Another year and another opportunity for Frank and I to review hundreds of wines and present our Top 10 Wine List of 2023.
In 2023, we saw one of the most lucrative winery sales in history with Treasury Wine Estate’s purchase of Daou Family Estates for $1 billion. We also celebrate the legendary life of Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, whose 1973 Chateau Montelena’s Chardonnay beat out French Burgundy wines in the 1976 Judgement of Paris.
Personally, I lost five family members this year, including my father. Family and friends were there to support me after each loss, and over a glass of wine, I thought back on what made each person unique. I will start off with my Top 5, which includes four reds and a chardonnay. Frank also came up with four reds and a chardonnay. Each of our lists is in alphabetical order.
Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Rosso Veronese, Verona, It, 2018, $20. Allegrini’s double-fermented Rosso Veronese red blend was an easy choice for my list. Most of the fruit is fermented at harvest. The remainder of the grapes is dried and pressed in January and then blended with the initial vinified wine before undergoing a second fermentation. The dried fruit develops deep flavors, and the 24 months of aging in barriques, barrels, and in the bottle produce soft tannins, making it perfect for a rich Bolognese sauce. Allegrini.it/en.
Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages Red Wine, Sonoma County, CA, 2019, $79. This is Chateau St. Jean’s flagship wine, comprised of five Bordeaux varietals of their best fruit (cab sauv, merlot and splashes of cab Franc, malbec, and petit verdot), predominantly from their Knights Valley vineyards. The raspberry, currant, and floral nose and supple fruit with chocolate and spice were easy to pick and would pair well with meat dishes. Chateaustjean.com.
Cuvee Sauvage Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, CA, 2019, $30. California’s Russian River Valley terroir, with dense fog, rugged earth, and wild terrain, makes for an ideal location for growing thin-skinned pinot noir grapes. Cuvee Sauvage, which means “wild blend,” is an ideal summary for their bold pinot noir with a typical pinot palate of bright cherry and strawberry and a hint of rose. This robust pinot would pair well with fish or poultry.
Daou Reserve Cuvee De Famille Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA, 2020, $80. Daniel Daou’s latest 100% cabernet sauvignon cuvee was a flavor explosion of cherry, blueberry, and chocolate with aromas of blackberry jam, raspberry, and tobacco. With all Daou wines, you will be amazed at the deep color in your glass and appreciate the luscious legs that form when you swirl the glass. Vibrant tannins and bright acidity from 30 months of aging in 30% new French oak made this one of my favorites of the year. Daouvineyards.com.
Sangiacomo Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, CA, 2021, $58. After immigrating from Italy in 1913, Vittorio Sangiacomo purchased Home Ranch, which originally focused on pear farming. With a softening pear market, the family planted their first wine grapes in 1969. Today, 35 wineries produce wines with Sangiacomo fruit. The 2021 Sonoma Coast Chard is a Burgundian-style wine with a nose of Asian pear and white peach. The palate is crisp with meaningful flavors of apricot, peach, baked apple, and hints of lemon, with a mineral-driven finish earning it 93-point scores from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiasts. sangiacomowines.com.
Rico and I have discovered the very best wines for you to sip and savor. We hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we did. Let’s get to my Chardonnay and four reds.
Amici Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, CA, 2020, $21. This is a wine that Amici says is “created by friends, for friends.” This passionate Italian family with a passion for high quality and ultra-smooth delivery has underlined Chardonnay as the white wine to love. The richness and intensity of the Sonoma Coast that Amici delivers are similar to the French Burgundian flavors preferred by many Chardonnay connoisseurs. Amicicellars.com.
Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, Tuscany, Italy, 2016, $43. This quintessential dry red wine is called Chianti Classico and is made from the Sangiovese grape. The Italian government now has a new level of superiority for the wines of Chianti Classico – Gran Selezione. Wineries can use this upgraded classification, which is above DOCG and Reserva with new rules and upgraded requirements, like 30 months of aging and only estate-grown grapes. About 8 percent of the present Italian wines will be able to use Gran Selezione. This includes our chosen wine. Borgoscopeto.com.
Crossbarn Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, CA, 2021. $32. Vibrant ruby in color, balanced and elegant with full, bright fruit and complex earth notes that come from carefully selected cool Sonoma Coast vineyards, this Pinot will become your best wine friend at first sip. Try it with grilled pizza, sausage, mushrooms and braised pork shoulder. Crossbarn Pinot was created by the well-known winemaker Paul Hobbs, one of the most respected in the business. Crossbarn.com.
Marshall Stuart Petite Sirah, Temecula Valley, CA, 2016. $16. This is a wine not for the faint of heart but for the large, take-charge lovers of intense tannins with deep purple and inky red character. With Petite Sirah grapes, expect flavors of black pepper, blackberries, spice and elderberries. The wine pairs well with any hearty meal. Marshall Stuart has been producing fine wines for generations in the Temecula Valley of Southern California. MarshallStuartWines.com.
Quilt Red Blend, Napa Valley, CA, 2021. $33. Joe Wagner is the winemaker of Quilt, his best triumph yet. He is connected to the Wagners of Napa Valley, which gave us the famous Caymus family of wines. Quilt is the fabric of the Napa Valley, sourced from Petite Sirah that gives it the spice of its flavor, Merlot with its soft tannins for smoothness, Zinfandel for a vibrant fruit core and Petit Verdot for structure and color to round out this unique red wine blend. From Oak Knoll in the south to Calistoga in the north, the terroir of Napa Valley lives in each bottle of Quilt. QuiltWines.com.