Wine Choices: Rico and I have endeavored to keep up with the rush of new wines and wine-related events that have sprung up over the past six months. It was music to our ears to hear the concessions of wine lovers who filled the restaurants and cellars, sipping fine wine with daring culinary menus.
My five wine choices were from the central and northern California coast: syrah, pinot noir, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
Booker Fracture Syrah, Paso Robles, 2019. $98: The wine produces a rich, velvety palate that is both intense and sweet with traces of sweet beets, dark plums and chocolate. Pairs best with slow-braised meat dishes. Booker Syrah is 100% estate fruit and a true reflection of the limestone shale hillsides of their Westside Paso Robles vineyard. BookerWines.com.
Chamisal Pinot Noir, Edna Valley San Luis Obispo, 2017. $45: This Pinot ticks all the checklists of a classic wine with character, with its cool climate, soil composition and what is called the spice of Chamisal. This first vineyard planted in the Edna valley has long produced wines of great character and expression. ChamisalVineyards.com.
Grgich Hills Zinfandel, Rutherford Napa Valley, 2016. $38: Zinfandel pioneer Mike Grgich has long been responsible for a lifetime of achievement since dominating France’s top Chardonnays at the 1976 Paris tasting. Grich’s Zinfandels, grown on his personal property from 30 acres, have classic notes of strawberries, raspberries, black pepper and spicy plums. Grgich’s roots come from Croatia, which has proven to be the source of zinfandel. Grgich.com.
Justin Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, 2019. $26: The climate and the soil are the riches that make Justin wines great. This entry-level Justin cabin might be the highest tier varietal at other wineries, but at Justin, it’s the highest tier value of their bunch. The secret here is that Justin uses artisanal techniques usually reserved for his most revered labels like hand harvesting, sorting and aging in small barrels. At this price, this Justin is the “best value”. JUSTINwine.com.
Daou Family Estates Sequentis Merlot, Paso Robles, 2019. $52: This New Generation Reserve Merlot from winemaker Daniel Daou gives a new direction to this venerable and hitherto misguided grape variety. Daou produced a bold, assertive Merlot with concentrated plum and cherry flavors that end in firm tannins that lead to a clean finish of exceptional length. The 50% new French oak promises exceptional aging potential. DAOUVINEYARDS.com.
Rico’s Top 5 Picks
Great wine list, Frank! As usual, it’s been hard to choose five of the great ones we’ve enjoyed together several times in the first half of 2022. My picks are four Napa Valley wines, one white and three reds, and one Amarone from Valpolicella. However, I have two Paso Robles wines reserved for the big year-end list based on our recent trips to the Central Coast.
Acre Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2017. $60: I start with a Cab Sauv of the highest level in Acre’s portfolio. All Acre level wines are single varietals. One Acre and Old Lodge are the other two levels. The 2017 comes from Yountville, specifically from an organically grown choice block of Mill Race Vineyard. I loved the reddish brown brick color with dark fruit and plum on the nose followed by black cherry, blueberry and spice on the palate with a nice long lasting sweet finish. Perfect with meat. Acrewines.com.
Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2020. $50: Our soulful white wine comes from Beringer’s Private Reserve Collection. The brand was originally established in 1977 to make Napa Valley’s finest Cab Sauv and expanded in 1978 to Chardonnay. This James Suckling 93pt winner has floral notes of jasmine and pineapple. The pineapple lingers on the palate accompanied by peach and nectarine with a creamy texture. Beringer.com.
Campagnola Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Veneto Italy, 2017. $22: The Corvina/Corvinone Veronese (75%) and Rondinella (25%) fruits are picked in September and dried like raisins for about 100 days, losing about 35% of their weight. The semi-dried fruits are gently pressed within the January/February deadlines for a 30-day maceration. Then 60% is aged in barrels and 40% in new French oak barrels for 18 months, followed by six months in bottle. The result is a deep ruby color with intense aromas of cherry, plum and vanilla that carry over into a full-bodied palate. This wine pairs well with any rich marinara sauce dish! Campagnola.com.
Howell Mountain Vineyards, Cab Sauv Preserve, Napa County, 2017. $100: At 1,800 feet above sea level on volcanic soil, Howell Mountain Vineyards is home to some of the oldest Zin and Cab Sauv vineyards in the Howell Mountain AVA, established in the 1870s. Current owner Mike Beatty purchased the property in 1977 after two years of drought, leaving others to doubt the potential of the vineyard. The 2017 vintage had smaller berries, intense color, blackberry and cherry on the palate with an earthy finish and firm tannins. This special winner of 92 pt Wine Enthusiast will be at its peak in over 5 years. Howellmountainvineyards.com.
Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2020. $82: As always, one of Napa Valley’s influential grape growers, Chuck Wagner, hit another home run with 2020, as he has since 1972. Although exact percentages are never released, 2020 is grown from eight of Napa’s 16 sub-appellations offering makeup diversity and possibly one of its best to date. Any Caymus lover will recognize the dark color with ripe fruit, cocoa and a hint of blackcurrant on the nose and on the palate. Wagnerfamilyofwine.com.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Frank and Rico are two of the leading commentators on the web. Contact them at [email protected]