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San Simeon Monterey Pinot Noir 2017
The San Simeon Monterey-style Pinot Noir, shown above, is one of the Top Ten Tastes for 2020 and a division of Riboli Family wines. Photo via Facebook
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Taste of Wine: Top 10 best winning wines for 2020

In our previous column, we unveiled the World’s Top Ten wines from Wine Spectator.  Six countries were represented, the result of a blind tasting of over 11,000 wines.  Rico and I keep our tasting to nearly 1,000 wines that are readily available at most supermarkets, wine shops and online.

We are now pleased to present our BIG 10 best wines of the year. Unlike Spectator, they are not ranked but are listed alphabetically, equally excellent in flavor, body, value (the wine’s price comparison) and the “wow” factor.

Our choices include four Cabernet Sauvignons, two Pinot Noirs, and one each of a Barbera. Brunello, Chianti Classico and a Red Blend.

The five from my corner starts off with…

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany Italy, 2016.  $24.  The Ricasoli family has produced wine in the heart of Tuscany since the 12th Century. The massive castle, on the highest point in the vineyard, once a French Nunnery, can be seen for miles.  This Chianti displays a ruby red color deepening to garnet, with a rich and generous taste.

Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2017.  $25. High in the hills of Mt. Veeder in Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder vineyards grow highly concentrated grapes that fully express the unique characteristics of mountain-grown fruit. Enjoy the flavors of blackberry and cherry layered with cocoa, tobacco and cedar notes.

Orin Swift Abstract Red Blend, Napa Valley, 2018.  $34.  Aromatics with gravity, this wine pulls you in with boldness on entry. Your palate will feel the richness of dark plum, black fig and hints of musk and rhubarb, all radiating from a mix of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Runquist Reserve Barbera, Plymouth CA, 2018.  $48.  Barbera is the favorite family wine of Piemonte Italy.  Jeff Runquist brings it to a new level of love with black raspberry and dark cherry fruit flavors.  It hits the palate with a unique character of rich and creamy flow, with bright zesty sensations.  The finish is long and harmonious with a toasty oak nuance.

San Simeon Monterey Pinot Noir, 2017.  $23.  A division of the Riboli Family with headquarters in Los Angeles, San Simeon strategically reflects the rugged California coastal dynamics of growing Pinot Noir in the Santa Lucia Highlands South of Monterey.  This artisan wine is handcrafted in small lots.  The precious wine settles into an oak barrel bed, not to be bottled for at least 10 months. Pairs flexibly with fish, pork, ham and mild cheese.

Rico’s Picks

Frank thank you for the handoff.  This pun was intentional with the kickoff (another pun) of the NFL playoff season.

Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, 2018.  $55.  The Clark & Telephone vineyard is one of Joe Wagner’s, originator of Meiomi, four pinot vineyards along the CA coast and happens to be the southern warmest one.  The added warmth creates a boldness of cherry and cranberry, like a Zinfandel or Cab Sauv, even though a Pinot and can handle richer and spicier foods compared to nominal Pinots.

Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2016.  $70.  From photographer to vineyard owner, Jack Cakebread has amassed over 600 acres of prime Napa Valley vineyards allowing Cakebread to blend fruit from several of their vineyards. The 2016 Cab lived up to Cakebread’s reputation with ripe blackberry and boysenberry on the nose and dark fruit with smooth tannins on the palate begging for rich red meat and savory food.

Chateau Buena Vista Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2016.  $40.  I had this Cab at a wine dinner and had a hunch this historical vineyard’s wine dating back to the 1860s was going to be one of my 2020 Top 5’s.  Aromas of currants and cranberries with flavors of blueberry and strawberry and hints of cocoa and cardamom on the finish made this an easy choice.

DAOU Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, 2016.  $85.   I suspect that Master Winemaker Daniel Daou enjoys making this wine perhaps even more than flagship Soul of a Lion as this is a 100% Cab with no blending like Soul requiring even more skill and finesse.  This Robert Parker 95 point rated Cab is estate free run juice and aged for 20 months in 80% new French Rosewood oak barrels.

The color is deep purple almost black with currant and blackberry on the nose, a powerhouse full-bodied palate, and a silky smooth finish.  Drink this world-class Cab now or put it away for that perfect moment.

Talenti Brunello di Montalcino, 2015.  $50.  This Sangiovese based wine is assembled from five different vineyards ranging from 200 to 400m in altitude from Montalcino hillsides.  I knew it would be a perfect complement for an out of this world Rigatoni Pasta Bolognese that I made in an Instant Pot.  The ruby red color with floral aromas including rose had cherry and cranberry on the palate with an orange zest finish.  Ideal for any Italian dinner.

Wine Bytes

Seasalt Seafood Bistro rescheduled their Royal Night Wine Dinners to:  Thurs. Jan. 14 to Sat. Jan. 16 at 6pm featuring Schramsberg Vineyards and Davies Vineyards. Schramsberg Vineyards focus on producing the finest and most complex handcrafted Chardonnay sparkling wines in California.  Seasalt has carefully chosen their favorite selections and uniquely paired them to complement their flavors. Call now 858-755-7100 to reserve your place.  Cost is $95. per person plus tax and gratuity.

Happy New Year 2021 to all our readers!

Frank and Rico

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading commentators on the web. Reach him at [email protected]