Each fall we go thru our higher end red submission with the idea that we would post the winners before Christmas. Well this fall we got to all of the older vintages and most of the 2012’s. We will tackle the 2013 vintage in the early part of the New Year. Below you will find a comprehensive list of the wines that scored between 95 and 92 points. You will also find that there are several types of wines on the list. You will also be pleased to know that some of these wines are below our typical $50 and up price point for this list. So what were our winners?
This year, our top two wines were awarded 95 points. Both are top notch wines, but both cost a pretty penny. That said the 2012 Alpha Omega “ERA” Cabernet Sauvignon for $200 was the top scoring wine and clear winner in our big blind tasting. This beauty is full bodied, nicely balanced, rich, smooth and refined. The panel loved its very tasty black currant flavors with notes of oak and black cherry. We also detected some hints of minerality and blueberry in this complex blend. The panel suggested slowly sipping this gem with a filet mignon while enjoying a very special dinner.
Our second 95 point winner is the 2011 Shafer “Hillside Select” Cabernet Sauvignon for $250. It is an unbelievable wine given the vintage. It was by far the best 2011 California Cabernet that I covered. Bravo! It is medium bodied, balanced, and very smooth with some delicious blueberry and black cherry flavors. I also detected hints of black currant and nicely integrated gentle oak. This is a spectacular wine to try if you can afford it. It is a true masterpiece given the vintage.
This fall we came up with seven 94 point wines. In our system, 94 points is considered Excellent. We open the list with four grapes you might not predict. A Syrah, two Pinots and a Sangiovese. So our first 94 pointer is a Washington State Syrah. The 2012 Gramercy Cellars “The Deuce” for $52 is impressive. It is full bodied, balanced, and rich with delicious blackberry and blueberry flavors with notes of oak and black olive. Everyone that tried this wine a Del Frisco’s loved it.
The next 2 wines are two Excellent Pinot Noirs. We open with the 2012 Foretell “Fort Ross-Seaview” Pinot for $75. It is medium bodied, rich, and savory. I really liked its very tasty and complex plum and ripe black raspberry flavors with notes of nicely integrated gentle oak, minerality, blueberry and black pepper. It is a very food friendly Pinot and will be a huge hit with your friends. Another great Pinot is the 2012 Goldeneye “Gowen Creek” Pinot Noir for $82. It is full bodied, super smooth, and nicely coats your mouth. I loved its delicious gentle cherry-cola flavors with nicely integrated mild vanilla oak and hints of blueberry and spice. I would pair this gem with a filet mignon at an anniversary dinner.
It is not often, that I get to cover great Italian wines, but I did get the chance to cover the 2011 Isole e Olena “Cepparello” this year. It costs $90 per bottle and is worth every penny. I found it to be medium bodied, balanced, lush and fruit forward. It displays delicious ripe black cherry flavors with integrated old oak and minerality. This is a very refined red wine and would be perfect to cuddle up by the fireplace with sharp cheddar cheese this winter.
Our final three 94 pointers are big boys from the Napa Valley. We will start with the 2012 “Annum” Cabernet Sauvignon from Ramey for $100. This excellent Cab was very well received by our mini-group. It is full bodied, balanced and fruit forward. We really liked its complex blend of boysenberry and black raspberry flavors with notes spice, blueberry, black licorice, minerality, mocha and faint oak. It is very food friendly and would pair well with filet mignon.
This very dark ruby Merlot based blend from Blackbird is another Excellent wine. Their 2012 Illustration is made from 64% Merlot and 34% Cab Franc and & 2% Cab. The finished blend is a delicious black cherry and black currant flavored wine with beautifully integrated refined minerality, mild oak and a hint of black raspberry. This offering would be a perfect match with a dry-aged ribeye.
Our last Excellent 94 point wine is the 2012 Robert Mondavi “To Kalon Vineyard Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon” for $155. This gem from Mondavi rocked the panel and finished in second place in our big blind tasting. It is full bodied, very well balanced, and smooth. The panel loved its terrific black cherry and black currant flavors with wonderfully integrated mild minerality, dark chocolate, and oak. It closes with dry and refined tannins that sail away and are very lengthy. The panel suggested pairing this beauty with Emeril’s Steak Diane.
As we get into of 93 and 92 point Very Good plus wines, we also get a chance to offer you some wines under the $50 mark. Our first grouping of these wines is our 93 pointers. We have eight of these very nice wines to suggest. We will give a quick teaser on these wines.
Zuccardi 2012 Bonarda “Emma” (Mendoza, Argentina) $38 (93)
This pitch black Bonarda is terrific. It is full bodied, balanced, rich and silky. I really loved its tasty blueberry and gentle oak blend with notes of mild blackberry. This big and rich wine is very hedonistic. Fan of this style of wine are going to love it. Perfect for the fireplace this winter.
Valentin Bianchi 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon “Enzo Bianchi” (Mendoza, Argentina) $55 (93)
This full bodied Cabernet from Argentina is impressive. Its flavor profile is a ripe blackberry and juicy blueberry blend with notes of nicely integrated minerality and hints of black plum and faint oak. It finishes with dry tannins and its flavors that stick around for a while. Perfect with a ribeye steak.
Dutton Goldfield 2013 Pinot Noir “Azaya Ranch” (Marin County, CA) $58 (93)
This Pinot Noir from Dutton Goldfield is fabulous. It is nicely balanced and really smooth. I loved its tasty mild red raspberry flavors with notes of plum and strawberry. Its flavors are nicely prolonged. An exceptionally food friendly Pinot. Pair it with pork tenderloin with plum chutney.
Talley 2013 Pinot Noir “Rincon” (Arroyo Grande, CA) $64 (93)
Talley made some terrific Pinot’s in the 2013 vintage! I found the Rincon to be refined and elegant. I loved its tasty mild strawberry flavors with hints of red plum and faint oak. It finishes with dry fine tannins and flavors that drift away nicely. Pair this finesse Pinot with wiener schnitzel.
Pax 2012 Syrah “Castelli-Knight Ranch” (Russian River, CA) $70 (93)
This Syrah from Pax really impressed our mini-tasting group. It definitely improves with a great deal with aeration. It is full bodied and smooth with concentrated blackberry and oak flavors. Also displays hints of dark chocolate, black currant, and espresso. Perfect fireplace wine.
E. Guigal 2011 “Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde” (France) $80 (93)
This Cote Rotie from Guigal is showing very well right now. It is medium bodied, balanced and very fruit forward. It displays ripe black raspberry flavors with a streak of minerality throughout. Some old oak and black plum as well. Pair with a New York strip steak
Caymus 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Special Selection” (Napa Valley, CA) $160 (93)
This Cabernet Sauvignon finished in 3rd place in our recent big blind tasting of High End Reds. It is full bodied, rich and smooth with concentrated black cherry and black raspberry flavors with notes of dark chocolate and hints of blueberry. Pair with roast duck by the fireplace.
Krupp Brothers 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “M5 Stagecoach Vineyard” (Napa) $165 (93)
Another top Cab from the recent blind tasting. It finished in 4th place. It’s full bodied, well balanced, and fruit forward. The panel loved its delicious cherry and cassis flavors with nicely integrated fine minerality and gentle vanilla oak. Dry moderate dusty tannins build up and linger.
We close with a very respectable list of twenty 92 points winners. Some of our best values are in the first few wines listed below.
Talley Vineyards 2013 Pinot Noir “Estate” (Arroyo Grande, CA) $36 (92)
A great value Pinot. Balanced and juicy. Tasty mild red plum flavors with notes of cherry-cola, blueberry and gentle vanilla oak. A very food friendly wine. Pair with pork tenderloin.
Robert Foley 2013 US Red “The Griffin” (CA) $38 (92)
A perfect winter fruit bomb. It displays tasty concentrated black cherry and black currant flavors with nicely integrated minerality and oak along with hints of blueberry. Long finish.
John Duval 2013 “Plexus” (Barossa Valley, Australia) $40 (92)
Aussie blend of mostly Shiraz is full bodied, slightly acidic, juicy and fruit forward. It displays a tasty blend of blackberry, boysenberry and gentle oak. It’s a pretty complex wine.
Carol Shelton 2012 Petite Sirah “Rocky Reserve” (Rockpile, CA) $40 (92)
I love Petite Sirah. This is a very good one. Full bodied, balanced, juicy and rich. Tasty blueberry and plum flavors with hints of nicely integrated minerality and oak. Sticky tannins that linger.
Vincent Girardin 2011 Pinot Noir “Les Vieilles Vignes Volnay” (Burgundy, FR) $45 (92)
This Pinot Noir from Burgundy is very good. Nicely balanced, elegant and super smooth. Beautiful tasty mild red raspberry and plum flavors with nicely integrated subtle oak. Yum!
Quinta do Vallado 2010 “Touriga Nacional” (Douro, Portugal) $55 (92)
This Touriga Nacional from Portugal is showing very well now and it would pair perfectly with a filet mignon. Balanced and very smooth with delicious mild plum and mild mineral flavors.
Carol Shelton 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Rockpile Reserve” (Rockpile, CA) $50 (92)
Another gem from Carol Shelton. It is medium bodied and balanced. It is a very food friendly Cab. It improves with a little aeration. Decant it for a bit and serve it with a NY strip steak.
Spring Valley 2012 “Uriah” (Walla Walla, WA) $50 (92)
Mostly Merlot and Cabernet Franc. A Washington State winner every year. Medium bodied, balanced and approachable. Very elegant and food friendly. Pair this wine with a filet mignon.
E. Guigal 2010 Fr Rhone “Chateauneuf du Pape” (Rhone Valley, FR) $59 (92)
This CDP really coats your mouth and its tannins are present up front along with the fruit. This big boy is larger and life. Cellar or decant it for 2 hours and serve with a marbled cowboy ribeye.
Cenyth 2010 US Red “Sonoma County” (CA) $60 (92)
A very nice Merlot based wine. Full bodied, fruit forward and juicy. Displays tasty red plum flavors with mild red raspberry, minerality, old oak, red cherry and strawberry licorice.
Cakebread 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” (CA) $65 (92)
A very nice Napa Cab that is fairly priced. Full bodied, balanced, smooth and fruit forward. Tasty black raspberry flavors with notes of minerality and oak. Hints of black cherry and blueberry.
Mt. Brave 2012 Merlot “Mt. Veeder” (CA) $75 (92)
This is a big boy Merlot! Full bodied, rich and fruit forward. Shows off very tasty concentrated black cherry and dark chocolate flavors with hints of blueberry, vanilla oak, and coffee.
St. Supery 2012 US Red “Elu” (Napa Valley, CA) $75 (92)
Cabernet cased blend. Full bodied and fruit forward with extracted plum and black raspberry flavors. Nicely integrated minerality along with some oak. Pair with roast duck.
Shafer 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “One Point Five” (Stags Leap, CA) $80 (92)
Another impressive Shafer wine. Its medium bodied, balanced, and smooth. Flavor profile is a tasty mild black cherry with notes of cedar and gentle plum along with a hint of boysenberry.
Shafer 2012 Syrah “Relentless” (Napa Valley, CA) $85 (92)
Shafer’s Syrah based blend. It is full bodied and tamer than previous versions. It is smooth and easy going. Black raspberry and smoked meat flavors with notes of blackberry and oak.
PreVail 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Back Forty” (Alexander Valley, CA) $90 (92)
The panel found this Cab to be full bodied, balanced and smooth. They really like its black currant jam and black cherry flavors with hints of blackberry, chocolate and toasty oak.
Darioush 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Signature” (Napa Valley, CA) $95 (92)
Another winning Cab that the Panel discovered. It’s full bodied and smooth with very tasty blueberry and mild oak flavors. Hints of nicely integrated minerality, black cherry and menthol.
Blackbird Vineyards 2012 “Contrarian” (Napa Valley, CA) $125 (92)
This Cab Franc based blend is very good. It is rich and a little juicy. It displays extracted black cherry flavors with some black licorice, spice, and chocolate covered strawberries.
Rocca 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Tesorina” (Napa Valley, CA) $160 (92)
This complex Cab finished in 5th place in our recent big blind tasting. The panel loved its fruit forward ripe blueberry and black cherry flavors with nicely integrated minerality and vanilla oak.
Ramey 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Pedregal Vineyard” (Oakville, CA) $200 (92)
This Cab from Ramey is medium bodied, balanced, and smooth. Its flavor profile is mild strawberry and cherry blend with notes of mild minerality, chocolate and gentle oak.
We hope you can find one or two of these gems. I am certain you will enjoy these exquisite wines, as much as we did. Each and every one of them is a treat. They would make a perfect Christmas gift. I know I would love them. Merry Christmas to all!
Cheers – Ken
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