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Taste of Wine's 10 best discovery wines for the second half of 2022. Stock photo
Taste of Wine's 10 best discovery wines for the second half of 2022. Stock photo
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Taste of Wine’s 10 best discovery wines for second half of ’22

It’s that time of the year when Frank and I like to go over great wines that we discovered since our bi-annual Top 10s. For this list, both of us picked five wines out of the 100+ that we have tried over the last three months. I have three Italian beauties, a brand new Daou cuvée, and a Lewis from Napa to share before handing off to Frank for his picks.

Rico’s Picks

Daou Family Estates Cuvee Katherine, Paso Robles (2020) $85: Daniel Daou does it again with his newly released innovative 2020 Cuvée Katherine, dedicated to his oldest child, Katherine, who watched her father plant the initial Daou wines. This 100% cabernet sauvignon blends 11 clones of estate fruit aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak. The black cherry nose and palate also has boysenberry and hints of fig, cocoa, and herbs on the finish. With silky tannins, this is another Daou masterpiece.

Lewis Alec’s Blend, Napa Valley (2018) $75:  After 23 years as a race car driver including 8 years as an Indy 500 racer, wine aficionado Randy Lewis shifted gears. He created a small family winery in Napa Valley where he, his wife Debbie, and son Dennis run all aspects of the winery with the help of winemaker James McCeney. Alec’s blend is a 75% syrah blend with 22% merlot and 3% petite sirah. Wild black cherry, plum, and fig dominate the flavor profile with hints of coffee and cinnamon on the long juicy finish.

Rosa dell’Olmo Barolo, Piedmont, Italy (2015) $29: The Rosa dell’Olmo Barolo comes from the heart of Italy’s Piedmont district known for Nebbiolo grapes that both Barolo and Barbaresco wines are made from. I was introduced to this great value wine during my monthly Italian Stallion lunch at San Diego’s The Godfather Restaurant owned and operated by the Balistreri family. This garnet-colored vino has violet and rose on the nose, cherry with plum on the palate, and an earthy finish. It was perfetto with my chicken parmigiana.

Tenuta di Renieri Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, Italy (2018) $30: Renieri is in the heart of Tuscany and specializes in Chiantis.  South facing with soil containing rounded pebbles, creates an ideal terroir with plenty of sun and natural draining for growing superb sangiovese fruit. The fruit forward aroma with cherry and spice on the palate along with crisp acidity was perfect for the lasagna paired with this great value wine.  A must try!

Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, Italy (2017) $30: This is the third of my Italian beauty trio.  It has similar characteristics to the Renieri from a color, bouquet, and palate perspective. The Viticcio is almost all sangiovese fruit (98%) with a 2% splash of merlot. However, the Viticcio, seemed to have more earthiness to it with stronger hints of tobacco and graphite. Based on Viticcio’s 50 year history, bring out the San Marzanos, Bolognese, and other dishes with marinara for this fair valued selection.

Frank’s Picks

Grazie Rico! In preparing for my dive into the wine barrel, I kept thinking of the gold rush that pinot noir makers have had since Joe Wagner of Napa Valley became Mr. Pinot Noir with his Meiomi some years ago, which is now a household word with pinot lovers. The latest pinot renditions from ’19 and ’20 have been singing the praises from the critics so it’s time to share some.

Cakebread Cellars Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley (2020) $60: Cakebread’s two vineyards that produce their superb grapes are former apple orchards that sit on the banks of Anderson Creek, close to the Pacific Ocean and just north of Napa.  The grapes are crushed in open top tanks and fermented with native yeasts. The process is designed for maximum extraction of color, flavor and tannins, while aging in new French oak enhances complexity.

Carol Shelton, known as the "Zin Queen," has created a masterful zinfandel that made our list. Courtesy photo
Carol Shelton, known as the “Zin Queen,” has created a masterful zinfandel that made our list. Courtesy photo

1858 Caymus Vineyards Pinot Noir, Napa/Fairfield (2019) $30: Charlie Wagner, the son of Chuck Wagner, the honcho at Caymus Vineyards and Winery, has produced an 1858 series of wines led by his Monterey Pinot. Rugged vines aged from blustery winds and searing heat make Monterey worthy of wine acclaim. If you love your Pinot fruit forward and bursting on your palate, don’t miss this one.

J Vineyards and Winery Pinot Noir, Sonoma (2019) $27: Three appellations, Monterey, Sonoma and Santa Barbara are brilliantly mixed into this expression of some of the best places to grow this delightful wine. Flavors include dark cherry, raspberry and lavender.

Ken Wright Cellars Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon (2017) $25: This Burgundian style Pinot has one of the prettiest labels I’ve ever seen, with four stylish local birds from the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast have rung this wine up frequently with 91 ratings. Spectator said, “sleek and elegantly rich, with a vibrant backbone of polished tannins.” Learn more at

Carol Shelton Monga Zin Old Vine Zinfandel, Cucamonga, Calif. (2019) $28: The Zin Queen, Carol Shelton, with her latest and finest creation, the 2019 Monga Zin from an old vine in the Cucamonga Valley in SoCal. No, it’s not a Pinot Noir, just the best darn Zinfandel on the planet.