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CABERNET CAL-ALSACE CAL-ITALY CHARDONNAY DESSERT WINES
KOSHER MERLOT PINOT NOIR SAUVIGNON BLANC SPARKLING
SYRAH, GRENACHE, VIOGNIER, ETC. ZINFANDEL

Hi-Time's Top North American Wines of 2014

Top Reds of 2014

Top Whites of 2014

Best Cab & Chardonnay Under $20

Top Cabs of 2014: North America

It's that time of year-- when we look back and select our favorite wines from the various regions we love. Being in California, our state Cabernet Sauvignons take the lead. Turn the pages and keep reading!

 

#1) PINE RIDGE 2010 “FORTIS” CABERNET SAUVIGNON NAPA VALLEY

Pine Ridge has long been one of the cornerstones of Napa Valley’s Stag's Leap District. Utilizing the deft hand of winemaker Michael Beaulac, their wines have gone from fantastic to incredible! With the winery’s commitment to quality and innovation, a vision emerged in 2003 to produce a wine that would embody the absolute best their estate vineyards have to offer. By carefully constructing a tête de cuvée from those vineyard blocks that emerge as standouts from the vintage, regardless of appellation, Pine Ridge has created an ultra-reserve Cabernet, dictated only by the philosophy of “simply the best.” For 2010, the blend is composed of 55% Stags Leap District, 42%, Rutherford, 2% Carneros and 1% Oakville fruit, and is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, and 2% Merlot.

ROBERT PARKER 97 POINTS - “Its opaque purple color is followed by a classic bouquet of blackberries, cassis, camphor and graphite. Super-rich, supple and full-bodied with cassis, blackberry, oak and floral flavors, this is a tour de force in winemaking as well as one of the greatest wines I have ever tasted from Pine Ridge. It should offer delicious drinking over the next 20-25 years.”

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#2) MORLET 2010 “COEUR DU VALÉE” CABERNET SAUVIGNON
NAPA VALLEY

This is the personal label of Luc Morlet and his wife Jodie. Luc created Newton Vineyard’s Chardonnay Unfiltered, a collector favorite that’s received 96 points from Robert Parker, Jr. He then became the head winemaker for Peter Michael Winery and crafted their wines from the 2001-2005 vintages, where he made a 98-point Cabernet-blend and a 99-point Chardonnay! Few vineyard sites truly have a strong and unique personality, but one of those that do is the famous Beckstoffer To-Kalon vineyard (pictured). This property lies on the Oakville bench, in the Napa Valley, and Cabernet Sauvignon has become the flagship of this region and has brought Beckstoffer To-Kalon worldwide recognition. This wine is entirely comprised of fruit from this most prized piece of land, and the Morlet family has named this wine “Coeur de Vallée” (or, Heart of the Valley) to honor this unique site.

WINE ADVOCATE 97+ POINTS - “The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Coeur de Vallée is laced with freshly cut flowers, sweet red berries and mint. Weightless and crystalline, the 2010 is pure silk and finesse. The Coeur de Vallée is always the most elegant of Morlet’s Cabernets, and the 2010 plays true to type. Sweet floral notes add lift on the finish. The 2010 is gorgeous today, but it needs a few years in bottle to blossom fully. This is yet another tremendous wine from Luc and Jodie Morlet. The 2010 is 76% Cabernet Sauvignon and 24% Cabernet Franc. Anticipated maturity: 2020-2030.”

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#3) GKG CELLARS 2012 CABERNET SAUVIGNON NAPA VALLEY

For over four decades, Greg Gorman has continued to master the art of photography. One day he received a call inquiring whether or not he might be interested in photographing a project with Dave Phinney of Orin Swift fame. Being a huge fan of Mercury Head, one of their extraordinary wines, Greg was anxious to meet the man behind the juice. Greg liked the concept for Dave’s new wine, Papillon, and Greg’s photo of Vince Tofanelli’s hands is now a Cabernet Icon! Greg had already been into wine for decades, but this photo shoot led to a collaboration between Greg and Dave; and now Greg’s GKG label has become one of the latest “big hits” of Napa Valley Cabernet! Greg is intimately involved in all the blending trials, and nothing gets bottled unless it meets Greg’s discerning palate! A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec, the aromatics offer up a combination of black currant and espresso with an underlying hint of toasted oak. Full bodied, strong flavors of black fruit, currants and cherries flood your palate on entry with further hints of espresso, dark chocolate and plums playing on your mid-palate, coating the roof of your mouth with elegant integrated flavors of blackberry and cassis. Great acidity and sweet firm tannins round out a long finish and certainly make this vintage very age- worthy. Only 268 cases were produced, and this just received 94 points from Robert Parker!

ROBERT PARKER 94 POINTS - "The full-bodied 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (96% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec) exhibits lots of cedarwood, blackberries, blackcurrants, licorice and graphite characteristics. Primarily from two valley vineyards, Llewellyn and Morisoli, it can be enjoyed over the next 10-15 years."

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#4) CIMAROSSA 2010 “RIVA DE PONENTE” CABERNET SAUVIGNON HOWELL MOUNTAIN

Proprietor Dino Dina has a gorgeous piece of property atop Howell Mountain (pictured). Cimarossa means “red hill top”, and this red hill does NOT have fertile soils, which is just what wine grapes like! His vineyards are, quite literally, right next door to the O’Shaughnessy vineyards, and his winemaker is Mia Klein, who has made wine at Dalla Valle. Riva di Ponente translates to ‘steep bank where the sun sets’. This 1.4 acre vineyard block with full western exposure is Dino’s warmest block due to the afternoon sun. The soil is a volcanic ash, which is one of the most ideal soils for Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Only 169 cases were made of this beauty!

WINE ADVOCATE 92+ POINTS - “The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Riva di Ponente Vineyard comes across as dark, powerful and brooding in style. Incense, scorched earth, smoke, tobacco and licorice all jump from the glass. A deep, powerful wine, the 2010 is endowed with tons of character and personality. Here, the mountain tannins are quite present, so readers need to be patient. Today the 2010 is huge, tannic and very, very young. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2028.”

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#5) ANAKOTA 2009 “HELENA DAKOTA” CABERNET SAUVIGNON KNIGHTS VALLEY

Located in an ancient volcanic zone in the Sonoma County, Knights Valley (pictured above) offers incredibly unique and diverse soils with a climate perfectly suited to Bordeaux varietals, as demonstrated by the delicious wines made by Peter Michael, Keplinger and Beringer. Anakota is one of Knights Valley’s stars that produces wines that personify the rustic elegance and spirit of this volcanic area. With Mount St. Helena looking down upon the vineyard, prevailing westerly winds pass over a large, cold pond and blow uphill, parallel to the rows of vines. These cooling breezes slow down the ripening of the grapes and result in wines that are packed with elegance, complexity and finesse. The wines are crafted by Pierre Seillan, whose deft hand has also created 100 point wines at Verité! Earning 95 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, this beauty possesses a dark, garnet color with beautiful aromas of crushed rocks, violets black currants, blackberries and anise, while the flavors are of plums, black cherries, blackberries, hints of licorice, cassis, and a hint of camphor. Complex, full-bodied, and with good tannic structure, this wine will show its best after an hour or two of decanting, and should age for 20-30 years!

ROBERT PARKER 95 POINTS - "An extra special wine, the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Helena Dakota Vineyard possesses full body as well as a terrific bouquet of blue and black fruits, crushed rocks and spring flowers. A super-muscular, rich, powerful Cabernet built for long-term cellaring (which may explain why it has not yet been released), I would not touch a bottle for 5-7 years. It should last 30-50 years."

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#6) NICKEL & NICKEL 2010 “STATE RANCH” CABERNET SAUVIGNON YOUNTVILLE

Nickel & Nickel focuses on vineyard-specific wines in order to showcase the individuality of each property. They only purchase fruit from respected and proven sites, specify low yields to ensure concentrated flavors and high quality, and organically farm these Napa Valley vineyards. Darice Spinelli brings her 25 years of winemaking expertise to the table, providing the knowledge of how each specific terroir will display themselves in the resulting wines. She began her “winemaking quest” at Inglenook and BV, then moved to Franciscan where her wines received critical acclaim. The praises for her wines have not stopped, as this bottling just received 94 points from Robert Parker!

ROBERT PARKER 94 POINTS - “The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon State Ranch from Yountville boasts an impressive bouquet of chocolate and creme de cassis, and powerful, full-bodied flavors. It may be the most concentrated, dense and powerful effort in this portfolio. This blockbuster, full throttle (14.8% natural alcohol) wine should age effortlessly for two decades. I wonder if this designation has any kinship to the State Lane Vineyard owned by the Kapcsandy family?” We think yes!

$79.98 750ml [246730] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

#7) LEWIS 2012 “MASON’S” CABERNET SAUVIGNON NAPA VALLEY

Lewis Cellars does not produce a "Mason’s" Cabernet Sauvignon every year, but when they do, it’s always a welcome sight in our store! Sourced entirely from vineyards in the Napa Valley’s Mount Veeder area, this terrain is rugged with very little nutrients or topsoil. This makes the vines struggle, thereby helping to produce smaller grapes, which in turn makes a significantly more concentrated wine! Lewis manages to tame the mountain tannins, creating a lush, full-bodied, and approachable wine. This year’s Mason’s bottling has just earned 91 points from Wine Spectator, and this displays Lewis Cellars’ “house style” of opulent ollalieberry fruit with Mexican chocolate and toasty oak spice. Creamy, soft-skinned fruit radiates youth yet there is supple tannin and muscle tone too. Like a kid’s easy smile, this "Mason’s" Cabernet is pure joy. Only 1,000 cases produced, so this won’t be around for long!

WINE SPECTATOR 91 POINTS - "A classy effort, combining toasty oak with an elegant mix of cedar, dark berry, plum and cherry flavors, gaining depth and holding focus on the long, lingering finish. Should improve with time. Drink now through 2023. 1,000 cases made."

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#8) CROSSBARN 2012 CABERNET SAUVIGNON NAPA VALLEY

Paul Hobbs is a juggernaut in the wine world. It doesn’t seem to matter where he makes wine, or with what grape; anything he makes is simply fantastic! Paul’s Crossbarn lineup of wines is the second label to his eponymous Paul Hobbs wines from Napa and Sonoma, yet it comes close to its “bigger brother”! Produced using hand-harvested fruit from carefully selected vineyards in prime areas in the Napa Valley, CrossBarn Cabernet Sauvignon offers structure and weight in balance with pure concentrated fruit.

ROBERT PARKER 90 POINTS - “Hobbs’ least expensive wine and an excellent value is called Crossbarn, and the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Crossbarn is a beautifully put together wine that transcends its rather humble origins. Dense ruby/purple with plenty of blackcurrant fruit and sweet tannin, this may well turn out to be the modern-day version of the 1974 Souverain Vintage Selection that I raved about when it was under $10 and the wine is still going strong 40 years later. Of course, the joy of this is to drink it early on, but there is plenty of stuffing and classic Cabernet character, so there’s no hurry. I wouldn’t be surprised in 20 years’ time to see somebody pull out a bottle that would prove a revelation in quality.”

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#9) ST. SUPÉRY 2012 CABERNET SAUVIGNON NAPA VALLEY

St. Supéry Estate is a family-owned and sustainably-farmed winery. Now, you may have heard of Michel Rolland; he’s one of the most famous and talented winemakers in the world (just ask anybody in the wine industry). Now you may not have heard of St Supéry’s winemaker, Michael Scholz, but Michel Rolland says “Michael Scholz is on my list of great winemakers from around the world.” We’re not sure if you can get more of a compliment than that! Michael has been winemaker at St. Supéry from 1996-2001, and again since 2009. In that time, he helped to take these wines from strength to strength, as some of their Cabernets have earned up to 96 points! This year’s Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of fruit from their Rutherford and Dollarhide vineyards. During a recent trade tasting, this Cabernet practically stole the show! It offers up so much for its price that it’s simply stunning! The wine possesses a rich, vibrant purple color with a ruby red hue, while blackberry and ripe currant aromas combine with black pepper, anise, toasted oak and smoky roasted mocha. Flavors of black plum and cassis complement flavors of roasted coffee bean and licorice. This is a structured Cabernet Sauvignon with fine texture, length, flavor and style. Oh…and it just received 91+ points from Robert Parker!

ROBERT PARKER 91+ POINTS - "The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa is also outstanding. Rich and dense with lots of crème de cassis and a hint of forest floor presented in a full-bodied, deep, lusty, opulent style, it can be enjoyed over the next decade."

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#10) ST. CLEMENT 2010 “OROPPAS” CABERNET SAUVIGNON
NAPA VALLEY

St. Clement’s portfolio of stunning Napa Valley wines is anchored by the flagship Oroppas Cabernet Sauvignon. The first vintage of Oroppas was made in 1991, and over the years it has become a style icon for St. Clement — a rich, opulent Bordeaux-style blend that emphasizes concentration, depth and velvety tannins. The key to Oroppas is having a palate of consistent flavor profiles and tannin structures to work for the blend. In addition to their own vineyards, St. Clement has been working for years to build relationships with some of the top winegrowers in Napa Valley’s most sought-after sub-appellations, including Diamond Mountain, Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder, Rutherford and Spring Mountain. Each vineyard brings its own individual qualities to the blend, whether in aroma, structure or depth, but by blending them all together you are left with a wine that is rich and sophisticated. Long story short…they get amazing grapes and make amazing wine! Earning 90 points from Wine Spectator, this is full-bodied yet refined Cabernet, showing classic flavors of currants, cherries, plums, raspberries, blackberries, and a hint of anise. This complex yet beautifully balanced wine has velvety tannins that make this approachable now, but with a little bit of airtime, this really begins to strut its stuff and put on some weight!

WINE SPECTATOR 90 POINTS - "Tight and Bordeaux-like in its structure and midpalate austerity, offering loamy earth, currant and dark berry flavors shaded by anise and cedar details. Needs time. Best from 2014 through 2025. 2,131 cases made"

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Top North American Reds

#1) McPRICE MYERS 2011 “LIL’ MAN” SYRAH CENTRAL COAST

In our opinion, Mac Myers makes some of the best Syrahs from California’s Central Coast, and judging by how full our wine bar is when we have a McPrice Myers / Barrel 27 tasting, you do, too! A few years ago, we were at his winery, tasting through dozens of barrels, and he showed us the fruit from one of his latest vineyard sources. As amazing as his wines are, this new stuff from Kymsi Vineyard in Ballard Canyon was head and shoulders better than everything else! This Lil’ Man bottling is a wine to celebrate his firstborn son, and the fruit from Kymsi is the backbone of this wine. It’s a blend of 86% Syrah, 8% Grenache, 4% Mourvedre, and 2% Viognier, and while this has been only available at the winery, we managed to snag a few cases!

Opaque garnet in color with a dark purple hue, the wine shows aromas and flavors of blackberry, black plum, soy sauce, boysenberry, white pepper, licorice, créme de cassis, smoked meats, pencil shavings and graphite. Framed by good acidity and chewy yet approachable tannins, this rich, complex and utterly seductive wine is drinkable now, but should age for another 10-15 years! This is perhaps the best McPrice Myers wine we've ever tasted!

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#2) PAHLMEYER 2012 PROPRIETARY RED NAPA VALLEY

Jayson Pahlmeyer’s eponymous wine is now regarded as one of the blue chip brands of the Napa Valley. How did he do it? Jayson began by wanting to create his own California rendition of Bordeaux’s first growth Mouton Rothschild. He seeks out the best vineyards in Napa Valley, hires the best winemakers and cuts zero corners to ensure only the best wine made goes into this blend. Current winemaker Kale Anderson blended 79% Cabernet Sauvignon with small parts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot from the Pahlmeyer Waters Ranch and the famed Stagecoach Vineyard. Earning 94 points from Robert Parker, this wine has a deep purple hue and glints of ruby, and is opulent in every sense. Aromas of juicy ripe black cherry and floral raspberry marry with fresh citrus blossom, pencil lead and a hint of marzipan. Smooth, sweet tannins frame the unctuous mouthfeel, dazzling with a balance of rich complexity and fresh acidity. On the palate, notes of ripe black cherry, cassis, mocha and sarsaparilla merge with captivating briny green olive, light ash and orange peel. A crescendo of intense black fruit, bitter chocolate and sweet cigar extend the rhapsody through an endless finish, presenting ample time to savor this extraordinary wine.

ROBERT PARKER 94 POINTS - "The 2012 Proprietary Red Blend (79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot) is fabulous with complex notes of plum, blackcurrants, blueberries, raspberries, licorice and very subtle background oak followed by a full-bodied, opulently textured wine. This has voluptuous texture, tremendous opulence and is a sexy beast. Perfect purity also highlights this marvelous wine that can be drunk now or cellared for 15 more years."

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#3) CORLISS 2009 PROPRIETARY RED COLUMBIA VALLEY

Several years ago, we had our first taste of Corliss wines. Today, these are still some of our favorite wines to come out of Washington State! The winemaking team of Michael Corliss, Andrew Trio and Philippe Melka do everything possible to make amazing wines. The 2009 vintage was a glorious one for Washington State, and while that might make their job easier, they stuck to their strict standards to make an amazing wine even better; from sustainable, meticulous viticulture in their Estate Vineyards, to individual berry sorting at harvest, to slow native yeast fermentation in micro-scale custom oak and concrete fermenters. They follow this with extended elevage in barrel, rigorous selection of the best lots for blending and over two years of additional aging in bottle before the wines are finally labeled and available for current enjoyment.

WINE ADVOCATE 94 POINTS - ”The 2009 Red Wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec. It exhibits up-front, ripe aromas and flavors of black raspberry, chocolate ganache, black currants, lead pencil and toast to go with full-bodied richness and depth on the palate. More rounded, up-front and approachable than the straight Cabernet release, it’s a sexy, hard-to-resist red to enjoy over the coming decade or more.”

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#4) ST. SUPÉRY 2010 MERLOT RUTHERFORD

It’s not too common for us to have two wines from the same producer on our Top Wine lists, but hey, when you have somebody making wines this delicious, it’s hard to ignore greatness! St. Supéry’s Rutherford Estate Vineyard is on the “Rutherford Bench” of mineral-rich alluvial soils and sandy clay loam from the Mayacamas Mountains. Deep, well-drained soil allows the grapevine’s root system to mine for nutrients and water, which yields complex and concentrated flavors in the fruit.

ROBERT PARKER 94 POINTS - “Kudos to this estate for dramatically raising the quality level of their offerings. These are now among the more exciting wines being made in Napa Valley! The opaque purple-colored 2010 Merlot Rutherford Estate offers up beautiful chocolate fudge, cassis and dark black cherry scents intermixed with a hint of smoke. Full-bodied, opulent, and extravagantly rich and luxurious, this decadent Merlot is about as good as this varietal can be in Napa. Enjoy it over the next decade.”

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#5) FOXEN 2012 “BLOCK 8” PINOT NOIR SANTA MARIA VALLEY

For almost 30 years, Bill Wathen and Dick Doré have been making wine together at the historic Rancho Tinaquaic in Santa Barbara County. Since that time their dedication has remained the same: the creation of small production, sustainably-farmed, vineyard-focused wines using a straightforward and minimalist approach to winemaking. They seem to be doing all the things right, as they now have an amazing following, and their tasting room has become a Santa Barbara Wine Country destination! This release comes from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard; a property in Santa Maria Valley that produces some of the most complex and refined Pinot Noir, Chardonnay,and Syrah in the state! Robert Parker just scored this wine at 94 points and stated “I was blown away by these new Pinot Noir releases from Foxen, and they’re up near the top of the vintage.

WINE ADVOCATE 94 POINTS - “The 2012 Pinot Noir Block 8 Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley is pure class, with fabulous purity of fruit and an elegant, seamless style. Exhibiting notions of sweet red fruits, crushed flowers and sweet spice, it shows the suppleness of the vintage, yet has solid richness, a layered, balanced feel and a terrific finish. Completely destemmed and aged 17 months in 50% new French oak, it’s an awesome Pinot Noir to drink over the coming 5-8 years.”

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#6) OJAI 2010 “ROLL RANCH” SYRAH CENTRAL COAST

Owner and winemaker Adam Tolmach learned a few tricks while he was in Burgundy and the Rhône Valley. For the last three decades, he has been improving upon these techniques here in California, and his wines are among the favorites for sommeliers, critics, consumers and us here at Hi-Time! His style for Syrah is to focus on grapes from the finest terroirs in the coolest districts in northern Santa Barbara County. They have charming personalities with good quantities of spice and mineral-laced fruit, similar to what you might find from France. This wines comes from the Roll Ranch Vineyard, a vineyard so close to his home that this always seems to get the most “love and attention.” Maybe that’s why this wine scores so high! Wine critic Antonio Galloni stopped in on Adam earlier this year, and said his tasting was “...epic”! “Black fruit, scorched earth, smoke, tobacco and iron burst from the glass in the 2010 Syrah Roll Ranch Vineyard. A rich, explosive Syrah, the Roll Ranch is not for the timid. The sheer power and intensity of the fruit take hold of all the senses and never let up. This is the only Ojai Syrah that is co-fermented with a dollop of Viognier, which is felt in the wine’s perfumed, floral-laced finish. This is yet another gorgeous new release from Ojai. 95 points from Antonio Galloni!

ANTONIO GALLONI 95 POINTS - "My tasting this year at Ojai was epic. Winemaker/Proprietor Adam Tolmach and Assistant Winemaker Fabien Castel have done a fabulous job with these new and upcoming releases. The highlights are centered among the Pinots and Syrahs. Black fruit, scorched earth, smoke, tobacco and iron burst from the glass in the 2010 Syrah Roll Ranch Vineyard. A rich, explosive Syrah, the Roll Ranch is not for the timid. The sheer power and intensity of the fruit take hold of all the senses and never let up. This is the only Ojai Syrah that is co-fermented with a dollop of Viognier, which is felt in the wine's perfumed, floral-laced finish. This is yet another gorgeous new release from Ojai. Drinking window: 2014 - 2024 "

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#7) CALERA 2011 “DE VILLIERS” PINOT NOIR MT. HARLAN

Inspired by tasting the greatest Pinot Noir producer in Burgundy (Domaine de la Romanée Conti), Josh Jensen set out to emulate the wine that lit a fire underneath him. He noticed that most of the best producers in Burgundy all had limestone in his soils. He searched up and down California looking not only for that soil, but the right temperature, rainfall and growing season. He found all these in the hillsides of California’s Central Coast, not too far from Monterey, and now his Calera wines are some of the most coveted in the state! The de Villiers bottling is from one of Calera’s certified organic vineyards that sits at 2,200 feet in elevation and faces east, resulting in elegant, aromatic yet complex Pinot Noir.

WINE ADVOCATE 93 POINTS - “First up and seriously perfumed, the 2011 Pinot Noir de Villiers is a gorgeous wine that excels both for its complexity and for its richness and breath on the palate. Giving up notes of ripe cherries, wild strawberries, exotic flowers, citron and spice, it has medium to full-bodied richness, a core of sweet fruit and a rich, seamless texture. In fact, it has a rare level of depth and texture in the vintage, and while beautiful today, I imagine it will evolve gracefully.”

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#8) ROCK GARDEN 2012 “WILLIAMS’ CUVÉE” PROPRIETARY RED
NAPA VALLEY

We’re going to toot our own horn right here; we were so pleased with how our Rock Garden wine turned out that we held onto some cases just so we could feature it on our Top Wine list! There is a spot where the rolling hills of Carneros gain elevation and meet with the rugged slopes of Napa Valley’s Mount Veeder. It is in this area where we find the vineyard for this blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The soils here are predominately clay, very thin and shallow, providing good drainage and poor fertility. Since these vines struggle to retain moisture, this aids in keeping crop yields small, allowing the grapes to ripen and develop intense, vivid flavors. This wine has a dark ruby/garnet color and the aromas are intense with herb, sweet tobacco, raspberry, currant, grilled meats and violets that give way to flavors of cocoa, black plum, black currants, wet minerals and a mélange of red fruits. This is beautifully proportioned, as it has one foot in the new world and one foot in the old world. It drinks great on its own, but pair it with some beef and you’ve got one heck of a meal!

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Top North American Whites

#1) PAHLMEYER 2012 CHARDONNAY NAPA VALLEY

Like we said earlier, we don’t typically repeat a winery in our Top Wine list in the same year, but when you rock… you rock! Pahlmeyer is definitely on fire this year, and it’s not just with their Cabernet-based blend. Their Chardonnay is always at the top of most lists for Napa Valley Chardonnay, and we feel their 2012 vintage is one of the best renditions Jayson Pahlmeyer has ever put out! The Chardonnay comes from rocky, hillside vineyards that promote small berries and more complex flavors; vineyards like Stagecoach, Atlas Peak, and Pahlmeyer Waters. Fermented with native yeasts and aged in French oak for 11 months, the wine was not filtered or fined. This would have made the wine more clear, but would have been robbed of complexity and nuance. The wine just received 95 points from Robert Parker!

ROBERT PARKER 95 POINTS - “Pahlmeyer’s spectacular 2012 Chardonnay offers abundant aromas of hazelnuts, buttered citrus, tropical fruits and honeysuckle intermixed with a touch of tangerine oil. It cuts a full-bodied swath across the palate, and possesses good acidity, exuberant fruit and an undeniably sexy style. Enjoy this terrific All-American, All-Napa Valley Chardonnay over the next 4-5 years. Bravo!

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#2) TYLER 2012 “BIEN NACIDO” CHARDONNAY SANTA MARIA VALLEY

Go talk to any Sommelier in Southern California, ask them who some of their favorite California Chardonnay producers are, and it’s likely that Justin Willet and his Tyler lineup of wines will be at the top of their lists! Winemaker Justin Willet and his winemaking staff make their wine in the classic Burgundian style, meaning they focus on cool-climate vineyards that showcase minerality, freshness and verve. The use of oak is kept to a minimum, as they want you to truly taste the fruit of the vineyard, so that each wine has nuance and individuality. This bottling comes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard, arguably one of the best vineyards in California for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. We tasted this without knowing any score and we felt this is one of the best expressions of Chardonnay from this vineyard we have ever tasted!

WINE ADVOCATE 95 POINTS - “Coming from the eastern edge of Bien Nacido and vines planted in 1973, the 2012 Chardonnay Bien Nacido is one of the top Chardonnays in the vintage. Loaded with mineral-laced stone fruits, salt water and white flowers, it has incredible purity, building richness and a crystalline-like quality that keeps you coming back to the glass. It’s a gorgeous effort that will drink nicely for 4-5 years, possibly longer, although I see no reason to hold off.”

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#3) CADE 2013 SAUVIGNON BLANC NAPA VALLEY

CADE is owned by the same owners as Plumpjack... and in their typical fashion, they would never be “happy enough” to make a “good” Sauvignon Blanc: CADE only wants to make outstanding Sauvignon Blanc! In order to do this, they ferment their grapes in a combination of stainless steel tanks, stainless steel drums, French oak and concrete eggs. In addition, a combination of native and cultured yeasts are used, and the culmination of all this helps to give the wine aromatic and textural complexity. Aromas of Lychee, Honeydew Melons, spearmint and freshly mown hay are followed on the palate with flavors of melon, figs, Fiji apple and spring peas. A little refreshing acid at the end results in a mouthwatering finish that brings you back for a second glass!

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#4) PATZ & HALL 2012 “DUTTON RANCH” CHARDONNAY
RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY

One of our perennial “go-to” producers for delicious Chardonnay, Patz & Hall have really hit this one out of the park! Given the strength of the 2012 vintage in California, this should come as no surprise. Produced from some of the oldest plantings of Chardonnay in western Sonoma County, this wine is a blend of different Chardonnay clones to help create more complexity and nuance. Mostly dry-farmed, the vines struggle to produce small but intensely concentrated berries, making for great depth of flavor and texture. Historically, Dutton Ranch yields fragrant, tropical aromatics, underscored by a crisp mineral character. In typical Patz & Hall fashion, they made a winner, as this wine recently received 92+ points from Robert Parker! The aromas showcase high-toned tropical and Muscat-like notes alongside lovely layers of white flower and citrus peel. On the palate, the texture is plush and mouthfilling, with flavors that echo the aromas. French oak-inspired notes of hazelnut, graham cracker and spicy clove, as well as a hint of campfire smoke, add sophistication to the mid-palate. From start to finish, this is a complex and impeccably balanced wine that concludes with lingering ripe fruit.

ROBERT PARKER 92+ POINTS - "Another large cuvee is the 2012 Chardonnay Dutton Ranch (5,921 cases). Oodles of tropical fruit such as pineapple guava and mango are followed by notes of honeyed tangerine and citrus oil. It is deep, rich, full-bodied, and very complex already. This should drink nicely for 5-6 years."

$32.98 750ml [249340] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

#5) SANS LIEGE 2012 “CALL TO ARMS” PROPRIETARY WHITE
PASO ROBLES

Owner/winemaker Curt Schalchlin is the owner and only employee of Sans Liege Wines. After several years learning from and working for some of the Central Coast’s most sought-after producers, Curt decided to go his own way. He has rapidly made a name for himself within the “Cal-Rhône Community” as one of the hot new producers of Syrahs, Grenaches, Viognier and blends. His “Groundwork” lineup represents one heck of a value, and the Sans Liege wines really showcase his abilities. Fermented in a combination of new and neutral oak barrels, this is a blend of 70% Grenache Blanc and 30% Roussanne from Alta Colina Vineyard, and the wine displays much of what makes the Alta Colina vineyard a mesmerizing site.

WINE ADVOCATE 92 POINTS - “The 2012 Call to Armas Alta Colina Vineyard is another full-throttle effort that does everything right. Ripe peach, mint, flowers, pineapple and hints of vanilla bean all come together nicely, and while it-s no lightweight on the palate, it stays fresh and clean. Made from 70% Grenache Blanc and 30% Roussanne that spent 17 months in 30% new French oak, it will thrill over the coming couple of years.”

$29.95 750ml [257710] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

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Best Cabernet & Chardonnay Under $20

BON ANNO 2012 CABERNET SAUVIGNON NAPA VALLEY

Next to our wine of the month, this is typically our 2nd most popular wine in December. With that in mind, we always take special care and look extra hard to be sure that the quality of this wine exceeds its price point. Hey, if that’s what we want in the wines we take home, that’s what we should find for you… right? Bon Anno means “good year” and the Italian saying heralds the celebration of good times, and is a fortuitous play on Vintner Matthew Bonnano’s last name. But considering all the hype of the amazing 2012 vintage, there could not be a better time for Matthew to release this wine! Matthew sourced quality fruit from key vineyards in some of Napa Valley’s prime growing sub-appellations, like St. Helena, Oakville, and Stags Leap. He blended in small amounts of Merlot and Malbec to craft an even better wine, then aged the wine for 20 months in French oak barrels. When we got a “first glance” of this wine a few months ago, we just knew we found the best 'Under $20 Cab' of the year-- and carrying a Napa Valley designation, this wine is a righteous bargain! A deep ruby red color, this seductive wine shows classic Cabernet Sauvignon aromas of spice and sage followed by a mix of blueberries and blackberries with fresh raspberry notes. With a nice balance of acid and well-integrated tannins for structure, this wine is smooth, supple and sleek in the mouth. It is well balanced across the palate showcasing flavors of dark fruit, currants and hints of mineral and anise. Crafted to be enjoyed upon release, this wine will also stand the test of time for those who can wait!

$19.95 750ml [204590] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

CHALK HILL 2012 CHARDONNAY SONOMA COAST

Similar to the Cabernet, our Top Chardonnay under $20 is a wine that we take extra special care in selecting. In fact, we didn’t even do this last year because we didn’t think anything was worthy of this spot. But this year….this year there was a clear winner! Since its founding, Chalk Hill has been producing artisan wines from their estate vineyards in the hills of northeastern Sonoma County. For four decades they have studied, prodded and coaxed our complex terroir to ensure that their estate wines deliver vivid aromatics, commanding flavors, great character and regional accuracy. While their 300+ acres of vineyards surrounding the winery will always be the cornerstone of Chalk Hill’s identity, starting with the 2011 vintage, in addition to their estate Chardonnay, Chalk Hill started producing their first Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. This 2012 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay comes from extraordinary vineyards throughout Sonoma County consisting primarily of Foley Family estate vineyards. This Chardonnay features fruit from some of the best sites in Carneros, Chalk Hill, lower Sonoma Valley and the Alexander Valley. Chalk Hill’s Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is light golden in color and displays expressive fruit aromas of yellow apple and tropical fruit complexed by toasty vanilla and crème brulée. The bouquet is pure and direct with guava, nectarine, golden delicious apple and pears. The palate is rich, full and citrusy with traces of butterscotch and vanilla in the finish. The fruit is reined in by great acidity and has a persistent roasted almond flavor.

$19.95 750ml [210100] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

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