Half the year 2015 has already gone, so how many new wines have you tasted in the last 6 months. Better yet how many would you buy again?
Well, I am happy to report that, despite more than a few personal afflictions, this first half of 2015 I managed to be in the middle of about 75 wine events ( plus a few Tequila events). I’m happy to report that half of my top ten wines, are brands that I had not tasted before this year. White wines are on the rebound, including white blends. I have 3 on my list. Italian wines continue their renaissance in Southern California, thanks to restaurants like Solare and Vittorio’s in San Diego, and Thornton Winery in Temecula.
Napa Valley captured 4 places, Italy 3, Paso Robles 1, Washington 1, and a San Diego winemaker and owner with a beautiful Pinot Noir from grapes in Sta. Rita Hills above Santa Barbara . All 10 wines are rated equally. Alphabetical considerations cause their place in the ten. Prices shown are listed in the wine’s web site or best values in wine stores.
Banfi Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy, 2010. $65. The 2009 vintage was in the top 10 last year. This one shows more finesse, intensity and flavor. Structured, long finish from rich fruity roots of Sangiovese. A five year wait for this princely wine. Castellobanfi.com.
Castello di Amorosa Chardonnay, La Rocca Napa Valley , 2013. $38. A dry, single vineyard white wine, fermented and aged in concrete egg-shaped vessels. From the legendary Bien Nacido Vineyard in cool Santa Maria CA. Handcrafted in the ancient concrete method, that imparts richness without oak. Lively acidity. Castellodiamorosa.com.
Coomber Family Ranch Pinot Noir, San Diego/St Rita Hills Ca. 2013. $74.99 A big Pinot with Central Coast grapes. Aged in Oak to bring out flavors of cinnamon, cherry and spices. Based in San Diego . Coomberwines.com.
Etude Chardonnay, Carneros Napa Valley , 2012. $14. A work of art, rich and vibrant fruit, harking back to the natural days of minimalist Chardonnay. Apple, pear and citrus. Etudewines.com.
Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley , 2012. $65. The thinking man’s Cab. A touch of Merlot Petit Verdot and Cab Franc. Organically crafted in a perfect vintage that winds up more complex than the sum of its parts. More intelligence at grgich.com.
Hill Family Merlot, Napa Valley , 2012. $19.95. Fourth generation farm family, they know to balance the vineyards before harvest, for depth and character. After years of growing grapes for others, they have their family name on the best of the crop. Hillfamilyestate.com.
Pepper Bridge Seven Hills, Walla Walla Wa. , 2012. $60. Another great Washington wine where wines are made in the vineyard, according to winemaker Jean-Francois Pellet. “It’s all about striking the right balance.,” said Pellet. Finesse, elegance and a long finish. Mostly Cab, with Merlot and Cab Franc. Pepperbridge.com.
San Felice Pugnitello , Tuscany It., 2010. $55.95. From the ancient vineyards of San Felice, this grape contends with Sangiovese as the patron grape of Tuscany . Intense purple-red. Velvety with massive fruit taste. From the 30 year winemaker Leonardo Bellacini.
Bruno Cumar of Madellena Distributors, Leonardo Bellacini San Felice winemaker and Solore Restaurant owner Randy Smerik before a capacity dinner turnout.
Thornton Winery Barbera, Temecula CA . 2013. $44. Winner of the sweepstakes prize for Best Red Wine at the 2015 Riverside International Wine Competition. Winemaker David Vergari handpicked these Italian grapes from across the street from Thornton . French Oak superior treatment secures the raspberry and blueberry aromas. This is a cellar-worthy wine. Thorntonwine.com.
Treana White, Paso Robles, 2013. $16. The 3rd of our whites to hit the charts, this one is actually a white blend, rare in the wine industry. It’s a Rhone Valley French style Marsonne and Viognier. Bright tropical flavors of stone fruit and honey. Crisp acidity enhances most dishes. Hopefamily.com.