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Daou Estate's 2018 Soul of a Lion Cabernet Sauvignon Blend. Photo courtesy Daou Estates
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Taste of Wine: 10 current release wines to cheer on in 2021

As I dot the final “i” and cross the last “t” on this column, I’ll get to the final socks, shoes and shirts that I’ll pile into my luggage. Rico and I then are heading north from San Diego County to Paso Robles to meet and greet some of the finest wine heroes to fill a bottle of wine in California.

While you and I have hung out at home for most of the last year, those heroes have found a way to make reds and whites that only get better with age.

The forecast in Paso, as it will be all over the West Coast, is clear and sunny for the next week. Follow the rules as most have done but be sure to get out and support a winery. Rico, time to pop some new corks.

Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles. 2018. $56. The classic ruby color of this wine is stunning and sets the stage for this robust Cabernet. On the palate, layers of vanilla, cocoa, juicy cherry and baking spices will have you at hello.

DAOU Estate Soul of a Lion Cabernet Sauvignon Blend, Paso Robles. 2018. $150. DAOU is the house of Soul of a Lion, a dream of a wine experience with richness, elegance and balance in every bottle. Intense aromas of lilac, violet and spice enhance the complex bouquet. The palate bursts with luscious flavors of blueberry, boysenberry, plum, all underpinned by striking minerality. A long silky finish reveals the power and finesse of the DAOU Mountain provenance.

Far Niente Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley. 2018. $70. Our only white wine is a sizzler that hits home on the Chardonnay legacy. Far Niente helped build the Chardonnay category. The 2018 bottling is timeless in style with its citrus-honeysuckle, accented with notes of white fig, gardenia and toasted oak.

La Storia Trentadue Cuvee 32 Alexander Valley, Sonoma. 2018. $36. What happens when you blend 45% Sangiovese, 31% Montepulciano and 24% Merlot? You get a Cuvee for the ages, a “Super Tuscan” style and the top seller in the Trentadue Tasting Room. The 2018 version gives you dark red color, bright fruit and firm acidity. It’s the most remarkable vintage in its 21 years. It scored Best of Class Gold in the most recent San Francisco Chronicle competition.

Northstar Merlot Columbia Valley, Walla Walla, Washington. 2013. $25. A 92-point winner in Wine Spectator. This release is going on eight years old with no hard edges and incredible smoothness. Plush in texture but not weighty, it layers blueberry and currant flavors with hints of cream. This is a tasty Merlot masterpiece.

Rico’s Picks

Thanks for the handoff, Frank. Love your selections above. Many we shared together. We are indeed in store for a great trip up north for some of the finest that Paso Robles has to offer. I look forward to paying tribute to the wine heroes you mentioned above, and I too will be finishing up my packing as soon as we wrap up this column.

Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 2018. $55. After selling Meiomi to Constellation in 2015, Joe Wagner created the Belle Glos lineup until starting his new Copper Cane label, with Dairyman being one of three in the series along with Clark & Telephone and Las Alturas. Dairyman has a deep ruby red hue with boysenberry, cherry and spices mixed with vanilla on the nose along with cranberry, cherry and hints of cocoa on the palate. This complex Pinot has lively flavors with a graceful finish.

Falkner Amante Super Tuscan Style, Temecula Valley. 2017. $60. Another Super Tuscan style wine for our list. This one is from one of Temecula Valley’s premier wineries. Falkner’s blend brings together Sangiovese (50%), Merlot (30%), Cab Sauv (10%) and Cab Franc (10%). This garnet-colored beauty has an amazing bouquet with hints of caramel and black cherry, blueberry, and raspberry on the palate. Your next pasta, veal, or beef dish is waiting for this wine.

Flora Springs Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. 2016. $50. This 90-point Wine Spectator Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from sustainably farmed estate vineyards in St. Helena, Rutherford, and Oakville. French (70%) and American (30%) oak aging for 18 months creates smooth tannins and storability for 10-plus years. Inviting flavors of blackberry and cassis with whispers of vanilla and mocha make this an ideal choice for beef and lamb.

Justin Isosceles Blend Paso, Paso Robles. 2017. $76. Isosceles was a perfect companion for the Cardiff Seaside Market Tri-Tip I recently served at a soiree. This Justin flagship blend, named after an isosceles triangle, is mainly Cab Sauv (83%) with near equal parts of Cab Franc (9%) and Merlot (8%). It has been a while since I had an Isosceles and this was a perfect reminder of what I have been missing. The hot 2017 year with a September cool-off created full-bodied ripe black fruit and spice flavors.

San Simeon Petit Sirah, Paso Robles. 2018. $23. At $23 or less, San Simeon’s Petit Sirah is one of my favorite everyday wines. I love to cook on my Kamado Joe smoker and whether it’s pork butt, pork sirloin roast, baby back ribs, etc., the jammy full-bodied blackberry and plum palate with vanilla and baking spice of this Petit Sirah is always a winner with pork dishes.

 Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Reach him at [email protected]