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Gracianna Winery produces award-winning wines in the “Miracle Mile” district on the Westside Reserve of Healdsburg in Sonoma County. Courtesy photo
Columns Food & Wine Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Our new wine discoveries

Wines are like words. We get used to drinking the same tired wines over the years when there’s a world full of new tastes, just waiting for you. Instead, we fall back on the same names.

Words can be the same way. How could so many wines be “cool” or “killer”? It’s amazing. Whoops, there’s another one. Rico and I did some investigative tasting and came up with five new wines each for you to try.

Gracianna Westside Reserve Pinot Noir 2018 ($76): The Gracianna Winery story pays tribute to the Amador family’s maternal grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga, who came from the Basque district of France. Gracianna presents this ultra-premium Reserve Pinot Noir after winning five Gold medals and a silver, beatifying this perfect pinot wine experience.

Liano Umberto Cesari Sangiovese/Cabernet Blend, Emilia Romagna It. 2017 ($35): This 70% Sangiovese/30% Cabernet Sauvignon blend is rich in personality showing an intriguing bouquet of black cherry jam, vanilla, spices and a powerful but smooth lingering finish. This wine is the latest of a rush of new bottles sweeping in from Italy the last three years, with quality written all over them.

Raymond R/Collection Field Blend Lot #5, Napa Valley 2018 ($13): A stunning value with a colossal flavor likened to Prisoner, which costs four times more than this gem from the dynamic Raymond winery, a Napa icon. This showcase of varietals includes five grapes:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Petite Verdot, Merlot and an exciting injection of Zinfandel. Don’t miss this one.

St. Supery Rutherford Estate Merlot Napa Valley 2016 ($50): October is Merlot month, a regal wine now on its way back. St. Supery should help the cause with this single vineyard, perfectly placed lot to produce a superior Merlot. Taste the black plum, dark mocha and subtle raspberry.

Late entry, just in … Bonanza Cabernet Sauvignon, Fairfield, multi-vintage ($22): Bonanza is the latest creation from the Caymus family of fine Napa wines, this one from nearby Fairfield, long a source of intrigue of Caymus owner Chuck Wagner. Medium ruby red, this wine opens with scents of currents and dried roses, and fresh tilled soil. Flavors of blueberries mix with the warmth of vanilla, with silky tannins and striking smoothness.

Rico’s Picks

Frank, thank you for the handoff. We loved pulling together these discovery wines for our readers to enjoy and learn about. Three of mine will be from familiar vineyard and winery names, but higher-end ranges putting them in different taste categories despite names that many recognize as discoveries.

Antinori Tenuta Guado al Tasso Il Bruciato Bolgheri  2018 ($30): I discovered this red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah while dining at Cicciotti’s Trattoria Cardiff location. This fruit-forward wine with blackberry and black currants and hints of spice, leather and tobacco were perfect with my chicken parmigiana. A great younger brother to Tignanello.

Beringer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (White Label) ($54): Like many large wineries, Beringer has many labels and a large price range. While shopping at Costco, I picked up this cab for much less than the sticker price. I was pleasantly surprised by the ripe fruit palate and nose of blackberry mixed with oak and cocoa. Stock up if you find this deeply discounted.

Lohr Pure Paso Proprietary Red Blend Paso Robles 2017 ($30): This estate red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (71%) and Petite Sirah (27%) with splashes of Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec is “a milestone wine for J. Lohr that harnesses our history with Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah,” says Scott Peck, Director of Winemaking. The creamy palate of black cherry, caramel, and mocha with strawberry and spice aroma makes this an easy discovery pick.

Marchesi Frescobaldi Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 ($30): This beauty comes from vineyards in Tuscany, Gaiole to be specific. The handpicked fruit is fermented in steel and aged in Slavonia oak for 24 months. The smooth cherry and blackberry palate and hints of tobacco and earth on the nose make this a great pairing for beef and veal. Like most 2016s, this is worth trying.

Robert Mondavi Maestro Red Blend Napa Valley 2017 ($50): This Bordeaux red blend includes all five varietals for completeness along with California influence including some fruit sourced from Mondavi’s famous To Kalon vineyard.  The nose has plum, cassis, cherry and spice with a long smooth finish and good acidity. A great value wine from one of the most famous wineries in the world.

Wine Bytes

• Morton’s The Steakhouse and DAOU Family Estates combine for A Taste of Two Legends, Saturday Oct. 24, in downtown San Diego, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. A four-course dinner and wine pairing with each course, including the legendary DAOU Soul of a Lion Cabernet. The cost is $175 per person including tax and gratuity. Go to or call 619-696-3369.

• Chart House in Cardiff is raising funds for those affected by breast cancer. $1 from each specialty cocktail or dessert sold will benefit the National Breast Cancer Foundation, from now until Oct. 31. For details, call 760-436-4044.

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