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Daniel Daou, co-owner of Daou Winery of Paso Robles, is challenging the notion that only Napa Valley can make great Cabernet Sauvignon. His Reserve Cabernet 2014 ($51) is a collectible world class wine that again is in Taste of Wine’s Top Ten this year.
Columns Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Best wine tastings of 2017

Words to live by: you can waste your time, but never ever waste wine. As Wine Spectator observed in their recent issue on its Top Ten awards, “from vineyard to table, wine is an exploration of its role in contemporary culture.”

The last reporting period had 23.6 million visitors to California’s wine countries, that employ 325,000 workers. Wine is an essential element in our culture and way of life. It is a worldwide movement that only gets better with age.

My Top Ten list includes: eight wines from California, one from Italy and one from France. Wine prices shown are the best I can locate and the names are listed alphabetically and equally. All are ranked excellent in quality with guidelines of flavor, longevity and value.

Banfi Belnero, Montalcino district of Tuscany Italy, 2013, $19. The “dark beauty” of Castello Banfi, the definitive winery in Tuscany, made primarily from superior clones of the Sangiovese grape. Powerful structure has well-balanced tannins.

BR Cohn Merlot, Sonoma Valley Petricka Vineyard, 2015, $36. The winery is near the town of Sonoma in the warm alluvial soil of the Mayacamus mountains. A limited crop, aged 20 months in French Oak barrels is rich with luscious plum and berry. The generous alcohol is brilliantly balanced.

Boen Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, 2015, $29. Another fanciful creation from Joe Wagner who gave us a colossal Pinot Noir winner in Meiomi until he sold it for a reported $315 million. Now he has a stable full of new wave Pinots at his Copper Cane Wines & Provisions out of St Helena Napa Valley. Boen is his Sonoma Coast baby.

Daou Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, 2014, $51. First appeared as a Top Ten wine earlier this year, this bottle is made with premium estate fruit sourced from DAOU Mountain and other Paso vineyards. Top quality Bordeaux-style offering.

Falkner Amante Super Tuscan style, Temecula Valley, 2014, $55. This longtime favorite of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc is racking up some impressive gold. Old world style and finesse with new world boldness.

Grgich Hills Zinfandel, Napa Valley, 2013, $36. Power and elegance best describes this Zinfandel. A well-balanced 15 percent alcohol is food-friendly and a perfect match for grilled meats and hearty pasta and pizza. Winemaker Mike Grgich lives on a ranch with his 30-plus acres of Zin growing just below in Calistoga. He barely escaped with his life the night of Oct. 8 when disastrous Napa Valley fires struck. Both the wine and Grgich will live on as the legend continues for this 94-year-old. Napa Valley pioneer.

Gary Farrell Chardonnay Russian River Valley Sonoma, 2015, $35. Quintessential expression of the Healdsburg district opening the richness and elegance of a complex Chardonnay. Generous flavors of Meyer lemon, tart apricot and lime.

La Bastide Saint-Dominique Chateaneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley France, 2014, $38. Introduced earlier this year at Meritage Wines in Encinitas, this one is from the elite Beaucastel district in southern Rhone. blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Cincault, the du Pape style is well documented as the elite blend in the south of France.

Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, 2014, $34. Paul Hobbs is the reigning king of Napa-Sonoma premier wines. His “always in the vineyard” persona has gained a vast following for his wines including this Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, aged 10 months in oak. A product of salty ocean breezes and fog-washed hillsides, you can soak in the wild berry, fresh cherry and blood orange.

Robert Renzoni Vineyards Estate Sonata Red Wine, Temecula Valley, 2014, $50. A Super Tuscan blend of 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 50 percent estate Brunello di Sangiovese, the wine displays toasted oak, vanilla and dried cherries and spice with a hint of coffee. Aged 20 months in oak. This is a family winery with a 100-year history of sun-drenched wine making dating back to Italy.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading commentators on the web.