My list of top 10 wine tastings for 2010

After a long and winding road, visiting wineries, vineyards, wine shops, restaurants, resorts and wine events, at times I asked myself “Are we there yet? Have we found the ten best tastes for this year?” I hope not. Tomorrow may bring yet another lovely wine that matches the list below. I will keep up the hunt for bigger, better, luscious tasting prized wines.
As we go public with this list, wine lovers are getting more for their money and are seeking the highest value wines available as competition is keen with new wine shops offering ever more wines, events, wine bars and small-bites restaurant components. 
My 10 include two from Napa Valley, two from Sonoma, two from Italy and one each from Monterey, Paso Robles, Washington and Spain.
I attended some 300 events, tasting more than 3,000 wines from all over the world, documenting their taste characteristics, ranking them on my 1 to 5 value scale, and considering cost point versus flavor. Prices vary from discount retailers to wine shops to web site “cart” prices, so it pays to compare. 
 The 10 are not ranked, but appear alphabetically. Websites follow the wine descriptions for your further research.
 — Banfi Toscana Chianti Superiore, Tuscany, Italy, 2008 for $11. Seven thousand acres at the base of the fabled town of Montalcino plus legacy vineyards in South America and other districts of Italy, Banfi makes a statement with this select Sangiovese grape varietal at an inexpensive price. Visit www.castellobanfi.com for details.
— Cantina Zallagnina Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo, Italy, 2007 for $11. Comes from the younger vineyards of the Montepulciano district in eastern Tuscany. A splash of fruit flavor complements the gritty, earthy old world taste that accentuates with hard cheese and pasta. Visit www. vivavino.com for details.
— Chateau St. Michelle Dr. Loosen Eroica Riesling, Washington, 2008, for $18.  Two of the world’s great makers of Riesling, Germany’s Dr. Loosen and Washington’s Chateau St. Michelle, make this bold and forward varietal, with tastes of mandarin orange and sweet lime. Visit www.ste- michelle.com for details.
— Duckhorn “The Discussion” 6 Vineyard Blend, Napa Valley, 2006, for $115.  An artful blend of varietals from six of Duckhorn’s vineyards. It includes 53 percent Cabernet, 28 percent Merlot, 14 percent Cab Franc and 5 percent Petite Verdot.  The winery’s highest acclaimed creation. Can you detect Truffle Cassis? Visit www.duckhorn.com for details.
— Ferrari Carano “Tresor” Bordeaux Blend, Sonoma, 2007, for $58. Old world classic style with new world California flavor. A closer taste finds 84 percent Cabernet, with Merlot, Malbec, Cab Franc and Petite Verdot. Tresor means treasure in French.  Indeed, it is. Visit www.ferraricarano.com for details.
— Fog Head Reserve Pinot Noir, Monterey, 2008, for $16. Strawberry/raspberry on the nose. Silky, soft tannins are a trait of fine Pinot. Sits at the Santa Lucia Highlands, positioned to take advantage of the fog pattern that settles at Fog Head’s doorstep.  Visit www.tastemonterey.com for details.
— Frank Family Vineyards Pinot Noir, Napa Valley Carneros, 2008, for $32. More than 200 acres spread over the valley to choose only the best of estate grapes. Six Frank family members plus two grandchildren pouring their hearts out. Visit www.frankfamilyvineyards.com for details.
— Justin “Justification” Bordeaux Blend, Paso Robles, 2008, for $45. Reduced yields pushed up quality. Ten months barrel time dressed up flavor for an unmatched Cab Franc/Merlot marriage. Visit www.justinwine.com for details.
— Lewis Chardonnay, Russian River Valley Sonoma, 2008, for $65. A small-lot passion allows constant development with pruning at every stage, from bud break to veraison (fruit coloration) to harvest. Lewis barrel-stores their Chardonnay in French Oak for up to 15 months. Visit www.lewiscellars.com for details.
— Triton Tempranillo, Douro Valley, Spain.  2008, for $24. Named after the Roman God Neptune’s son Triton, who galloped along great seasides and rivers. The Douro River and its soil components play a large role in the sophisticated, elegant flavor of this Spanish creation, with elements of chocolate and delicate
spices; a discovery of RELM, the dynamic wine shop
in Carlsbad. Visit www.
ambassadorofwine.com for details.
Wine Bytes, the segment that lists wine events and dates, will return to its regularly scheduled place next week.

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