Tom Gore Vineyards Chardonnay 2015 ($15). This is an enjoyable, medium-body chardonnay that won’t set you back. It has tropical fruit and apple flavors with nice spice and a creamy texture.
Penfolds Max's Shiraz Cabernet 2015 ($25). Penfolds has introduced a new Max series named after its legendary winemaker Max Shubert who once had the guts to defy his bosses and make a bold red wine called Grange Hermitage. These wines – a cabernet sauvignon and a cabernet sauvignon blend – are no equals to Grand Hermitage, but they are offer good quality with balanced acidity and copious fruit flavors. The bottles come wrapped in a striking red plastic that is sure to make them stand out on the shelf.
Rodney Strong Estate Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc Northern Sonoma County 2016 ($19). This is for those readers who don’t want an acidic, grapefruit-flavored sauvignon blanc. A crisp blend of citrus and peach elements that doesn’t assault the palate. Good acidity but not overdone.
Kendall-Jackson Avant Chardonnay 2015 ($17). Very expressive chardonnay with a brush of oak and vibrant tropical fruit flavors. Delicious and balanced.
Matanzas Creek Winery Sonoma County Chardonnay 2015 ($26). Lush with apple and peach notes and a hint of lemon. The wine is treated to full malolatic fermentation and nine months of French oak aging, which adds a bit of vanilla and butterscotch and caramel.
Cambria Benchbreak Chardonnay 2015 ($22). The estates vineyards for this Jackson Family Wines gem are certified sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. It is a beautiful, oaky chardonnay with grapefruit, peach and apple flavors with a hint of mineral and spice.
St. Supery Rutherford Hill Estate Ranch Merlot 2013 ($50). We loved the texture of this smooth yet complex merlot from the Napa Valley. Loads of ripe plum and blackberry flavors with a big dose of vanilla and mocha. Long finish makes it a merlot to savor.
Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay2015 ($25). Now in its 25th year, the Overlook chardonnay is reliable from year to year. Using grapes from Russian River Valley and throughout Sonoma County, this chardonnay has ripe apple fruit flavors, a dollop of lemon cream and a lot of toasty oak.
Ladera Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($60). Using grapes high up Howell and Diamond mountains, winemaker Jade Barrett has crafted an impressive, rich cabernet sauvignon. Loads of forward black cherry and cassis fruit with hints of cocoa. Lush mouthfeel makes it so enjoyable.
Bouchaine Estate Pinot Noir 2014 ($35). Using grapes from Carneros, this medium-bodied pinot noir has juicy cherry and strawberry fruit with a hint of cola and baking spice.
Catalina Sounds Pinot Noir Marlborough 2015 ($27). This delicious pinot noir stakes a claim for Marlborough New Zealand pinot noir. Medium bodied with expressive wild cherry flavors and a spicy nose, the overall style is somewhere between a more expressive, cool-climate California pinot noir and a more reticent Oregon pinot noir. A very nice drink for pinot noir lovers.
Le Serre Nuove dell' Ornellaia 2014 ($75). The second wine of the legendary Italian wine Ornellaia, this power-packed blend includes merlot (50 percent), cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot. Those who think bordeaux blends should be left to the French should taste this wine – hardly a "second." Softer than the pricey Ornellaia, the Le Serre Nuove has good depth and color with a broad palate of fresh red berry fruit and spices.
Falesco Tellus Chardonnay Umbria IGT 2015 ($16). Unoaked chardonnay seekers -- this one is for you. Moderate alcohol, and stainless-steel aging give this chardonnay lovely pure citrus, pear and apple flavors and nose. Pair with fresh seafood or chicken or sip all by itself.
Rock Wall Wine Company Le Mur d Roche Petite Sirah 2012 ($60). Kent Rosemblum sold his winery in 2008, but then bankrolled Rock Wall for his winemaking daughter, Shauna. This single-vineyard petite sirah has a lot of power and density. You could cut this with a knife and lay it on toast in the morning. Inky, it has lush blackberry liqueur flavors with a dose of tea, vanilla and citrus. Delicious now but begging for age.
Domaine la Casenove La Garrigue 2009 ($15). This blend of carignane, syrah and grenache is a ridicously delicious wine for the price. We highly recommend it. From the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, it shouts ripe red berry fruit and a earthy, barnyard garrigue personality.
La Grange de Quatre Sous Cuvee Garsinde 2014 ($20). We weren't surprised to see this wine imported by Kermit Lynch. You can count on this importer to find interesting producers from France and this Pay D'Oc is a delicious blend of malbec (60 percent), cabernet franc and syrah. Forward, ripe blueberry and strawberry fruit with a velvet mouthfeel.
The following Alsatian wines were tasted at a recent dinner in Naples, FL. They are all imported to the U.S. by Kermit-Lynch.
- Kuentz-Bas Alsace Blanc 2014 ($18). I loved this wine for its refreshing quality. A blend of sylvaner, auxxerois and muscat grapes, it has deceiving depth, bright acidity, floral aromatics, peach flavors and a dash of minerality.
- Domaine Albert Boxler Pinot Blanc 2013 ($31). Orange, apricot and petrol notes dominate this high-acidity wine.
- Domaine Ostertag "Fronholz" Muscat 2009 ($44). This special treat falls heavy on the palate but the weight is offset by tantalizing honey and stone fruit flavors. Fermented in small barriques.
- Domaine Ostertag "Fronholz" Pinot Noir 2005 ($52). This may be the only Alsace pinot noir that I've scored well. In a sea of plonk, this version stands out for its unique and hard-to-describe flavor profile. Violet aromas, ripe strawberry and raspberry fruit, lingering finish and a dash of licorice.
- Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Rieslng Grand Cru Rangen de Thann "Clos St. Urbain" 2005 ($82). Wow, what a mouthful. This small-production riesling is from one of the most reputable grand cru vineyards in Alsace. Bold and dense in structure, it oozes peach and melon flavors, an extraordinarily long finish and a powerful balance of acidity and plumpness.
Clos du Val Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($52). This historic property seems to have turned a big corner with a series of new estate-grown wines made by the new team of Steve Tamburelli, president and CEO, and Jon-Mark Chappellet, director of operations, and winemaker Ted Henry. The wines slipped in quality in recent decades, but this house cabernet takes it back to the quality that made it famous in the Judgment of Paris. This wine is concentrated and complex with a velvet texture and rich plum and cocoa flavors.
Saldo California Zinfandel 2015 ($28). From The Prisoner Wine Co., this lively and rich zinfandel shows off beaucoup raspberry aromas and strawberry, blackberry flavors with a hint of oak and vanilla.
Concannon Vineyard Mother Vine Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($45). Concannon earned a footnote in history by being the source of virus-resistant vines back in the 1960s. It estimates that today 80 percent of California's cabernet sauvignon is planted with Concannon clones. The fruit for this aptly named cab comes from vines of the first planting. It's a winner. Smooth, quaffable, mouth-filling fruit. Ripe plum and black cherry notes with a hint of mocha and a long finish.
Drumheller Columbia Valley Merlot 2015 ($12). The merlots from this Washington state region are overshadowed by syrah and cabernet, but shouldn't be. This incredible deal is medium-bodied, rich and tasty merlot that is blended with 20 percent syrah. Blueberry and plum notes with a hint of chocolate. The Drumheller cabernet sauvignon ($12) is also a killer wine with cocoa powder and expresso to accent the dark berry flavors.
Olema Chardonnay Sonoma County 2014 ($15). This a lot of wine for the price. Citrus and pineapple in the nose with mouth-coating tropical fruit flavor framed in a bit of toasty oak. A lot of wine for the price.
Markham Vineyards Merlot Napa Valley 2014 ($28). If you've forgotten how good a California merlot can be, try this delicious example from a well-respected Napa winery. Fantastic aromas and flavors of raspberry, cherry and mocha waft from this elegant wine. Firm but soft tannins make this wine drinkable now or a candidate for 3-5 years of aging.
Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc Awatere Valley Marlborough New Zealand 2014 ($22). Classic well-made Marlborough sauvignon blanc with ample grapefruit. passion fruit, cut grass and herb notes. Refreshing thirst-quenching acidity.
Charles Krug Merlot 2013 ($25). Merlot fans looking for a good deal should turn to this flavor knock-out. Made by one of the oldest winery's in Napa Valley, some cabernet sauvignon, malbec and cabernet franc is blended with the merlot. Big-time, forward and ripe black cherry flavors and a dose of vanilla.