My top ten wine tasting experiences for the first half of 2011

The first half of the year brought to us more wine events than ever, with emphasis on trade and wine country associations promoting their respective regional interests. 
I counted over 400 events that crossed my radar and sampled well-over 3,500 wines, so far.
On the retail side, a couple of trends developed on my Southern California beat:  restaurants and resorts are adding a retail component to their operations, which has been causing stress to locally owned wine shops.
County government is actually cooperating with winery associations to promote wine tasting in new or existing AVA’s, as evidenced by the opening of some 10 public wine tasting rooms where there were nearly none allowed earlier, mostly in the Ramona Valley of San Diego County.
The following are standout wines that I have tasted and awarded an “excellent” rating to based on flavor, complexity and price point-to-value. 
The top ten are not ranked, but are listed alphabetically.  Prices shown can vary and are what I have noted on websites and retail shops.
— Artesa Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2005.  $15: a classic Cabernet from this Carneros District winery, with grapes from three vineyards in Atlas Peak and Oakville. Visit
artesawinery.com.
— Chateau Tanunda Grand Barossa Shiraz, Australia, 2007.  $18.  A French style red with a touch of Cabernet and Grenache to add to the Shiraz body for an old world flavor medley: Australia’s Producer of the Year award winner.  Visit banfivintners.com.
— Dr. Loosen Riesling Kabinett, Mosel Germany, 2009.  $15: world-renowned maker of racy, mineral-driven Riesling from the steep, slate slopes of the Mosel River that is crisp, with a slight sweetness on the palate.  Visit drloosen.com/drloosen.com.
— Fontodi Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy, 2006.  $26: pure 100 percent Sangiovese legacy grapes.  12 months aging in small French barriques. Great benchmark for all that is lovely in Tuscany. Visit
fontodi.com.
  — Marilyn Remarke Grenache, Monterey, Calif., 2008.  $45: meticulous re-creation of Rhone-style Grenache and a revelation of old world south-of-France vibrancy.  Visit remarkewines.com.
  — Niner Twisted Spur, Paso Robles, Calif., 2007.  $25: wine maker Amanda Cramer brought out the best of the vineyard in this all-estate blend of mostly Merlot, supported by Cab Franc, Syrah and Petite Sirah.  Visit ninerwine.com.
— Pedroncelli Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel, Sonoma, Calif., 2009. $20: remarkable Dry Creek Valley Zin from prized 20-acre family related vineyard for over 50 years.  Captures the essence of “California’s grape,” and takes it to a new level.Visit pedroncelli.com.
— Solis Winery Merlot Reserve, Santa Clara Valley, Calif., 2008.  $40: rich Italian family tradition from the ‘20s has brought Solis L.A. International Gold, and acclaim to this velvet-lined, regal tasting wine. Visit soliswinery.com.
— Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Ore., 2008.  $39: world-class Pinot from the new world’s authentic footprint of Burgundy, France, the birthplace of Pinot Noir.  Its certified organic farming was the first in the U.S.  Visit
sokolblosser.com.
  — South Coast Winery Sangiovese, Wild Horse Peak, Temecula, Calif., 2006. $34.  100 percent old-world style Sangiovese in French barrels especially designed for this varietal.  I offer a sweeping pedigree of high praise for this best-of-class; it’s a triumph for veteran wine maker Jon McPherson. Visit wineresort.
 
Wine Bytes
— Falkner Winery in Temecula celebrates its 11th anniversary July 2 through July 4.  Free Jazz concerts from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, hourly raffle drawings, outdoor BBQs, tours and deep discount sales on top selling wines.  All activities are from 11 to 5 p.m.  Call (951) 676-8231 for details.
— Bacchus Wine Market, in the Gaslamp District of San Diego, is having a Sparkling Wines and BIG Zinfandel Tasting July 1 from 4 to 8:30 p.m. and July 2 from 2 to 8:30 p.m.  $15 per person.  Six tastings are promised.   For more, call (619) 236-0005.
— Tesoro Winery Old Town Tasting Room in Temecula is presenting the Two Of Us Plus One concert on July 8 from 6 to 9 p.m.  Contact phone is (951) 308-0000.
— Taste of Wine regretfully reports that one of the pioneers of the modern wine shop format in Carlsbad is closing its doors the end of June after some six years.  Carlsbad Wine Merchants, led by Kathy Bankerd, was an honest, creative wine merchant, who fell victim to the bad economy. 
She will be missed.  The shop has some big discounts on wine and accessories before closing.  Call (760) 804-9994.

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