It’s that time of year again…
…when everyone publishes their top cars, movies, books, TV shows, and wines of the year. Wine Enthusiast (#1 San Felice 2011 Il Grigio Gran Selezione Chianti Classico) revealed theirs, and Wine Spectator (# 1 Peter Michael Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Au Paradis’) unveiled theirs. Now it’s time to release ours.
Over the next few weeks we will be releasing our lists of the top wines that we tasted in 2015. We took the thousands of wines that we tasted and narrowed it down to the best of the best. Our rankings are based upon our staff’s ratings during tastings, as well as popularity with our clients. Lucky for us – and you – most are currently available.
#51 – 2012 Macauley ‘Beckstoffer To-Kalon’
Cabernet Sauvignon | Napa Valley | Inquire Here
Wine Spectrum Rated 96: Bold, dark and balanced, this wine oozes a machismo that will develop into more subtle, masculine and confident tones over time. The nose is filled with notes of dark chocolate, espresso, green olive, savory dried herbs, spice box and black cherry. On the tongue, it trots out an array of coating purple fruit flavors; from ripe blackberry to deep plum, handsomely wrapped with the subtle nuances of French Oak. Winemaker is Kirk Venge for Venge Vineyards, Igneous, Hunnicutt, Macauley Vineyard, Frazier, Bacio Divino, JAX, B Cellars, Trespass, JR Wine and Calistoga Ranch.
“When I was growing up, working in the vineyard and winery gave me a wonderful sense of partnership in my family’s way of life; it was hard work, but I loved it.” – Kirk Venge
Cabernet Sauvignon | Napa Valley | Available Online
Wine Spectrum Rated 93+: A balanced Cabernet Sauvignon ideal for an evening glass to help unwind your day or for a meal any day of the week, this wine makes its intentions known with aromas of bright strawberry, raspberry, and cranberry followed by notes of black cherry, toasted oak and vanilla. The lush full entry teases the palate with a confectionery blend of red fruits and then evolves into a dark full bodied Cabernet. The Kith & Kin gracefully finishes with balanced acids and lingering red fruit, allowing this wine to be approachable and easy to drink early on yet also retain elegance and finesse. 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot, 5% Petite Sirah.
#53 – 2012 Remoissenet ‘Blanchots’ Grand Cru
Chablis | Burgundy | Inquire Here
Wine Spectrum Rated 95, Wine Advocate: The 2012 Chablis Grand Cru Blanchots has an elegant, sea spray infused bouquet that opens nicely with aeration. The palate is crisp on the entry with very well judged acidity, fine mineralite and a composed finish that builds in the mouth, leaving touches of orange peel and mandarin lingering like naughty children on the aftertaste. It is worth trading up and grabbing a bottle of the Blanchots.
#54 – 2013 Ferren ‘Lancel Creek Vineyard’
Chardonnay | Sonoma Coast | Inquire Here
Wine Spectrum Rated 96: Ferren is a winery dedicated to tiny lots of artisanally made single-vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot noir wines from the far Sonoma Coast of California. Each of the vineyards in the portfolio is a jewel of the true Coast, has been hand picked based on its potential of producing profound, age-worthy wines, and is farmed to the highest standards of sustainability and wine quality.
The 2013 ‘Lancel Creek Vineyard” Chardonnay is farmed by Ulisses Valdez, and is a pale translucent gold color. Aromas of apples, green melons and flinty minerality lead to a rich, yet clean, palate. Flavors of green apples, nutmeg, and citrus fruits are beautifully balanced with wonderful acidity and a long, refreshing finish. Just 60 cases produced!
Winemaker Matt Courtney founded Ferren with old friend David Wherritt after an eight-year apprenticeship with Helen Turley at Marcassin Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. The wines are made using traditional Burgundian methods without fining or filtration, and fermentations are carried out exclusively by native flora that arrive on the grapes from the vineyards.
#55 – 2014 Pascal Cotat ‘Mont Damnes’
Sancerre | France | Inquire Here
Wine Spectrum Rated 94: The white, chalky soils of “Mont Damnés” could blind an innocent passerby on a sunny day—here pure Kimmeridgian terroir is what gives this wine its kick, its poise and its persistence. Without question one of the more chiseled and pure “Monts Damnes” we’ve tasted, with lots of middle-palate energy. White pepper, limestone, sea breezes and hints of fresh grass and red grapefruit; the mouth is both savory and saline, with stony persistence and a wave of Meyer lemons and rich acid.
Cabernet Sauvignon | Napa Valley | Available Online
Wine Spectrum Rated 95: A beautiful, elegant vintage, this big hillside cabernet sauvignon has deep inky black color, soft yet powerful tannins, with classic Old Toll characters of blackberries, mint, leather and wet stone. 89% cabernet sauvignon (6 clones) blended with 11% cabernet franc and petit verdot. 2010 was a low yield vintage, only 176 cases plus magnums of RARECAT Old Toll cabernet were produced.
A sexy, open-knit, round, generous red wine from the Old Toll hillside vineyard in Calistoga, the 2010 cabernet sauvignon offers lots of black currant and black cherry fruit intermixed with a notion of new saddle leather. This rich, full throttle Cabernet possesses some dusty tannins, but they are more than adequately compensated for by the wine’s extravagant fruit. Wine Advocate, #209.
Cabernet Sauvignon | Napa Valley | Available Online
Wine Spectrum Rated 96: What an amazing and generous year 2013 was for the Beckstoffer Georges III vineyard. Perfect weather coupled with an extended hang time allowed us to pick at the optimum time and fashion another amazing Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark ruby purple to the rim, aromas of dark currant, anise and rock laced dark berry fruit combine with alluring mix of dense earth and fruit, cedar and savory notes that flow into a supple mid palate. While well-proportioned and extracted, the tannins are firm but forgiving and allow the complexities to flow effortlessly into a finish that can be described as rich and dense but also light on its feet. Make sure to give this beauty a long decant if you decide to drink it in the next few years or lay it down for 7-10 years to bring out the complexities that come with some bottle age. 170 cases produced.
This wine is a fantastic deal for 100% Beckstoffer Georges III fruit. This is just the 6th vintage 12C has produced, and as always, the 2013 vintage is highly allocated with just a few hundred cases made. Do not miss out on this offer! This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon was crafted by Mike Smith, who was mentored by the talented Thomas Rivers Brown, and has worked on labels such as Schrader, Maybach and Outpost!
#58 – 2012 Valdez
Zinfandel | Sonoma County | Available Online
Wine Spectrum Rated 93+: This is the second release of this blended Sonoma County Zinfandel. Sourced from stellar vineyards in Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valley such as St. Peter’s Church, Rockpile, Lancel Creek, and Quinn, this Zinfandel is an outstanding value. Beautiful aromas of jammy blackberries, black currants, and red raspberries intermingle with hints of spicy ginger and cardamon. Flavors of cherry and blackberry pie, baking spices and a touch of sweet bramble coat the palate. A lengthy, spicy finish makes this Zinfandel the perfect pairing for a hearty meal, especially on chilly Fall and Winter nights. 100% Zinfandel. Just 300 cases produced.
#59 – 2012 Amuse Bouche
Red Blend | Napa Valley | Available Online
Wine Spectrum Rated 95: Collectible wine and collectible art come together to create Amuse Bouche Napa Valley Merlot, a joint wine venture with Heidi Barrett and John Schwartz. This Pomerol-style Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend is made from some of the best grape sources in the Napa Valley. Amuse Bouche wine aspires to rival its greatest cross-Atlantic counterparts, such as Chateau Petrus and Chateau Le Pin. We harvested the Amuse Bouche 2012 on October 2 from our lofty vineyards in the east Rutherford Hills of Napa Valley. The blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc is currently resting in a combination of Taransaud, Radoux and Gamba cooperage, awaiting its March 2014 bottling date. 575 cases were produced.
As winemaker for several of the hottest cult wines in California, and referred to by TIME magazine as “The Wine Diva of Napa”, Heidi Barrett is always looking for new challenges. Heidi explains, “We have created Amuse Bouche wine, a limited edition, superb Pomerol style wine with the added value of limited edition art that is available to consumers through a variety of channels.”
Heidi Barrett was the winemaker for Screaming Eagle until 2005, as well as the previous winemaker for Dalla Valle, Grace Family, Barbour Vineyards, Vineyard 29 and Showket. She is currently making wine for Paradigm, Lamborn, Kenzo Estate, Au Sommet, Vin Perdu and Fantesca, in addition to her own label, La Siren
#60 – 2007 Parador ‘Reserva’
Red Wine | Napa Valley | Available Online
Wine Spectrum Rated 96: Reserva cuvèes are barrel-selected and aged at least an additional year in barrel. The total barrel aging is minimum 3 years prior to bottling. It is then aged in bottle for 5 years, totaling a minimum of 8 years of aging from the time of harvest. The 2007 Reserva is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon and 36% Tempranillo. This Reserva displays round, juicy layers of baked raspberries and black cherries, with hints of dusty cocoa and just a touch of toasty oak. The palate shows robust red fruits, earthy minerality and hints of aged leathery spice. Soft tannins and a mouth-watering finish round out this unique vintage wine. Drinking well now, but can be layed down for another 5-10 years. 117 cases produced.
Influenced by Pesquera and Vega Sicilia’s Unico, the great Tempranillos of Spain and blends of Europe, Parador was founded by Steve Ventrello in 1998, and is focused on Tempranillo (sourced directly from the Ribera del Duero and Rioja), Cabernet Sauvignon and blends of both. Parador wines have evolved from the early blends which included Sangiovese, striving for the balanced flavors of the old world utilizing world-class fruit grown in the Napa Valley.
Montepulciano | Marche DOCG | Available Online
Wine Spectrum Rated 95: A recent winner of Gambero Rosso’s highest Tre Bicchieri for this impeccable wine, Maurizio Marchetti’s Rosso Conero Riserva is quickly becoming one of the singularly best wines coming from the Marche. One of the greatest expressions of the Montepulciano varietal we have ever tasted, this sleek, muscular wine is aged 14 months in French oak, and like all of Marchetti’s wines, consists of only free run juice! With enticing notes of exotic spice, vanilla, dried cranberry, and bitter, dark chocolate, this is one not to be missed. 100% Montepulciano. 450 cases produced.
#62 – 2010 Meander
Cabernet Sauvignon | Napa Valley | Available Online
Wine Spectrum Rated 95: Ripe aromas of blackberry, cherry cola, coffee, cocoa, mocha and baking spice. Unctuous jam flavors that are already showing complexity. A supple, plush mid-palate delivers a rich mouth feel, leading to a lingering finish of licorice and chocolate/coffee that ends with a satiny, melt-in-your-mouth, mousse like finish. 176 cases
Meander is the passion project of Amy Aiken, who created the label in 2000. Named after her two sons, Mitchell and Andrew, Meander is an example of wines produced from vineyards that she believes have superior aromatics, flavors, textures and character. Amy was previously the winemaker at Joseph Phelps, as well as Oakville Ranch, Viader and Anomaly Vineyards.
#63 – 2013 Gerard Raphet, Grand Cru
Red Burgundy | Clos de la Roche | Inquire Here
Wine Spectrum Rated 96: Always a more brooding cru, in 2013 this wine shows darker, deeper fruit and lots of earthy nuances, with pin-point balance and serious complexity. Perfumes of warm earth, smoke and warm raspberry sauce; flavors of red/purple fruits mix with peppery spice and earth. A noble cru that will certainly go the long haul in a cool cellar.
Raphet wines are a Burgundy-lover’s Burgundy. They are best appreciated by those already familiar with the light color and earthy flavors of classic Burgundian Pinot Noir. Aromas depart from the traditional Burgundian violets to suggest a potpourri of cinnamon, clove and incense. The wine’s light color and fine texture require a studied attention on behalf of the drinker.
#64 – 2010 Chateau Croix de Labrie
Bordeaux | Saint Emilion | Inquire Here
Wine Spectrum Rated 96: This tiny winery produces on average just 280 cases, from three small vineyards. One is next to the winery in Saint-Christophe-des-Bardes, one is near Pavie, and the third is near Valandraud. All three vineyards total 6.2 acres. The wine is aged 24 months in 100% new oak before bottling. Jean-Luc Thunevin, the proprietor of Valandraud, and Michel Rolland, are the consulting enologists. Chapelle de Labrie is made from younger vines, and is 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. 350 cases produced this vintage. Stunning wines for the value!
Cabernet Sauvignon | Howell Mountain, Napa Valley | Available Online
Wine Spectrum Rated 96: Dark garnet with a lilac rim, this luscious wine meets the nose with rocky earth, ripe red cherry and violets. The front palate is greeted by chocolate, pomegranate and black cherry while dried plum, cassis and blackberries, along with rosemary, tarragon and baking spices, round out the mid palate. White flowers, dried violets, mocha and black cherry follow in a long, elegant finish. This wine shows supple and integrated tannins, with brightness and rich complexity assuring age ability, while at the same time being surprisingly approachable. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. 580 cases produced.
Petite Sirah | Napa Valley | Available Online
Wine Spectrum Rated 95: In years past, Kenefick’s Petite Sirah was used as a blending varietal in other Estate wines, or sold to producers such as Rosenblum, Caymus, Merryvale and Plumpjack-Cade, to name just a few. This luscious yet elegant effort comes from almost 100 year old head pruned, dry farmed vines. Bright cherry, licorice, vanilla bean and dark plum erupt from this fruit forward Petite Sirah. Gentle handling during fermentation and aging help the aggressive tannins of the varietal round off into soft velvet and balanced structure. The splash of Merlot adds to the lushness of the wine. Good to drink now and will cellar for the next 10-15 years. 88% Petite Sirah, 12% Merlot. 200 cases produced.
#67 – 2012 Au Sommet
Cabernet Sauvignon | Atlas Peak, Napa Valley | Inquire Here
Wine Spectrum Rated 96, Antonio Galloni 94: The 2012 Elev 2100 Ft. is one of the most beautiful wines I have tasted from Au Sommet. Dark red cherries, plums, spices, leather and menthol are laced together in a racy, textured Cabernet Sauvignon that puts finesse ahead of power. Gently spiced overtones reappear on the exquisite finish. There is a lot to like here. 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot. 375 cases produced.
Heidi Barrett was the winemaker for Screaming Eagle until 2005, as well as the previous winemaker for Dalla Valle, Grace Family, Barbour Vineyards, Vineyard 29 and Showket. She is currently making wine for Paradigm, Lamborn, Kenzo Estate, Au Sommet, Vin Perdu and Fantesca, in addition to her own label, La Sirena.
#68 – 2012 Araujo ‘Eisele Vineyard’
Syrah | Napa Valley | Inquire Here
Wine Spectrum Rated 96: This delicious wine shows dark, rich purple in the glass, and displays a racy nose of smoked meat, bitter chocolate, coffee bean, licorice and a hint of violet. In the mouth, it develops opulent flavors of ripe, dark fruit lifted by floral notes, ending with impeccably fine tannins. The 2012 Syrah shows tremendous purity and intensity, while capturing the expression of the varietal. 99% Syrah, 1% Viognier.
In 2013, this historic estate was sold by the Araujos to the Groupe Artemis and François Pinault, the French entrepreneur/billionaire who is best known in the wine world as the proprietor of Bordeaux’s Château Latour as well as several other French estates, most notably the tiny diamond with its own appellation, Château Grillet near Condrieu. Pinault also owns Domaine René Engel in Burgundy. This is my first look at the wines under the new ownership. I was among the first to review these wines when the vineyard was owned by the Eisele family, who sold grapes to Ridge in 1971 for the first single vineyard offering from this site, and subsequently to Conn Creek in 1974 and Joseph Phelps for nearly a decade. The 38-acre vineyard protected by the Palisades Mountains sits in the northeast quadrant of Napa Valley. It was planted on low-yielding, gravelly, cobbly soils in the 1880s to both Riesling and Zinfandel. The first Cabernet Sauvignon was planted in 1964 with the Olmo Clone (believed to have originated at the nearby Larkmead Vineyard on the valley floor). Araujo has turned out some fabulous wines in 2012 and 2013, all incredibly young and primary, but bursting with potential. ~ Robert Parker
#69 – 2010 Giuseppe Lonardi
Amarone della Valpolicella | Verona, Italy | Inquire Here
Wine Spectrum Rated 96: Of all the wines of Italia, none is more breath-takingly unique than the wine of Verona called Amarone. And, in our opinion, few make it better than Giuseppe Lonardi. His Amarone is remarkably port-like and very concentrated, with powerful, heady aromas of dried fruit potpourri, chocolate, cedar chest, and exotic spice. The production is micro, and it shows in this luxurious, breathtaking wine. That is one reason why this monumental wine will age for 30+ years. 75% Corvina, 20% Molinara, 5% Rondinella.
#70 – 2013 Courtault
Petit Chablis | France | Available Online
Wine Spectrum Rated 93: A perfect wine for a relaxing afternoon; this embodies all the citrus pep and energy that is so invigorating in classic Petit Chablis and is a perfect pair for fresh seafood. Wild flowers and fresh herbs mix with crushed stones and lemon zest on the nose; the mouth is clean, precise and pure, with lime and lemon zest, fresh and energetic. A classic Petit Chablis with low alcohol and perfect balance.
#71 – 2013 Bevan Cellars ‘Tench Vineyard – EE’
Red Wine | Oakville, Napa Valley | Inquire Here
Wine Spectrum Rated 97, Robert Parker 95-97: The 2013 Proprietary Red EE, a 400-case blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc, exhibits fabulous floral notes intermixed with blueberries, blackberries, lead pencil shavings and loamy soil. Full-bodied and opulent with terrific focus and purity, it should drink well for 15+ years.
“A Draconian approach to vineyard management, good energy and karma in the cellar, and total focus from vineyard to bottle is what makes the difference between good and memorable wines.” ~ Russell on his winemaking philosophy
#72 – 2012 Schwarz ‘The Butcher’
Pinot Noir | Burgenland, Austria | Inquire Here
Wine Spectrum Rated 95: Han Schwarz is a butcher whose family has owned the vineyard for generations. In 1994, Alois Kracher convinced Hans to make his own wine, and with his help and that of Manfred Krankl, he made his first vintage in 1999. Both Gerhard Kracher, Alois’ son, and Krankl continue to consult with Hans on his wines.
100% Pinot Noir. Just 350 cases produced.
#73 – 2012 Purlieu ‘Beckstoffer To Kalon’
Cabernet Sauvignon | Napa Valley | Inquire Here
Wine Spectrum Rated 96: Rich dark purple color. The nose is pure joy – black fruits, espresso, graphite, and cedar. The mouthfeel is concentrated and unctuous, rich and expressive, with smooth tannins leading to swirling flavors of dark berries, plum, chocolate and sweet spice. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 800 cases produced.
Purlieu and Le Pich are the culmination of several seasoned and determined wine professionals’ efforts to produce the finest Cabernet Sauvignon possible from the best estate vineyards in Napa Valley – all under the guidance of winemaker Julien Fayard (formerly an assistant winemaker at Chateau Lafite and the Director of Winemaking for Philippe Melka) and viticulturist Steve Matthiasson.
Cabernet Sauvignon | Knights Valley | Available Online
Wine Spectrum Rated 96: Dark red with a hue of purple. Intense and complex bouquet of red, black and blue berries intermixed with notes of blueberries, minerals (graphite, wet river rocks) licorice, fresh blond tobacco and a hint of lavender. Full bodied, the palate is reminiscent of the nose, with a richly tannic yet round frame and a great intensity. The hillside tannins and the classical aromatic complexity create a harmonious ensemble, leading to a very long and elegant finish. Built to age for decades, this collectible wine opens up after a few years of cellaring and is particularly representative of this special vineyard from the hillside of Knights Valley. Mon Chevalier features the interaction of the loamy, well drained and rocky volcanic soil, the typical sunny mountain climate and the low-interventionistic Morlet winemaking approach.
Luc Morlet has a new estate winery located in an old stone building on Route 29, north of St. Helena and across from the Markham Winery. A native of France, Morlet was mentored at Newton Vineyards between 1996 and 2001 by the likes of John Kongsgaard and Michel Rolland. From there, he became the key winemaker at Peter Michael Winery, where he still consults along with his brother, Nicolas. His Sonoma bottlings will be reviewed in the next issue of The Wine Advocate, but these Napa cuvées come from both estate vineyards and purchased fruit (primarily from the Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard in Oakville). All of these Cabernet Sauvignon as well as the Cabernet Franc are fabulous wines. Although they are undoubtedly expensive, they are all at the top end of the qualitative hierarchy in Napa Valley.” ~ Robert Parker
#75 – 2013 Delarche ‘Grand Cru’
Red Burgundy | Corton-Charlemagne, Burgundy | Inquire Here
Wine Spectrum Rated 96: The family’s few older vines in this noble grand cru sit at the top of the slope, and deliver fruit that is well-balanced and complex, with a stony, high-altitude edge. The Corton Charlemagne is a gorgeous wine, with a reserved, brooding nose of smoke and citrus; silky and weighty on the palate, with more citrus and peach.
The style of Delarche Burgundy, both red and white, is determined completely by terroir. All of their wines are mineral-rich in the most complex and tantalizing ways, with a luscious core of citrus-spiced fruit. Never superficial, the wines respect the soils that produced them and are slavishly true to them.
Another characteristic all Delarche wines share is their ability to age gracefully. This isn’t immediately obvious, as so many of his wines are rich and approachable upon release. Yet underneath those smiles lie delicious depths and mysteries just waiting to be discovered years—or even decades later.
Q. Why should I pay attention to the Wine Spectrum score?
A. The reason is simple. We taste and score wines with our entire sale’s team – the owner, the wine buyer, the sales manager, and all of our sale’s advisors. It’s not only one person’s opinion and rating of the wine, but a total average of the whole tasting panel. That adds up to decades of combined tasting experience to ensure that we bring only the BEST wines to our clients.
It is because of this and many other factors that our clients have come to respect our score and use it to help determine what wines they want to procure for their cellars and display on their tables. At Wine Spectrum you get a much better representation of how people will ENJOY a wine.
2015 wines of the year release schedule
12/15: #2 ranked wine
12/16: #1 ranked wine
12/18: #11 – #25 ranked wines
12/21: #26 – #50 ranked wines
12/21: 2015 Winemaker of the Year
12/22: #51 – #75 ranked wines
12/23: #76 – #100 ranked wines
1/4: Top Chardonnay’s of the Year
1/7: Top Pinot Noir’s of the Year
1/11: Top Cabernet Sauvignon’s of the Year
1/14: Top Other Domestic Red’s of the Year
1/18: Top International Wines of the Year
1/21: Top Wines of the Year under $60