Final 2017 Sample Update: The Top 30 That Turned My Head in this Tasting

Share This Post



It looks like I have a New Year Resolution and that’s to get a little faster about reporting on the samples that I’m sent.  This time I reviewed more than 65 wines and today I’m going to talk about more than 30 that made the list.  Note that these encompass a number of countries, price ranges, styles and types of wines.  Some are special occasion, some are meant to open with Tuesday night pizza (or salads if you are on the same get back to reality plan that I’m working toward after the holidays).

Anyway, I hope you had a fabulous holiday season and cheers to a wonderful 2018!



2016 Dry Creek Vineyard Fume Blanc – notes of lemon, lime, tangerine, lemongrass and herbs.  This has great acidity, nice flintiness and a balanced minerality.

2016 Atlantis Albarino – notes of green apple, tropical fruit, herbs and minerality.  A refreshing Albarino wine.


2016 Matua Sauvignon Blanc – notes of tropical, stone fruit, lime and herbs.


2016 Terlato Pinot Grigio – this wine had a complexity that I am not used to in Pinot Grigio wines.  This one had notes of peach, apricot, pear, white flowers with a nice minerality that made me want more.


2015 Scott Family Chardonnay – a traditional Chardonnay with notes of pear, apricot, citrus, lemon zest, vanilla and oak.


2016 Stoller Chardonnay — from the family estate in Oregon, Stoller wines are made focusing exclusively on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  The 373-acre farm has been in Bill Stoller’s family since 1943.  The family planted its 200 acres in 1993 and the vineyards are known for volcanic soils as well as being the largest contiguous vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA.  This was my first opportunity to taste the wines and I was impressed.  The Chardonnay was Old World in its profile with stone fruit, Meyer lemon and tropical fruit with a nice mineral balance that made the bottle disappear quickly.  This was a non-Chardonnay Lover’s Chardonnay.



2012 Château de Pitray Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux – notes of cassis, black cherry, pepper, black currant, sage and earth.  A well-priced and delicious Bordeaux at $15.99.


2012 Chateau Le Grand Moulin Cotes de Bordeaux – notes of chocolate, plum, licorice, earth, herbs and blueberry.


2013 Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon – this is a big Napa Cabernet.  I tasted blackberry, rhubarb pie, Asian spice, licorice, cassis, chocolate and spice.

2014 Capezzana Barco Reale di Camignano – priced at under $15, this Italian steal has black cherry, blackberry and cassis along with herbs and spice. I really enjoyed this wine.

2015 Cusumano Nero d’Avola – notes of red fruit, black cherry, violet, juniper and spice.

2014 Pertinance Barbera D’ Alba – lots of red fruit like raspberry and cherry along with spice and vanilla.

2014 Masi Campofiorin Rosso del Veronese – notes of red and black fruit, Christmas spice, chocolate, licorice and herbal notes.  I enjoyed the depth and elegance of this wine.

2013 Flora Springs Ghost Winery Red Wine – we opened this on Halloween for our neighborhood adult “trick or treat” party as our 12-year-old had better plans and it impressed.

Flora Springs has three special Halloween-themed labels created by CD-cover artist Wes Freed.  The blend is 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 17% Syrah, 8% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc.  I tasted lots of juicy fruit, dark chocolate, mocha, herbs and oak.  It was the first bottle to go.

2015 Michel Gassier Cercius Cotes du Rhone Villages Red – I tasted blackberry, cassis, black cherry, licorice and herbal notes.

2013 Francois Baur Schlittweg Pinot Noir – juicy red berries, cherry, flowers and herbs.   I really enjoyed this wine and will definitely will be seeking Pinot Noirs from Alsace in the future.

2013 Lamole Lamole Chianti Classico Riserva – black cherry, flowers, flint and herbs.  A classic take on Sangiovese.

2013 Lodi Ave Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel – while I was able to get a small taste, my two-brother-in-laws commandeered this bottle over Christmas.  From the Scotto Cellars family, this Zinfandel had notes of red and black fruit, chocolate, spice and mocha.  It was a well-balanced Zinfandel that represented Lodi well.

2015 Left Coast Latitude 45° Pinot Noir –  notes of black cherry, chamomile tea, cinnamon, cedar and spice.

2014 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Benchlands – a symphony of blackberry, cassis, black cherry, mocha, Asian spice, plum and licorice.  This is an elegant and well balanced special occasion wine that was immediately drinkable.

2014 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga – same grape, different terroir.  I tasted the same black fruit, but with notes of vanilla and leather.  This wine, however, needed some more time to age and develop.


2016 Stoller Pinot Noir Rosé – from the family estate in Oregon, Stoller wines are made focusing exclusively on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  The rosé was delicious with notes of grapefruit, tropical fruits and a great minerality.


NV Gallimard Père & Fils Champagne Cuvée de Reserve Brut – pear, apples, orange peel and brioche.  This was a delicious champagne that is very well priced in its category.


NV Gratien & Meyer Cremant de Loire Brut Rosé – under $15, this sparkle offers red berry, citrus and a nice minerality.  Very enjoyable.

Special Groups

Wines of Navarra

I had the opportunity to taste several bottles from the Navarra Denominación de Origen (DO) of Spain, which is located right below France.  The terroir is a series of valleys and mountains in Northern Spain.  Navarra is known for its climatic diversity and microclimates.  Once known for Garnacha-based Rosado, but with French varieties being introduced in 1980, the region now has a variety of wines including Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Here are my favorites that I tried and I have to note that the last two are under $10, which make them a great bargain:

Courtesy of Wines of Navarra

2015 Principe de Viana Edicion Rosé – this was an easy drinking rosé with notes of cherry, strawberry, nectarine and citrus.

2015 Ochoa Calendas Bianco – a blend of 50% Chardonnay, 43% Viura, and 7% Moscatel de Grano Menudo. Notes of stone fruit, citrus, peaches, pears, flowers and minerality burst from the glass.

Courtesy of Wines of Navarra

2014 Vega del Castillo Garnacha Cepas Viejas 2014 – Lots of black cherries, raspberries, violets, spice.

Australian Wines

I missed the Australia Up Close Seminar in Dallas in June, where winemakers visited five cities to talk about the diverse wines, regions and styles that personify Australia.  Australia has some of the world’s oldest shiraz and Grenache vineyards in South Australia’s Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.  Hunter Valley is known as the country’s oldest wine growing region with more than 150 wineries producing world-class wines.  The theme of Dallas’ event was Australian Shiraz from Coast to Coast, so my samples reflected that diversity.

2012 Henry’s Drive Shiraz, Pathaway – notes of dark chocolate, black fruit, pencil lead, smoke, vanilla and menthol.  This was a well-balanced and very drinkable Shiraz.

2013 Campbells Bobbie Burns Shiraz – notes of dark fruit, pepper, licorice, mocha and chocolate.  This was a big wine.

2013 Wakefield St Andrews Syrah – this was the most complex and layered wine that I tasted.  Notes of dark berry, chocolate, spice, herbs, mocha and oak.

Carménère Day

In honor of Carménère Day, I was sent several bottles to explore the differences of this unique grape.  Carménère is a red wine that originated in Bordeaux, France, and now grows almost only in Chile.  The grape was actually once thought to be Merlot when it was first transported into Chile.

My two favorites were:

2012 Santa Rita Medalla Real Carménère – black fruit, dark chocolate, spice with notes of leather and notes of cedar.

2014 Alcance Carménère – this wine was incredibly smooth with lots of red and black fruit, exotic spice, mocha and minerality.

Share This Post

You May Also Like