Best Wine 2021: The Year In Review

Best Wine 2021 Year In Review @ Cori Solomon

As a wine writer, 2021 took on a different role than 2020.  . Virtual wine tastings were still the norm but it was easier to venture out to wineries.  I was able to participate in a couple of wine tasting luncheons with other vaccinated writers.  Both the virtual and selective in-person tastings with vaccinated writers will occur in 2022. For most enjoying a bottle of wine brought us to a happy place since we still have to be careful. Looking back at the wine I sipped throughout the year, here is my list of best wine 2021.

There is no particular order to my best wine 2021 list. The wine is divided into categories. After sampling or visiting the individual wineries, I wrote about every wine on this list.

Sparkling Wine:

Foundry Blanc de Noirs
Foundry Blanc de Noirs

Foundry Wines 2015 Blanc de Noirs: Created in Methode Champenoise, the wine delivers tropical flavors accented with toasty Brioche. Atypical for sparkling wine was the dominant flavor of melon.

Sella & Mosca Torbato Brut, Alghero DOC 2018: Produced with Torbato, an Italian grape from Sicily, this sparkling wine is created in the Charmat method. This wine displays sapidity, which comes from the wind bringing salt to the grape from the sea.

Best Wine 2021 Whites

I will divide the white wines into several subcategories of the varietals to make them easier to decipher.

Sauvignon Blanc

Kriselle Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2019: The wine delivers more structure than I typically see with Sauvignon Blanc. This wine reminds me of  Sancerre. I found a lively, bright yet creamy wine with flavors of citrus and stone fruit. This Sauvignon Blanc is an all-time favorites because its creaminess adds complexity. This wine does not display typical grassy and grapefruit qualities in Sauvignon Blanc.

Dierberg Star Lane Winery 2020 Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA: Not many Sauvignon Blancs wow me, but I found this one exceptional. The wine delivers an elegant balance with a creamy texture, crisp acidity, and tropical fruit and lemon flavors.

Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc Charlotte’s Home Sonoma County: This Sauvignon Blanc features bright and crisp flavors of tropical fruit and grapefruit, accented by hints of vanilla.

Kriselle Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
Kriselle Cellars Sauvignon Blanc

Riesling

Terragena 2018 Riesling, Wiley Vineyard: This Riesling is a field blend with about 8% Muscat. The Muscat gives the wine Alsatian characteristics. I found an aromatic wine with citrus and stone fruit flavors. This wine exemplifies the excellence of Riesling coming from the Anderson Valley.

Smith-Madrone 2016 Riesling: Aromas of white flowers and citrus give way to lime, stone fruits, and pear flavors. This  Alsatian-style Riesling is bright and lively with some creaminess and minerality.

Terragena Riesling
Terragena Riesling

Semillon

L’ Ecole No 41 Semillon Columbia Valley 2019:  Some call this wine “Sunshine in a bottle.”. I found a lively, lusciously delicious creamy-textured wine with aromas of honeysuckle and citrus flavors. The wine is a testament to the variety and one I highly recommend.

Brennan Vineyards Elia’s Pine 2019: This Semillon is crafted with an old-world grape crafted as a new world wine with wonderful aromas of florals, lime, and stone fruit. The Semillon delivers bright and vibrant acidity with citrus flavors.

L'Ecole No 41 Semillon
L’Ecole No 41 Semillon

Chenin Blanc

L’Ecole Chenin Blanc Old Vines Yakima Valley 2020: I found a fruitier wine with aromatics of stone fruit, white flowers, and citrus. On the palate, juicier fresh fruit flavors prevailed.

L'Ecole Chenin Blanc 2019
L’Ecole Chenin Blanc 2019

Albarino

La Rioja Alta Lagar de Cervera Albariño 2020: Find a wine with bright crispness.  On the nose, I discovered lemon and lime.   On the palate, flavors of green apples and apricots give way to a beautiful freshness.

Lagar D Cervera Albarino
Lagar D Cervera Albarino

Pinot Blanc

Utopia Wine Pinot Noir Blanc 2018:. I discovered a bright, refreshing wine with citrus, peach, and tropical flavor.

Chardonnay

The Walls Vineyard McAndrew Chardonnay: Blending three clones, including a suitcase clone from Puligny Montrachet, and named after Dr. McAndrew, the first person to plant grapes in the Columbia River Gorge.

White Blends

Troon Kubli Bench Amber: An unusual and lively blend of Riesling, Vermentino, and Viognier; the grapes are farmed and processed like red wine. Fermenting on the skins gives the wine its orange color. This blend creates complexity, depth, and layering in the wine. Flavors of lemons and oranges prevail and are accented with hints of savory spices.

Esporão Colheita White 2018: Coheita white utilizes Alentejo’s signature white grape, Antão Vaz, blending it with Viosinho and Alvarinho.  I found a wine delivering nutty character and minerality with citrus, stone fruit, and herbal notes.

Enriquez “Brisa” White Wine 2015: This wine is a field blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, and Chardonnay. I found a clean, crisp wine.

Denner Vineyards Theresa: Find a white Rhône blend of Rousanne, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Picpoul and Clairette Blanche.

Denner Vineyards Theresa © Cori Solomon
Denner Vineyards Theresa

Rosés

Girasole Vineyards Rosé 2020: A secondary label of Barra of Mendocino. This Rosé consists of just shy of a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. The wine wows you with every sip. Not only is the wine fantastic, but it delivers quality at a reasonable price. I found a refreshingly crisp Rosé with fresh fruit flavors of strawberry. The Zinfandel gives the wine an upfront zest yet preserves the fruity character.

Troon Kubli Bench Rosé: This Rosé combines Tinta Roriz and Primitivo. This elegant wine delivers a very dry, sophisticated Rosé with flavors of red currant accented by orange peel.

Switchback Ridge Rosé 2020: The Rosé consists of Pinot Noir and ingratiates you with aromas of strawberry, peach, and florals. The wine is crisp, bright, and refreshing.

Switchback Ridge Rosé of Pinot Noir
Switchback Ridge Rosé of Pinot Noir

L’Ecole No 41 Grenache Rosé 2020 Alder Ridge Vineyard, Horse Haven Hill: Created in a Provencal style; the wine emphasizes a  beautiful copper color and accents the fresh outlook of this Rosé. On the nose, discover aromas of berries. On the palate, flavors of raspberry and strawberry prevail while delivering nice acidity and minerality.

Herdade de São Miguel Colheita Seleccionada Rose 2020: A Rosé from Alentejo,.this wine combines Touriga Nacional, Syrah, and Aragonez to deliver a bright Rosé with fresh fruit aromas and flavors of strawberries, melon, and tropical fruit.

Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé 2020: The wine blends Syrah and Mourvédre. The wine uses the saignée method to produce a Rosé exhibiting peaches and raspberry on the nose. On the palate, find flavors of cherry and peach. This Rosé is fresh, pretty, and very inviting.

Caprio Cellars 2020 Estate Rosé: Created from Cabernet Franc, this Rosé delivers a fresh demeanor exuding watermelon flavors.

Caprio Cellars Rosé © Cori Solomon
Caprio Cellars Rosé

Best Wine 2021 Reds

I will divide the red wines into several subcategories of the varietals to make them easier to decipher.

Cabernet Sauvignon

L’ Ecole No 41 Cabernet Sauvignon 2017: I discovered a fresh, lively, and smoothly balanced wine displaying dark fruit accented with white pepper on the finish.

Flambeaux Wine 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley: I discovered an approachable wine with more red than dark fruit. On the nose, notes of vanilla and raspberry accented with baking spices of clove and cinnamon. On the palate, the wine displayed rich, silky, and velvety textures, opening to flavors of cherry and mocha with hints of spice on the finish.

Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA 2017: I discovered a very together and bright red fruits and aromas of baking spices.

Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon
Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon

Pinot Noir

Au Contraire Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2019: I found a vibrant yet elegant light-bodied wine with cherry, raspberry, and violet aromas. On the palate, this flavorful wine exhibits red fruit flavors, especially cherry, accented by the forest floor’s earthy freshness.

Casleah Wines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2019: This Pinot Noir exhibits a zestiness that is quite inviting. I found a lively yet spicy Pinot Noir that is balanced and bright with aromas of red fruit. Flavors of pomegranate and strawberry dominate and highlight the spicy notes of baking spices.

Casleah Pinot Noir
Casleah Pinot Noir

Ron Rubin 2018 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley: I discovered a classic Pinot Noir, not too overbearing yet fruity and light in body. On the nose, discover cherry and cranberry aromas, while on the palate, the wine exhibited bright acidity with flavors of bright cherry, cranberry, and hints of spice.

Landmark Vineyards 2018 Grand Detour Pinot Noir: I discovered a medium-bodied fruity wine with cola, strawberry, and earth aromas. On the palate, the wine exhibited flavors of strawberry and cola with some lovely spices on the finish.

Dierberg Pinot Noir Drum Canyon Vineyard, Sta Rita Hills AVA 2017: By far my favorite from Dierberg. This wine displays aromas of florals and red fruit on the nose. On the palate, I found bright red fruit.

Landmark Vineyards Grand Detour Pinot Noir
Landmark Vineyards Grand Detour Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

Malbec

Bodegas Caro Amancaya Reserve Red Blend 2018: I found a well-integrated wine. I could taste the Cabernet Sauvignon. Smoky aromas delivered an earthy wine with ripe dark fruit. Think blackberry pie with a lingering finish of black pepper.

Saracina Malbec - Best Malbec
Saracina Malbec

Saracina Skid Row Malbec 2018: I found a very balanced and integrated—one of the best I have sampled in California and reasonably priced. On the nose, aromas of sweet spices,  cedar, and blueberries. On the palate, besides blueberry, the Malbec delivered hints of white pepper and spice on the finish. The wine exhibited savory yet sweet qualities.

Domaine Bousquet 2018 Gran Malbec: The wine blends primarily Malbec with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. I discovered a very smooth and balanced wine with flavors of blackberries accented by mocha and hints of pepper on the finish.

Labor Day 2021 Red Wine Domaine Bousquet Gran Malbec

Syrah

Rasa Vineyards Veritas Sequitur Syrah 2016: The wine is fruit-forward with floral aromatics, especially lavender. I discovered an elegant wine that wowed me. The flavor profile consists of dark fruit, dark chocolate with hints of white pepper, and savory notes on the finish.

Grenache

Analemma 2018 Mosier Hills Grenache:. The Grenache ages in both concrete eggs and 600L Neutral oak for 15 months. I found a very vibrant Grenache with lively aromas of cinnamon and lavender. The wine delivers flavors of cherry and strawberry accented with licorice, fennel, and cinnamon.

Zinfandel

Flambeaux Wine 2017 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley: Impressed by the mellow silky quality of this Zinfandel, the wine delivers bright cherries accented with white pepper and baking spices. The wine is balanced and approachable.

Summit Lake Vineyard 2016 Zinfandel: Considered the flagship of this winery, the wine consists of primarily old vine Zinfandel with a smaller percentage of newer vines. I discovered a Zinfandel with bright acid and fruit. Flavors of cranberry are accented with spice and pepper.

Sixmilebridge Paladin 2018: This wine is Sixmilebridge’s homage to Zinfandel in Paso Robles. Think Bordeaux style blends with Zinfandel making Paladin their flagship wine. This wine ages 22 months. I found Paladin a very approachable wine displaying amazing florals on the nose and flavors dark fruit and pepper on the finish.

Sixmilebridge Paladin
Sixmilebridge Paladin

Tannat

Bending Branch 2017 Tannat: I found a smooth yet integrated wine, delivering flavors of plum accented with tobacco and leather.

Kerrville Hills Winery 2017 Tannat: The flagship wine of Kerrville Hills, this Tannat is created in an old-world style that accentuates acidity and the variety’s boldness.

Tempranillo

Kriselle Cellars Tempranillo 2015:  The wine exhibits bright natural acidity with a lively demeanor. I found a wonderful expression of the variety with its red fruit, herbal qualities, and hints of pepper on the finish. This wine undoubtedly represents the quality of Tempranillo found in the Roque Valley.

Viña Ardanza 2012 Reserve: This wine’s aromas tell us it is a Rioja. The wine exhibits cherry flavors accented by spicy notes.

Viña Alberdi 2016 Reserva: This wine represents La Rioja Alta’s new classical style delivering a soft elegance. I discovered flavors of cherry that are accented by mocha both on the nose and palate.

Vina Arana
Viña Arana

Brunello Di Montalcino

Col D’Orcia “Poggio Al Vento” Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013: Production of this wine only occurs in the best vintages. The wine displayed rustic qualities. I found aromas of mocha accented with some spicy notes. Flavors of cherry dominate the wine with spice on the finish.

Col d'Orcia Poggio Al Vento Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva
Col d’Orcia Poggio Al Vento Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva

Barbera

Prima Materia Barbera 2018: The wine is dry and well-balanced on the palate with nice acidity. This Barbera is Prima Materia’s best seller.

Sangiovese

Prima Materia Sangiovese 2017: The wine delivers a bright demeanor with earthy tones that is softer and lighter than most Sangiovese wines. I found flavors of black cherry.

Dornfelder

Sweetzer 2017 Dornfelder Chapel Vineyards: From the first sip to the last, I loved the smooth balance, velvety texture, and silky tannins that brought out the luscious fruitiness of this wine.

Sweetzer Dornfelder
Sweetzer Dornfelder

Red Blends

Dancin Synergy 2020: My observation of Dancin Synergy is the cooperation and interaction of two grape varietals, Pinot Noir and Barbera. I enjoyed the bright structure and depth of the wine. The wine has a powerful side but with the elegance of the ballerina depicted on the bottle. With aromas of dark fruit and violets, the dark fruit flavors are accented with nutmeg.

L’Ecole 2018 Ferguson, Estate Ferguson Vineyard: The flavor profile is distinctive and unique. This Bordeaux blend exhibits European character with a backbone of dryness, emphasizing blackberry, violets, and some savory notes on the nose. This wine showcases dark fruit, nice texture, and balance on the palate. It is a big wine but not heavy and overpowering.

Dancin Vineyards Synergy
Dancin Vineyards Synergy

Benon Les Deux Freres: The wine is a blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo. The Grenache brings out the lively side of this wine as it expresses minerality, while the Cabernet and Tempranillo bring to the forefront s tannins, structure, and complexity.

Hubba Wines Mushroomhead: The wine blends Syrah and Carignan. This savory wine exudes my favorite spice—thyme.

Lucente 2018: This wine blends Merlot and Sangiovese. The wine exhibits a prominent taste of Merlot. It delivers earthy and herbal qualities with flavors of plum accented by hints of tobacco and mocha.

L'Ecole Ferguson Estate
L’Ecole Ferguson Estate, Bordeaux Blend.

Terragena Evolution: The blend is lively, bright, and unique. It is a lighter medium-bodied wine. Flavors of cranberry prevail, while the finish is spicy with pepper and spice.

L’Ecole Perigee 2018: This vintage was later to ripen. The composition consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. This wine should be either decanted or aerated. On the nose, I detected blueberry, pepper, and cedar aromas. On the palate, the wine exhibited dark fruit and spices. This wine opened up beautifully by the third day of tasting.

Terragena Evolution Red Wine © Cori Solomon
Terragena Evolution Red Wine

Dessert Wines

Utopia 2016 Late Harvest Riesling: The dominant flavor of this wine is apricot.

Utopia Vineyards Late Harvest Riesling © Cori Solomon
Utopia Vineyards Late Harvest Riesling

Let’s raise our glasses to the best wine 2021 and give cheer to 2022.. With the challenges of the last year, we are grateful to move on. I look forward to sharing my new wine discoveries for 2022.

Happy New Year.

As typical in the wine industry, most of the best wine 2021 listed in this article were hosted wine samples.