One question I am frequently asked as a wine critic is “What are your favorite wines?” It’s more difficult to answer than it might seem. While I do have go-to favorites for certain occasions, the delightful thing about reviewing wines is their diversity of origins and styles.
Often I will do a complete review on a grape variety, a region, even a single producer. However, as in this column, it’s much more fun to simply go through wines recently tasted with no theme in mind at all. Here are 21 such wines from my tasting notes that encompass an outstanding range. Ramble through them and see what attracts your attention and budget.
Kim Crawford East Cost New Zealand Unoaked Chardonnay 2014 ($15). Very good, with more personality than most unoaked chards — mellow apples, tones of dry vermouth, and roasted nuts.
Paul Hobbs “Ulises Valdez” Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2012 ($72). Quite enjoyable, with creamy yet structured flavors of quince and other stone fruits with lots pronounced oak notes.
Paul Hobbs “Richard Dinner” Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay 2012 ($75). Good freshness and intensity with eau-de-vie-style pear and apple flavors, good minerality, and light vanilla in the finish.
Garzón Uruguay Albarino 2014 ($15). Enjoyable, lightly green-fruity and juicy, and good acidity in the finish.
Trivento “Decopas” Mendoza Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($11). Somewhat full, a little creamy, grassy. Enjoyable, but not out of the ordinary.
Ehlers Estate St. Helena Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($28). Tart green fruits, including kiwi and gooseberry, with lime citrus flavors, white-peppery edges, and some light brioche in the finish — very good complexity.
St. Urbans-Hof “Urban” Mosel Riesling 2014 ($12). A pleasant, rather simple sipping wine with spicy, sweet fruitiness balanced by good finishing acidity.
Stinson Virginia Cabernet Franc 2015 ($25). A refreshing though not complex wine with juicy, ripe-berry freshness, and pleasant bitters around the edges.
Va La “Mahogany” Pennsylvania Red Table Wine 2012 ($48). Great tart flavors of blackberries and black raspberries with some leavening of crème fraîche, hints of bitters at the edges, and mild, well-integrated tannins — good drinking now, better drinking later.
Garzón Uruguay Tannat 2013 ($18). From Uruguay’s signature grape, it’s pleasantly rough with smoky fruit, intense blackberry and blueberry flavors, and a touch puckery in the finish, as tannat can be.
Equinox “5 Elemente” Moldova Red Wine 2011 ($34). A mixture of syrah and Bordeaux grapes, it is very spicy, with rich flavors of red cherries and brambles and light tannins — a pleasant food wine.
Franciscan “Magnificat” Napa Valley Meritage 2012 ($48). Classic berry and barrel aromas and flavors — just a delicious wine with ripe cherries, creamy oak, and a hint of dry herbal garrigue. Pour a large glass and just enjoy.
Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($59). Made to go with a juicy steak, the wine provides a lean yet flavorful counterpoint with dark berry flavors and green herbal notes in the finish.
Tom Gore Alexander Valley Red Field Blend 2012 ($40). With good extracted flavors in the classic French style, the wine is lean but packed with fresh and dried fruit flavors — blackberries, figs, cassis.
Simi Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2013 ($20). More a food wine, I think, than a sipping wine — lighter in style but fairly high in alcohol, with enjoyable flavors of brambles and red cherries.
Robert Mondavi Carneros Pinot Noir Reserve 2013 ($60). For as long as I remember, Mondavi’s premium pinot noirs have always been ripe and rich with no hints of Burgundian reticence — a style that reflects a terroir and tradition that doesn’t try to copy anything.
Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2010 ($66). Everything I like in a good brunello — compact dried fruits on a leathery base and a lovely, distinct tannic finish that stops short of being puckery. Now or later.
Vietti “Perbacco” Langhe Nebbiolo 2012 ($25). Love it — smoky and leathery, with great flavors of dried and fresh cherries and flavorful tannins. It makes you want to go hunting for a haunch of wild boar.
Vietti “Tre Vigne” Barbera d’Asti 2013 ($17). One of those tightly wound wines whose flavors are teased out in the glass — tangy cherries, black tea, dried herbs. Quite good.
Aia Vecchi “Sor Ugo” Bolgheri Superior 2011 ($34). Nice, moderate cherry fruitiness with typical sangiovese raspiness in the finish — solid if not spectacular.
Trivento “Decopas” Mendoza Malbec 2014 ($9). A wine for fruit-forward lovers, it has lots of red fruitiness tamed a bit by herbal notes of green briers.