It’s my favorite time of year, time to round up the best of the best and feature them in an end-of-the-year summary. This past year has been hot, hot, hot for red blends, and that trend doesn’t show any signs of stopping. The best part about the U.S. wine scene is that there are NO rules. Creativity and experimentation have yielded some stellar blends, and of course, there are those that have perfected the more classic styles.
Don’t miss this chance to find your new favorite!
2014 White Rock Vineyards, Claret, Estate, Napa Valley, CA
This is one of our most iconic, pre-prohibition, family owned, estates. The Vandendriessche family has owned and farmed this historic property since 1977, and Christopher and Michael craft the most elegant and stately Help support this historic estate after the fire. Cabernet blend here: beautiful and elegant dried black cherry, fall leaves, forest cedar notes, crunchy black berry, and the silkiest mouthfeel combine to completely over-deliver for the price. This is the perfect match for NY strip, white truffle infused mashed potatoes, and winter greens.
$50.99 per bottle
2014 Tablas Creek Vineyard, ‘Esprit de Tablas’ Paso Robles, CA
This venture has helped put Paso on the map. With the Perrin family of Chateau Beaucastel in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Southern Rhone valley backing the project, this estate came to prominence in Paso both by making delicious wines in tribute to their homeland, and also by becoming the top propagation house for the valley, supplying starts to their neighbors and thus, helping to shape the style here. This wine is pure power and balance, with Mourvedre driving the nose of rich cured meats and dark juicy fruit. The Syrah lends the perfect bright pitch and pepper notes, while the Grenache rounds out the profile with ripe red fruits and floral aromatics. This wine deserves roast lamb with rosemary!
$57.99 per bottle
2016 Cruse Wine Co., ‘Monkey Jacket’, Red Blend, North Coast, CA
An eclectic blend from old vines up north, this is a natural wine (no sulfites, chemicals, organically grown fruit, etc.) and made with care in miniscule amounts. Rich berry and forest floor dominate this crowd-pleaser. Long length and a pop of good acidity keep it fresh and vibrant. This is a great introduction to ‘natural’ wine if you’ve never tried, or never had a good one!
$25.99 per bottle
2013 D’Elissagaray, Basque Blend, CA
Winemaker Deborah Elissagaray and her husband, Greg Stokes, of Ursa Vineyards conceived of this gem after traveling back to her family’s roots in the French Pyrenees. A blend of 40% Tannat, 20% Fer Servadou, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Alicante Bouschet, this wine is dark and intriguing: juicy blueberry, blackberry, and red plum combine with a sturdy backbone filled with woodsy aromas and a bit of tar. Dried rose and gravel hints round out this full-bodied profile. This wine takes you right to the sunny southwest of France! Delicious with aged hard cheeses, lamb stew and pintxos of course!
$27.99 per bottle
2015 Vinicola, Solar Fortun, ‘O Positivo’, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja, Mexico
Santiago Lopez Viana was a professional gymnast and engineer before turning his attention to wine. Educated at UC Davis, he brought his talents back to Mexico and teamed up with longtime winemaker Dr. Jose Alberto Lopez. Together, they are crafting superb wines of depth and pedigree. This gorgeous blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah is seamless with rich red and black fruits, cocoa, and spice. Full-bodied with integrated round tannins and a long, satisfying finish, this wine is perfect with great conversation around a warm fire in the late evening.
$32.99 per bottle
2013 The Paring, Red Blend, CA
This Bordeaux style blend is in perfect balance from master winemaker Matt Dees, formerly of Screaming Eagle. 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Petit Verdot make up this rich and elegant wine, which is then aged in 55% new French oak barrel for 22 months. Classic aromas of cassis and cedar accompany the velvety palate with hints of violet and graphite popping in on the edges. There is a noted pepper which delightfully balances the fruit and stays true to the Cab varieties. This wine drinks well above its price.
$29.99 per bottle
2013 L’Ecole No. 41, ‘Apogee’, Pepper Bridge Vineyard, Bordeaux Blend, Walla Walla Valley, Washington State
This family estate on the west side of the valley resides in and is named for the original schoolhouse from the late 1800s in what was a French settlement. Their wines are the epitome of elegance and richness: This blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Malbec, and 5% Cabernet Franc, all from the famous Pepper Bridge Vineyard, is dark and velvety with heady black and blueberry fruits with subtle cocoa and coffee notes, a touch of woodsy freshness, and a long, savory finish. Layered and satisfying with velvety tannins, this pairs perfectly with pot roast, osso bucco, and prime rib. Delicious.
$48.99 per bottle
2015 ‘Smithereens’ by Skinner, GSM Blend, El Dorado County, CA
This little gem from Skinner is named for ancestor James Skinner’s gold mining days. Bright and juicy mountain strawberry mingle with a nice prosciutto-like meatiness. Great texture and fruit-driven on the palate, with a thread of sage and rosemary running through the middle, and a touch of dried florals in the finish. light and crisp, this pairs beautifully with herbed pork tenderloin.
$19.99 per bottle