Tom Simoneau’s Wines of the Year 2016

Tom Simoneau’s Wines of the Year 2016

Best Whites

Sparkling Wine: Domaine Carneros 2008 Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs, $110
Le Rêve is French for “the dream”. So… close your eyes and take a sip. Okay, that might not take you all the way to dreamland, but it’s close. This 100% estate-grown Chardonnay sparkler is worth its price tag. Domain Carneros is owned by the French Champagne house of Taittinger. Winemaking is in the capable hands of industry veteran Eileen Crane. A WOW wine!

Chardonnay: Three Sticks 2014 Durell Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, $48
Named after owner Bill Price III, whose nickname growing up was three sticks. This Chardonnay is what you get when you match a special vineyard, Durell, with a master winemaker, Bob Cabral, of Williams Selyem fame. I call this wine luscious.

Sauvignon Blanc: Spottswoode 2015, 34% Napa County, 66% Sonoma County, $38
Everything I look for in a great Sauvignon Blanc from a veritable who’s who in vineyard sites. Classically complex and perfectly balanced from an estate known for its Cabernet Sauvignon. Don’t miss out on this stunner by winemaker Aron Weinkauf.

Off Dry White: Chappellet 2015 Signature Chenin Blanc, Pritchard Hill, Napa Valley, $32
Did I say… Chenin Blanc on Pritchard Hill? Yes, from what the Chappellet family calls a “beloved 3-acre block”. The Chenin was there when they bought the property in 1967 and they’ve made one ever since. There is something to be said about being family owned. Tasting by appointment only is highly recommended.

Alternative White: Matthiasson Vineyard 2014 Ribolla Gialla, Napa Valley, $40
What? Never heard of Ribolla Gialla? It’s a white Italian wine grape from the Frioli region in northern Italy. It’s only in the past few years that the TTB, the Tax & Trade Bureau, approved this grape variety to appear on a wine label. Matthiasson Vineyards is one of the few wineries who grow and produce a Ribolla Gialla. It produces a white wine with an orange hue with tangerine and grapefruit flavors. Made by the famed viticulturist and winemaker Steve Matthiasson.

Best Value White: Kendall-Jackson Avant 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, California, $13
This category is one of the most difficult, as people are always asking me; can you recommend a wine for around $5? The answer is… No! This Avant’s list price is $13, but can often be found on sale for substantially less. Shows great balance and plenty of flavor.

Dessert Wine: Fattoria di Lucignano Vin Santo Del Chianti D.O.C. 2005, $27
A blend of 80% Trebbiano and 20% Malvasia Bianca Toscana. After a September harvest, the grapes are dried on mats until December when barrels are filled to 75%, and sealed as soon as fermentation starts. The yeast sediment from the previous vintage was left in the barrel. The barrels are opened after 8 years, resulting in a sweet and oxidized nectar with flavors of honey, apricot, and dried fruit. These oxidized Madeira and Sherry style wines are making a comeback. Don’t be left behind. Google Vin Santo for more info or click on

Rosé: Hart’s Desire 2015 Sangiovese Rosé, Dry Creek Valley, $22
Hart’s Desire is a boutique winery owned by John Hart III and his wife Desire. I know you were thinking H-e-a-r-t, but as John told me, the original Hart’s Desire was the name of a family cabin in the Sierras. This Sangiovese Rosé was made to be a Rosé, all raspberry and strawberry, crisp and clean.

Best Reds

Zinfandel: Carol Shelton Wines 2013 PeaceLand Vineyard, Fountaingrove District, Sonoma County, $30
She is often called the Queen of Zinfandel and after tasting this wine you’ll know why. The name of the PeaceLand Vineyard comes from the translation of its owner’s German last name, Friedland. Of all the delicious Zinfandels Carol Shelton makes, and I’ve had them all, this one is head of the class.

Merlot: Greenwood Ridge Vineyards 2014 Mendocino Ridge Estate Merlot, $29
You may not have heard of Greenwood Ridge before, but once you see a bottle you’ll never forget them. All of their wines have a copper dragon silk-screened on the bottles. The dragon was inspired by a gift the previous owner’s father gave to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Now owned by Ken and Diane of Wilson Artisan Wineries, you’ll be hearing more about this little gem of a winery in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley.

Rhone Style Reds: Langtry Estate & Vineyard 2013 Petite Sirah, Guenoc Valley, Serpentine Meadow, Lake County, $40
From the 23,000-acre estate named after the 19th century actress and socialite Lily Langtry. The Lake County wines have arrived and should not be overlooked. The Langtry Petite Sirah is an example of what all the hub-bubs about.

Alternative Red: Thumbprint Cellars 2013 Cabernet Franc, Ramazzotti Vineyard, Alexander Valley, $49
Tiny Thumbprint Cellars is based on single vineyard varietals. And yes, the name and logo come from an accident involving gold ink and owner/winemaker Scott Lindstom-Dake’s thumb. You’ll have to stop by their tasting room on the square in Healdsburg where Scott and his wife Erica will be glad to explain.

Blended Red: Westwood Estate Wines 2014 Elevation Estate Red Blend, Annadel Gap Vineyards, Sonoma County, $38
This blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Counoise is as complex and delicious as wines for twice the price. Winemaker Ben Cane, of Silver Oak’s Twomey fame, has a finesse with his winemaking which will make Westwood an instant fav.

Best Buy Red: J. Lohr Estates 2014 Los Osos Merlot, Paso Robles, $15
Established in 1974 by wine pioneer Jerry Lohr, family owned J. Lohr produces wine to fit every price point and match every palate. When you reach for a bottle of J. Lohr you won’t be disappointed. Congratulations to Jerry Lohr, the 2016 Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s American Wine Legend Award Winner.

Most Fun Wine: Michael David Winery 2014 Petite Petit, $18
Michael and David are Michael and David Phillips, brothers whose family has farmed fruits and vegetables in the Lodi Region since the 1850’s. This Petite Petit is a blend of 85% Petite Sirah and 15% Petit Verdot. A winery with a sense of humor proudly portrays two elephants imbibing on the label. There is nothing petite about this wine.

Pinot Noir: Patz & Hall 2014 Pinot Noir, Gap’s Crown Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, $70
Another in a long line of outstanding wines from master winemaker James Hall. As consistent as any California Pinot Noir producer, this Gap’s Crown shows layers of cherry and plum, spicy with a finish I can still taste. A trip to the Sonoma House at Patz & Hall is highly recommended. Tasting by appointment only.

Cabernet Sauvignon/Luxury Wine & Winery of the Year

Davies Vineyards 2013 J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District, $100
Davies Vineyards is located at the Schramsberg Winery just south of Calistoga. The J. Davies Cabernet was made as a tribute to Jack Davies who, with his wife Jamie, founded Schramsberg in 1965. Since its first release in 2004 the J. Davies Cab has developed into one of Napa Valley’s finest. Hugh Davies, Jack’s son, runs the winery today and continues where Jack left off as a major player in environmental and community issues in Napa Valley. It’s for all these reasons; I have named Davies Vineyards my 2016 Winery of the Year!

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