The Coast News Group
Taste of Wine

Top ten tastes for the first half of 2014


Like most west coast wine lovers, my choices have been confined to California, Oregon and Washington.

Justin Winery’s ISOCELES was the first wine to gain international recognition in Paso Robles. Photo courtesy of Justin Winery
Justin Winery’s ISOCELES was the first wine to gain international recognition in Paso Robles. Photo courtesy of Justin Winery

The 10 selected wines will take a break from that with two selections from Colorado, a high country state with massive swings in temperature, that have served the beer industry well and are starting to do just that with select varietals of wine.

My next column will profile my recent trip to this magnificent state and its burgeoning wine business.

Earlier in the year, I was thrilled to go one-on–one with 91-year-old Mike Grgich, Napa Valley’s pioneer winemaker.

You will get acquainted with his latest Cabernet that made the list.

The 10 are treated equally as excellent wines, weighing flavor, body andvalue.  The list is alphabetical and does not indicate ranking:

•Adelaida Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles, 2011.  $36.   Paso landed two in the top 10, both on the west side about 15 miles from the ocean at elevations of some 2,000 feet for concentrated grape flavor.

The area is mounting a “Cab Collection” campaign to compete with Napa Valley.

•Falkner Winery Amante Blend, Temecula Calif., 2010. $39.95.  Super Tuscan style, with Sangiovese, Cabernet, Cab Franc and Merlot.  Nothing better for Italian food and beef.

•Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, 2010. $53.  Elegance abounds in the story and the wines of Jordan.  Only Chardonnay and Cabernet are released on this 1,200-acre historic property in Sonoma.  Visits must be by appointment.  Don’t miss the opportunity.                 

• Justin Isosceles Blend, Paso Robles 2010. $70.  On the leading edge of the west side of Paso Robles, this is the signature wine for Justin, in its 25th year of wine royalty.  Indulge your senses with this Cabernet, Cab Franc and Merlot blend, barrel aged for 24 months in French oak.

•J Vineyards Vin Gris Russian River Valley, 2013.  $20. A Rose of Pinot Noir from the Russian River, with a special French style process for color. It is beautiful to view and better to drink.  Tart cherry, wild strawberry and rose petals.  Taste this chilled to the bone.  “Joie de Gris!”

•Grande River Vineyards Viognier. Palisade, Co., 2011.  $17.99.  Grande River is the first of two Colorado wineries that I thought had the juice to compete with many of the California names.

Steve and Naomi Smith first planted grapes in Palisade near Grand Junction in 1987.  It was Colorado’s largest by 2006, when they downsized and kept 10 of their acres to make great wines.

To me, their Viognier was art in a bottle, with its characteristic pear and apricot aromas and flavors.

•Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2011.  $60.  The master of Napa Valley, Mike Grgich continues rich vintages of the valley’s top varietal.  2011 was demanding.  The harvest was pushed back so that this Cab is more reminiscent of France than Napa Valley.  A cooler season lowered the level of sugar, translating into lower alcohol.  I am sure it made Mike smile.

•Pedroncelli Mother Clone Old Vine Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley Sonoma, 2012. $17.  This vintage year is producing a bonanza of fine wine, including Pedroncelli Zin, always one of the biggest values to come out of Sonoma.

•Tenuta Di Chizzano Veneroso Blend, Tuscany, Italy, 2008. $39.98.  70 percent Sangiovese, 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, this stately, classic “Super Tuscan” wine is the product of over 26 generations of the Venerosi Pesciolini family since the 14th century.  Tradition and terroir are woven into this dark, gamey blend. Available at Cardiff Seaside Market.

•Whitewater Hill Vineyards Shiraz, Grand Junction, Co., 2012. $15.  A farm winery with a big vista view of the Grand Valley in western Colorado, where seven varietals are grown on 24 acres, plus 17 other wines sourced from all-Colorado grapes.  The Shiraz won gold at the Finger Lakes New York international show last year.  Rich and fruity with notes of plum, currant and black pepper.

Wine Bytes, normally seen in this column, will resume next week.

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 column at  Reach him at [email protected].