Viansa Sonoma Heritage Red Blend 2013 ($40). From Sonoma County, this blend uses sangiovese as the foundation and adds cabernet sauvignon (30 percent), malbec, petit verdot and merlot for breadth. Generous aromas of plums and herbs with blackberry and ripe plum flavors.
SAVED Red Blend 2013 ($25). Perhaps the best yet made by this producer, this is a delicious and more complex blend of merlot, zinfandel, syrah, petit verdot, Malbec and souzao. Black cherry flavors with a good dose of cola and licorice.
Hess Collection Lion Tamer Red Blend 2014 ($40). If you don’t like your malbec unblended, this combination may be the compromise you are looking for. We often find malbec one-dimensional, so this is a refreshing approach. Blended with zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah and merlot, the Lion Tamer malbec takes on breadth and depth. Very velvety in texture yet powerful, it has a perfumy nose with layered plum and blackberry fruit with a dash of chocolate.
Peachy Canyon Petite Sirah 2014 ($32). This Paso Robles producer is well known for its reasonably priced zinfandels, but we thoroughly enjoyed this delicious petite sirah. Classic deep red color, juicy blackberry and plum flavors with a hint of chocolate and fine, youthful tannins.
Don Miguel Gascon Reserva Malbec 2014 ($25). Ripe plum flavors with a bit of chocolate and spice.
Frank Family Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2013 ($35). Rich, complex and classically dark. No need to blend this gem with any other grape varieties as its profile is aromatic, rich in sweet blueberries and coated in chocolate.
The Hess Collection Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($65). Using grapes from high elevation, the vines struggle to produce a scant but concentrated juice for this complex and layered cabernet. Rich blackberry and herbal notes with a dash of black pepper and fine tannins.
- · Tenuta Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy Martinega Barbaresco 2012 ($50). We liked the elegance and sensual texture of this beautiful barbaresco. Made entire of nebbiolo grapes from the estate vineyard of Martinega, it has a violet and tobacco-like nose with rich cherry flavors.
- · Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico Riserva Strada al Sasso 2010 ($35). This is an unbelievably delicious chianti. Intense plum and jasmine aromas with rich cherry and chocolate flavors and a hint of spice.
- · Tenuta di Arceno Valadorna 2011 ($80). Missing the indigenous sangiovese grape, this Tuscan blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc is stunningly delicious. Plum notes with ripe cherries and figs, but it has terroir notes of graphite and earth.
- · Piccini Memoro Rosato Italia N/V ($15). Although non-vintage rose is somewhat unusual we found this example very agreeable. Made from widely grown grapes sources from all over Italy…. Montepulciano from Abruzzo, Nero d’Avola from Sicily, Merlot from Veneto and Negroanaro from Puglia. Very pleasant and refreshing with dominant strawberry elements, and just a touch of residual sugar.
- · Tommasi Casisano Brunello di Montalcino 2011 ($60). Intense but targeted aromas with delicious dark berry and spice flavors. Well balanced and long in the finish, this is an outstanding wine.
- · Fontanafredda Serralunga d’Alba Barolo 2011 ($40). Made from nebbiolo grapes, this sleeping giant has approachable dark fruit flavors, an intense nose and tantalizing hints of spice, vanilla and oak.
Kim Crawford South Island Pinot Noir 2015 ($19). New Zealand’s pinot noirs are recognized by their bright, youthful fruit and this one is no different. Blackberry and red currant flavors with a kiss of oak.
FEL Anderson Valley Chardonnay 2015 ($32). The cool climate of this region produces a beautifully textured chardonnay with fresh acidity, citrus and apple aromas and delicious pear/apricot flavors with a dash of spice.
La Follette North Coast Pinot Noir 2014 ($22). Very reasonable in price, this medium-body pinot noir has delicate features that we enjoy with the right meal. What we have liked about this producer year over year is the purity of fruit that comes out from its wine. Fresh cherry and strawberry notes with hints of earth and spice.
Albatross Ridge Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2014 ($55). This pinot noir from Carmel Valley and Monterey County is remarkable for its rich and juicy strawberry and cherry fruit dashed with mushrooms mineral.
Clayhouse Petite Sirah Paso Robles Red Cedar Vineyard Old Vines 2013 ($23). Very deep ripe and rich blackberry and black raspberry nose and flavors. Very smooth and opulent in the mouth -- a real crowd-pleaser.
Attilio Ghisolfi Barolo Bricco Visette DOCG 2011 ($80). Although this delicious Barolo needs time, it shows a great deal of promise for the patient. A nose and flavors of berries, tar and roses can be coaxed from the glass over time. The tannins are already smooth, but wait for at least 5 years to enjoy this fantastic Barolo.
- Clos Pegase Mitsuko’s Vineyard Estate Chardonnay 2014 ($30). A great value in the premium chardonnay market, this delightful wine is more than a pretty label. It has exotic tropical fruit aromas, lush mango and ripe peach flavors and a good dose of spice and butterscotch. It is hard to stop at one glass.
- Clos Pegase Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($50). The blended grapes in this voluptuous wine have more than a supporting role. Petit verdot, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah and malbec give the 75 percent cabernet sauvignon a burst of flavor, aromas and body. Flavors widely range from black cherries to plums with hints of cedar, licorice and sage. Dense and forward.
- Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo 2013 ($18). On the delicious scale, this sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon blend hits a solid 10. From a single vineyard site in Tuscany, it has lots of bright and spirited cherry fruit flavors. Great wine to serve with those winter stews and pasta dishes.
- Qupe Chardonnay Y-Block Santa Barbara County 2015 ($20). Sourced primarily from the Bien Nacido Vineyard, this wine exhibits delicious tropical fruit flavors of citrus, fresh pineapple and mango. Very refreshing.
- The Federalist Chardonnay Sonoma County 2015 ($20). Lemon, pear and spice in the nose with delicious creamy pear flavors in a toasty oak frame. A very drinkable and pleasing chardonnay.
- Nobilo Icon Pinot Noir 2014 ($22). Atypical of the New Zealand pinot noir profile, this delicious quaff has bright ripe cherry and plum fruit with a good dose of chocolate and oak. Fine tannins and a good structure make it a food-friendly pinot noir.
- Cicchitti Malbec 2010 ($25). With a little age on this Argentine beauty, the roundness and aromas leap from the glass. Terrific balance with blueberry flavors so ripe you would think you were eating a slice of pie.
- MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2014 ($46). This premium chardonnay is a great example of balance. It has retrained oak yet a lush texture. It is a good match to buttery dishes. Good complexity with tropical fruit flavors and a bit of minerality.
- The Federalist Dueling Pistols 2014 ($29). An even split of zinfandel and syrah, this wine has great depth and rich, layered dark berry fruit with hints of spice and dried herbs. Fine tannins give it excellent body to match with food.
Robert Mondavi Carneros Pinot Noir 2014 ($27). This reasonably priced pinot noir from Carneros is enjoyed for its simplicity and pure fruit. It has earthiness, dark cherry fruit and a dash of cloves.
Albatross Ridge Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2014 ($55). This is a smooth textured, delicious pinot noir from Carmel Valley, Monterey County. Ripe cherry fruit with a good dose of spice.
Tasca Lamuri Nero d'Avola DOC 2014 ($15). This full-bodied and delicious nero d'Avola from Sicily rocks with extracted black cherry and vanilla, smoke aromas followed by dark berry flavors. Delicious and a great value.
- Markham Merlot Napa Valley 2014 ($28). A delicious, approachable blend of 86 percent merlot, 12 percent cabernet sauvignon and 2 percent petite sirah with a little exposure to new oak. An intriguing nose of licorice cherry and chocolate, and cherry chocolate flavors in the mouth with mild tannins. A very easy drinking and pleasing merlot.
- Fontanafredda Barolo DOCG 2012 ($51). Surprisingly approachable for a barolo although we think this wine will benefit from at least 3-5 years of aging. Nice fruity notes in the nose and mouth with cherry and licorice highlights. Apparent soft tannins with cherry and tar notes in the mouth.