Beckoning in the New Year, I like to revisit those wines I sampled in 2018, which made a lasting and stellar wine impression. Here are the exceptional wines and wineries that merit recognition. Furthermore, the wines chosen are those wowed me, and I wrote about throughout 2018. I will also share the two winemakers that set an outstanding example of meeting the challenges of winemaking by standing out amongst their peers.
Winemaker of the Year
In 2018 I found two winemakers merit Cori’s winemaker of the year. I will begin with a woman, Susan Danenberg, Danenberg Family Wines, who I think has made an impact on the wine industry and also to the region she represents. Overcoming breast cancer, going to UC Davis after changing careers, Susan has the tenacity to encourage more women to go into the wine industry.
During a visit to the Willamette Valley in an area known as the Tualatin Valley, I discovered Andrew Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard, a man who combined his two passions art and wine and has created an exciting venture with Amphora wine. Not only does he make the wines, but Andrew creates the amphorae for his wine. His success will inspire others to take the challenge of producing amphora wine.
Stellar Wine From 2018:
Note other than the categories; I placed the wine in no particular order. They are all stellar wine in their own right.
Volcan Mountain Winery Pomme D’Amour Sparkling Apple Wine 2016 – The wine utilized 18 varieties of apples and produced like a wine using the Charmat method. I found a very refreshing wine, especially on a hot summer day. You would not know the wine was made with apples.
Backsberg Kosher Brut 2017 – Like most sparkling South African wine, the Brut utilizes Méthode Cap Classique, MCC, which signifies the South African sparkling wine created in the traditional method. I found a very well balanced Brut consisting of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Velenosi Winery Vernaccia di Serrapetrona DOCG 2016 – This unique sparkling wine ferments three times. Fifty percent of the grapes ferment like most red wines. Another 50% are dried and then fermented. Later, the two parts come together to ferment a third time in an autoclave for 9 – 10 months. I found the wine remarkably stellar with its red fruit flavors.
Bushong Rosé 2016 – This Rosé blends Grenache and Tempranillo into an exceptionally refreshing wine. The Grenache imparts flavors of Strawberries, while the Tempranillo delivers subtle tartness to the wine. Think strawberries meet cranberries.
Day Owl Rosé 2017: I found this wine unique because it utilizes the Barbera grape. I found fruity scents of pear and peaches and bright and vibrant with refreshing flavors of stone fruit, peaches, and apricot, along with red fruit and hints of citrus.
Harney Lane Dry Rosé 2017 – This Rosé combines Zinfandel, Tempranillo, and Petite Sirah to bring forth a balanced and well-integrated wine that will please anyone’s palate. I found a bright, fresh, and crisp wine with aromas of roses, citrus, and peach, and flavors of strawberry.
Markus Wine Co. 2017 Zeal Rosé – The Rosé blends Syrah primarily with Carignane. On the nose, I found fresh scents, while on the palate, the wine is fruity with flavors of raspberry and peach, making this a clean and bright Rosé.
Domaine Bousquet Rosé 2018 – The wine blends Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Gris. This high-altitude Argentine Rosé from the Uco Valley exhibits a bright yet fresh fruity wine with flavors of strawberry, cherries, and peach.
Beronia Rosé 2017 – Find a blend of Garnache and Tempranillo mixed with a bit of Viura. The wine reminds me of Provence, so I call it Provence in Spain. One finds a crisp, bright, and fresh Rosé that emphasizes citrus, stone fruit, and florals.
Urban Rosé de Provence -Think French perfume meets Rosé wine, making the wine. This PDO Côtes de Provence wine combines Cinsault, Syrah, and Grenache. One finds a light opalesque colored Rosé.On the nose, the wine delivers aromas of lavender, florals, and stone fruit. The flavors are citrus with some spice on the finish.
Left Coast Estate White Pinot Noir 2017 – The wine is bright, refreshing, and clean with aromas of citrus and a palate of citrus and stone fruit. The wine reminds me of a Rhone blend.
Steven Kent Winery Ragbag WineWorks Albariño 2017 – The grapes come from Bokisch Terra Alta Vineyard in Lodi. Find a lively wine that is crisp yet has density. The floral aromas accent the tropical fruit, citrus, and grass found on the nose. On the palate, flavors of citrus, stone fruit, and guava mixed in with some nice spices, including herbal spice on the finish.
Kabola Unica 2015 – This Malvazija Istriana ages in natural oak and exhibits flavors of peach and other stone fruits.
Cà Lojera Lugana Superiore 2014 – This wine seemed more complex with structure due to fermentation in large Slovenian barrels before aging for a year in stainless steel. The wine displayed flavors of honey and acacia.
Sassoregale Vermentino 2016 – From Maremma Toscana DOC, the wine on the palate delivers citrus and stone fruit flavors, giving way to a nice spice on the finish. This wine has the right balance between acidity and minerality.
Swanson Vineyards Pinot Grigio San Benito 2016 – Find an aromatic wine with white flowers and Meyer lemon on the nose, and the wine displays more texture because of its viscosity. Lemon and melon flavors prevail.
Uvaggio Vermentino reminded me of those I sampled in Tuscany. One finds herbaceous aromas and flavors of citrus, primarily lemon, while the quality proves the excellence of this wine.
Yount Ridge Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2016 – The wine displays a bright-understated demeanor and flavors of citrus and stone fruit.
Ktima Gerovassiliou Malagousia 2015 – One finds a well-integrated wine with floral aromas and citrus notes. This wine is partially barrel fermented.
Trivento’s White Orchid – This wine blends Torrente with a small percentage of Pinot Grigio. I found aromas of fresh fruit, white flower, and honeysuckle, while on the palate, there was tropical fruit, Grapefruit, stone fruit, and a bit of honey. The latter gives the wine its sweetness on the finish.
Turtle Rock Vineyards Willow White – The wine combines Grenache Blanc with Roussanne, Picpoul, and Viognier. The wine ages in 20% new French oak, while the remainder ages in stainless steel and neutral French Oak. This refreshing wine displayed flavors of stone fruit and honeysuckle.
St Innocent Winery Oeil De Perdrix 2016 – Oeil de Perdrix means Partridge’s Eyes in French and originally described a pale pink Rosé made in Switzerland. In St Innocent’s version, the white Pinot Noir grapes are picked early, pressed off their skins, and fermented in stainless steel.
Beckham Estate Vineyard A.D. Beckham Amphora Pinot Gris 2015 – Leaving the skins on creates a Rosé effect to this wine. It reminded me of Ramato, where winemakers macerate the juice on the skins. In this case, it is Pinot Gris rather than Pinot Grigio. The Amphora gives the wine some earthy qualities. The wine exhibits subtle fruit, almost like raisins, yet the wine is very refreshing.
Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – This wine is probably one of the best vintages coming from the Puente Alta vineyard. The wine speaks for itself with its rich, velvety texture accented by the dark fruit, black fruit, and mocha flavors. The integration and complexity of the wine is superb.
Trivento Eola Malbec 2014 – This wine represents the most outstanding wine produced in the Trivento lineup. I found a rich, full-bodied wine with flavors of blackberry pie, dark cherry, dark chocolate, and tobacco.
Lucas & Lewellen’s 2015 Toccata Classico – The wine superbly ingratiates you with the Super Tuscan style. The wine combines Sangiovese primarily with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Freisa, and Petit Verdot to create a balance that meshes all the varieties together seamlessly. I found a soft yet smoothly balanced wine that exhibits dried herbs, perhaps sage on the nose. Leather, tobacco, and cherry also accent the aromas. The wine displayed an earthy quality that includes flavors of cherry and some spice on the finish.
Viñas Del Vero Secastilla Garnache 2010 – The vineyards are located in the Secastilla Valley in the northeastern portion of the Somontano region, which is an area known for its Garnache. The wine reveals a nose of tobacco and mocha, yet its deep color enhances the smooth and rich textures of the wine. I found stewed fruit, raisins, and currants on the palate.
Mandeville Vineyards Malbec/Cabernet Blend 2016 – The wine consists primarily of Malbec. I could smell the Malbec. The wine aged in a breathable container for ten months with French oak sleeves followed by one year in bottle. The wine delivers a rich, full-bodied structure that is both silky and velvety in texture. I found dark fruits accented by some hints of mocha and tobacco.
Mandeville Vineyards Reserve Malbec and Cabernet Blend 2016 – Again the composition of the wine is primarily Malbec but this wine ages 20 months in new French Oak Barrels.
Danenberger Family Wines Carmin Cab Franc 2013 – This wine from Illinois was flawless and a winner. In that year the grapes hung on the vine longer because it was a drought year. The wine itself is rich and smooth and well developed.
Grgić Plavac Mali 2015 – This wine portrays a bright and spicy balance with the same characteristics that one finds in the Grgich Hills wine.
Hertelendy Vineyards Signature Mountain Blend 2015 – This wine consists of primarily Merlot with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. I found the wine very drinkable and bright. With aromas of florals and cinnamon, the wine finished with flavors of cinnamon and spice.
Peter Zemmer Rolhut Pinot Noir, Alto Adige DOC – This Pinot blew me away and my first from this region. The wine is seamless and perfect in all aspects. One finds elegance in this wine with a soft velvety quality to its style. The wine is very drinkable, smooth, and balanced. I found fruity flavors of red fruit.
Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2014 – The wine exhibits a nose of cocoa, lavender and bright red fruits. Ultimately the wine’s ripe raspberry flavors transform into softer and subtler hints of stewed fruit and white pepper.
Amalaya Malbec 2016 – This Malbec comes from the Salta Region of Argentina, but the uniqueness of the wine is the addition of Tannat and Petit Verdot that integrates and forms an Argentinean version of a Bordeaux blend. The wine exhibits smooth, velvety and round textures with flavors of plum accented by bright red fruit.
Ventisquero 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon. This very drinkable wine reveals aromas of berries and pepper with some earthy qualities. Flavors include red fruit and blackberries, pepper, and cumin. There is a nice spiciness on the finish.
Anglim Guy James Syrah Willow Creek District 2013 – I loved how this Syrah was not overpowering. The subtleties of the wine bring out the character of this nicely balanced wine with mild hints of spices.
Markus Wine Company Domo – The wine features Carignan blended with Petit Sirah and Syrah. Though lighter in body, the wine holds its own in-depth and quality and represents a testament to winemaker, Markus Niggli’s, talents. The wine displays flavors of plum and cherry.
Domaine de Bila-Haut L’esquerda 2016 – From the Languedoc, Côte du Roussillon region of France this wine combines Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan. One knows that the Syrah is the dominant grape in this wine because I could definitely taste the Syrah. The wine is smooth yet rich with flavors of plum, mocha, thyme, and white pepper.
Nals Margreid Galea Schiava 2017- Schiava, an indigenous grape from the Alta Adige Südtirol region, is also known as Trollinger or Vernatsch. I found the wine to be light and tart with flavors of cranberry and sour cherry. During the summer, this wine can be served chilled. During the winter this varietal ideally pairs with turkey. The wine almost reminds me of a very dark colored Rosé.
Beckham Estate Vineyard A.D. Beckham Amphora Grenache 2016 – The wine ferments in amphora and ages in both amphora and neutral French oak producing a lighter Grenache that smooth and balanced.
Alloro Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015: I found a soft and elegant Pinot that revealed nice spices on the finish.
Grant James Malbec – This wine comes off as a lighter Malbec but excellently balanced and integrated. The nose is tobacco and dark fruit, and on the palate, I found mocha and dark fruit.
Ramona Ranch Vineyard and Winery Tannat 2014 – I found the wine very together and drinkable. The wine is big and bright and created with estate-grown grapes.
Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2017 – Made from Muscat, the wine exhibits flavors of pear and stone fruit, especially apricot and is well worth discovering as it is the perfect ending to a meal.
Miraflores Botricelli 2010 – This wine from El Dorado County combines Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Infected with Botrytis, the wine is reminiscent of Sauternes. Not overly sweet, the wine has a luscious quality filled with honey and apricots.
Wente Orange Muscat 2015 – We ended our dinner with this aromatically fragrant wine that displays flavors of honey and apricots.
Alloro Vineyard Nettare Dessert 2016 – This dessert wine consists of late harvest Muscat created as an ice type wine. The wine has marvelous flavors of florals and stone fruit that exudes subtle sweetness making it an ideal dessert wine.
Milagro Farm Winery Aleatico 2012 – The Aleatico exhibits a rustic quality yet is very refined. Flavors of raisins dominate.
I am looking forward to exploring new wines, wineries and visiting new places in 2019. Discovering the new stellar wine gems of the wine industry is an exhilarating and challenging way to start the year.
Happy New Year!