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Just one of the pristine wine cellars in Montalcino, Italy’s Castello Banfi, which has produced one of Taste of Wine columnist Frank Mangio’s top 10 wines of 2014. Photo courtesy Castello Banfi
Just one of the pristine wine cellars in Montalcino, Italy’s Castello Banfi, which has produced one of Taste of Wine columnist Frank Mangio’s top 10 wines of 2014. Photo courtesy Castello Banfi
Taste of Wine

The Top ten tastes of 2014


Pop the corks, and let the new year of 2015 begin.  By any wine follower’s yardstick, 2014 was a beauty.  As we noted in an earlier TASTE OF WINE, the price point for a bottle of wine and a night at a favorite restaurant rose per consumer. Many more household wine names were doing road shows at restaurants and wine events.

The French wines continued their slide, especially in the U.S. and China, which bought 72 percent less French vineyard property than 2013, according to a recent Wall St. Journal article.  Chinese wine imports from Chile, the U.S. and Italy are rising.  Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines in the world had 19 from the U.S., 19 from Italy and 14 from France.

The worldwide chain Starbucks projects a billion dollars in wine and beer sales from their menu expansion that includes wine bars.

Their American group president was quoted as saying “female customers in particular enjoy meeting friends for a glass of wine in the evening.”

The new fashion color in 2015 for men and women will be “a shade of wine with everything” that’s earthy and sophisticated, and is called Marsala, named after a wine capital in Sicily.

My Top Ten Tastes include: Three from Napa Valley, three from Italy and one each from Washington, Paso Robles, Sonoma and Monterey.

Varietals include:  Three Cabernets, two Chardonnays, two Sangiovese, two Pinot Noirs and one Montepulciano di Abruzzo.

The 10 are equally ranked on an excellence scale of one to five, considering flavor, body and value at the best pricing I could find. The list is alphabetical — all were rated excellent and does not indicate ranking.

• Avignonesi Rosso di Montepulciano Italy. 2012. $19.  Bursting with red fruits, this Tuscan wine has complex hints of rosemary and peppery spices for a hearty taste.

• Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino, Italy.  2009.  $60.  The Brunello that put this elegant wine on the world map.  With Banfi, it truly is no Brunello before its time. Nurtured five years before release. A classic Sangiovese grape.

• Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay, Napa Valley.  2012.  $40.  A fine restaurant white wine with grapes from the Carneros region of NapaValley. Bright natural acidity. Aged in oak.

• Caymus Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.  2012.  $55. 40th Anniversary keepsake bottle. Fantastic Cabernet from  iconic winemakers, the Wagner Family.  Dense purple color from blackberry with silky tannins.  Enormous response with 60,000 cases sold.

• Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia ValleyWashington.  2012.  $9.95.  Could be the greatest value of the ten. Consistent quality as in all Columbia Crest wines.  Dark, spicy, smooth tannins. Lingering flavor.

• Edna Valley Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia HighlandsMonterey.  2012.  $45.  Another great 2012 harvested wine, spending 18 months in oak.  Dark cherry with notes of caramel, mushroom and earth.

• Grgich Hills Estate Grown Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2012.  $42. Excellent harvest, even better quality Chardonnay, pioneered by Mike Grgich and made famous at the Paris Tasting in 1976.  Complex flavors and natural acidity, all farmed naturally.  Apple notes with hint of melon and cashew nuts.

• Justin Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles. 2012.  $22.  Welcoming soil and sub-climate make finesse-filled wines at this western-most Paso outpost of fine wines.  Small oak barrel aging, balanced with flavors of black fruit and spice.

• Sojourn Pino Noir, Russian River Sonoma. 2012. $48.  Big and deep Pinot from the Wohler Vineyard. Classic cherry, cola and earthy flavors.

• Villa Cafaggio Reserva Chianti Classico, Tuscany Italy. 2009. $20.  Only handpicked grapes selected for color, aroma and soft tannins.  Aged 18 months in French oak barriques.  Wine has concentration and depth. 100 percent Sangiovese grapes.                 

Wine Bytes

The new Perfect Pairings Wine Bar & Bistro in Carlsbad at 300 Carlsbad Village Dr. has a Justin/Landmark Wine Dinner, Jan. 6 at 6:30 p.m. with a  five- course dinner for $85.  Five wines will be poured including one of TASTE OF WINE’S top 10 tastes, the Justin 2012 Cabernet.  RSVP and details at (760) 453-7974.

Solare Restorante at Liberty Station in San Diego presents a Castello Banfi Wine Dinner with six Banfi wines and a five course dinner, 6:45 to 9:30 p.m. Banfi’s own Luciano Castiello will emcee the wine portion of the evening. Cost is $75.  For all the details, call (619) 980-9652.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web.  View and link up with his columns at  Reach him at [email protected], and follow him                             on Facebook.


Arlene Valentino January 20, 2015 at 7:18 am

Where can I purchase these 10 wines?

Arlene Valentino January 20, 2015 at 7:17 am

Where can I buy the Top Ten Wines of 2014?

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