It is that time of the year for me to share my list of the best wine 2022, my year in review. As in-person tastings were less restrictive, I attended many more in Los Angeles. I also visited many more wineries along the Central Coast since it is an easy drive from my home in West Los Angeles. I did discover a new AVA that most people lack familiarity. It is the Lamorinda AVA and a hidden gem and one to visit if you are in the East Bay.
There is no particular order to my best wine 2022 list. The wine is divided into categories. The list consists of wines I sampled during the year. I have only included those wines that I wrote about in 2022.
Best Wine 2022 – Sparkling Wine
Piedra Creek Lagrein Pét-nat: By far one of my all-time favorite expressions of a Pét-nat. I found the wine slightly sweeter, yet the flavors of raspberry and strawberry burst forth in delight. It is the perfect wine for a summer day.
Best Wine 2022 Whites
Iris Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Gris 2020: Besides being an outstanding wine that over delivers for the price, this Pinot Gris won Best In Show at the McMinnville Wine Competition and a Double Gold and Best White Varietal. Tasting this wine, you will see why. The Pinot Gris exhibits viscosity while it exudes citrus, apple, and spice flavors.
Alma Rosa Pinot Blanc, La Encantada Vineyard 2020. The grapes press whole-cluster and ferment in barrels. The wine ages on lees for 15 months in 70% stainless steel and 30% new French oak. I loved the florals accented by pear and stone fruit on the nose. On the palate, the wine is fruity with flavors of pear.
J. Wilkes Pinot Blanc Santa Maria Valley 2020: I found a fresh and bright wine with flavors of stone fruit, hints of citrus, and a spicy finish.
Halleck Vineyard Calandrelli Dry Gewürztraminer, Russian River Valley 2022: I found a wonderfully dry Gewürztraminer with floral aromas and notes of ripe fruits. The wine displayed subtle, savory flavors of honeysuckle and ginger spices on the palate. For a Gewürztraminer, it is very smooth and well-balanced. It is one of my favorites when it comes to this variety.
Vinoce Vineyards Lori’s Lucky Penny Sauvignon Blanc: The grapes come from a single block in the Ashe Vineyard in Oakville. The wine ages for 10 to 11 months in 60% new and 40% one-year-old oak barrels. The wine exudes a creamy richer mouthfeel yet has nice acidity. The texture reminds one of Crème Brulee.
Titus Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2021: I found a brighter, warmer style. On the nose, floral and fruity aromas prevailed. The flavors leaned toward tropical with a fatter mouth feel and some creamy notes caused by aging in neutral oak. It displays more depth and texture compared to other Sauvignon Blancs. The grapes come from a portion of the vineyard with a warmer climate. The addition of a tiny percentage of Viognier integrates and enhances the wine.
Hoopes Vineyard 2020 Sauvignon Blanc Atlas Peak: This wine is created in amphora, which helps achieve its subtleness. I found a food-friendly wine with low acid that showcases tropical fruit with hints of lime on the finish.
Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2021: The Sauvignon Blanc ferments and ages for six months in a percentage of concrete egg, once used French oak Puncheon, stainless steel, and used French oak. The result is an elegant wine with citrus melon and white flower aromas. The wine’s vibrant acidity delivers stone fruit, lemon, and lime flavors.
Halleck Vineyard Little Sister Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley Sonoma County 2021: Picking the grapes early, 30 percent of this cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc ferments and ages for six weeks in neutral oak. Crisp acidity, tropical notes, and herbaceous qualities accent the lush mouthfeel.
Thal Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2020: This Sauvignon Blanc is created like Chardonnay. The wine barrel ferments and ages ten months in French oak. The barrel aging gives the wine its creamier texture. I found floral aromas followed by citrus, mainly lemon, accented by stone and tropical fruits on the palate.
Kerrville Hills 2019 Semillon: I found a complex old-world wine with a dense texture. The wine is unfiltered and unfined and aged for 18 months in neutral oak with 1/3 American Oak. The grapes come from a Vineyard in the Texas Hill Country’s Pedernales River Valley. This full-bodied wine is unusual for white wine. The wine delivers aromas of melon and flavors of lemon and stone fruit with a lingering finish.
Hoopes Vineyard 2020 Chardonnay Napa Valley: This chardonnay ferments and ages in a combination of amphora, stainless steel, and used oak barrels. I found a fruity and lively wine displaying wonderful apple and pear flavors.
Matthiasson Napa Valley Ribolla Gialla 2019: Ribolla Gialla is an ancient variety that originates in the Friuli region of Italy and also in Slovenia. This wine is created like an orange wine by fermenting the whole cluster with the skins and stems. On the nose, I found aromas of hazelnuts that give way to earthy flavors with hints of pear and hazelnuts, offering a nice minerality.
Aridus Wine 2019 Viognier: The unique process using a sandstone jar resulted in a rich and round Viognier offering a bit of the Acacia and the typical aromas and flavors of honeysuckle along with florals and stone fruit. The wine also exhibited a sweeter finish.
Oremus Mandolás 2019 Furmint, Dry Mandulas, Oremus. I found this Furmint very balanced with subtle nuances of citrus, making it a refreshing wine.
Terre Stregate Svelato Falanghina del Sannio 2020: This wine won a Tre Bicchieri from Gambero Rosso, a coveted award given for Italian wines. I found flavors of green apple with bitter almond on the finish.
Batasiolo Gavi del Commune di Gavi Granée DOCG 2021: This Gavi consists of Cortese grapes from vineyards composed of limestone, clay, and marl soils. On the nose, I found briny aromas. Piedmont is close to the sea, hence the saline qualities. The wine exhibited bright citrus and fresh tropical flavors on the palate.
Best Wine 2022 – White Blends
Esporão Colheita White 2020: This wine combines Antão Vaz, Viosinho, Alvarinho, and a small percentage of other varieties and ages four months in concrete. The wine presents itself as a lively, clean fruity wine.
St Jean du Barroux, La Montagne Blanc: This wine combines Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, and Clairette. The 40-year-old vineyard’s soil profile is sandy clay. I found a bright yet balanced wine characterized by roundness.
Château La Croix des Pins, Les 3 Village Blanc: Combining Vermentino, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, and Rousanne gives this wine citrusy flavors and allows you to taste the Vermentino and Roussane.
PoderNuovo A Palazzonne Nicoleo 2018: This white wine combines Grechetto and Chardonnay. Twenty percent of the wine ages in oak for six months. The rest ages in stainless steel. I found aromas of white flowers and honey. The wine exhibited a creamy, buttery sensation on the palate with flavors of lemon and lemon curd, minerality, and viscosity.
Best Wine 2022 – Rosé
Alma Rosa Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Estate El Jabali Vineyard 2021: I found a Provencal Rosé with complexity due to the whole cluster pressing. The wine delivers nice acidity with fresh notes of wild strawberries.
Piedra Creek Lagrein Rosé: One of the few wineries to produce Lagrein, this Rosé is a delightful rendition showcasing the variety. The grapes are whole-cluster pressed and then produced in a traditional blanc du noir method. In this case, red grapes are pressed, and the juice ferments after separation from the skins; the result is white wine, referred to as “blanc de noirs,” meaning a white wine from dark grapes. The Piedra Creek Rosé may be produced like white wine, but the elegant coral color draws one in to taste the wine. I found flavors of strawberry and watermelon.
Alma Sol Winery Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon 2021: The grapes for this wine comes from Alma Sol’s Cuevas Vineyard. The wine barrel ferments from free-flow juice and remains a month on the lees, followed by seven months in the barrel. While the color, a gorgeous pinky-red color, burst forth into a refreshingly bright and light Rosé with fruity flavors of strawberries.
L’Ecole Grenache Rosé 2021 Alder Ridge Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills: Find a Provence-style Rosé with lots of aromatic expressions. The lovely salmon color opens to a nose with cherry and florals. On the palate, I found a bigger Rosé with fruity flavors of cherry and citrus.
Halleck Vineyard Not Your Mother’s Dry White Zinfandel Russian River Valley Sonoma County 2021: The Zinfandel grapes for this wine are grown specifically to create a Rosé. I found a dry Rosé with floral notes. The wine displays bright and fresh qualities on the palate with hints of strawberry and cherry accented with a sweet finish.
Best Wine 2022 Pinot Noir
Ketcham Estate Allie’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2019: Named after winery owner Allie Ketcham, this wine ingratiates one with wonderful floral aromas. Allie’s Reserve utilizes premium barrels to create this eight-barrel blend. The wine ages one-third in new oak, one-third in one-year-old oak, and one-third in neutral oak. The result is a wine with some viscosity and silkiness with a lingering finish.
Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Rancho La Viña Vineyard 2019: The vineyard consists of sandy soils and small clusters. This pinot aged in 50% new French oak and 50% neutral oak for 15 months. The soft integrated qualities of this wine intrigued me.
Albert Bichot Gevrey-Chambertin Domaine Du Clos Frantin: The vineyard consists of marl-based soils with gravel on the surface, giving Pinot Noir elegance, while clayey marls filled with shellfish fossils provide body and firmness to the wine. The wine ages in oak barrels for 14 to 16 months, of which 20 -30% represents new oak. The wine displays aromas of ripe fruit and opens to a silky well-balanced finish.
Best Wine 2022 Cabernet Sauvignon
Titus Vineyard 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley: This wine utilizes two clones, 337 and See. Clone 337 has less extraction, while the See clone offers grapes with thicker skins, more herbal notes, and red fruit, creating a wine with a more traditional style. This Cabernet consists of Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Merlot. The Malbec and Petite Verdot come through. The wine ages 20 months in French and Hungarian Oak with 60 percent new oak. I found a wine with more concentration, bright fruit, and pepper on the finish.
Titus Vineyard 2019 Family Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: The grapes come from the Ehlers Lane Vineyard. Those vineyards are situated on a knoll, lying near the base of the hills. This location is more challenging because the soils are rockier. The vines produce small berries with lower yields and, thereby, more concentrated. The wine combines 90 percent Cabernet with Petit Verdot and aged for 22 months in French oak. I found this wine more brooding with black currant, mocha, and espresso flavors.
Matthiasson Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018: In addition to the Cabernet Sauvignon, a tiny portion of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot was added to the mix. The Cabernet comes from six vineyards and three AVAs throughout Napa Valley. Coombsville adds structure and black fruit, Rutherford adds savory character and bright fruit, and the Oak Knoll gives the wine its soft fruit qualities. I discovered an elegant Cabernet Sauvignon with softer tannins and the epitome of Napa Valley character.
Hoopes Vineyard 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley: This wine combines Cabernet Sauvignon with a small amount of Merlot. The Cabernet ages 28 months in 45% new French oak. I found an easy wine to pair with food. On the palate, I discovered a smooth, balanced, and well-rounded wine with flavors of blueberries accented with mushrooms.
Deer Hill Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon: The wine showcases dark fruit and lower tannins.
Best Wine 2022 Cabernet Franc
Titus Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2019: This wine blends Cabernet Franc with a small portion of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec. The Cabernet Franc grapes come from a cooler area of the vineyard. Each variety ferments separately and is brought together at six months. The wine ages from 18 – 20 months in both French, Hungarian and American Oak, with 50 percent being new oak. American oak represents 10-15 percent of the oak used. Hungarian oak is tighter-grained and brings a softness to the wine. The wine exhibited depth with flavors of blackberries mixed with a savory component and accents of pepper on the finish.
Ehlers Estate Cabernet Franc 2019: The Cabernet Franc comes from two blocks with rocky soil. The wine ages 22 months in 70% new French Oak. I found aromas of violets, dry spices, and herbs, while on the palate, I found dark ripe fruit with savory spices on the mid-palate. This full-bodied wine is well-balanced, rich, and velvety, with lots of layers and depth.
J. Wilkes Cabernet Franc Paso Robles Highlands 2020: The wine showcases a lighter quality than most Cabernet Francs. Its bright demeanor of red fruits made for an enjoyable, drinkable wine. This wine ages for ten months in 40 percent new French oak.
Best Wine 2022 Malbec
Pyros Limestone Hill Malbec 2018: The grapes come from the “Limestone Hill” plot. The wine ages in 1, 2, and 3-year-old oak, 50% French and 50% American oak, for 12 months, after which the wine ages another 12 months in bottle. With its silky tannins, this bold yet elegant wine showcases red fruits accented by herbs and floral notes. The wine is complex and speaks to the limestone soils of Pedernal Hill.
Domaine Bousquet Alavida Malbec 2021: Like its name, the wine is vibrant with flavors of blackberry. The wine has an earthy quality, known to Malbecs from Argentina. The wine also has good acidity.
Secreto De Viu Manent Malbec 2019: Being called Secreto, one wonders what the secret varietal is blending with Malbec. Secreto presents itself as not your typical Malbec. The grapes come from the Valle De Colchagua in Chile, which consists of Piedmont soils. Approximately 36% of the wine ages for ten months in French oak barrels, with the rest held in stainless steel and concrete tanks that promotes the fruitiness and freshness of the wine. One finds aromas of red fruits on the nose. On the palate, find a balanced wine with fresh red fruits.
Best Wine 2022 Other Reds
Deer Hill Vineyards Sangiovese: This wine delivers rustic qualities of red fruit.
Kerrville Hills 2019 Tannat: This wine represents Kerrville Hills’ flagship wine. The wine features ripe high acid and displays ripe fruit. I recommend pairing this wine with food. The grapes come from Texas Hill Country’s Pedernales River Valley vineyard. The wine ages 21 months with 1/3 new American oak. I found a rich and bold wine with flavors of vanilla and ripe dark fruits.
Kerrville Hills 2019 Petite Sirah: Europeans call Petite Sirah Durif. Durif grapes grow in Australia, California, and France. In this case, the wine is atypical of most Petite Sirahs, especially those in California. The grapes come from Newsom Vineyards in the Texas High Plains. The Petite Sirah ages 31 months in neutral, 1/3 American Oak. The wine denotes acidity and minerality. I found a wine that becomes fruitier as it sits. I loved the development over two days. This full-bodied and rich wine display rustic flavors of blueberry, pepper, and spice.
Terranoble Carmenere 2018: The grapes come from 25-plus-year-old vines in the Maule Valley of Chile at the foot of the Andes Mountains that contain clayey soils that are volcanic and colluvial in composition. Most of the wine ages in previously used French oak, with 30% being untoasted foudre for 12 months. The wine has a savory component, emphasizing the black and red fruits with spices and fresh mint. Hints of chocolate and mocha accent the round tannins of this wine.
Batasiolo Barolo DOCG Cerequio: This Barolo comes from the La Morra province. The wine exhibits a lighter style and an elegance, which I prefer. I found flavors of tart cherry.
Batasiolo Barolo DOCG Boscareto: The vineyard lies in the Serralunga d’Alva commune. This wine displayed elegance and represents a more traditional Barolos from Batasiolo in terms of structure and ageability.
Unico is the iconic flagship wine of Vega Sicilia Unico 2012. This wine is created with grapes grown on plots located between slopes, an area of wasteland, and the alluvial plains. The soil nearest the surface comprises fine colluvial deposits from the hillside and small fragments of limestone. Quartz gravel lays beneath the main sandy soil. There are many angular limestone boulders on the surface.
Unico is one of the longest-aging wines, about ten years between oak and bottle. During different stages of the process, the wine ages in various types of barrels: American and French oak new and used 225-liter barrels and 20,000-litre vats. Each batch determines the type of oak and the time spent in each container. Typically, the wine spends six years in oak and four years in bottle. This vintage is fresh and concentrated wine with a silky finish.
Best Wine 2022 – Red Blends
Alma Sol 2018 Meritage: One of my favorites from Alma Sol, this Cabernet Sauvignon is enhanced with Petit Verdot and a smidgeon of Cabernet Franc. The grapes come from Estrella, Willow Creek, and the Adelaida Districts in Paso Robles. The wine ages 27 months in French oak with 75% new oak.
Alma Sol B & W 2016: Paying tribute to the winery owners Doxies, Bernie, and Wiley because the two helped establish the winery with their unconditional love. The Shaw’s donate a percentage of the proceeds from this wine to Dachshund Relief. The wine is a 50/50 blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine ages 27 months in American oak with 50% new oak. I found a very drinkable well-integrated, balanced wine with subtle and soft flavors of blueberry.
L’Ecole 2018 Pedigee: The wine is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. The wine ages for 22 months in 40% new French oak. The result is a wine that distinguishes cedar and dark fruit qualities, especially blackberry and boysenberry, accented with savory spices. I found aromas of blueberry, pepper, and cedar on the nose. Its elegance comes through with a velvety texture and a silky finish.
Meadow View Super T 2019: Combining Sangiovese with small portions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, the wine ages 20 months in French oak and represents Meadow View’s most popular wine, and I can see why. The wine displays a nice balance and integration with subtle fruit nuances.
Martinelle Rouge: Blending Grenache and Syrah from stony clay and limestone soils, the wine is smooth with nice depth and body. The Grenache dominated the palate.
Château Pesquié, Silica Rouge: The wine consists of Grenache and Cinsault. The name refers to an element used in biodynamic farming. The grapes ferment and age 12 to 15 months in 60% barrels and 25% in a concrete egg. On the nose, find red berries. On the palate, find a bright, elegant red wine with silky tannins and flavors of red berries.
Chêne Bleu Abélard Rouge 2013: This blend of primarily Grenache from 80-year-old vines and Syrah from 65-year-old vines. The wine ages 18 months in French oak and showcased a rich, full-bodied wine with flavors of dark cherry and other black fruit
Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG 2020: This wine combines Nero D’Avola with Frappato. Cerasa means cherry in Sicilian. Those cherry flavors dominate this youthful wine, and the Frappato adds freshness. This vintage is very reminiscent of a Nebbiolo.
Adega De Borba Reserva 2015: This Alentejo wine combines Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, Argonez, and Catelão. This balanced, medium-bodied wine displays soft nuances of dark fruits, especially dark cherry, with hints of baking spices.
Ramon Bilbao Edición Limitada: This modern-style wine showcases the new approach to winemaking seen at some of the older wineries. The wine ages in French and American oak casks for 14 months, followed by ten months in bottle. With its ripe dark fruit profile, this full-bodied wine also has balsamic, sandalwood, and Eucalyptus notes.
Best Wine 2022 – Dessert Wine
Oremus Aszú 5: Aszú means wine of tears and is produced occasionally. It requires berries infected with Botrytis. The must is placed in a Gönc barrel, that is 136-litres, 3, 5, or 6 23-kg panniers known as a puttony in Hungarian. In this case, five baskets, puttonyos containing 25 KG of grapes, are added to the base must. These wines age in 136-litre Gönc and 220-litre Szerednye small barrels. The oak for these barrels comes from mountains bordering the region. The Aszú aging occurs in underground wineries dugout in the volcanic soil, aging for 2 to 3 years, followed by one year in bottle. I found a rich golden wine with flavors of apricot and honey.
Let’s raise our glasses and give cheer to the beginning of 2023. We are grateful for the new year with its optimism for excitement and, in the case of wine discovering new favorites. I look forward to sharing my new wine discoveries for 2023.
Happy New Year.
As typical in the wine industry, most of the wines listed in this article were hosted wine samples.