Lots pop into our heads when we think of 2020, and of course we aren’t out of the woods yet, or even close, so far for 2021. For me it was a windfall of wines sent for review, often accompanied by a Zoom tasting led by the winemaker. I (virtually) traveled to Germany, Spain, Argentina, France, Italy and more in those meetings and via my own cellar. And before Covid shut things down I did have quick trips to Los Olivos, Paso Robles and the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. Below is a collection of some of my favorite wines from 2020. If any of this sounds good to you, go find these wines!
It turns out that I had about 50 wine tastings, if not more, in 2020. These shout-outs are from EveWine101 website articles: the 2020 Gambero Rosso Master Class, 2017 Bordeaux presented by the Union des Grand Crus, Vega Sicilia collectors dinner with Pablo Alvarez, Fontanafredda Barolo, wine from New Zealand’s Waipapa Bay, Folded Hills Winery with winemaker Angela Osborne, California Wine STARS 2020, LA County Wines (Byron Blatty, Acri Wine Company, Angeleno Wine Company and Cavaletti Vineyards), Zoom tasting with Suzanne Phifer Pavitt and their 2012 Date Night Cabernet, Camins 2 Dreams, Gary Farrell single vineyard Pinots with winemaker Theresa Heredia, revisiting Montemar, catching up with winemaker Mark Cargasacchi and Jalama wines, also visiting Ampelos and Zotovich in Lompoc, Switchback Ridge via the Grand Reserves Reward Master Card, tasting from family-owned wineries with Dr. Laura Catena, Anne Trimbach, Laure Colombo and Alessia Collauto Travaglini, great wines that stole my palate but not my wallet from Guarachi Wine Partners, reviewing DAOU’s Soul of a Lion, Tenuta Montemagno sparkling Barbera, Castello di Fonterutoli with Giovanni Mazzei, Paul Kornell Sparkling…
In SCV Elite Magazine this year I got to write about wine tasting in Paso Robles just before the shutdown. Had exceptional experiences at Thacher Winery, Tablas Creek Vineyard, Derby Wine Estates, Steinbeck Wines, Cass Wines, Eberle Winery, Oso Libre Winery, HammerSky vineyards and the Allegretto Vineyard Resort.
January started out great with my first, and last, visit and dinner at Marstons with my VP/BFF Michael Perlis, our wonderful spouses, all over lots of wine ($10 corkage!) including 2013 Audacious Grenache/Syrah/Cab blend by Law Estate, 2013 Comstock Rockpile/Sonoma County Zinfandel, 2009 Regusci Zinfandel Napa Valley…
At Wine 661: Lucas And Lewellen tasting where we sampled five of their Santa Barbara County wines, including a Rose of Pinot and a Bordeaux blend. Had a couple of wines off of the Happy Hour menu. This was not the last time I went to Wine 661 in 2020…
Now some single bottle shout outs:
Vinos Zanzonico 2017 Syrah Reserva: 100% Syrah, 13.5% alcohol, from the Valle de la Grulla area of Baja. With a regal dark purple color, I was drawn in to fantastic aromas of sweet black cherry, plum, tri-color peppercorns, layers of rich bark, milk chocolate…all very welcoming. I went in for a taste and was rewarded with a very rich and layered mouthfeel, with dark and dry blue to black fruit, grilled mushrooms, peppery spicy goodness and tannins that held my back palate at attention for a length that just would…not…quit. 99 Eve points.
2014 Old Vine Zichichi Family Vineyard Zinfandel from the Dry Creek Valley: The 14.8% alcohol didn’t translate at all to a hot wine on the palate, instead it delivered incredible substance. It started with a nose full of sweet dark plums, pipe tobacco, black licorice, toasted oak, black pepper and popcorn kernel. Going in for a taste my mouth was filled with delicious dried blueberry and blackberry, that same black pepper, tannins that held firm, and a great balance of the dark fruit and tannins to keep it lingering a long time on the palate. This was a new Zin discovery for me, will definitely be looking for it again!
Entourage by Two Papas Wine barrel fermented (1) and stainless steel (2) 2019 Chardonnay, Thompson Vineyard, Santa Barbara County: 1. Barrel: Designated by a gold wax top (the stainless has a silver wax top) I was amazed that this was a young 2019 vintage! It had lovely notes of creamy butter, pineapple, golden delicious apple and popcorn kernel that morphed into caramel apple on the palate, mild acidity, with a long, balanced and lush finish. 2. No barrel: Our stainless sibling gave off nicely scented whiffs of Meyer lemon, both cantaloupe and honeydew melon, and a little unsalted butter. When I tasted the wine I got homemade fruit cocktail, wet pebbles, low acidity and a medium finish.
2018 Kindred Rose of Pinot Noir: The color of rose gold, complete with sparkles! Then on the nose I found pink grapefruit, lemon pith, French Toast, Creme Brûlée, and Mandarin orange = all very inviting! In for a taste next, there is a very round mouthfeel, and the same citrus fruits I found on the nose – grapefruit, lemon and orange – with a medium acidity. Enjoy now, with or without food IMO!
2015 Phifer Pavitt XRoads Cabernet Sauvignon: Crushed dark cherry, wet forest floor, grilled steak and mushrooms, dark chocolate, black licorice, pipe tobacco, toasted oak, a hint of sweet cream and more all on the nose. Flavors included that same black cherry as well as blackberry, blueberry, a gamut of spices, velvety and firm drying tannins that of course require that you go back in for another sip…and another.
2012 Regusci Patriarch Proprietary Red: aroma: dark berries, dried leaves, figs, toasted oak and a bit o’ mint. Some of the same aromas in the flavors with the addition of dark chocolate.
2001 Giacomo Conterno Cascina Francia, a Nebbiolo from Barolo, Piedmont…I looked for the roses, tar, licorice and red berries (notes from a professional critic) and also found tart berries, spice and tannins after decanting for 7 hours. So interesting.
Have you tried Guentota, aka the “Soul of Cuyo”, a “100-YR-OLD-VINE PREMIUM 2016 MALBEC” from Mendoza, Argentina? It’s from Belasco De Baqueano and was awarded 91 points from James Suckling. And I was far too busy lapping it up to make any tasting notes. But find it at Newhall Press Room. (Truth be told I had a LOT of wine from Newhall Press in 2020!)
2002 Joseph Phelps Insignia, I have no notes as I was also too busy drinking to take any. A stellar wine as it’s been proven vintage after vintage.
1999 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo: The nose and taste had really changed and mellowed over the 7 hours, with aromas of dried dark fruit, grilled mushroom, balsamic, dust and oak; on the palate I got both bright and dark fruit in a very fine balance.
From my local Pulchella Winery we had: Suspect sparkling wine, 2019 Latitude Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier blend, 2017 Mercenary Zinfandel blend, 2018 Witness Grenache…among others!
A note on Los Olivos: this was a non-press trip so no notes were taken. With that in mind we loved: Barbieri and Kempe are “Boutique wines made by Master Sommelier Paolo Barbieri” along with his wife Erin Kempe = bought a case! The second, Bella Cavailli Farms and Vineyard, produces some amazing wines against a backdrop of a working horse ranch, as well as some fun distilled spirits from Dorwood Distillery. Jeff Lockwood is the winemaker and his brother Jay the head distiller. We left there with both wine and spirts to enjoy at home.
A note from Wine on the Porch: During the summer months we enjoyed Hanzell Chardonnay, Saintsbury Chardonnay, Parhelion Cellars Light Pillar Chardonnay, St Supery Virtu Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blend, Pagter Brothers 2018 Viognier, and from Hoi Polloi I snatched up their 2018 Rose of Grenache and Double-Gold Best-Of-Class 2018 Chardonnay!
A note about spirits: Yea, I wrote a lot about spirits this year too, stay tuned for a roundup of those next!
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.