bits of spice. Persona Non Grata will pair with a wide array of foods, but chili con carne would be an inspired pairing.

Steele 2015 Shooting Star Zinfandel ($15)

This is entirely Zinfandel from two vineyards in Mendocino County, one of them planted in 1943 and dry farmed. The 2015 Shooting Star is a really wonderful Zinfandel for the price. From the first whiff to the last sip, it’s stuffed with oodles of berry fruit and spice. Red and black raspberry, black pepper and bits of cocoa are apparent. It’ll pair well with nearly anything you pull off your grill, but it was simply phenomenal with a sausage pizza. At this price, you might want to consider purchasing it by the case as a house wine.

Steele 2016 Sangiacamo Pinot Noir ($36)

Sangiacamo is one of the most famous Pinot Noir vineyards in Sonoma County. All of the fruit for this wine comes from there. Wild strawberry, hints of earth and bay leaf are all part of the aromatics here. The palate is stuffed with cherry, red raspberry and a raft of spices. Mineral notes and a hint of dusty cocoa are evident on the persistent finish. Pair this with mushroom-laden dishes for impressive results.

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