It’s that time of year once again. It’s time to highlight the best high-end wines of the year. If you can’t find a Christmas gift for the wine lover in your life, then buy them one of these gems and never look back. Below are 30 of the best wines that the Tasting Panel or I have discovered in 2019. The first 15 all scored 94 points or higher. The remaining 15 wines all scored 93 points. Not bad when your honorable mention list is a bunch of 93 pointers. I hope you can find these gems and enjoy them as much as we did.
The first three wines are absolutely stunning. I discovered them at the Carolina trade tasting at the Symphony Hall in Boston. Each year I have the luxury of attending this great event and cover many stunning wines. This year’s best was the 2017 Diamond Creek 2017 “Red Rock Terrace” Cabernet Sauvignon for $250. I scored this wine 98 points. It was my favorite from the 2017 Diamond Creek portfolio. It was medium bodied, nicely balanced, smooth and silky with delicious gentle black currant and graphite flavors. It would be perfect with a dry-aged rib-eye steak. PS (The 2017 “Gravely Meadow” scored 96 points and the 2017 “Volcanic Hill” scored 94 points. Those reviews will be posted in early 2020).
The next two wines covered are also not going to surprise anyone. The 2015 Shafer “Hillside Select” Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stags Leap District for $310 scored 97 points. It was is quite impressive! I found it medium bodied, very well-balanced and super refined with yummy black currant and black cherry flavors and some refined minerality and oak. Like the Diamond Creek, it would be perfect with a dry-aged rib-eye steak. A close third is the 2016 Joseph Phelps “Insignia” for $300. This 97-point Cabernet Sauvignon based gem was also medium bodied. I found it well-balanced, soft and refined. The flavor profile was a mild black currant and mineral blend with notes of gentle plum and oak. This one would pair nicely with a filet mignon.
The next three winners are a bit more full bodied and the top wines from our blind tastings this fall. The 2016 Krupp Brothers “M5” from the Stagecoach Vineyard for $200 stole the show in our first big blind tasting. It was the clear winner. We scored it 96 points. It was full bodied, beautifully balanced, smooth and savory. We loved its delicious blend of black currant and minerality with notes of dark chocolate, black tea and black cherry. We suggested pairing it with a cowboy ribeye steak. In our second blind tasting, the 2016 Quintessa “Red Wine” from Rutherford was the big winner. It costs $190 and also scored 96 points. On the palate, it was full bodied, very well-balanced, silky and smooth. We all enjoyed its very tasty black currant and refined minerality flavors with notes of black olive. This one we would suggest pairing with Grill 23’s Kobe cap steak. The last one from this group was the 2016 La Jota 2016 “Howell Mountain” Cabernet Sauvignon for $150. It was our second-place finisher in our first Big Blind tasting behind the M5. We scored this wine 95 points. It displayed delicious black currant and oak flavors with notes of black cherry and vanilla. The Panel suggested pairing this Cab with beef wellington.
These next two 95 pointers where introduced to me via Tasting Panel members. The 2016 Chappellet “Hideaway” Cabernet Sauvignon for $125 was one of the top highlights from Tasting Panel member, Jeoff’s, distinctive Wine Christmas Party. It was full bodied, balanced, lush and juicy with impressive black plum and black currant flavors with notes of graphite and a hint of nutmeg. Our group thought it would be perfect with a veal chop. The next wine was introduced to me by the Colonial Spirit’s Wine Director and Tasting Panel member Nicolay. This gem that he dropped off was the 2016 Daou “Soul of the Lion” Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles for $150. I scored this wine 95 points. It was full bodied, balanced, concentrated and rich with delicious coconut and dark chocolate flavors along with notes of black currant and nicely integrated oak and gentle minerality. This big boy needs some decanting in the near term. Then you can serve it with a cowboy rib-eye. Look for the review of the 2017 soon as it is in cue for early 2020.
Our last 95 pointer is the 2015 Terra Valentine “Marriage” for $95. Even though I covered this wine last year just before Valentine’s Day, there is surprisingly still a little left. Be sure to secure a bottle or two for this year’s dinner. It is full bodied, nicely balanced and lush. I loved its delicious black currant flavors with notes of flinty minerality, black tea, blueberry and oak. This wine was gorgeous and would be perfect with a well-marbled rib-eye.
Next up is our third-place winner from our first Big Blind Tasting. The 2016 Rocca Family Vineyards “Collinetta Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon from Coombsville for $95 landed an Excellent score of 94 points. This beauty is medium to full bodied with medium acidity. We found its flavor profile to feature mild black currant and graphite flavors with notes of black tea. The Panel described this Cab as terroir driven and Bordeaux-like and suggested pairing it with a New York strip steak. The 2016 Pina “D’Adamo Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa for $85 scored 94 points in our second mini-blind tasting. This wine was full bodied, nicely balanced, mouth-coating and round with delicious and complex flavors. Those flavors were cedar influenced black currant and black cherry with notes of graphite and hints of steeped black tea and black olive. This one was refined enough to pair with a filet mignon.
These last two Cabs are perfect for a rib-eye steak at your favorite steakhouse. The 2015 Robert Foley “Napa Valley” Cabernet Sauvignon for $92 is Excellent! It is full bodied, balanced and savory with very tasty black currant flavors with notes of oak. We also detected hits of amaretto, fig paste and blueberry at the very end. Like all Bob’s Cabs from the past, this one left a lasting impression. Our last 94 point Cab is from Foretell (Terra Valentine) Their 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon for $150 was full bodied, savory and mouth-coating. The Panel enjoyed its mineral infused black currant flavors with notes of black tea and black cherry. It also had very sticky tannins that lasted for a very long time. I will also note that this wine gem held up much better than many of the others over the next 2 to 3 days. So, its aging potential is great!
We will close our detailed recommendations with two excellent 94 point Pinot Noirs. The first is another gem that I covered at the Symphony tasting. The 2016 Burn Cottage “Burn Cottage Vineyard” Pinot Noir from Central Otago in New Zealand was Excellent. For $65 this wine is a steal for a high-end wine. It is light bodied, balanced, soft and so refined. I loved its tasty mineral and pomegranate flavors with notes of old oak and red plum. It would be a perfect match to pair with a Colorado lamb chops. Our last feature is the 2016 Flanagan “Platt Vineyard” Pinot Noir for $115. This gem opened with a heavenly blueberry, oak and cola bouquet with a hint of pencil shavings that we could sniff all day. On the palate, it was medium bodied, well-balanced, smooth and soft. Our mini-tasting group loved its very tasty plum and cedar flavors with notes of boysenberry. We suggest pairing this beauty with a roasted quail with Pinot Noir sauce.
These 93-Point Winners deserve a mention and your attention if you can not find one of the above.
Dutton Goldfield 2016 Pinot Noir “Emerald Ridge Vineyard” $62
Cypher 2016 “Fifth Element Red Blend” $55
Beringer Vineyards 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Knights Valley Reserve” $70
Priest Ranch 2015 “Double Barrel Red Blend” $75
Lail Vineyards 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Blueprint” $80
Caymus 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” $82
Pina 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Wolff Vineyard” $85
Alpha Omega 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” $104
Cade 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Howell Mountain” $110
Blackbird Vineyards 2016 “Paramour” $135
Beaulieu Vineyard 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Georges de Latour Private Reserve” $145
Tom Eddy 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” $150
Krupp Brothers 2016 “Synchrony Proprietary Red” $150
Beringer Vineyards 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Private Reserve” $170
Chateau Lafleur 2016 Bordeaux “Pensees de Lafleur” $170
I hope you enjoy these as much as we did. Happy Holidays! Cheers – Ken