So, maybe you got a gift card or some cash over the holidays and you decide to treat yourself to an exceptional wine, something for a special occasion or maybe just a bottle you’ve always wanted but couldn’t afford. These are the best wines I tasted this year that I haven’t already reviewed.


You first impulse may be to pick up a highly coveted Napa Valley “cult Cabernet”. I suggest instead a Napa Valley classic Cabernet Sauvignon: 2013 Montelena “The Montelena Estate” ($160). Montelena’s Calistoga estate vineyard has been the source of top Napa Cab for 45 years. This one continues the tradition with intense aromas, deep fruit, savory notes, and the ability to age well at least 15 yeas.


For another typical expression of Napa Cabernet, this one at one-third the price, buy a 2014 Frank Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($53). Blended from several vineyards, it offers precocious, ripe fruit, rich texture, some earth, and soft tannins that drink well now but will allow years of development.


Or venture vicariously to Chile and find Concha y Toro’s icon wine, the2014 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon “Puente Alto Vineyard” ($125). It is named after the winery’s founder who established the vineyard in 1890 with cuttings from Bordeaux in a subregion of the Maipo Valley. The grapes are sourced from the best lots from their 127 hectares of vineyards in the Puente Alto, located at the foot of the Andes Mountains at 2145 feet. it is balanced and fresh, mouth filling and sophisticated. Complexity is at the center with its aromas and flavors beautifully integrated.


For Merlot lovers (or anybody who loves red wine) your search should begin with Duckhorn Vineyards, considered California’s premier Merlot producer for most of the last 40 years. The 2014 Three Palms Vineyard ($98), from the storied vineyard on the Napa Valley floor, offers layers of luscious red fruit with hints of toastand spice. Like previous vintages, it has begun life firm and structured but will develop additional character and complexity with a few years. As it turns out, this wine was named the Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year, which means it may be hard to find. In that case, don’t hesitate to pick up its sibling, the enticing, minerally, 2014 Atlas Peak ($75).


For those of you who prefer the purity and elegance of Pinot Noir, I have several fine ones for you. The Cobb family is one of the pioneers of Sonoma Coast wine grape farming, today one of California’s finest pinot noir growing areas. These three wines are, dare I say, Burgundian in style (that’s a good thing).


  • 2014 Coastlands Vineyard 1906 Block Pommard Clone ($80) rocky marine soils yield mineral, herbs, and earth
    2014 Emmaline Ann Vineyard ($75) high-toned fruit with herbs and spice
  • 2014 Rice-Spivak Vineyard ($75) inland location yields succulent, savory fruit


Two more Pinot Noirs (both biodynamically farmed) worth the effort: the complex, yet seamless 2014 Sea Smoke Ten ($82), a selection of ten clones from the estate vineyard the Sta. Rita Hills of Santa, Barbara County and the 2014 de Coelo Quintus ($75), a cool, rainy single vineyard in the Sonoma Coast appellation that melds marine qualities with silky texture.


For you Chardonnay lovers, you can’t do much better than these three wines by Sonoma-Loeb, each a different expression of the highly regarded Sangiacomo Vineyard in Sonoma’s Carneros region: 2015 El Novillero ($42) – fine depth and complexity, 2015 Envoy ($38) – richly layered tropical and spice, 2015 Envoy ($38) – brisk citrus and tropical fruit.


Finally, from Fontanafredda, two fantastic Barolo values (two words that don’t often go together). From one of the oldest wineries in the Piedmont (founded by Italy’s first king in 1858), the single vineyard 2013 Barolo Serralunga d’Alba ($45) shows powerful, intense nebbiolo fruit with a firm structure and ageability. The regionally sourced 2013 Barolo ($30) is not as intense but is packed with lovely fruit and earthy notes. it is still plenty complex.



About Rich

I first became interested in wine while I worked in numerous liquor stores during college in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. In the years following college, I researched, tasted, traveled to vineyards in California and Europe, participated in countless tastings. I began writing about wine in 1995 with a column in Out Front Colorado. For me, wine is more than a drink. It is food. It is a connection to the earth. It is culture. There is just something amazing, even magical, about the transformation of grapes into wine. It is also remarkable how drinking wine with food enhances the taste and enjoyment of both. Appreciation of wine has become an integral part of my approach to life, which emphasizes balance, respect for nature, physical and emotional health, and an appreciation of our nature as social beings. In 2006, I was awarded a fellowship to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers.