Cantos de Valpiedra 2013 ($15). This is a very rich and delicious tempranillo from Rioja that coats the mouth with black cherry and plum flavors. A touch of vanilla and spice from the 24 months in spends in American and French oak barrels.
· Eberle Cotes-du-Robles 2017 ($30). We enjoyed this youthful blend of grenache, syrah, mourvedre and durif – common grapes found in France’s Cotes-du-Rhone wines. This version from California’s Paso Robles region has pure fruit flavors redolent of plums and raspberries.
· Gamble Family Vineyards “Heartblock” Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($90). It’s rare to see a sauvignon blanc at this price, but Tom Gamble takes the grape variety to a new level. It is more complex and concentrated than your average sauvignon blanc.
· Our Daily Cab California Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($12). If you object to sulfites, a preservative, in your wine, then try this tasty treat. Simple but loaded with upfront, ripe plum flavors and vanilla.
Cigar Old Vine Zinfandel 2017 ($20). A little petite sirah, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot give this old-vine zin depth and character. Classic, ripe dark berry flavors with hints of vanilla, mocha and spice.
· Journey Chardonnay 2016 ($85). A flagship wine of Matanzas Creek Winery, Journey draws grapes from four blocks of Alexander Mountain Estate vineyards. Elegant in style it has the right amount of acidity and oak to keep the rich peach and pear flavors in check. This is an incredible wine.
· Sarah’s Vineyard Santa Clara Valley Chardonnay 2017 ($24). This is a decently priced chardonnay with forward apple and peach flavors with oak-inspired vanilla and coconut notes.
Hahn Family SLH Pinot Noir 2017 ($30). Sourcing its grapes from four vineyards, this well priced pinot noir has strawberry and cherry notes with a forest floor and pepper finish.
· Four Virtues Monterey Pinot Noir 2017 ($25). A decent value in the crowded and expensive pinot noir category, this delicious wine exudes aromas of dried rosemary and plums followed by black cherry and strawberry flavors.
· Fortress Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($20). This blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec is medium-bodied and simple but ripe in dark fruit with notes of blueberry, blackberry and vanilla.
Le Volte Dell ‘Ornellaia Toscana IGT 2015 ($32). The little brother of Frescobaldi’s uber-expensive super Tuscan Ornellaia, this offering gives your taste buds a hint of greatness. Made up of 67 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon, and 13 percent sangiovese, this wine features ripe fruit scents and flavors of cherry and plum in a rich, round ready to drink wine.
· Cusumano Nero D’Avola Sicily 2017 ($12). This all stainless steel aged red wine is a great value for everyday drinking. Fresh berry notes dominate this refreshing wine.
· Cedar + Salmon Red Wine Blend Walla Walla 2016 ($25). Merlot and petit verdot is blended with cabernet sauvignon to produce a medium body, rich wine with jammy blackberry flavors and a hint of vanilla.
· Sosie Pinot Noir Spring Hill Vineyard 2015 ($43). Intense strawberry aromas with red fruit and plum flavors, earth and a dash of spice.
Effort Center of Effort Pinot Noir Edna Valley 2016 ($30). Edna Valley is part of the Central Coast appellation in California, and has California’s longest growing season. Increasingly known for high quality pinot noir this offering from Effort is no exception. Effort displays plum and berry notes, great texture and length.
· Talley Estate Pinot Noir Arroyo Grande Valley 2015 ($33). Non-filtered and aged in French oak (30 percent new). It is a bold pinot noir expressing strawberry and cranberry notes with some spicy elements. A joy to drink.
· Dry Creek Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley 2016 ($29). This fairly priced cabernet sauvignon is representative of the wines from Dry Creek Vineyards. Classic cherry and cassis nose and flavors in an unobtrusive oak frame. An added bonus is the extensive amount of information contained on the back label which lists types of grapes utilized with percentages as well vineyard sources, oak treatment, brix at harvest and vineyard yields in tons per acre.
MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2016 ($34). This medium-body pinot noir has generous red berry aromas and strawberry, cranberry flavors.
· Jackson Estate Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($40). The warmer temperatures in Alexander Valley produce riper and often more alcoholic cabernets. This version is blended wIth petit verdot, merlot, cabernet franc and malbec. Dark berry and currant flavors with a hint of mocha and vanilla.
· Pfendler Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2015 ($45). This juicy and delicious pinot noir from Sonoma County has a floral nose and red cherry flavors.
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve California Pinot Noir 2016 ($17). Typical of Kendall-Jackson this is a well-made, balanced wine that is reasonably priced for pinot noir. Bright fruit character with red cherry and strawberry flavors and an underlying earthy note. Hint of vanilla.
· Gamble Family Vineyards Paramount Red Wine 2015 ($90). Tom Gamble’s flagship wine, this Bordeaux-like blend is dense and delicious with good complexity, black cherry and licorice aromas, dark fruit flavors and a hint of clove. Fine tannins and long finish.
· Cuvaison Methode Beton Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($35). This may go down as the most unique sauvignon blanc we’ve tasted. Winemaker Steve Rogstad ferments and ages a special lot of estate-grown Carneros grapes in a concrete (Beton) egg. The egg allows the lees to stay suspended to develop a richer texture. Mango and pineapple notes with a dash of thyme.
· Famille Perrin La Gille Gigondas 2015 ($28). The producers of Chateau Beaucastel now has a gigondas. A blend of 80 percent grenache and 20 percent syrah, the 2015 is soft, approachable and luxurious with opulent raspberry and anise flavors, rosemary herb aromas and soft tannins. It may not be chateauneuf du pape, but it’s a lot less money and delicious to drink now.
Alpha Estate Axia Red PGI Fiorina 2015 ($21). A well-priced, even blend of xinomavro and syrah. Bright berry fruit notes with enticing spice elements lead to a long smooth finish.
Cantine-Feudi di San Marzano Sessantanni Primitvo Di Manduria DOP Old Vines Puglia 2015 ($39). A bold muscular wine crafted from 60-year-old bush vines. Primitivo and zinfandel are very closely related clones of their parent crljenak kastelanski from Croatia. This primitivo is a monster (in a good way) and reminded us a full throttle California petite sirah. Blueberr
Cambria Estate Winery Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 ($25). It’s hard to find a decent pinot noir at this price, but every year Cambria manages to do make one. Simple, ripe blackberry and cherry fruit flavors with a dash of spice.
· The Prisoner Napa Valley Red Wine 2017 ($47). Even though production of this wine has ramped up under the ownership of (Const ellaton), it continues to sell well. A blend of zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, syrah and charbono, it has very ripe and juicy black fruit flavors with evident oak-infused hints of chocolate and vanilla.
· Kim Crawford New Zealand Chardonnay 2017 ($17). New Zealand isn’t known for its chrdonnay, but we occasionally come across one that stands out. The climate and soil here create a unique flavor profile that includes stone fruit and butterscotch with a hint of herbs and lemon.
· Cuvaison Brut Rose Methode Champenoise 2015 ($50). We loved the vibrant, bold fruit flavors of this blend of chardonnay and pinot noir. It is aged for two years on the lees. Strawberry and cherry notes.
· Domaine Bousquet Ameri 2015 ($36). This is a delicious, well-structured blend of malbec, cabenet sauvignon, syrah and merlot. Floral, plum aromas with ripe, raisiny dark fruit flavors and a hint of black pepper. Only 500 cases made of this wine.
· Gehricke Los Carneros Pinot Noir 2015 ($32). A good value for a pinot noir, this wine has ripe and luscious cherry flavors a dash of plum and cloves.
Paranga Red Kir Yianni Macedonia 2016 ($18). Macedonia is located in Northern Greece where this blend of syrah and merlot meets the indigenous xinomavro. Plum and cherry elements with cinnamon and pepper notes dominate this very good medium bodied red wine.
· Beronia Crianza 2015 ($15). This Rioja blend of tempranillo, garnacha and mazuelo is a great value. Herbal aromas with cherry and blueberry notes with a hint of vanilla and chocolate from the American oak.
· Flora Springs Merlot 2016 ($35). Few wineries like Flora Springs have stuck with merlot because of waning sales. Thank heavens, it did. A perennial success, this merlot offers up generous floral aromas, ripe black cherry and blueberry flavors and oak-inspired hints of spice and chocolate.
· Skouras Megas Oenos PGI Peloponnese 2013 ($30). This is a big full-throttle, ripe-fruit, and oak-driven red wine. The blend is 80 percent aghiorghitiko (also known as St. George) and 20 percent cabernet sauvignon. Blackberries and cedar notes propel this wine into a mouth filling drinking experience. Pair with a prime barbecued steak to maximize pleasure.
· Brancott Estate Letter Series T Pinot Noir 2016 ($35). This Marlborough pinot noir has classic New Zealand character with youthful cherry flavor, medium body and a hint of spice. In the pinot noir category, it’s a good price.
· FEL Ferrington Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2016 ($65). Vintner Cliff Lede founded FEL Wines in 2014 and his pinot noirs have had his magic dust ever since. This single-vineyard stunner has generous floral aromas and black cherry and spice flavors. Smooth and delicious, it is sold direct-to-consumer from its web site.
· Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir 2016 ($30). Blending grapes from several Central Coast regions, Calera has created a decently priced pinot noir with good length and simplicity. Pure cherry and strawberry flavors with a hint of pepper.
· Raeburn Winery Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2016 ($25). We are already fans of Raeburn’s chardonnay, so we were pleased to see that their pinot noir matches if not exceeds the chardonnay in quality. Raspberry and cherry notes are pleasantly matched with spice and vanilla notes. Very easy to drink.
· MacPhail Wines The Flier Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2016 ($50). This is a big style pinot noir that is jumping out of the glass with berry, cherry tastes and smells. Some smoke notes add an element of intrigue to this impressive mouthful of pinot noir.
· Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley 2014 ($35). This is a well-priced high quality cabernet sauvignon. Plenty of very expressive cherry/plum notes with a hint of mocha. A great package for the price.
· Eberle Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Selection 2016 ($25). We tasted this Paso Robles cab in a flight of considerably more expensive wines and it held its own. A great value, it has a medium body with forward blackberry and black cherry flavors, herbal aromatics, a dash of chocolate and smooth tannins.
· Prophecy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($11). This sauvignon blanc is true to its New Zealand profile with grassy, grapefruit flavors, but they are not as aggressive as many sauvignon blancs from this region. Crisp acidity.
· Klinker Brick 1850 Degrees Red Wine 2015 ($20). From a legendary Lodi producer known for its old-vine zinfandel, this splendid blend of cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah and zinfandel is delicious. Forward, ripe fruit character redolent of raspberry jam and plums, it is dark in color (thanks to petite sirah) and dense. Hints of licorice and cinnamon make it a special quaff.
· Lük Gamay Noir 2016 ($30). Known more for its light wines of France’s Beaujolais region, gamay noir (aka gamay) makes for a delicious wine. It’s a lighter version of pinot noir but silkier. This version from the Willamette Valley has incredible purity. Black cherries, long in the finish and impossible to stop at one glass.
· Sidecar Off the Wagon Claret 2016 ($25). Carmenere, a common grape in Chile, comprises 35 percent of this blend and provides a unique profile to this Oregon wine. Cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and malbec make up the rest of the blend. Mouth-filling wine with dark fruit flavors and quaffability.
· Bonterra Organic Vineyards The McNab 2014 ($50). Bonterra is one of the vineyards featured in the now-showig Amazon Prime docu-series, “It Starts with Wine.” Noted for its long-standing commitment to organic farming, Bonterra’s wines are excellent across the board. This blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petite sirah, cabernet franc and malbec is loaded with beguiling aromas and mouth-filling raspberry and cassis flavors. It’s cousin, “The Butler” ($50) is a generous and tasty blend of syrah, petite sirah, grenache and viognier. Two great wines that can be enjoyed now.
· Vietti Roero Arneis 2017 ($23). We were impressed with the delicious qualities of this top-drawer arneis from Italy’s Piedmont region. This is a grape variety worth exploring from a family producer that is five generations deep. Its producer, Alfredo Currado is credited for bringing back this local varietal in the Roero region. General floral aromas with stainless-steel purity and loads of melon and citrus flavors.
· Steele Santa Barbara Pinot Blanc 2017 ($20). Peach and melon flavors dominate this delicious pinot blanc that is worthy of a search. It is a good sipper or a wine that can be paired with seafood.
· Aslina Sauvignon Blanc Stellenbosch South Africa 2015 ($20). Aslina is founded by Ntsiki Biyela, the first black female winemaker from South Africa. A very different take on sauvignon blanc, it is citrus-driven instead of herbal- and grapefruit-driven with some interesting smoke notes.
· Ryder Estate Syrah Central Coast 2016 ($15). A terrific syrah at a great price. This very complete wine exhibits ripe blueberry, blackberry and spice notes in an enticing example of the potential of Central Coast syrah.
· Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2015 ($30). We were impressed with this New Zealand syrah right out of the glass. Effusive blueberry and licorice aromas with complex and layered fruit flavors of dark berries. Long in the finish and firm tannins. Well worth the price.
· Dutcher Crossing Chenoweth Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 ($46). Black cherry notes with a bit of forest floor and spice. Silky tannins and long in the finish.
· Ponzi Vineyards Classico Pinot Noir 2015 ($42). Using cuvees from 11 vineyard (7 to 8 estate vineyards), winemaker Luisa Ponzi continues to knock out a wonderful Willamette Valley pinot noir with ripe, forward raspberry and cherry fruit with a hint of coffee.
· Meyer-Fonne Altenbourg Pinot Noir 2015 ($45). We’ve tasted enough pinot noirs from Alsace to essentially say the region’s producers should give up making red wine. Ninety percent of this French region’s production is delicious white wine. But we’ll make an exception for this decent, albeit medium body, pinot noir imported by Kermit Lynch. Strawberry and mineral notes are packaged in a seamless, silky package.
· Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc Block A 2016 ($33). From the Stellenbosch region of South Africa, this delightful wine has good length and viscosity. Floral aromas and mango, melon flavors.
· Lasorda Family Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($24). Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda is the latest luminary to put his family’s name on a wine label. The oldest living Hall of Famer, Lasorda probably is not involved in making wine but his family has come up with a decent, medium-body wine for the price. The beautiful label includes a baseball diamond where Lasorda spent most of his career as a pitcher and manager of the LA Dodgers.
· Chateau de Saint Cosme “Les Deux Albion” Cotes du Rhone 2016 ($22). This is one of the best wines we’ve tasted in the last several months. It is a blend of syrah, grenache, carignan, mourvedre and clairette – the usual suspects in most wines from southern Rhone Valley. The producer makes excellent gigondas, but this blend from three communes just blew us away. Dense, dark in color, it sports generous garrigue and floral aromas. The flavors range from black cherry to plum. For the price, you can sock this away for several years – a good wine to start a cellar.
· Left Coast “The Orchard” Pinot Gris Estate 2017 ($18). This is one of the better pinot gris from Oregon that we have tasted recently. It has a bold style with delicious green apple and citrus nose and flavors with a slight hint of floral notes. Try this beauty with bold fish and poultry recipes.
· Feudi Di Sa Gregorio Rubrato Aglianico Campania 2015 ($20). From the Irpina region in Campania hard hit by Mt. Vesuvius, this delicious red wine is made from the widely planted aglianico grape. Berries, licorice and strawberries dominate this wine that is aged in only stainless steel. Good by itself but really comes alive with southern Italian tomato sauce dishes, and cheese.
· Sarah’s Vineyard Santa Clara Valley Pinot Noir 2016 ($25). This entry level wine from Sarah’s Vineyard exceeds its price in quality. Medium body, balanced and chock full of red berry fruit.
· Gehricke Knight’s Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($35). A good value, this cab has intense black cherry and nutmeg aromas with dark berry flavors and a hint of cocoa powder. Malbec and petite verdot are part of the blend.