My Top Wines of the Year

The Short List of What Not to Miss


I am so excited to tell you about these wines—wines that we fell in love with this past year. Some are expensive, but they are all so good that just a single bottle becomes a lasting memory. While we tasted a bunch of great wines from around the world, for this list, I’ve decided to share wines in just two categories—Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignons. (Plus one superb Chardonnay and a fantastic Cabernet Franc). The wines below are wines that stopped me in my tracks with their beauty, complexity, and aliveness. I hope you’ll treat yourself to one (or more) of these soon. God knows we all deserve to.

 

RESONANCE “Résonance Vineyard” Pinot Noir 2019 (Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, OR) $70

This was one of the most deeply seductive Pinot Noirs I tasted all year. The complex earthy/umami flavors pull you down into some primordial world of pure hedonism. The wine’s texture is silk draped over velvet.  The core of the wine is rich and spicy. Elegance abounds.

 

PEAY “Scallop Shelf” Pinot Noir 2019 (Sonoma Coast, CA) $79

The gently rolling Peay vineyard lies about as far out on the wild, cold Sonoma Coast as you can get. The winery—a small family venture—makes elegant wines that are alive with cool freshness and violet, raspberry, and persimmon. Cerebral Pinot at its best.

 

DOMAINE SERENE “Grace Vineyard” Pinot Noir 2019 (Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, OR) $225

Domaine Serene packs tons of sheer deliciousness into Pinot Noir. Cherries jubilee. Vanilla bean. A savory sense of espresso. Lots of layers and long waves of flavor. And yet for all that richness of fruit, the wine comes off with great sophistication.

 

LITTORAI “The Haven” Pinot Noir 2019 (Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, CA) $175

Ted Lemon (an ardent practitioner of biodynamics and generative viticulture) makes 11 site-specific Pinot Noirs, mostly from the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley. Ethereal and nearly aerial, they are Pinot Noirs that fairly levitate with elegance and subtlty. Refined beauty is the key here. The Haven vineyard is poised 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean.

 

BEAUX FRÈRES “The Belles Sœurs” Pinot Noir 2019 (Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, OR) $95

Co-owner Mike Etzel (brother-in-law of the critic Robert Parker) taught himself to make wine, and taught his son Mikey (now the winemaker) as well. The Pinots are always beautifully plush, with spiced red cherry flavors woven through them like satin ribbons. They burst with coolness and freshness.

 

ANTICA TERRA “Antikythera” Pinot Noir 2019 (Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, OR) $175

Antica Terra is a small artisanal producer of beautifully rich Pinots that rush at you in waves of flavor—spices, wet black earth, juicy red fruits, bitter dark chocolate, plus an electrical current of minerals that race through the wine. The “energy” is simply captivating.

 

00 “VGW” Chardonnay 2017 (Willamette Valley, OR) $79

Lawyer-turned-winemaker Chris Hermann is a Francophile and his love of uber rich white Burgundy shows in his own Chardonnays which are as luscious and decadent as they come. Honied, buttery, lavish. Plus sparks of minerality.

 

STAG’S LEAP WINE CELLARS “Cask 23” Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, CA) $295

When it comes to making exquisite Cabernets, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars has one of the longest track records in the country. Vintages from the 1970s are still tasting extraordinary. The 2018 is a classic “iron fist in a velvet glove” Cabernet with a majestic structure and core of breathtaking richness.

 

MACDONALD Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (Oakville, Napa Valley, CA) $999

The tiny MacDonald vineyard sits on one of the original sections of Napa’s famous To- Kalon vineyard. And the Cabernet channels To-Kalon’s power and intensity like a lightning rod. Mad rushes of power. Very pure flavors.  Shockingly expensive and superbly complex.

 

BELLA OAKS Proprietary Red 2019 (Napa Valley, CA) $295

This wine is a stunning first “new chapter” for the once great Napa Valley vineyard and winery which have been revitalized by wine collector/art historian Suzanne Deal Booth. Velvety and languorously slow on the palate, it’s a Cabernet-dominant blend that’s intensely beautiful, rich, and vivid.

 

OPUS ONE 2019 (Napa Valley, CA) $390

The first California/France joint venture wine (in 1979) Opus, like Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, is a blue chip Napa classic with a strong track record. The 2019 is one of the best recent vintages. As soft as fine Italian leather. Flavors that build on the palate then explode like fireworks. A finish that doesn’t.

 

ADAMVS “ADAMVS” 2016 (Napa Valley, CA) $360

This tiny biodynamic producer on Howell Mountain makes luscious, elegant wines full of cassis, spice, and licorice flavors. Double velvet texture. Majestic structure. Alive with a wonderful underlying sense of freshness.

 

GARGIULO “575 OVX” Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (Oakville, Napa Valley, CA) $325

You could almost throw a baseball from the rolling knolls of Gargiulo’s vineyard into next-door neighbor Screaming Eagle’s vineyard. The top wine—575 OVX—is rich with a decadent through-line of dark chocolate and espresso. Layered, long, and hedonistic.

 

DETERT Cabernet Franc 2019 (Oakville, Napa Valley, CA) $95

Cabernet Franc is the most expensive red grape in California, and this year we more or less outdid ourselves by trying to taste every Cabernet Franc wine in the state. Small family winery Detert—whose vineyards are within Napa’s historic To-Kalon vineyard—came out among the best with dark sensual flavors and thrilling sleekness and power.

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