Best high-end wines: 2017 on-the-tens guide (photos)
Best high-end wines: 2017 on-the-tens guide (photos)
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Our monthly wine reviews focus on affordable wines, most falling in the $25-and-less range. But once a year we’ll take a few sips in the pricey end of the pool.
Here’s our annual on-the-tens guide to high-end wines. While some vintages might change out on shelves, the wineries’ offerings should be available in Northeast Ohio (we require winery representatives to confirm the wines we review are available in the local retail market and have decent case production).
As with our regular reviews, the goal is to explain briefly what flavors we’re finding; you decide if it appeals to your palate and budget. (No sparkling wine is included as we cover those separately.) Scroll through the gallery for close-up photos of labels and prices. We’ll end it with a trio of favorites.
The 2014 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon ($125) from Chile is amazingly smooth and creamy (last year we tried the ’12 at the same price point; the ’14 is even better.)
$90 AND LESS
With raspberry in the nose, Michael Mondavi family’s savory 2012 Animo Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($85) – named for its mountain vineyard locale – has tannins that smooth down over time, yields subtle cherry and licorice notes, and is made to pair with prime rib and the like. ... 2013 Patz & Hall Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir ($90) has strong perfume and floral notes, but while our tasting panel loves P&H wines, this one seems a little much price-wise.
$80 AND LESS
The robust and intense 2014 Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir ($75) has rich, earthy tar notes with dried cherry and licorice. ... The spicy, savory 2013 Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella ($80) is a complex wine with notes of mushrooms along with a pleasing cranberry tartness and fig on the finish. ... The 2014 Flora Springs Trilogy ($80) – a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot - is rich, bold and incredibly smooth, perfect for a hearty red sauce. ... 2014 Justin Isosceles ($72) is a Bordeaux-style blend (73 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 15 percent Cabernet Franc, 12 percent Merlot), always a consistent quality wine from a winery that offers a range of price points and would be perfect to drink right now.
$70 AND LESS
2014 Patz & Hall Gap’s Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir ($70) starts with unripened cherry before cedar notes emerge as it grows into a bombastic wine, pleasantly surprising for the varietal. ... 2013 Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry ($65) – a compilation of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc – is a wonderful pairing for meat or pasta dishes, a tannic wine meant for food ... The single-vineyard 2014 Benegas Lynch Malbec ($65) from Mendoza, Argentina, is an outstanding example of the varietal, spicy and delicious, equally good as stand-alone sipper or with food. ... The wonderfully smooth 2015 Animo Sauvignon Blanc ($65) from Napa offers floral notes and is almost buttery with just a very slight touch of grapefruit.
$60 AND LESS
2014 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Double Lariat Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) offers menthol and eucalyptus notes, healthy tannins that work well with food or as a sipper. ... The list wouldn’t be complete without a good Italian wine, and to that end the 2011 Tommasi Casisano Brunello di Montalcino ($60) is aged for three years in oak casks and yields the spiciness of tobacco and vanilla from oak. ... 2014 Square Peg Pinot Noir ($55) from California’s famed Russian River Valley has cherry cola, cedar and menthol notes preceding a raspberry-licorice finish, really showing the range of the varietal.
$50 AND LESS
2014 Robert Mondavi Maestro ($50) is a big red blend with an equally big aroma of aged cherries, isn’t jammy at all, and very clean tasting with moderate tannins. ... 2014 Beaulieu Vineyard Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($44) has blueberry notes, healthy tannins and some cedar. ... 2011 Malleolus Tempranillo ($44) from Spain has blackberry and violet on the nose and is a rich, dark wine, heavy-bodied for its varietal, great with food or a fine sipper (and is the only wine bottle I have seen with braille on the label). ... 2015 Prisoner ($47) from Napa Valley has a great rep for good reason; it has spicy notes and was a big crowd-pleaser among dinner-party pals. ... 2014 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir ($45) - an elegant example of the varietal from California’s famed Russian River Valley – is a tough find but it’s been making its way to NE Ohio with strawberry, cherry and balanced oak. ... 2013 Dry Creek Vineyard Mariner ($45) from Sonoma County, California, blends 54 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 24 percent Merlot, 10 percent Petit Verdot, 8 percent Malbec and 4 percent Cabernet Franc, resulting in a smoky wine with notes of raspberry and milk chocolate that can stand up to any hearty dish. ... 2014 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon ($44) from Napa Valley is a wonderful wine, with a big aroma of baking spice and nutmeg. ... 2013 Dierberg Pinot Noir ($46) wowed our tasting panel, with dark chocolate, raspberry, subtle cherry and baked cobbler notes. ... 2013 Leviathan ($48) is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah and yields spicy notes and a long finish.
$40 AND LESS
2014 Gundlach Bundschu Pinot Noir ($40) from Sonoma County, California, has a bouquet of flavors, from cranberry and red raspberry on the nose to notes of dried cherries and cinnamon spice on the finish. ... If you’re in the mood for a steak wine, 2012 Louis M. Martini Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($34) is a great bet with a flavor and finish that go on forever. ... 2013 Flora Springs Chardonnay ($35) has some oomph to it, peach coming through along with a hint of coconut and oak on the finish. ... Oak and citrus play well together in the 2014 Jordan Chardonnay ($32) from California’s Russian River Valley; the flavors balance each other so it’s not like a stick of butter has been fermenting. ... 2015 Fel Pinot Noir ($38) from California’s Anderson Valley was a savory wine, not a typical cherry bomb, and incredibly drinkable. ... 2015 Saldo Zinfandel ($32), with its minimalistic label from the Prisoner Wine Co. in California, yields big spice and savory flavors and is an excellent value. ... 2013 Swanson Merlot ($32) has unripened cherry on the nose, cocoa on the palate and a dry finish – made to pair with steaks or dark chocolate. ... 2010 Agly Brothers Cotes du Roussillon ($38) will satiate French-wine lovers’ palates, with black pepper notes coming from its blend of Carignon, Grenache and Syrah. ... 2015 Frank Family Carneros Pinot Noir ($35) has cherry up front followed by a big spicy kick on the finish from the 25-year-old winery. ... 2014 Michael David Inkblot Cabernet Franc ($35) from Lodi, California, is one of the best Cab Francs I have ever tasted, with a long finish and no overwhelming green-pepper notes, tremendously smooth.
$30 AND LESS
Nutty flavors of Blandy’s 10-year Madeira ($30) give way to a tangy feel that left my mouth watering after dinner. ... 2013 Wente Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) is a big wine from an old winery, a great food wine that dries out immediately and will go with a nice steak. ... 2015 Steele Wines Durell Vineyard Chardonnay ($30) offers pear and butterscotch on the palate with just a hint of citrus / lemon and medium oak. ... The rich-tasting 2013 Geyser Peak Alexander Valley Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) has blackberry on the palate and oak on the finish and is meant for a tasty barbecued meal. ... 2013 Parducci Wines True Grit Reserve Petite Sirah ($30) from Mendocino is not a fruit-bomb example of this varietal; it pairs well with beef stew as notes of spice, leather and plum emerge. ... 2014 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir ($30) is a hearty wine for the varietal with cherry, cranberry and cedar notes, coming from Pinot-fertile Oregon.
MY THREE STARS IN 2017
Best value: 2015 Saldo Zinfandel, $32.
Favorite red: 2014 Michael David Inkblot Cabernet Franc, $35.
Favorite white: 2013 Flora Springs Chardonnay, $35.
Here’s a look at past end-of-year high-end wine roundups: