Looking back: Top 10 tasting picks for 2008

What a grand year for wine it has been! I attended approximately 250 wine events at wine shops, restaurants, hotels, wineries and special celebrations tasting thousands of wines and meeting hundreds of wine professionals with a passion for their wines. I submit the following top 10 tastings listed alphabetically without regard to rank. All were equally delicious and are an excellent representation of their varietals. Price to value and availability were also a consideration. Prices can vary and are generally what I have seen on Web sites and in the stores that stock them.
This year I have listed two Sangioveses, one from Italy and another from Temecula. There are also two blends: an Italian “Super Tuscan” style from Temecula and a Bordeaux style from Paso Robles. A Napa Cabernet and Chardonanay, an Oregon Pinot Noir, a Central Coast Zinfandel, a San Diego County Viognier and a Sonoma Petite Sirah complete the 10. Enjoy!

Clos LaChance Hummingbord Series Zinfandel, Central Coast, Calif., 2005
A rare Zin with moderate alcohol that gave it a delicious European style flavor. Aged in natural oak for 14 months. Notes of wild cherry and raspberry. Oak spice on the finish. Cost is $18. Visit www.clos.com for details.
Erath Pinot Noir, Dundee,
Ore., 2006
The cornerstone of Erath’s wine portfolio and that of Oregon, this Pinot floats into the palate with luscious ripe strawberries and a slight but beautiful hint of caramel. Buoyant acidity. An artful wine. Cost is $19. Visit www.erath.com for details.
Falkner Super Tuscan Amante, Temecula, Calif., 2005
The signature blend of Sangiovese, with some Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Robust and elegant. Excellent balance. Medium bodied mouthfeel enhances a variety of food pairings. Cost is $39.95. Visit www.falknerwinery.com for details.
Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley,
Ca., 2006
A venerable, legendary name and hero of the ’76 Paris Tasting that put Napa Valley on the world wine map, Grgich produces its first Chardonnay that is both organic and biodynamic with no artificial enhancers. Alive with delicious acidity. Notes of lemon zest, flowers and honey. Elegance shines. Cost is $42. Visit www.grgich.com for details.
Justin Isosceles, Paso Robles, Calif., 2005
A banner vintage in Paso, carefully crafted pruning and perfect crop levels, produced a soft, fruit forward entry with complexity and promise. Aromas of boysenberry, mocha, mint and cassis make this blend an event to remember. This wine will get even better with more aging, up to 15 years. Cost is $65.
Pedroncelli Petite Sirah, Sonoma, Calif., 2005
Superb value for this vintage. Rich with ripe blackberry, concentrated flavors, deep and complex. Dry Creek Valley aged for 23 months. Cost is $15. Visit www.pedroncelli.com for details.
Orfila Estate Lotus “67” Viognier, San Pasqual Valley, Calif., 2007
The Rhone Valley white is the talk of the industry and no one does it better than Orfila. A blend of Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne. The perfect 40-acre hillside for this exotic varietal with its tropical aromas and tastes. Earlier vintage won gold in France. Cost is $23. Visit www.orfila.com for details.
Peppoli Chianti Classico, Tuscany Italy, 2005
Delivers classic Chianti earth-taste. Pronounced floral and mineral notes. Medium to full-bodied, with silky texture. Lots to enjoy here. Wide distribution. Wine Spectator favorite. Cost is $23. Visit www.winespectator.com for details.
South Coast Winery Wild Horse Peak Sangiovese, Temecula, Calif., 2005
Best of Class in California competition, the grapes are grown in 2,200 feet altitude and steep terrain. Unrestrained taste, concentrated and uniquely structured. Winery was awarded the state winery of the year at the ’08 California State Fair competition. Cost is $34. Visit www.southcoastwinery.com for details.
Z D Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Calif., 2006
Dark velvet, stunning Cab, with a heavy scent of berry nectar. Explosive entrance to the palate. Rich coffee, chocolate hints. Balanced and drinkable now and will age gracefully for up to the next 10 years. Handcrafted, with two years in oak. Cost is $50. Visit www.zdwines.com for details.
Wine Bytes
— WineSellar and Brasserie in Sorrento Valley San Diego has planned a French Style wine tasting from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 3. Taste Burgundy, Bordeaux and Rhone Valley favorites. Cost is $20 each, plus another $12.50 for lunch. Call (858) 450-9557 for details.
— Il Fornaio in Del Mar begins its 2009 “Festa Regionale” dinners from Jan. 5 through Jan. 18. Food and wine from the Trentino-Alto Adige region will be featured. Drink Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio. For reservations, call (888) ITA-LIAN.
— Bacchus Wine Market downtown San Diego has a Piedmont Italy wine event from 4 to 8 p.m. Jan. 9. Wines featuring Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera will be tasted. Call (619) 236-0005 for details.
— Falkner Winery in Temecula offers a Wine Appreciation class taught by in-house Sommelier George Myers from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Jan. 17. Cost is $45 per person. Call (951) 676-8231 for details.

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