The top 20 of 2020


Several weeks ago I bought a wine that resonates deep with me. Not made every year, the winery only uses the best juice from select years to assemble an iconic, long lived beauty. I convinced my friends Keef and Arty to purchase two bottles as well. Fast forward to the latest issue of a well known wine magazine- it was named the top wine of 2020. Imagine my surprise! That issue made me realize that I have not done a retrospective ranking of the year for quite some time. As you may know, I use a combination of points and price to come up with a Star Rating. If a wine gets 5 stars then it is a worthy contender for wine of the year. I have had the opportunity to try many delicious wines with my friends through the Virtual Wine Tasting Company. I have also been privy to my mate’s cellar, which features heavily in the top 2020 wines. Another thing I did in 2020 was join several wine clubs. Call me a snob, but I never thought someone else should be picking my wines- I was wrong. There are several clubs out there but only one will garner my business going forward. Splash Wines offered up a few interesting wines at rock bottom cost but shipped three bottles of every wine. I was not interested in volume, variety being key to expanding my palate. Next up was First Leaf which offered a decent selection but basically forced you to buy every month or else you continually had to change shipping dates. They had a mixed bag of quality with several outstanding 5 star wines alongside some 2 and 3 star efforts. I have had the most success with Naked Wines who have a higher quality selection and are more consistent. They have a different model that basically subsidizes the winemakers with upfront money ($40 per month in my case) that goes into my piggy bank. I can use it any time to select from their offerings. They have a slightly more limited selection to chose from but I have enjoyed most of their wines. If you want a $100 credit from them, use this Link.

It is difficult to narrow down such great wines but it is a fun retrospective to skim through all the entries of the past year. Here they are, with the top three heading this group of stunning wines:

Chateau d’Yquem 2010

Cade Reserve CS 2010

Chateau Musar 1998

Boisy et Delaygue 2016

La Guigasse 2015

Grand Montmirail 2017

Cos D’Estournel 2001

Xavier Vignon 2015

Cheval Des Andes 2015

Faurie Souchard 2010

Pulenta Malbec 2017

Numanthia 2015

Posted Accord 2019

Ursa Maior 2014

La Rasina 2015

Hartford Pinot 2018

Louis Latour Corton 2007

Barboursville Malvaxia 2013

DAOU 2018

Substance Cs 2018

Château Lamothe Bordeaux Blanc 2019, Bordeaux, France

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This blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc is a mid shade of gold in the glass. On the nose I get citrus, melon, lychee and ginger. On the palate it offers bright and juicy lemons, pineapple, lychee and some good minerality. The acidity is very well appointed, not too sharp but enough to keep it crisp. The flavors continue to a decent length finish. I am really impressed with the complexity of this wine’s nose. For $15 this is a great summer sipper that will also pair really well with grilled Salmon, Cobb salad or chicken on the charcoal. 89 points from me make it a 5 star effort to stock up on- really yummy stuff. Drink till 2024. Salut….

Watchful Maker Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Columbia Valley, Washington

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This Washington State Cab Sav is a murky, dark shade of purple and totally opaque. On the nose I get a whiff of alcohol followed by plums, black currants and cedar shake. The palate starts off with a healthy dose of tannins and black fruit salad. When I say healthy, I mean teeth coating astringency- wow. The fruit flavors are having a hella time trying to get center stage here. The mid palate has black currants and tea notes that are vying for space with the grip of tannins. On the finish it is a very dry affair that is short lived from the fruit. I need to get the Vinturi out and re-try. I picked the right wine for tonight’s pairing- Picanha steaks, which have a thick edge of fat in need of some hefty tannins. This wine has tremendous structure and will cellar nicely for a few years but if you need it now, aerate it or you will be lost in a sea of mouth searing tannins. Overall I think this wine will end up really nice and considering the aging capacity I am going with 90 points. It retails for $23 and gets 5 stars from me. Drink from 2023 till 2027. Salut….

Trivento Amado Sur Malbec – Bonarda – Syrah 2017, Mendoza, Argentina

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I harvested a Deer a few weeks ago and had the butcher make some Spicy Sausages. Having never tried them I was at a loss for a wine pairing until I came across this blend of Malbec, Bonarda and Syrah. I have had the Amado Sur before and this seemed the most likely candidate. Dark purple and totally opaque. On the nose I get candied strawberry and red licorice. The palate is a touch darker in the fruit department with black berries, dark cherry coulis and bitter plums. There is a whack of acidity to this wine but a medium serving of tannins. Perfect for my pairing, as Venison is very lean and we are pairing this with pasta and Vodka sauce, which is somewhat creamy. The mid palate is really juicy and I have quickly forgotten/forgiven that stlightly sweet nose profile which I really don’t care for. The finish ends abruptly but not before I get that bitter jab again. It’s an issue IMHO. Overall this is a decent weekday pop-n-pour and it serves my needs tonight. 87 points make this $14 wine a 3 star effort. Previous vintages that lacked the bitterness were better BTW. Drink till 2022. Salut….

Laura Michael Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Napa Valley, California

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Opaque and dark purple.  The nose has a big dose of funk right off the bat- standing water comes to mind.  Once past that shocker I get Napa sunshine with ripe blackberry, toasty oak and Ribena.  The palate is blueberry and blackberry tart with coconut and creme.  The oak influence is appreciated.  Mid palate has very lithe tannins and mild acidity.  Leather and tobacco appear on the finish with cassis.  Really delicious as the wine progressed .  91 points and at $50 per bottle it gets 4 stars. Paired with Spinach rolled Flank Steak and Ceaser salad. Drink till 2023. Salut….

Chateau Cantemerle ’01, Haut-Medoc, France

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The cork failed on this 20 year old Classed Bordeaux but it’s a dark purple and almost opaque with a touch of bricking.  The nose is classic Claret that is well aged.  Tobacco, raisins, steeped plum and a healthy dose of leather.  On the palate it is a touch sour initially with cherry that gives way to tertiary flavors of cedar cigar box, Maduro and leather.  It’s very mature and certainly delicious.  The tannins are fully integrated at this point so the wine is at peak if not just past.  The finish has a modicum of acidity, the structure that has let this wine last this long. It is the final bottle of a case I purchased in 2003.  It’s sad to see it go but I’m glad I have been able to track its evolution.  92 points from me has been consistent in all my tastings of this wine. The pros went sub 90 back in the early days, I guess they did not think it would hang in there for two decades and evolve so beautifully. If you want to try one, they are available online for about $80. We drank it all by itself , something I would recommend. 5 stars. Salut….

Tailored Republic Pinot Noir 2019, Arroyo Seco, California

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I do believe that Pinot Noir pairs nicely with Duck, so here we go! This one is quite a dark shade of red but completely see-through. The nose has a candied strawberry waft along with pomegranate and some mulling spices. The palate is very approachable and offers crisp red cranberry and cherry flavors. There is a juiciness to this wine that I am enjoying. The mid palate goes back to that initial strawberry note but I also sense a decent amount of acidity. There are tannins lurking in the background that hit me on the delightful finish that is a bouquet of red fruits and a touch of spice. Yummy and light with some good fruit, it will go great with my bird. Drink till 2025. 89 points for this $19 bottle make it a 4 star wine. Salut….

Pine and Brown Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Napa, California

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Dinner is Lamb Shanks with black eyed peas and Rattatouile. I needed a stout, dry wine so I turned to this young Cab Sav. It’s dark purple, and totally opaque. The nose gives me ripe blackberry, rich plum compote and I can smell the 14.8% heat. On the palate the taste echoes the nose- rich purple fruit flavors intertwining with beautiful tannins and a touch of acidity. The fruit is very rich with Cali sunshine evident. I get a hint of Iodine on the mid palate alongside the layered plums, blackcurrant and berries. The acidity kicks it up a notch on the finish and the dryness on my gums remains for a long period. The flavors linger for nearly 15 seconds. Delicious stuff that gives off some Oak influence right at the end. 92 points for this $90 monster makes it a 5 star effort. Drink till 2029. Pricy but yummy! Salut….

Camille Benitah Pomme Roll Cabernet Franc 2018, Napa Valley, California

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I often plan my dinner around what I want to drink. Sometimes I pair the wine to the meal and sometimes I just drink whatever. Tonight is Strip steaks on the charcoal. A mid-fatty cut of beef that doesn’t need huge tannins, but good fruity notes are more appropriate. I had a glance at the lineup of Cab Savs on my tasting bench and stumbled on this Cab Franc, the name which has an awesome twist- Pomme Roll. Google it, a right bank commune that relies on this varietal for some huge name Chateaus.

This one is bright purple and nearly opaque. The nose is perfumed with violets, black currants, sweet blackberry and a hint of the 14.8% punch. On the palate it is delicious and smooth. Black fruit salad with juicy acidity and a good dose of fine grained tannins. The structure is perfect for what I am pairing, not overly dry but with nice cut from the acidity. The dark fruit theme continues on the mid palate where I also get some black Twizzler and tea notes. The finish is quite dry but still very fruity and fragrant. The violets adding yet another layer to the complexity of this wine. It’s rather a big red that could use a touch of aerating or cellar time for a year or two. It should drink nicely till 2026. I am really enjoying it and did not get any alcohol apart from the initial whiff. 91 points for this $26 wine makes it a 5 star effort. Salut….

Don Ercilla Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, Valle Central, Chile

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This Chilean Cab is bright purple and nearly opaque in the glass. The nose is very black raspberry driven, almost over the top. Red licorice and candy notes come into play as well. On the palate it is a dark fruit melange with oak influence and a hint of sweetness. It sounds funny but whilst a touch sweet it also has a good dose of tangy acidity. Greenish tannins go straight for the gums with astringency galore. The mid palate tastes of sour black cherry and blackberry, an interesting take. The juicy finish lets up some on the dry factor, letting the fruit shine through. I am cooking up some Lamb Merguez sausages to pair, I think that will work nicely. Drink this 87 point wine till 2024. At $20 it’s a three pointer. Salut….