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The Napa mountain man, Michael Keenan, left, at a San Diego tasting with columnist Frank Mangio, with a 2013 Keenan Cabernet Franc. Photos by Frank Mangio
ColumnsTaste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Top 10 wines tasted in the third quarter of this year

For the past week and a half my wine engine has been on idle while I re-charged on the beaches and slopes of Kauai, where all you can find to drink is a Mai Tai, some local craft beers and Kauai coffee.

But from the end of June to here in the last full week of September, the wine’s been flowing and I’ve been taking notes. The restaurants cranked up during the summer visitor season in San Diego with PAON Carlsbad, Il Fornaio Del Mar and Pala Casino pouring some super wines.

Dustin Cano and Michele Graber from Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas introduced Taste of Wine to La Bastide Saint-Dominique Chateauneuf-du-Pape from the south of France.

The 10 I have for you are diverse and delicious with price points that will fit all budgets. With fall and cooler weather upon us, all are lush and red that will warm up any palate. You’ll see two Italian, one French, one Washington and six from California including four from Napa Valley.   

All wines are available in the market, rated equally excellent and are shown alphabetically. Pricing is the best I could locate including the wineries.

Argiano Brunello di Montalcino, Italy 2012, $43. Brunellos have been featured recently in Taste of Wine as one of the premier wines in all of Italy. Argiano is highly rated and available, sourced from the finest Sangiovese grapes available in Tuscany, with a five-year aging cycle. Visit

Cafaggio Chianti Classico, Tuscany Italy 2013, $19. One of several on this list that has a price point that should be way more than it is. More bang for the buck for you and I. This is so good I recommend you open it hours before you intend to consume it. Coat the inside of your glass with a slow but sure swirl and savor that bouquet. Truly Italian wine heaven. Visit

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington 2014,  $7. No misprint, it’s $7 at your nearby Costco. It’s cheaper than some water! It’s good, and it’s good for you and your wallet. Best value on the planet. Visit

Duckhorn Merlot Napa Valley, 2014, $44.99. One of the iconic Merlots in Napa Valley since the winery was founded in 1976. Sixteen months in oak and a year in the bottle before release. The texture is pure satin supporting layers of raspberry and black cherry. Visit

Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2014, $13. Here’s still another value wine that gets its best juice from estates in California, Oregon and Washington, blended for an elegance that tastes way more than its price. This one’s an all-California combo from Napa, Lake county, Santa Ynez, Happy Canyon, Paso Robles and Monterey. Visit

Keenan Cabernet Franc, Spring Mt. Napa Valley, 2013, $67.95. Estate grapes in the Spring Mt. district at 2,000 feet. After fermentation in steel tanks, the wine was aged for 20 months in French and American oak barrels. Blueberry and raspberry flavor with a rich body and a very different elegance than the “Cab” you are accustomed to. Visit

Laird Phantom Ranch Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, 2013, $55. In 1970, with the help of Robert Mondavi, the Laird family began and prospered into a major provider of wine grapes to other more well-known wineries in Napa Valley. That all changed when Laird put his name on his best wines and became a best seller. This Pinot Noir is handpicked from their Carneros Phantom Ranch vineyard under the direction of the great Paul Hobbs, a consulting winemaker. Visit

La Bastide Saint-Dominique Chateauneuf–du-Pape, France, $38. Produced by the Bonnet family near Beaucaastel in the southern Rhone Valley of France, a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault. The du Pape style is well documented as the elite blend in the south of France. The stony surface of the soil makes for retained heat for soil concentration, a harvest of intense grape flavor and a sweetness that resembles jam. Much of this wine varietal offers over 15 percent alcohol intensity. Visit

Pedroncelli Old Vine Zinfandel Mother Clone, Sonoma, 2015, $19. A traditional favorite, this classic Zin has plenty of berry and spice flavor with toasty oak, pepper and nutmeg notes. This Dry Creek locale in northern Sonoma typifies the zesty acidity the appellation provides. All Zins are measured by this historic style. Visit

Vina Robles Estate Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, 2014, $29. Luscious black color displays an intense, juicy dark fruit complexion and a supple finish.  Aged for 20 months in oak barrels. Smaller, more intense grape, held longer in the harvest for greater raisin-like concentration. Visit

Wine Bytes will return next week.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading commentators on the web.  View his columns at Go to menu then columns. Reach him at [email protected].