Vinotasting Featured Picks 2013

Our tasting panel meets several times monthly to taste wines blind, thus providing unbiased evaluations of the newest wine releases.

Not worthy  
Best Buy ratings are given for those wines that we feel offer exceptional quality for their price. Most "Best Buy" wines are $25 or less.
Best Wine ratings distinguish exceptional quality wines of any price point, when compared with other similar wines.
For each issue our editors sometimes share their impressions about wines that stand out in the tasting.


VinoTasting Panel Tasting

Christopher J. Davies
Brandon Tebbe CWE MS
William Davis CWE CS

Bisol Desiderio Jeio Prosecco Brut NV $16.00  

Pale straw, med intensity, consistent mousse:  nose is bright, with white peach, ripe yellow pear, and yellow apple.  Easy to drink, with good acidity framing the fruit.

Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Cartizze DOCG $26.00  

Pale straw, med intensity, consistent mousse:  more muted notes, rich tropical notes of banana and pineapple, hint of Meyer lemon.  A slight yogurt and almond note comes in on the nose, showing some lees contact.  Off dry; hints of green pear, umi fruit on the palate; a very interesting example of Glera.

NV Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut Crede $21.00 Best Buy!

Pale lemon, medium/minus intensity, fast moving bubbles, all over the glass.  Off dry; Anjou pear, green apple skin, lemon, and lime on the nose and finish. A bitter phenol note comes through on the finish, and a phenomenal acidity and richness. Ironically, I like this wine for its' unassuming approach. Quirky and elegant, like Zooey Deschanel dressed for the Oscars.

Bisol Desiderio Jeio 'Cuvee Rose NV $16.00  

This is a delicious blend of Merlot and Pinot Noir. Medium Salmon to a light pink, medium minus intensity, persistent mousse;  red apple, ripe cherry and strawberry on the nose and palate.  Peach skin and watermelon on the finish.  Fun wine, would go well with cured meats and cheeses.  A slight chemical note, if omitted, would give it a higher score.

Vino Nobile Wines

La Braccesca 2006 Santa Pia D.O.C.G. sRiserva Vino Nobile $36.00  

Dark ruby with a medium ruby rim; medium plus intensity on the nose.  Black cherry, red plum and tobacco on a medium bodied finish, with tannin that creeps up.  Aged in French and Hungarian Oak for 14months. Crotchety, like Bad Grandpa. Needs to be paired with food!

Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano “Salco” 2006 $80.00 Best Wine!

Dark Ruby to a moderate rim.  Aged for 24 months in oak. Medium plus intensity on the nose; this shows the earthy, vinous side of Sangiovese, with tobacco leaf, rhubarb, and tart, dried red fruit.  A distinct sweet note on the finish gives it balance and added richness.  Drinking very well right now.  Sophisticated...and lively.

Montemercurio Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2007 D.O.C.G. Damo $26.00 Best Buy!

Medium ruby, consistent to a moderate water band.  Made from grapes that are sourced from a 50-year-old vineyard (one of region’s oldest). Roasted cherry, hint of volatility on the nose, certainly an earthy style of wine in all respects. Dried cranberry, spice, and rosemary on the palate.  Medium to full bodied, medium plus finish.

Montemercurio Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2007 D.O.C.G. Messaggero $65.00  

Dark ruby, fading to a light ruby rim.  Made from 100% Sangiovese. Aged in large barrels and small oak casks. Moderate intensity at best on the nose and palate, red cherry and red plum, with a hint of sweetness.  Tannins begin to grip on the finish.  Well-made wine, showing warmth and texture.  Can go another decade!

Casa Vinicola Triacca Santavenere Poderuccio Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2007 D.O.C.G. $20.00  

Medium ruby, fading to salmon on the rim.  Moderate intensity with signs of earth and decaying matter on the nose, Dried Bing cherry, under ripe strawberry, and spice on the finish. A blend of Sangiovese (85%), Merlot (10%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%). The finish feels thin, yet baked. Medium plus body and structure.  This is the experimental jazz section...meaning it is 'not for everyone'; it represents a rustic style of Sangiovese.

Palazzo Vecchio 2007 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano  D.O.C.G. $22.00  

Dark ruby to a medium ruby band, medium plus intensity on the nose and palate.  A hint of volatility, showing a riper vineyard, with damson plum, wild strawberry and cola.  Aged for 24 months in French Oak. Black fruits come together very well with a fresh vibrancy to this wine.  Fresh and juicy!

La Braccesca 2008 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano D.O.C.G. $24.00  

Dark ruby consistent through the rim. Medium plus intensity on the nose.  A blend of Sangiovese (90%) and Merlot (10%). Candied cherry and plum, red apple, and ripe cranberry.  High toned finish, with a hint of licorice, spice and minerals.  Soft and light finish.

Villa Anna 2009 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano D.O.C.G. $36.00 Best Wine!

Moderate ruby, consistent through the rim.  Medium plus intensity on the nose, with sandalwood, red plum, and Indian spice dominating. The oak is well integrated, with a beautiful mix of cedar, patchouli, and ripe red fruits on the palate.  Medium finish, structured and elegant.  Ben Kingsley in his finest

Tre Rose 2009 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano D.O.C.G. $18.00  

Dark ruby, consistent to the rim; medium intensity on the nose, with a candied, overripe wild strawberry component to the leather and spice on the finish.  Blend of Sangiovese(90%), Merlot (5%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%). Medium acidity, softer style of wine.  Good, aspiring to be great, yet falling a touch short.

Casa Vinicola Triacca 2010 Santavenere  Vino Nobile di Montepulciano D.O.C.G. $18.00  

Dark ruby, a bright pink rim.  Medium plus intensity on the nose, expressing a riper fruit spectrum of red, blue and black fruit.  There is a distinct note of red licorice, cumin, and sage on the finish.  This is an enjoyable wine that requires some food; pork or wild game.  Think of Roberto Benigni doing Bollywood!

Avignonesi 2010 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano D.O.C.G. $35.00 Best Wine!

Medium ruby to a thin water band.  Medium intensity on the nose, dominated by stewed black cherry and leather.   Aged in oak for 18 months, 80% in small barriques, 20% in large barrels. Well balanced, round with a lot more going on in the palate.  Red berry, orange peel, and tobacco with hints of cedar and vanilla.  Long beautiful finish.  Well done.  Clooney style!

DEI 2010 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano D.O.C.G. $32.00  

Dark ruby to a thin water band.  There is a good level of extraction in this wine.  Medium plus intensity on the nose, with baked plum and fern notes dominating.  Excellent glycerol and weight on the palate; ripe, without being too overbearing.  This is proof in the bottle that Catrina Dei is forging the way for Vino Nobile! Again, well done.  This is Sade on stage twenty years ago!

Sparkling Wines, Sweet White Wines
Bocceli Prosecco NV, Valdobiaddene DOC, Italy $15.00  

Pale straw color. Nice, fresh aromas of green grapes, peach, and lime sherbet with a light floral accent. Dry yet soft on the palate with a creamy mousse and flavors of marzipan and pear. A refreshing, easy-drinking bubbly!

White Wines
Madroña 2011 Dry Riesling, El Dorado, Ca. $18.00  

Pale lemon color. Aromas of peach and ginger, spiced green apples and lemon curd. Light-textured on the palate with racy acidity and loads of lime and white peach flavors. A zippy style!

Mirassou 2012 Riesling, California $10.00 Best Buy!

Medium lemon color. Concentrated aromas and flavors of ripe peaches, golden apples, lime and orange blossom. Off-dry style that is very well balanced with a mouthwatering, fruit-filled finish that makes you want to come back for more!

Skinner Vineyards 2011 Grenache Blanc, El Dorado, Ca. $26.99  

Medium lemon color. Exotic aromas of Thanksgiving spices, Frangelico, baked pear, apricot kernel and vanilla. Creamy, viscous texture, with a nutty, spiced pear flavor that lingers nicely.

Skinner Vineyards 2010 ‘Seven Generations’, El Dorado, Ca. $26.00  

A blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Picpoul Blanc, and Grenache Blanc. Medium, bright lemon color. Creamy and nutty with pretty floral aromas along with white peach and mandarin. Uplifting, well-integrated acidity for such a full-bodied, hefty white wine. Additional flavors of Meyer lemon, jasmine and honeysuckle sing on the long finish.

Holly's Hill Vineyards 2010 Patriarche Blanc, El Dorado, Ca. $25.00  

70% Roussanne, 30% Grenache Blanc. Medium lemon color. Good aromatic purity, with defined aromas of fresh apricot, marzipan, freshly cut orange rind that really comes through on the palate. Creamy texture but focused, well balanced, and quite simply delicious.

Lava Cap Winery 2011 Chardonnay, El Dorado, Ca. $18.00 Best Buy!
Medium lemon-gold color. Intense aromas of sweet spice, baked pear, nectarine, cantaloupe, ripe pineapple and butterscotch. The oak is evident but so well-integrated with the concentrated fruit that it all comes together very nicely. Crushed apple and vanilla flavors come through on the palate. This is a powerhouse, full-bodied Chardonnay yet it remains refreshing and the finish is very long. Well done.

Rose Wines

Skinner Vineyards 2012 Rosé, El Dorado, Ca. $18.00  

50% Mourvèdre, 50% Grenache. Medium salmon color. Unusual style – full-bodied with low acidity and high alcohol, but plenty of intense, ripe strawberry, watermelon juice, and nectarine pith to admire on the nose and palate. Just a hint of residual sugar, and the finish lasts a long time.

Red Wines

Skinner Vineyards 2011 Grenache, El Dorado, Ca. $26 $26.00  

Deep ruby color. A high-octane Grenache, with lots of smoky, baked red fruit, strawberry-rhubarb pie, raspberry preserves and cola flavors.  A well made wine for fans of the Skinner style – very ripe fruit, full body, low acidity and high alcohol.

Skinner Vineyards 2010 ‘Eight Sixty One’,
El Dorado, Ca. $30

A blend of Mourvèdre  and Grenache. Medium ruby color. Nice complexity of aromas and flavors, with cranberry, strawberry, red cherry preserves, black cherry, mocha, sage, thyme, vanilla, and “root beer float” coming through. Again, that Skinner style is present, with lots of sweet, super-ripe fruit, viscosity and noticeable heat on the finish.

Skinner Vineyards 2011 Mourvèdre, El Dorado, Ca. $26.00

Deep ruby color. Pleasant aromas of black cherry jam, vanilla, freshly tanned leather and sage, with lighter intensity of flavor on the palate. Smooth, no rough edges here. A good wine for grilling out.

Windwalker Vineyards 2010 Mourvèdre, El Dorado, Ca. $25.00  

Deep garnet color. Rich and ripe, with prune, fig, blackberry jam and toasty oak flavors. For fans of the style.

Lewis Grace Patriot 2010 Syrah, El Dorado, Ca. $31.00  

Deep ruby-purple color. Intense aromas and flavors of blackberry, mocha, vanilla, blueberry and black cherry. Viscous, mouthfilling texture with a slight tannic grip to frame the concentrated fruit. Quite ripe with discernible oak but not overdone.

Synapse 2008 Hangman’s Syrah, Sierra Foothills, Ca. $28.00  

Opaque ruby-purple color. Massive structure and depth, with intense aromas and flavors of prune, blackberry liqueur, boysenberry, toasted coconut, violet and licorice. Firm, with a long, oaky, tannic finish that needs six months to a year to resolve. Will pair well with barbecued pork, brisket, or grilled lamb.

Synapse 2008 ‘Diffusion’ Syrah, Sierra Foothills, Ca. $26.00

90% Syrah, 10% Viognier, co-fermented. Deep ruby-purple color. Aromas of eucalyptus, sage, blackberry and toasty oak with good weight on the palate. Solid, but not as polished as the Hangman’s Syrah. Needs time in the glass to open up.

Sierra Vista 2010 Syrah, El Dorado, Ca. $28.00  

Deep ruby color. Interesting aromas of chicory, cola, coffee, blueberry, and raspberry that unfold on the palate which displays additional boysenberry jam flavors. Sweet fruit that is held in check by juicy acidity. A good wine for glazed, barbecued chicken or pork.

Boeger Winery 2010 Barbera, El Dorado, Ca. $15.00  

Medium garnet color. Light aromas of blueberry Pop Tart and wild red cherry. There’s a nice burst of sweet fruit on the palate with moderate tannins and acidity on a medium bodied frame. A pleasant, if slightly simple, wine made for quaffing.

Bocceli 2009 Sangiovese, IGT Toscana $15.00  

Deep ruby-garnet color. An easy-drinking, low-intensity wine with sour cherry and dusty earth aromas and flavors. Good for pizza or spaghetti night.

Madroña 2010 Cabernet Franc, El Dorado, Ca. $22.00  

Deep ruby color. Dark red fruit aromas – pomegranate, black cherry, and black raspberry. Medium to full bodied with velvety tannins and moderate acidity. Excellent definition of fruit and good mingling of oak that plays out on the long finish. Try this with seared duck breast or pork roast.

Windwalker Vineyards 2010 Malbec, El Dorado, Ca. $28.00  
Opaque ruby-purple color. A smooth, lush style with ripe blueberry and blackberry fruit, cola and mocha aromas and flavors with an intriguing dried orange peel and violet note in the background. If you like the Argentine style, try this!

Madroña 2011 Signature Malbec, El Dorado, Ca. $28 $28.00  

Bright purple color. Candied boysenberry and underbrush aromas. Not as intense and satisfying as the Windwalker version, though pleasant enough. A good cocktail wine.

Boeger 2011 Merlot, El Dorado, Ca. $15.00  
Medium garnet color. Soft aromas of red cherry, black plum and vanilla. A bit confected. A fairly straightforward wine that is medium bodied and well balanced.

Shadow Ranch 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, El Dorado, Ca. $24.00  

Deep ruby-garnet. A ripe, polished style that is beautifully true to the variety with blackcurrant, black cherry, cigar box, charred Serrano pepper, eucalyptus and smoky vanilla oak. Full bodied with soft acidity and good length.

Jana Winery 2011 ‘Ultimo Beso’, El Dorado, Ca. $20.00 Best Buy!
A blend of Zinfandel and Barbera. Deep, bright ruby color. Pretty cinnamon and nutmeg aromas with black cherry and vanilla. Medium to full bodied, with just enough tannins and acidity to support the fruit. Ripe and smooth, with a long, spice and fruit-filled finish.

Windwalker Vineyards 2010 El Dorado, Ca. $24.00  
Deep ruby-garnet color. A beautiful expression of Zinfandel, this wine really shows depth and focus. Blackberry, raspberry, black pepper, and bramble flavors are clearly defined – classic Zin. The 15.5% alcohol is surprisingly in check. Remarkable.

Boeger 2010 Zinfandel, El Dorado, Ca. $18 $18.00  

Medium ruby-garnet color. A light, entry-level version of Zinfandel, with candied red fruit and vanilla flavors. Soft and easy – a good cocktail wine or for a backyard cookout.

Shadow Ranch 2010 Zinfandel, El Dorado, Ca. $20.00  
Deep ruby color. Loads of sweet fruit and oak – chocolate raspberry, black cherry, mocha, and vanilla flavors. Full bodied and rich with big tannins and ripe fruit. Amped up Zin!

Lava Cap Winery 2010 Zinfandel, El Dorado, Ca. $24.00  

Deep ruby-garnet color. Aromas of pomegranate, crushed rose petals, rhubarb, raspberry and red Twizzlers. A less-ripe style with dry tannins on the finish that need a juicy cut of meat to resolve.

MiraFlores 2006 Zinfandel, El Dorado, Ca. $22.00  
Deep garnet color. The age is starting to show, with smoky caramel and burnt sugar aromas along with dried raspberry. Medium bodied with some tannic grip on the finish. Drink up!

MiraFlores 2009 Estate Zinfandel, El Dorado, Ca. $22.00  
Deep, bright ruby color. Concentrated, with black licorice, blackberry, black raspberry and pretty lavender aromas and flavors that carry through on the full bodied frame.

MiraFlores 2010 Estate Zinfandel, El Dorado, Ca. $25.00  
Deep ruby-garnet color. This is Zinfandel. Bold, ripe berry and pepper flavors, full bodied with lots of structure and a long finish. Bravo!

Lava Cap 2010 Petite Sirah, El Dorado, Ca. $30.00  

Opaque ruby-purple color. Pronounced, polished ripe blackberry, fig, violet, and juniper aromas. Additional black plum jam and toasty oak flavors on the palate. Massive, massive wine but incredibly well-managed. Buy a case to enjoy this beauty over the next decade. Perfect for a standing rib roast.

MiraFlores 2010 Estate Zinfandel, El Dorado, Ca. $40.00 Best Wine!
Oh, my – botrytised Semillon! Are we in Sauternes? Deep gold color. Gorgeous aromas of honey, beeswax, clove, lanolin, cream, vanilla, dried apricot, and lemon pie that seem to linger endlessly. Viscous, lusciously sweet yet bright and mouthwatering on the finish. Unbelievably good. Sip on its own or try it with peach pie à la mode!