A wine parade for our annual “Top 10 Wines” list is positioned around my computer on Christmas Eve. These wines stood out from hundreds of other wines with reams of paper doodles from online and in-person wineries, wine shops, wine shelves in supermarkets, hotels and restaurants.
Days passed before the last five could now be brought to light. My partner Rico Cassoni and I have cultivated our thoughts and he’s also set with his five (see below), all of whom are knighted in the 2021 Top 10 Wines at the Taste of Wine & Food Hall of Fame.
ChÃ¢teau Buena Vista Chardonnay, Carneros Napa Valley, 2019. $ 25.
Founded in 1857, Buena Vista is California’s premier premium vineyard. The winery originates from the Carneros appellation where the wind and fog from the bay of San Pablo cool the vines, allowing the grapes a longer growing season. This Chardonnay offers rich notes of apple, pear and pineapple with crisp acidity on the finish. buenavistawinery.com.
Daou Solomon Hills Pinot Noir, Paso Robles, 2019. $ 90.
This limited edition Pinot Noir comes exclusively from the famous Solomon Hills vineyard, the most westerly vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley, just 11 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Winemaker Daniel Daou believes favorable conditions in 2019 produced their best wine from this vineyard, and we totally agree. It is a pinot that sends a powerful message of elegance, pleasure and purity of flavor until the finish. Although accessible today, it will continue to evolve gracefully in the bottle for many years to come. daouvineyards.com.
Poggi Amarone della Valpolicella, Verona Veneto Italia, 2017. $ 22.
Amarone, in the Veneto district of Italy, uses a centuries-old process called ‘appassimento’, dehydrating the grapes for more concentrated flavors, color and aromas. Whenever I enter a circle of Italian wine lovers, most of the talk is about Piedmont to the north and Tuscany and Campania to the south. This is when I launch into my love for the wines of Veneto, in the heart of Italy, and the ancient wine making process according to the Appassimento method for a truly unique and pleasant feeling.
In a nutshell, this process is the dehydration of the grapes during a late harvest to produce a greater concentration of colors, aromas and flavors in the wine. The grapes are dried primarily in Valpolicella for a period of at least two to six months before being pressed and made into Amarone wine. The word “appassimento” means “passionate” in Italian, but you might have understood it. Just to let you know that, too, the Poggi Selection has an alcohol content of 16%, so you might want to drink it sitting down. Cantinepoggi.it.
Prisoner Wine Company SALDO Zinfandel, Oakville Napa Valley, 2019. $ 32.
A blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Syrah, this dark ruby ââred wine has bold aromas of black licorice, black pepper, cherry and baking spices. The starter is rich, full and more than a hint of chocolate. The finish is voluptuous. It is a sweet, jammy and fruity California wine. SaldoWine.com.
San Simeon Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve, Paso Robles, 2018. $ 26.
This Cab is the flagship wine of the Riboli family, one of the oldest wine families in California. Recently awarded American Winery of the Year, San Simeon wines are handcrafted in small batches. They acquire aromas of spices and vanilla as they age in French oak barrels for at least 18 months. Sansimeonwines.com.
Rico’s Top 5 Picks
Cultivating is what we did indeed. We enjoyed a lot of them at the same time, and most could have been on either of our lists. Thank you, Frank, for a great year of collaboration as we broke bread and savored wine together!
Cellier des Princes, ChÃ¢teauneuf du Pape CuvÃ©e Sainte Vierge, CourthÃ©zon, France, 2019. $ 27.
I always like to include at least one great value wine in my top 5 list. The Princes, cuvÃ©e Sainte Vierge, hit the mark. The CuvÃ©e Ste Vierge, a blend of Grenache (90%), MourvÃ¨dre, Syrah comes from the Courthezon terroir made up of round pebbles on sandy soils. The cuvÃ©e is a fermented concrete tank, revealing the purest expression of Grenache and the terroir. It goes well with poultry, stews, game (eg venison) and is perfect with fine cheeses. www.cellierdesprinces.fr.
Daou, Estate Micho Red Blend, Paso Robles, 2019. $ 85.
It is one of the three wines dedicated to family members. Brothers Daniel and Georges Daou dedicated Domaine Micho to their late sister Michelle, who died of cancer. Cabernet Sauvignon (44%) gives boldness to this Merlot red blend (56%). With a palate of Boysenberry, blackberry, dark chocolate and dried herbs along with crisp minerality, balance and superb structure, this is a magnificent wine. However, I could easily have had the amazing Soul of a Lion 2018, dedicated to the father of brothers, in my Top 5. daouvineyards.com.
Immortal Estate Slope, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2015. $ 80.
This 96-point Jeb Dunnuck beauty comes from Immortal’s Hidden Ridge Vineyard, located between Santa Rosa, the Sonoma Valley and St Helena in the Napa Valley. The 2015 had a memorable bouquet of cassis, graphite and tobacco with concentrated ripe fruit mixed with earthy and mineral notes on the palate. It is aged in 75% new French oak barrels for 28 months, making the Immortal enjoyable now or for decades to come. Immortalstate.com.
Sangiacomo Roberts Road Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Sonoma, 2018. $ 70.
Sangiacomo’s pinot edged out Willamette Valley vineyard and Gary Farrell’s pinots as my favorite pinot at the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival. Sangiacomo represents five generations of family winemaking since 1927. The Roberts Road Pinot had concentrated aromas brimming with cherry, raspberry and violet. The palate had a smooth finish and texture with flavors of cherry and strawberry with hints of orange peel and spices. Sangiacomowines.com.
Wines ZD 50e Anniversary Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa Valley, 2018. $ 50.
I would be remiss if I did not choose a blank for my list. ZD Chardonnay was an easy choice. The ZD fruit was fermented in a 100% American oak barrel at 48 Â° F. The long, fresh fermentation preserved vibrant tropical and citrus aromas and aided the malolactic fermentation process. The ZD had a nose of guava and pear with floral and vanilla notes, pineapple and lemon notes on the palate, with a woody and creamy finish on the palate. ZDwines.com.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Reach it at [emailÂ protected]