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Scott Billeci, left, sales manager for ZD Wines of Napa Valley, pours at a recent trade show along with Mark Deegan of the Henry Group distributors. Photo by Frank Mangio
CommunityTaste of Wine

Taste of Wine: The top 10 tastes — The first half of 2016

Welcome to the hardest test of my experience as a wine taster and commentator of wine: To select the Top 10 tastes from many hundreds of bottles of mostly excellent wines that are newly released this year.

But somebody’s got to do it so here goes.

Four of the 10 came from the center of the wine universe, Napa Valley, two from Sonoma, one from Italy, one from France, one from Temecula and one from the Sta. Rita Hills north of Santa Barbara.

The 10 are treated equally as top tier wines with sensational bouquet, flavor, structure and value.  The list is alphabetical and does not indicate rank.


  • Banfi Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy, 2011. $22.  Could be the best value in the roster.  Brunello-like flavor at a way lower price, from the winery that sets the standard in Italy.
  • Frank Family Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, Calif., 2013. $29. Beautiful aroma and flavor with lasting results.  Grapes come from the Pinot-perfect Carneros District of Napa Valley.
  • Gerard Bertrand Chateau La Clape Rhone Valley, France, 2013. $17. The southern Rhone is a rich mix of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre with a Mediterranean influence. Focus is on quality here.
  • Grgich Hills Zinfandel Napa Valley, Calif., 2013.  $36. Mike Grgich celebrated his 93rd birthday on April 1. His 30-acre Calistoga personal estate has only Zinfandel on it. Fresh flavors of blackberry.
  • Pedroncelli Wisdom Dry Creek Sonoma, Calif., 2012, $36.  Premium wine with 90 percent Cabernet, 10 percent Malbec; aged 16 months in French Oak. Tribute wine to the late John Pedroncelli.
  • Prodigal Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills, Calif., 2013, $29. Kudos to COSTCO for discovering this boutique winery only planted to Pinot.  Classic velvet, smooth coating on the palate.
  • Robert Renzoni Sonata Temecula Valley, Calif., 2013. $42. A California peer to classic Italian Super Tuscans made from 50 percent Cabernet and 50 percent estate Brunello di Sangiovese. Aged 20 months.
  • Roth Chardonnay Alexander Valley Sonoma, Calif., 2012. $12.  This is the Sonoma coast at its best and at that price, back up the truck and tuck them away for years of tasting.
  • Whitehall Lane Tre Leoni Napa Valley, 2012. $25.  A true-to-form blend with big and bold mouthfeel.  Rich, round and delicious.
  • ZD Reserve Chardonnay Napa Valley, Calif., 2013. $46.  From the world class ZD Carneros Estate, aged 15 months aging for a finer wine.


Wine Bytes

Twenty/20 Restaurant in the Sheraton Carlsbad has its BBQ Summer Series Wednesday nights now through Aug. 3 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. with Chef Julian Quinones and special guests; $40 per class.  Call for an RSVP at (760) 827-2500.

Falkner Winery in Temecula is planning an exciting Anniversary and holiday series of parties July 2 through July 4, celebrating 16 years of superior wines.  The event includes a free concert Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. with ‘60s and ‘70s music.  Special menu items will be from the acclaimed Pinnacle Restaurant. The full story at, or call (951) 676-8231 ext. 4.

Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards in Temecula presents “Wild Child” an amazing concert recreation of the Doors, one of the greatest of the ‘60s bands, July 8 from 7 to 10 p.m.  Admission is $35. RSVP and tickets at


Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web.  View his columns at and reach him at [email protected].  Follow him on Facebook.