If I had one theme for the food and beverage industry for 2022, it would be “Returning to Normal.” And for Frank and me, “normal” meant our return to wine dinners, winery tours, and our review of hundreds of wines throughout the year.
A highlight from 2022 was our multi-day Paso Robles media tour in early June. A few wines we tried on our trip made my Top 5 below. After those, Frank will share his four reds, including a Brunello and a chardonnay.
Gianni Buonomo Blaufrankisch, Ocean Beach, Calif. (2018, $43): Keith Rolle, Gianni Buonomo Proprietor, Winemaker, provided a perfect example of 2018’s potential with his 2018 Blaufrankisch (Lemberger). Rolle sourced hand-harvested fruit from Yakima, Washington’s Rattlesnake Hills American Viticultural Area, to create a platinum-winning masterpiece at the 2022 Great American International Wine Competition. Twenty-four months each in neutral French oak and bottle aging made a medium body palate with ripe cranberry, cherry, and acidity. Gbvintners.com.
JC Boisset Passion Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (2018, $95): The JCB’s cabernet blend, rounded out with malbec and merlot, is another 2018 wine on my list. I found this one at Costco, well below the retail price, and figured, why not? I bought two bottles and wished that I had bought two cases. The garnet-purple, highly-rated wine (95 points by Robert Parker) is a harmonious blend with an aromatic nose and palate with blackberry, blueberry, and hints of leather on the finish. Jcbcollection.com.
Niner Fog Catcher, Paso Robles (2017, $125): Fog Catcher is Niner’s flagship blend, cabernet sauvignon (44%), malbec (26%), petit verdot (20%), and cabernet franc (10%), made from their Heart Hill original block Bordeaux fruit. Each estate block is harvested and barrel-aged independently for a year before winemaker Patrick Muran selects the best to create the final blend, which is further aged to meld the flavors together. The palate had blackberry, plum, and dark fruit with vanilla and baking spice on the nose. During our visit and over 2022, I had several opportunities to try the 2017. Each time was impressive. Ninerwine.com.
Patrimony Estate Cabernet Franc, Paso Robles, (2019, $300): At $300, I hesitated to include master winemaker Daniel Daou’s Patrimony in my lineup, as it is in a class by itself. However, this was easily the most impressive wine I had this year. The purple opaque phenolics registered at 300 to 500 parts per million (ppm) vs. traditional Bordeaux at 130 to 200 ppm. The 30-month aging in custom French Bois rose oak created velvet tannins, minerality, the nose of black cherry and violets, and a long-lasting palate of cherry and blackberry earned 99 points from Robert Parker and a perfect 100-points on tasting panel scores. “One hundred-point wine comes from 100-point vineyards,” Daou said during our tour. Patrimonyestate.com.
Penfolds Bin 28 Shiraz South Australia (2019, $40): Bin 28 is a multi-region, multi-vineyard Shiraz blend that has been made down under since 1959. Most other parts of the world refer to Shiraz as Syrah. However, the warm Southern Australian climate produced ripe, robust flavors. Bin 28 is aged in American oak for 12 months to create a nose with hints of vanilla and caramel. The palate has dark berried fruit with chewy tannins and a touch of chocolate. Penfolds.com.
Rico and I have discovered the best wines to sip and savor, and we hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we did. So let’s get to my four reds and a dreamy white to start things off.
Amici Chardonnay Sonoma Coast (2020, $30): If you’re Italian or an Italian wannabe, you know that Amici means friends. Amici’s promise: “A wine created by friends, for friends.” Amici’s passion, driven by owner Bob Shepard and winemaker Anthony Biagi, is a wine that works to ensure every bottle delivers on that promise. Amicicellars.com.
Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello Montalcino Tuscany Italy (2016, $80): Fattoria Barbi is a historic estate located in the hills of Montalcino, a Tuscan town made famous by the production of Brunello wine. Brunello is an elite Sangiovese, carefully produced red wine aged for three years with another year in a bottle. The public can now enjoy the 2016 vintage. Barbi’s reserve Brunello was recently named No. 2 in the world by Wine Spectator. The star players in Italy know their wines. When I was in Tuscany some years ago, Barbi’s parking lot was overflowing with some 40 Ferraris, members of the Tuscany Ferrari club, tasting the latest single-vineyard Barbi Brunello from ultra-large aging casks. Visit fattoriadeibarbi.it/en.
Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (2015, $70): Groth is one of the premium cabernet sauvignon growers and producers in the valley, not far from the famed To Kalon vineyard, founded by Robert Mondavi. Groth began its wine journey in 1982 and was the first in the U.S. to produce a 100-point wine from its deep roots in Oakville. Its mission-style architecture draws guests from all over the world. Grothwines.com.
Marshall Stuart Petite Sirah Temecula (2016, $42): Marshall Stuart’s passion for winemaking was cultivated with his study of viticulture at U.C. Davis. Back in his hometown of Temecula, he worked through some wineries and developed its first Zinfandel program before starting his winery in Temecula. Stuart is most proud of his 2016 Petite Sirah. This wine is in charge with its deep purple flavors of black pepper, black and blueberry and spices. Marshallstuartwines.com.
Vennstone Pinot Noir Monterey, Sonoma, Santa Barbara (2021, $19.99): Joe Wagner first made Meiomi Pinot, then made a fortune. Vennstone may be his next significant Pinot creation, with a diverse character collected from 3 great coastal wine countries. Its intensity begins with blackberry and cherry, building to a full crescendo of flavor. Beautiful brown, red and gold label adorns the bottle.