The below list is a selection of the top wines tasted over the past 12 months and reviewed at JebDunnuck.com. The selection is based on a combination of quality, value, availability, and a little bit of Wow Factor. It was made by scrolling through thousands of reviews and painstakingly cutting the list to these 100 wines.  The list is not a grouping of the top-rated new releases and contains wines – and producers – who merit special attention. While we try to select wines currently available in the market, that’s not always possible. Every producer on this list is worth your time and money. If a wine on this list is not available, by all means, try a different wine from the same producer. At a minimum, keep that producer on your radar for the future. Prices are either from release prices from the estates or pulled from average retail prices in the United States. As with all Top 100 lists, this is an entirely subjective endeavor and almost every wine on this list could be replaced with a different wine. Nevertheless, these are the most exciting wines at JebDunnuck.com for 2020!

*click on the “+” beside the wine name to read the review

RANK WINE PRICE SCORE
1 2018 Domaine De La Vieille Julienne Châteauneuf Du Pape Les Hauts-Lieux + Including slightly more Mourvèdre and from a cooler, higher elevation terroir, the 2018 Châteauneuf Du Pape Les Hauts-Lieux has more cassis, game, peppery herbs, and olive notes, as well as the classic violets and black licorice nuances that always seem to be present in the wines from this estate. Possessing full-bodied richness, an ethereal, seamless texture, ultra-fine tannins, and nicely integrated acidity, it’s a more structured wine compared to the Les Trois Sources and will benefit from 2-3 years of bottle age and evolve for 15 years or more. It’s every bit as good as the Reserve cuvée in 2018.While 2018 seemed to favor those with more clay soil, you’d never know that from tasting the wines from Jean-Paul Daumen, and his 2018s are unquestionably some of the finest in the vintage. The shocker was how well the Les Hauts-Lieux performed, and it’s a heavenly bottle of wine that’s every bit as good as the Reserve, although it shows a more mineral-laced, masculine style. As I’ve written in the past, there are few wines I’d rather drink than those of Vieille Julienne. $90 97
2 2018 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle + As I wrote last year from barrel, the 2018 Hermitage La Chapelle is a backward, primordial Hermitage built for the ages. Incredible crème de cassis, blueberries, scorched earth, burning embers, and liquid violet-like aromas and flavors dominate the bouquet, and this beauty is full-bodied, concentrated, and powerful on the palate. With just hints of the smoky, meaty, beefy character that emerges from all aged examples of this cuvée, it has incredible tannins, perfect balance, and a monster of a finish. Don’t think about touching bottles for at least 7-8 years, and it’s going to keep for 50 years or more. $190 98+
3 2017 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello + Pure perfection, the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello is a sensational effort from this estate that should be snatched up by drinkers and collectors. Based on 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, and the rest Cabernet Franc that was brought up mostly in new American oak, this saturated purple-hued beauty is legendary Monte Bello in the making and has a stunning yet primordial bouquet of crème de cassis, lead pencil shavings, graphite, chocolate, and chalky minerality. Full-bodied, incredibly powerful, and one of the most concentrated versions of this cuvée ever made (I’ve had most of them), it needs a solid decade of bottle age and will have 50-60 years of overall longevity. Despite the long drinking window, it offers plenty of pleasure even today. I followed this bottle for two days and it showed best right out of the gate, closing down and becoming more brooding and backward with air. It’s an incredible wine that I promise you won’t regret having in your cellar. $200 100
4 2017 Château Tour Saint Christophe + This estate made a stunning 2017, and I continue to love this wine. A typical blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, the 2017 Chateau Tour Saint Christophe has remarkable purity in its black raspberry and blueberry fruits as well as complex spice, candied violet, spring flower, and cedary herb aromas and flavors. Possessing medium to full-bodied richness, incredible tannins, and flawless balance, it’s already accessible, as are most 2017s, yet is going to shine for 20 years or more. $36 95
5 2018 L’Aventure Estate Cuvee + The 2018 Estate Cuvee checks 45% Syrah, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot brought up in 90% new French oak. Tasting like the straight Cab, yet with more sex appeal, it offers a huge nose of crème de cassis, white flowers, crushed stone, graphite, and crushed flowers. This carries to a full-bodied, gorgeously textured red with incredible balance, no hard edges, a thrilling mid-palate, and a great, great finish. It’s going to benefit from 5-6 years of bottle age and keep for upwards of two decades or more. $108 100
6 2018 Rivers Marie Pinot Noir Summa Old Vines + From the same site yet from just the original plantings, the 2018 Pinot Noir Summa Old Vines offers even more iron and iodine notions as well as gorgeous black cherry fruit, leafy herbs, bay leaf, violets, candied orange peel, and Asian spices. More tight, backward, and reserved than the straight Summa Vineyard, it’s medium to full-bodied, has perfectly integrated acidity, awesome balance, and a finish that won’t quit. This is a magical Pinot Noir that will benefit from 4-5 years of bottle age and have 30 years of overall longevity. California’s answer to Grand Cru Burgundy? Here you go. There are 180 cases made. Bravo. $80 100
7 2018 Domaine Des Bosquets Gigondas La Colline + Coming from a tiny 1.5-hectare portion of clay and limestone soils and all old vine Grenache, the 2018 Gigondas La Colline is another gorgeous wine from this estate that strikes a balance between richness and elegance. More ruby-hued (these wines are never the deepest hued in Gigondas) and with a killer perfume of kirsch liqueur, framboise, herbes de Provence, chocolate, roasted herbs, and chalky minerality, it hits the palate with full-bodied richness, ultra-fine tannins, no hard edges, and a gorgeous, heady finish. This cuvée is almost always the more powerful and concentrated in the lineup, yet in 2018 it shows the more elegant, seamless style of the vintage beautifully. It’s going to benefit from a year or two of bottle age and drink fabulous well for a decade. The young Julien Brechet continues to keep this estate in the top tier of producers, not only in Gigondas, but in the entire Southern Rhône. His 2018s show the more supple, elegant style of the vintage yet still bring ample richness and depth. These are seamless, Provençal, incredibly sexy wines to enjoy over the coming decade or so. The 2019s are slightly deeper, richer wines yet still show beautiful purity and elegance. In addition to the quality, these wines show singular character and are just a joy to taste through. $55 97
8 2018 Saxum James Berry Vineyard + Showing better from bottle than barrel (always a good sign), the 2018 James Berry Vineyard is another stunning wine in a long line of stunning wines from this estate. Based on 64% Grenache, 16% Mataro, 14% Syrah, and the rest Carignan, incredible notes of blueberries, wild strawberries, licorice, new leather, herbes de Provence, and candied violets all emerge from the glass, and it’s full-bodied, with an incredible sense of purity and elegance, flawless balance, and a huge finish. It has some early appeal yet is going to be best with 2-4 years of bottle age and will still be drinking beautifully at age 20. $98 99
9 2018 Domaine Garon Cote Rotie Les Rochins + Even deeper hued, the black/blue 2018 Côte Rôtie Les Rochins offers a heavenly bouquet of black raspberries, blueberries, smoked meat, chocolate, liquid violets, and crushed stone. With full-bodied richness, a seamless, ultra-fine texture, gorgeous tannins, and a big, mineral-drenched finish, it brings a more masculine, powerful style while staying light on its feet. This is another magical Côte Rôtie from the Garon family that should be snatched up by readers. $120 98
10 2017 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou + One of the wines of the vintage in the Medoc, the 2017 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou comes from 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot from tiny yields of 35 hectoliters per hectare. Brought up in new barrels, it offers stunning notes of pure creme de cassis, unsmoked tobacco, lead pencil, and crushed rocks. Showing a touch of spring flowers with air, full-bodied richness and depth, awesome tannin quality, and a laser-like level of precision and purity, it’s going to need a decade of cellaring yet will have 40-50 years of prime drinking. Hats off to proprietor Bruno Borie for another magical wine. $200 98
11 2018 Realm The Bard + The 2018 The Bard is beautiful and certainly in the same realm as the 2015 and 2016, both magical wines. This cuvée reveals a deep purple color followed by a beautiful perfume of crème de cassis, blackberries, roasted coffee, spring flowers, and violets. With incredible richness, no hard edges, and a blockbuster finish, this incredible wine offers serious opulence with no sensation of heaviness or weight. It’s beautifully done and already complex and nuanced. It will evolve for at least 15+ years. $95 98
12 2018 Carlisle Zinfandel Limerick Lane Vineyard + From the Russian River Valley and 95% Zinfandel and 5% a mix of assorted black varieties, the 2018 Zinfandel Limerick Lane Vineyard is another gorgeous effort from Officer that shows the purity and quality of the vintage brilliantly. Blueberries, sandalwood, flowery incense, and brambly herb notes all dominate the bouquet, and it’s as silky and seamless as they come, with no hard edges and straight-up awesome purity of fruit. It’s already hard to resist, but it’s going to evolve nicely for a decade. $55 97
13 2018 Clos Des Papes Châteauneuf Du Pape + Due to devastating yields, there’s not much of the 2018 Châteauneuf Du Pape to go around, but it’s going to be worth the extra effort to track down. Based on 50% Grenache, 40% Mourvèdre, and the rest Syrah (and a splash of other permitted varieties), it offers a textbook, classic Châteauneuf du Pape nose of mulled red and black fruits, Provençal garrigue, ground pepper, and saddle leather. These all carry to a medium to full-bodied Clos des Papes that has thrillingly polished tannins, flawless balance, and a great finish. Made in a style similar to the 1999, 2004, and maybe a kiss of the 2006, it has the beautiful elegance (again, a Grand Cru Burgundy comes to mind) paired with plenty of intensity and length. I doubt it will shut down and it’s going to evolve nicely for 15-20 years or more. $120 96
14 2017 Jaffurs Syrah Upslope + The flagship Syrah from Jaffurs is always a selection made from the single vineyards, and the 2017 Syrah Upslope is 98% Syrah and 2% Viognier that was 55% destemmed and brought up in 50% new French oak. Deep purple-hued, with killer notes of jammy blackberries, ground pepper, bouquet garni, and smoked game, it’s flawlessly balanced and medium to full-bodied on the palate, with polished tannins, brilliant purity, and a great, great finish. Pure class, with a Côte Rôtie-like character, this incredible wine should be snatched up by readers and enjoyed over the coming 10-15 years. Hats off to the team at Jaffurs! $75 99
15 2017 Bevan Cellars Ontogeny + Cassis, black olives, tobacco, chocolate, toasted spice, and graphite notes all emerge from the 2017 Ontogeny, a more rounded, plush, sexy wine that nevertheless packs ample muscle, depth, and richness. It’s a beautifully balanced, silky, awesome wine as well as a killer value. $95 97
16 2018 Tensley Syrah Sta. Rita Hills + The 2018 Syrah Sta. Rita Hills comes from a mix of the Turner and Zotovich vineyards and saw 25% stems and the normal 10% neutral oak. It has a big, blue fruit-driven core as well as lots of violets, peppery herbs, and hints of bloody meat and salty minerality. Rich, full-bodied, and beautifully textured, it’s another rocking wine that just about blows up the QPR scale.The 2018s from Tensley are some of the finest wines he’s made. They have the classic, opulent style he’s known for paired with more freshness, purity, and acidity. His wines age beautifully, but my money is on his 2018s evolving even longer. The 2019s are close in style, yet have even fresher, more elegant profiles. These wines will put on weight over the course of their élevage, and this is certainly another brilliant vintage. If you take prices into account, dollar for dollar, these are some of the greatest wines out there. $32 95
17 2018 Wayfarer Vineyard Pinot Noir Golden Mean + Incorporating a touch of stems (10%), the 2018 Pinot Noir Golden Mean reveals a slightly translucent ruby color as well as a great bouquet of mulled raspberries, flowery incense, iodine, and spiced orange. Tight and focused on the palate, with good concentration, it has a stunning sense of precision and elegance as well as length. It’s another thrill a minute from this team that should be snatched up by readers! $115 98
18 2018 Alain Voge Cornas Les Vieilles Vignes + Moving to the 2018 Cornas Les Vieilles Vignes, this beauty is cut from the same cloth as the Les Chailles yet is deeper and richer, with another level of concentration. Black and blue fruits, ground pepper, violets, smoked game, and loads of spring flower notes define the bouquet, and it has a vibrant, almost old school vibe that carries plenty of power yet still stays light and elegant on the palate. This beautiful, singular wine is open and enjoyable today, yet I wouldn’t be surprised to see it close down with a year or two of bottle age. It should see its 20th birthday in fine form. $75 98
19 2018 Paul Lato Syrah Il Padrino + There are two Syrahs from Lato, both brilliant wines yet distinctly different. The most masculine, peppery, and gamey is the 2018 Syrah Il Padrino, which comes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard located just outside the town of Santa Maria. Its deep ruby purple color is followed by textbook Bien Nacido notes of bacon fat, cracked pepper, beef blood, bouquet garni, blackberries, and darker currants. It’s a heavenly, concentrated, powerful wine that offers everything I look for in a great wine: richness without heaviness, incredible complexity, a singular character, and the ability to deliver both intellectual and hedonistic pleasure. Drink this incredible Syrah over the coming 10-12 years. A great California success story, Polish immigrant Paul Lato started as a cellar hand in a Santa Maria co-op/custom crush and has worked his way up to being one of the leading producers of artisanal, world class wines in California today. Lato fashions a bevy of wines (I would normally say too many, yet given the quality he’s able to achieve, the more the merrier) including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. These aren’t lightweight wines, yet they never lose their sense of balance and elegance. I always describe the wines as having a slightly Old World style, but with one foot planted firmly in California. As I hope the reviews show, his 2018s are incredible wines across the board. $90 100
20 2016 Domaine Du Pegau Châteauneuf Du Pape Cuvée Réservée + Reminding me of a fresher version of the 2003, the 2016 Châteauneuf Du Pape Cuvée Reservée is another magical wine from Laurence Feraud that could come from nowhere else. I still remember tasting (and loving) this beauty from barrel. It doesn’t quite have the sheer over-the-top decadence of the 2003, but it does have more elegance, while not giving up an inch with regard to texture and opulence. Dark ruby/plum-hued with a monster display of Provençal goodness in its garrigue, lavender, violets, kirsch, plums, and Asian spices, this full-throttle, ripe, sexy Châteauneuf du Pape has silky tannins, flawless balance, and a heavenly texture. It’s going to benefit from 2-4 years of bottle age and drink well for at least 20-25 years. $90 98
21 2018 DuMOL Pinot Noir Finn + What could be thought of as the flagship release, the 2018 Pinot Noir Finn comes from a selection of the top lots and was all destemmed and spent the normal 15 months in 45 % new French oak. This is the finest Pinot Noir I’ve tasted from DuMOL. It boasts a deep ruby/purple hue (it’s not quite opaque) as well as a gorgeous bouquet of redcurrants, black cherries, Asian spices, forest floor, spring flowers, and scorched earth. Made in the classic DuMOL seamless, elegant style, it nevertheless has beautiful depth and concentration, ripe tannins, a solid spine of acidity, and a great, great finish. It’s a magical Pinot Noir from Smith that will benefit from just a year or two of bottle age and keep for 15-20 years. This was easily the finest set of releases I have tasted from winemaker Andy Smith. $98 100
22 2018 Château De Saint Cosme Gigondas Le Poste + Another sensational wine, the 2018 Gigondas Le Poste comes from a hillside parcel just up from the domaine, just to the east of the village of Gigondas. Deep ruby/purple-hued with killer notes of blackcurrants, ground pepper, violets, tobacco leaf, and obvious minerality, it’s full-bodied, has a fleshy, layered, opulent texture, building tannins, and a great, great finish. It shows the more approachable style of the vintage yet still bring incredible richness and depth. It will blow you away anytime over the coming 10-15 years. Always one of my favorite tasting in the Rhône is with Château de Saint Cosme’s Louis Barruol and this feisty, talented, and passionate vigneron makes some of the best wines in France. The estate is located just outside the village of Gigondas and the lineup has been simplified today to include a classic Gigondas and three single vineyards. The wines are all made in the same fashion, with no destemming and aging in just about 100% used barrels, so what you get is a clean expression of each of the vineyards. Looking at the 2018s, these are undoubtedly more plush, soft, charming wines, yet they are still going to benefit from 2-3 years of bottle age and should evolve beautifully. The 2019s look to be on another level, and my money is on this being another truly special vintage from this estate. These are gorgeous wines around the board, and I certainly have plenty in my personal cellar. $100 97
23 2017 Domaine De Chevalier + A gem that readers should snatch up is unquestionably the 2017 Domaine De Chevalier, which is based on 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot that spent 18 months in just 35% new French oak. This deeply colored effort offers classic blackberry and blackcurrant fruits as well as medium to full body, complex notes of tobacco, gravelly earth, and chocolate, beautiful tannins, and a great finish. This is a classy, flawlessly balanced 2017 that offers up pleasure even today, yet it will keep for 30+ years. Having just had the good fortune to drink a bottle of the 1920, now at 100 years after the vintage, the longevity of this cuvee should not be underestimated. $90 95
24 2018 Yann Chave Hermitage + Gorgeous black raspberry and cassis fruits as well as complex saddle leather, dried flower, spice, and stony minerality all emerge from the 2018 Hermitage. One of the finest wines I’ve tasted from Yann Chave, this beautiful wine is full-bodied and has a rounded, expansive texture, building tannins, and again, a wonderful sense of minerality. This stunning Hermitage will benefit from 4-5 years of bottle age and cruise for two decades. Bravo! $80 97
25 2018 Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir Hapgood + The 2018 Pinot Noir Hapgood is another savory, incredibly complex wine from this estate. Offering up plenty of redcurrants, mulled blackberries, dusty earth, spring flowers, and baking spices, it hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, a silky, elegant texture, ultra-fine tannins, and no hard edges. It’s another brilliant Pinot Noir from Brewer that can be enjoyed today or cellared for over a decade. This is another brilliant lineup from Greg Brewer, and these Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs (as well as a terrific Syrah) are up with the finest wines in this report. These wines are never shrinking violets and have loads of fruit and texture, yet they always show singular characters, stunning balance, and weightless, elegant textures that make them a joy to drink. I think they’re some of the finest Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays coming out of California today. $65 98
26 2018 Domaine Courbis Cornas Les Eygats + From a cooler parcel of pure granite soils, the 2018 Cornas Les Eygats is probably the most classic Cornas in the lineup (although these all have plenty of Cornas character) with its more mineral, iron, and almost bloody style. Loaded with massive amounts of blue and black fruits, violets, and crushed rock nuances, this full-bodied, multi-dimensional, seamless Cornas has polished tannins, flawless balance, and a monster of a finish. This broad, expansive, sexy Cornas should drink well for 20+ years. $80 98
27 2018 Domaine De Marcoux Châteauneuf Du Pape + A blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre and the rest Syrah brought up in a mix of foudre and concrete tanks, the 2018 Châteauneuf Du Pape reveals a slightly deeper ruby/purple hue to go with ripe, sexy aromas and flavors of red and black currants, roasted herbs, black licorice, and smoked meats. This big, rich, nicely concentrated 2018 has rock-solid mid-palate depth and sweet tannins and a great finish, all making for one seriously delicious Châteauneuf du Pape that’s going to drink nicely for 15+ years. This is another fine set of releases from the Armenier family. While it looks like there’s no Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes cuvee produced in 2018, readers should save up for the 2019 as this is a powerful, magical release along the lines of the 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010, and 2016. $50 93
28 2018 M. Chapoutier Saint Joseph Les Granits + A more reductive, meaty, backward effort than normal, the 2018 Saint Joseph Les Granits is all Syrah that comes from unquestionably one of the top terroirs in Saint-Joseph. It was vinified in concrete tanks and aged in a mix of barrels and demi-muids, 20% being new. It blossoms with air and reveals an almost Hermitage-like class and minerality, with killer crème de cassis and black raspberry fruits supported by loads of smoked game, saddle leather, crushed stone, barbecue smoke, garrigue, and violet-like aromas and flavors. Just incredible on the palate as well, with medium to full-bodied richness, awesome tannins, and a liquid rock-like minerality, this tour de force from Saint-Joseph ranks with the finest vintage of this cuvée ever made and matches the 2015, although it shows a very different style. It should be snatched up by readers. It will need 3-5 years of bottle age and will drink brilliantly over the following 20 years or more. $123 97
29 2017 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley + The flagship 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley is all Cabernet Sauvignon brought up in new barrels (mostly Taransaud and Darnajou). Beautiful crème de cassis, graphite, spice box, and lead pencil notes all flow to a full-bodied, soft, elegant wine that has beautiful tannins, no hard edges, and a seamless texture. It shows the more upfront, charming style of the vintage and is already hard to resist. Nevertheless, it should easily evolve for 20+ years. $200 97
30 2019 Guigal Condrieu La Doriane + The 2019 Condrieu La Doriane is another tremendous effort from this estate that does everything right. Reminding me slightly of the 2015 with its power and richness, it still has plenty of freshness in its apricot, ripe pineapple, honeyed marmalade, flowers, and cream aromas and flavors. Already complex and full-bodied, with good acidity and a fabulous finish, this is a quintessential expression of this cuvée and it’s hard to imagine how it would be any better. These always have the capacity to age, yet I find them most enjoyable with 6-12 months of bottle age and then over the following 3-5 years. $90 98
31 2016 Sine Qua Non Grenache Pajarito Del Amor + Coming all from the estate Eleven Confessions Vineyard and 85.4% Grenache, 7.1% Petite Sirah, 6.9% Syrah, and a splash of Viognier thrown in for good measure, the 2016 Grenache Pajarito Del Amor was brought up 38 months in 54% new French oak demi-muids and the balance in varying used barrels ranging from 2 to 6 years in age. There are just 916 cases of this magical wine, which easily ranks with the greatest Grenache-driven wines to ever come out of California. Deep purple-hued, with an incredible array of cassis, blackberries, toasted spices, caramelized meats, white pepper, and graphite, this beauty hits the palate with full-bodied richness, an expansive, layered mouthfeel, and a blockbuster finish. This is one of those wine that wows from the first sip and is flawlessly balanced, with ripe tannins, incredible purity, and a singular character. Drink this elixir any time over the coming 15-20 years. Always one of the highlight tastings of my year, this report looks at the 2016, 2017, and 2018 new releases from Sine Qua Non. While splitting hairs, I think the 2016s are the finest wines here since the 2013s and have that rare mix of power, richness, complexity, and elegance that defines all great wines. While relatively approachable, the 2016s have the balance to evolve gracefully for 15 years or more. The 2017s are slightly more showy, sexy, and sunny wines, and where 2016s have similarities to 2014s, the 2017s remind me slightly of the 2015s with their huge aromatics as well as plenty of underlying tannins. These are worth hiding in the cellar for at least a handful of years. While tasted from barrel, the 2018s showed brilliantly and have a purity and elegance similar to both 2014 and 2016. All three vintages show incredible richness, flawless balance, and the purity and structure to age gracefully. $250 100
32 2018 Le Clos Du Caillou Châteauneuf Du Pape La Reserve + The flagship is the 2018 Châteauneuf Du Pape La Réserve and it’s an even split of Grenache and Mourvèdre that was all destemmed and was brought up mostly in demi-muids (there was a small part in larger, clay amphora. Slightly deeper hued than the Les Quartz, it has a Mourvèdre dominated bouquet of red and black berry fruits, loads of spice and dried garrigue, graphite, and a hint of mint. With full-bodied richness on the palate, it has an incredible sense of purity and finesse in its tannins and texture, flawless balance, and a great, great finish. I’d put this in the top handful of wines in the vintage and while it’s approachable today, it’s going to benefit from 4-5 years of bottle age and keep for two decades. $150 97
33 2017 Château Clos Fourtet + Checking in as a blend of 86% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the rest Cabernet Franc, the 2017 Chateau Clos Fourtet comes all from the upper limestone plateau and spent 18 months in 60% new French oak. This deep ruby/purple-hued effort offers a rocking perfume of ripe black raspberries, cassis, crushed stone, chocolate, and flowery incense. Powerful, full-bodied, and concentrated on the palate, it’s beautifully done, has ripe, present tannins, and a great finish. It ranks with the gems in this solid vintage and will benefit from just short-term cellaring and cruise for 20-25 years or more in cold cellars. $90 96
34 2018 Domaine Gerard Raphet Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru + Another meaty, black-fruited, rich, powerful wine, the 2018 Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru offers loads of mulled plums, black cherries, smoked earth, licorice, and forest floor aromas and flavors. Rich, full-bodied, and expansive, this beauty packs serious richness and depth and has ripe tannins as well as a great finish. It has enough structure to evolve positively for 4-5 years and keep for two decades. $240 97
35 2018 Fingers Crossed Syrah Off The Record + Another killer wine, and one that tops out on my scale, the 2018 Syrah Off The Record checks in as 93% Syrah, 2% each of Grenache and Mourvèdre, and the rest 3% Roussanne that saw just 22% stems and spent 20 months in 68% new French oak. Dense purple-hued, with awesome notes of smoked black fruits, smoked game, ground pepper, beef blood, spice, and violets, this beauty is full-bodied and elegant, with a perfect mid-palate and a great, great finish. Only the second release from this winery, this incredible Syrah seemingly has one foot in California with its ripe, sexy fruit and one foot in the Northern Rhone with its gamy, meaty, peppery, and wildly complex style. While it doesn’t have the same weight as say Sine Qua Non, Alban, or Andremily, it’s flawlessly balanced, insanely complex, and has a style all its own. It will ideally be given 2-4 years of bottle age and will cruise for 10-15 years as well. Don’t miss it! While the name has been changed from Faethm to Fingers Crossed due to trademark issues, the quality of the wines here is still through the roof, and this estate is unquestionably one of the up and coming superstars of California. Run by Nicolas and Julia Krankl (Nicolas is the son of Sine Qua Non’s Manfred Krankl), Fingers Crossed produces rich, powerful wines that display a beautiful sense of freshness and elegance, incredible complexity, and, as I hope the reviews here show, world-class quality. But these are not Sine Qua Non copycats – they have their own style, slightly more Old World-styled and with notable stem influence, yet they still deliver serious amounts of classic California fruit. As with all great wines, they have singular characters. I was able to follow these bottles for multiple days, and they only improved, so give them plenty of air, or better yet, a handful of years in a cold cellar. $120 100
36 2017 Patria Avoyelles Oakville Ranch + Even better, the 2017 Avoyelles Oakville Ranch checks in as a mostly co-fermented blend of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Petit Verdot, all fermented and raised in new French oak. Stunning crème de cassis and black raspberry-like fruits give way to more toasted spice, dried flower, and cedar notes with time in the glass. Full-bodied and beautifully textured on the palate, it’s a wonderfully complex, balanced 2017 that does everything right. I’d be thrilled to have bottles in the cellar, and I suspect it will evolve gracefully for 20+ years. $150 97
37 2018 Roar Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard + Coming from the warmer, southern end of the appellation and slightly more granitic soils, the 2018 Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard is certainly my favorite in the lineup. Deep ruby/purple, with a smoking bouquet of red currants, wild strawberries, forest floor, violets, and spice, it has beautiful minerality, full-bodied richness, building structure, and a great, great finish. Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir doesn’t get much better. This beauty will benefit from a year in bottle and drink brilliantly for a decade or more. Unfortunately, there are only 265 cases made. $75 98
38 2017 Dominus + The grand vin is the 2017 Dominus, which is based on 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, harvested between September 21 and October 3, and aged in 40% new French oak. Château Lafite-like notes of blackcurrants, lead pencil shavings, cedary tobacco, and gravelly earth all emerge from the glass, and it’s full-bodied, has a terrific sense of elegance, lots of tannins, and a great finish. This tight, powerful, concentrated Dominus will benefit from 4-5 years of bottle age and keep for 25 years or more. 2017 doesn’t get much better. $200 97
39 2016 Saint Jean Du Barroux Ventoux La Pierre Noire + Another magical wine from this estate outside the village of Barroux, the 2016 Ventoux La Pierre Noire checks in as 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah that was brought up mostly in tank. This ruby/purple-hued beauty is the finest wine I’ve tasted from this domaine and offers an incredible array of black cherry liqueur, black raspberries, Provençal garrigue, ground pepper, and truffly earth. Hitting the palate with full-bodied richness, it demonstrates the quality of this great vintage with its seamless tannins, expansive, layered mouthfeel, and a finish that just won’t quit. This is one of those wines that delivers incredible intensity and power, yet still glides across the palate without any sense of heaviness or coarseness and is already a joy to drink. It will continue drinking beautifully for another 20 years or more. $50 97
40 2017 Vieux Château Certan + Possibly the wine of the vintage, the 2017 Vieux Château Certan is a blend of 81% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon from the highest point on the Pomerol plateau. Deep purple, with a heavenly bouquet of creme de cassis, blueberries, scorched earth, crushed violets, tobacco, and earth, this beauty is full-bodied, has incredible depth of fruit, ripe, present tannins, integrated acidity, and a great finish. This estate has been on fire of late, and this is undoubtedly a worthy follow-on to the otherworldly 2015 and 2016. It has the depth of fruit and texture to offer pleasure even today, yet a solid 7-8 years of cellaring are warranted, and it should be long-lived. Bravo! $230 98
41 2016 K Vintners Syrah Royal City + The flagship release, the 2016 Syrah Royal City is all from the Stoneridge Vineyard on the Royal Slope (not far from the Frenchman Hills). It was not destemmed and spent 27 months in 60% new French oak. Offering a sensational bouquet of blackcurrants, baking chocolate, beef blood, toasted spice, and loamy earth, it builds slowly, with full-bodied richness, silky tannins, beautiful power and elegance, and a great, great finish, it’s another magical wine from this team. 572 cases. This is what I call a stacked lineup from K Vintners, and the team of Charles Smith and Brennon Leighton continue to make brilliant wines. The lineup is broken up into multiple brands today, with K Vintners focusing primarily on Rhone varieties. The Wines of Substance (or just Substance) label are the Bordeaux based wines, then you have CasaSmith, Sixto, B. Leighton, and now Golden West. $140 99
42 2017 Château Pavie Macquin + Coming from a cool terroir located on the upper plateau, just behind Chateau Pavie, the 2017 Chateau Pavie Macquin checks in as a mix of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc that spent 16 months in 70% new French oak. This wine is always closed, tannic, and hard to understand in its youth, yet blossoms with 7-8 years of bottle age. The 2017 sports a deep, purple/ruby color as well as beautiful notes of black raspberries, cassis, huge minerality, white flowers, and loamy earth. Medium to full-bodied, concentrated, yet silky and seamless on the palate, it doesn’t have the sheer weight and flesh of the 2015 and 2016 yet is flawlessly balanced, has terrific tannins, and a great finish. It will be drinkable with just 4-6 years of bottle age and cruise for 15-20 years or more. $90 95
43 2015 Gaja Barolo Sperss + The 2015 Barolo Sperss is another smoking good 2015 that shows the sunny warmth of the vintage in its massive bouquet of blackcurrants, kirsch liqueur, red plums, Asian spices, violets, and flowery incense. It reminds me of the incredible 1997, and Barolo doesn’t get much more sexy or opulent. This brilliant, full-bodied wine has ripe, velvety tannins, beautiful depth of fruit, and a great finish. It needs a solid hour in a decanter if drinking any time soon and will benefit from 5-7 years of bottle age. It should drink brilliantly over the following 25-30 years. $290 100
44 2018 Melville Syrah Estate Sta. Rita Hills + The 2018 Syrah Estate Sta. Rita Hills is another rocking value. Seeing roughly 40% stems and all neutral oak, this deep purple/plum-colored 2018 gives up gamey, Northern Rhône-like notes of peppery herbs, tapenade, smoked black fruits, and violets. It tastes like a Cornas from Matthieu Barrett and will drink beautifully for a decade. $38 94
45 2016 Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline + Probably one of my favorite wines in the world is the La Mouline Côte Rôtie from the Guigal family. Coming from old vines and a warmer, steep, terraced parcel not far from the estate, it also includes a big chunk of Viognier and spent 4 years in new French oak. The 2016 Côte Rôtie La Mouline shows the more classic, elegant style of the vintage perfectly, offering a kaleidoscope feel in its classic jammy black raspberry fruits and notes of spice box, acacia flowers, bacon fat, and smoked game-like aromas and flavors. Possessing incredible elegance, full-bodied richness, silky tannins, and a layered, multi-dimensional texture, this heavenly Syrah can be enjoyed any time over the coming 25-30 years. $360 98
46 2018 Domaine La Barroche Châteauneuf Du Pape Cuvee Julien Barrot + The base cuvée from the young, passionate (and incredibly talented) Julien Barrot, the 2018 Châteauneuf Du Pape Cuvée Julien Barrot checks as a blend of 60% Grenache, 19% Mourvèdre, and the balance a mix of other permitted varieties. Partially destemmed and brought up in a mix of foudres, demi-muids, and a small portion in stainless steel, it has a great nose of red and black raspberries, framboise, spring flowers, and peppery garrigue. Medium to full-bodied on the palate, it displays a notable sense of elegance and purity, light yet present tannins, and a great finish, all making for a terrific base cuvée that I would be happy to drink any time over the coming 10-12 years or so. $50 93
47 2017 Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse De Lalande + Pure elegance and class, the 2017 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse De Lalande checks in as 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and the rest Petit Verdot (representing just 50% of the production) that spent 18 months in 60% new barrels. Nicolas Glumineau has done an incredible job at this estate and this wine is consistently one of the classiest, most elegant wines in just about every vintage. Pure Pauillac notes of creme de cassis, lead pencil, green tobacco, and gravelly earth give way to a medium to full-bodied, soft, supple, flawlessly balanced 2017 that shows the more straight, classic style of the vintage. It needs 4-6 years of bottle age and will evolve gracefully for 25+ years or more. Tasted twice. $130 95
48 2017 Torrin Syrah Akasha + Always all Syrah, the 2017 Syrah Akasha comes from the Shadow Canyon, Bien Nacido, and Full Draw vineyards and was aged in French oak for 22 months followed by another 12 months in bottle. It’s not too dissimilar from the Le Devoir cuvée and has gorgeous notes of blackberries, white pepper, violets, smoked game, and spring flowers. Just about pure perfection on the palate, with full-bodied richness, a focused, elegant texture, building structure, and a great finish, it’s a stunning Syrah by any measure. It’s going to benefit from a year or three of bottle age and keep for over a decade. $85 99
49 2017 Château Rieussec + Getting a big “Wow” in my notes, the 2017 Chateau Rieussec is an extraordinary Sauternes that has everything. Awesome notes of orange zest, honeyed flowers, ripe pineapple, peach, and spice all soar from the glass, and this beauty is already complex, has full-bodied richness and power, a great mid-palate, and a beautiful spine of acidity. It’s a brilliant, brilliant wine that can be enjoyed today or cellared for two decades or more $100 98
50 2017 Château Leoville Las Cases + The grand vin 2017 Chateau Leoville Las Cases checks in as 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Merlot, harvested between the 15th of September and the 4th of October. Brought up in 90% new French oak, it has an incredibly classic style that carries loads of creme de cassis, crushed rock, graphite, and smoked tobacco-like aromatics. These carry to a full-bodied, concentrated, elegant Las Cases that has fine tannins, flawless balance, and a great finish. It shows the refined, regal style of this estate, has beautiful richness and depth, and is going to drink nicely with just 5-7 years of bottle age. $230 97
51 2017 Cayuse Syrah En Cerise Vineyard + The 2017 Syrah En Cerise Vineyard is cut from the same cloth as the Cailloux Vineyard release, yet is a slightly darker, meatier wine, offering a Jamet-like bouquet of blackberries, ground pepper, black olive, bloody meat, crushed rocks, and violets. Showing less overt funkiness and just a stunningly pure, elegant, medium to full-bodied Syrah, it has silky tannins, a great spine of acidity, and a great, great finish. Drink it any time over the coming two decades or more. It’s hard to say if this will surpass the 2016, 2008, and 2007, but it’s certainly in the same ballpark. The 2017s from Christophe Baron show the more elegant, balanced style of the vintage nicely while still showing plenty of depth and concentration. These are singular, gorgeous wines that could come from nowhere else. $120 98
52 2018 Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Châteauneuf Du Pape Cuvee De Mon Aieul + More kirsch liqueur, violets, white pepper, and garrigue notes emerge from the 2018 Châteauneuf Du Pape Cuvée De Mon Aïeul, a 100% Grenache cuvée that was partially destemmed and brought up all in demi-muids. As usual, this cuvée comes from older vines in the La Crau, la Guigasse, and les Serres lieux-dits, which are a mix of more pebbly and sandy soils. It ratchets up the intensity over the classic cuvée yet stays beautifully balanced with a weightless texture, a great mid-palate, and a blockbuster of a finish. It’s not going to be the longest-lived vintage for this cuvée (which is common in 2018), but it’s going to put a big smile on your face anytime over the coming 10-15 years. $75 96
53 2017 Château Beychevelle + The 2017 Chateau Beychevelle is another beautiful wine from this estate, which is being run with incredible talent and passion by Romain Ducolomb, who was hired away from Chateau Clinet. The 2017 is based on 50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, and the rest Cabernet Franc (a selection of just 52% of the production) and spent 18 months in 60% new French oak. Lively, elegant notes of green tobacco, lead pencil, flowers, mint, and blueberries all emerge from the glass, and it’s medium to full-bodied, with a classic, elegant texture, ripe tannins, and a great finish. It’s up with the top wines in the vintage and will evolve for 2+ decades. $110 95
54 2018 Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert + The 2019 Crozes-Hermitage Domaine De Thalabert showed well, with a floral, pepper, and sappy herb style as well as plenty of darker cherry and currant fruit. With medium to full body, a vibrant, elegant texture, present tannins, and good acidity, this is a classic, balanced Thalabert to hide for 2-4 years and enjoy over the following decade or more. $40 94
55 2018 Vernay Condrieu Coteau De Vernon + The 2018 Condrieu Coteau De Vernon is more backward and mineral-laced compared to the showier Les Chaillées De L’Enfer. Gorgeous notes of white flowers, honeyed citrus, nectarines, gunflint, and charcoal all emerge from this incredible wine. Taking plenty of air to show at its best (I followed this for multiple days), it’s medium to full-bodied and has a flawlessly balanced mouthfeel, beautiful acidity, and a gorgeous finish. This is one of those wines that demands something from the taster and is subtle, nuanced, and beautifully complex while remaining regal and classy. The Romanée-Conti of Condrieu, I would give bottles another year and drink through 2026. It can be cellared longer, if that’s your style. $155 98
56 2018 Delas Freres Hermitage Les Bessards + A stunning Hermitage in every sense, the 2018 Hermitage Les Bessards comes from the steep, broken granite soils of the Les Bessards lieu-dit on Hermitage Hill. Revealing a deep purple/violet color, it has a gorgeous nose of crème de cassis, scorched earth, violets, pepper, and a liquid rock-like minerality. It’s full-bodied and concentrated on the palate, with background oak, flawless balance, ripe yet present tannins, and a great, great finish. It’s not a massive Hermitage (especially by this cuvée’s standards in the past) yet has gorgeous purity of fruit and an incredible sense of class. Give bottles 4-5 years (it offers pleasure even today) and it should keep for 30+ years or more. $240 97
57 2018 Halcon Vineyards Syrah Alturas + The 2018 Syrah Alturas offers a more vivid, Côte-Rôtie-like style and has beautiful notes of black raspberries, spring flowers, peppered meat, and violets. More sappy underbrush and even a kiss of bacon fat emerge with time in the glass. and it’s medium-bodied, has a silky, elegant texture, wonderful mid-palate depth, and enough tannins to warrant a year or three of bottle age. Beautifully done, this complex, elegant Syrah is going to evolve for 10-15 years or more. $35 95
58 2017 Verite La Joie + Tasting like a great bottle of Château Lafite, the 2017 La Joie is based largely on Cabernet Sauvignon and brought up, I suspect, in mostly new French oak. Deep ruby/purple, with a heavenly bouquet of crème de cassis, lead pencil, cedarwood, graphite, and tobacco, it hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, an incredible sense of elegance and purity, building tannins, and a great, great finish. This majestic, regal Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon is going to require a decade of cellaring to hit maturity (although it’s far from unapproachable today) and will see its 50th birthday in fine form. I followed this bottle for three days and it never showed a hint of oxidation. This is easily my wine of the vintage in 2017. $400 100
59 2017 Château Pavie + The wine of the vintage, the 2017 Chateau Pavie is an incredible achievement and is certainly in the same league as past great vintages such as 2000, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, and 2016. This hillside terroir escaped from the frost unscathed, and the 2017 is 60% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc, and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon brought up in mostly new oak. Its deep purple hue is followed by a rock star bouquet of pure creme de cassis, espresso roast, crushed violets, graphite, and a distinct sense of minerality. Deep, full-bodied, and concentrated, it has a wonderful sense of elegance, flawless balance, and again, awesome purity. This sensational effort has some upfront charm yet, given the tannins, a solid 7-8 years of bottle age are warranted and it should cruise for 25-30 years in cool cellars. $450 99
60 2018 Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas Les Hautes Garrigues + The flagship is 2018 Gigondas Les Hautes Garrigues and is another red from this estate that does everything right. Deep ruby/purple-colored with a brilliant bouquet of ripe wild strawberries, blueberries, ground pepper, garrigue, and new saddle leather, it hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, flawless balance, and building yet seamless tannins. It’s certainly in the new style of this estate and is beautifully done. Enjoy bottles anytime over the coming two decades. The young yet obviously talented Benjamin Gras continues to make an elegant, beautifully balanced style of wine from this benchmark estate in Gigondas, which now also produces a handful of terrific Châteauneuf du Pape. He’s made the most of the 2018 vintage, and these are impressive wines. $80 96
61 2017 The Paring Syrah + A blend of 94% Syrah, 5% Petite Sirah, and a splash of Viognier, the 2017 Syrah gives up a terrific bouquet of blackberries, plums, ground pepper, and meaty, earthy notes to go with a medium to full-bodied, plump, sexy style on the palate. It’s beautifully done and a stunning value. Drink it over the coming 4-5 years or so. Readers looking for a great Syrah at a great price should snatch this up. $25 94
62 2018 Johann Michel Cornas Cuvee Jana + There are two special cuvées from this estate. Looking first at the 2018 Cornas Cuvée Jana, it tastes like the essence of Cornas with its meaty, bloody aromas and flavors of scorched earth, ground pepper, rare steak, iron, cedar, and dark, almost blue fruits. Tight, tannic, and concentrated on the palate, this full-bodied effort packs incredible intensity and power yet stays lively, elegant, and weightless. It’s a brilliant, brilliant Cornas, yet certainly not for those seeking instant gratification. It actually reminds me slightly of the incredibly age-worthy wines from Domaine Clape, and I suspect it will have a similar evolution. Hide bottles for 7-8 years and enjoy over the following two decades. $80 99
63 2019 Château Pesquie Ventoux Terrasses + A wine that has almost always ranked high on my top value list over the past decade or more, the 2019 Ventoux Terrasses offers a slightly deeper, richer style than the Edition 1912M, with plenty of black cherry and redcurrant fruits intermixed with more peppery garrigue, earth, and a touch of meatiness. More medium-bodied, lively, and beautifully textured, with silky tannins, it’s another no-brainer red that would be one hell of a house red. You can enjoy bottles today or safely cellar them for upwards of a decade. I recently finished a case of the 2005 that was still going strong, so this wine has plenty of longevity. $20 91
64 2017 Château Smith Haut Lafitte + Moving to the grand vin and a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot aged 16 months in 60% new French oak, the 2017 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte is a beauty, with rocking levels of cassis and red currant fruits interwoven with hints of dried herbs, salty minerality, subtle oak, and crushed violets. Concentrated and full-bodied on the palate, it has ripe tannins, a great mid-palate, and tons of charm and character. This is one of those wines that will be beautiful in just 3-4 years and yet age effortlessly for three decades. Hats off to winemaker Fabien Teitgen for a brilliant effort in the vintage. $110 96
65 2017 The Third Twin Graciano + The fourth vintage for this cuvée, the 2017 Graciano is 88% Graciano, 6% Mourvèdre, 4% Petite Sirah, and 2% Viognier that spent 27 months in one-third new French oak. This inky hued beauty boasts a massive core of blueberry and cassis fruit as well as complex notes of sandalwood, cured meats, white pepper, and candle wax that all soar from the glass. With its full-bodied richness, silky tannins, good acidity, and a monster of a finish, this powerful, opulent beauty certainly offers pleasure today, yet it has the backbone and depth to evolve for 20-25 years. Give it a healthy decant if drinking any time soon. $250 98
66 2018 Frequency Syrah Zotovich + Moving to the two Syrah releases, the 2018 Syrah Zotovich comes from the Sta. Rita Hills and saw lots of stems (75%) and ten months in neutral oak. This juicy, vibrant effort has classy Syrah notes of dark fruits, peppery herbs, violets, and exotic flowers. The stems are nicely integrated, it’s full-bodied, has the purity of fruit that’s the hallmark of the vintage, and a great finish. Drink it over the coming 10-12 years. While owner/winemaker Zac Wasserman started out with Joey Tensley and fashions a similar style of wine to Tensley, he has his own style as well and his wines have improved year after year. Zac now releases his Rhône-based releases under his Frequency label and his Pinot Noir and Chardonnays under his DiPalermo label, which are also reviewed in this report. As with Tensley, Zac has kept a recession-proof pricing scheme, and these wines are smoking values. $38 95
67 2016 Matt Morris Wines Charbono Tofanelli Vineyard + The 2016 Charbono Tofanelli Vineyard is even better, with a more sexy, plush texture as well as similar notes of blueberries, plums, chocolate, forest floor, orange liqueur, and candied violets. Straight-up gorgeous on the palate, with a seamless, full-bodied texture, ripe, polished tannins, and a great finish, it’s a stunning example of this variety to enjoy over the coming 15 years or more. $85 98
68 2017 Lewelling Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon + The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is a big winner in the vintage, offering a plushness and sexiness that’s hard to find. Loaded with notions of cassis, tobacco, and truffly earth, it’s medium to full-bodied, has a wonderfully pure, balanced, seamless texture, plenty of mid-palate depth, and a great finish. Winemaker Haley Wight continues to fashion a balanced yet opulent style of Cabernet that I absolutely love. Drink this beauty any time over the coming 15-20 years. $65 95
69 2018 Emmanuel Darnaud Saint Joseph Lieu Dit La Dardouille + The Saint Joseph release from Darnaud, the 2018 Saint Joseph Lieu Dit La Dardouille comes from a well-known lieu-dit located in the southern part of the appellation. More cassis, violets, gunflint, and gamey notions emerge from this beauty. Medium to full-bodied, it has a classic Saint Joseph focused, mineral-laced style, fabulous purity, and a great finish. This brilliant 2018 can be drunk any time over the coming 15 years or more. $50 95
70 2017 Turtle Rock Plum Orchard + Coming from the Templeton Gap region (decomposed sandstone), the 2017 Plum Orchard is based on 90% Grenache and 10% Mourvèdre, 50% destemmed, brought up in 50% new 400-liter barrels. Ruby/plum-hued, it delivers a great bouquet of kirsch and black raspberry fruits intermixed with lots of spice, herbes de Provence, white pepper, and new leather. Full-bodied, beautifully pure, layered, and straight-up gorgeous, this elegant yet powerful Grenache does everything right. It actually reminds me of the Vieilles Vignes Cuvée from Clos Saint Jean in Châteauneuf du Pape. $60 96
71 2017 Domaine Gassier Costieres De Nimes Lou Coucardie + The 2017 Costières de Nîmes Lou Coucardié reminds me a little of a classic old school Bandol with its ripe, sexy, incredibly meaty profile. Loaded with fruit and offering lots of spiced meats, garrigue, pepper, and new saddle leather aromas as well as full-bodied richness, sweet tannins, and a great finish, this is one heck of a Costières de Nîmes. It can be drunk today, but it has enough tannins to warrant short-term cellaring and should evolve nicely for upwards of a decade. The blend is 50% Mourvèdre, 30% Grenache, and the rest Syrah, all of which is brought up in a mix of larger French oak barrels. $29 94
72 2017 Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vines + The flagship here from this reference point estate is the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vines, which is based on 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec aged 21 months in new barrels. The fruit comes 80% from the Sagemoor Vineyard, with smaller amounts from Champoux and Woodward Canyon. Deep purple/plum-colored with powerful notes of blackcurrants, dried earth, tobacco, lead pencil, and chocolate, this full-bodied, regal, austere beauty has a stacked mid-palate, a layered, mouthfilling texture, ripe tannins, and a great, great finish. Reminding me of a top Saint-Estephe (or Pauillac?), it needs to be hidden in the back of the cellar, but it will cruise for 30 years or more. Hats off to winemaker Kevin Mott for another gorgeous Cabernet Sauvignon that will stand up to the best out there. $99 97
73 2017 Château Beau-Séjour Bécot + Deeply colored, the 2017 Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot checks in as 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon that was 50% destemmed and aged in 65% French oak. This classic, elegant 2017 reveals a deep ruby/purple hue as well as plenty of black cherry and mulberry fruits, solid complexity in its salty minerality, dried flowers, iron, and spice aromatics, medium to full body, a bright spine of acidity, and outstanding length. It doesn’t have the flesh or richness of the 2016 (or 2018) yet is classic, pure, incredibly precise, and long. This beautiful wine will benefit from 4-5 years of bottle age and keep for 15-20 years. $70 93+
74 2017 Château Feytit-Clinet + I love this tiny Pomerol estate, which is brilliantly run by Jeremy Chasseuil. The vineyard covers just over six hectares situated between Trotanoy and Latour A Pomerol, in the Clinet sector of the Pomerol appellation. The 2017 Chateau Feytit-Clinet is mostly Merlot (there’s 7% Cabernet Franc) that spent 16 months in 65% new French oak. It’s never a shy wine, and the 2017 offers loads of ripe black fruits, lavender, orange blossom, and exotic floral and violet aromatics. These carry to a full-bodied Pomerol that has a mouthfilling, expansive texture, ripe, sweet tannins, and a great finish. It offers more fruit, opulence, and sexiness than just about every wine in the vintage. It’s already hard to resist yet will benefit from 5-7 years of bottle age and cruise for two decades. $90 95+
75 2017 Leonetti Cellar Reserve + I had two off bottles of the 2017 Reserve, both showing huge volatile acidity, yet I had two great bottles as well, which are represented by this note. A blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Petit Verdot, and 10% Malbec, all aged 22 months in new barrels (as well as some neutral oval botti), it reveals a stunning bouquet of lead pencil shavings, toasty oak, incense, and dried tobacco, and it’s complex, nuanced, and layered aromatically. There’s not a hard edge to be found in this deep purple-hued effort, which offers the essence of blackberry liqueur fruits as well as full-bodied richness, beautiful concentration, and an opulent, expansive, yet precise mouthfeel. Made in a more elegant style than the 2015 and not far off the magical 2016, it’s going to benefit from 2-4 years of bottle age and should have 3-4 decades of overall longevity. Located in Walla Walla and made by Chris Figgins, Leonetti Cellars is one of the benchmark estates in Washington. They produce a bevy of Bordeaux blends, with their Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve functioning as the flagship wines. They also make a tiny amount of their single vineyard releases, all of which showed brilliantly for this report. Unquestionably, these 2017s are up with the crème de la crème of the vintage. While the 2017 vintage is generally forward and approachable, that’s not the case here and these wines are going to benefit from bottle age. $150 97+
76 2017 Château Phelan Segur + Showing nicely, the 2017 Chateau Phelan Segur is a textbook Saint-Estephe that plays beautifully in the vintage. Classis Saint-Estephe earthy dark fruits, spice box, cedary herbs, and hints of chocolate all emerge from the glass, and it’s medium to full-bodied, with a rounded, seamless texture, loads of sweet fruit, and a great finish. It’s a beautiful effort that readers should snatch up. Drink bottles over the coming 15-20 years. $70 93
77 2017 Clos Des Truffiers + Just about pure perfection, the 2017 Clos des Truffiers showed beautifully last year from barrel and it doesn’t disappoint from bottle. As with the 2018, it’s tight and closed on opening, revealing a massive, brooding style carrying lots of minerality as well as huge blue fruits, iodine, ground pepper, violets, and candied orange blossom. Full-bodied, concentrated, and structured on the palate, with perfect balance in its fruit, acidity, and tannins, it has everything you could want from red wine, yet needs 4-5 years of bottle age. If you do open bottles over the coming couple of years, a healthy decant is recommended. $120 99
78 2017 Arista Winery Pinot Noir Joseph Swan Vineyard + This iconic site in the Russian River (Swan’s bottling from this site is labeled as Trenton Estate) has yielded a translucent, ruby-hued 2017 Pinot Noir Joseph Swan Vineyard, which was destemmed and spent 11 months in one-third new French oak. A sappy, Burgundian bouquet of redcurrants, mulberries, rose petals, licorice, and crushed rocks all emerge from the glass, and its gorgeous on the palate, with medium-bodied richness, a tight yet seamless texture, an incredible sense of precision and purity, and a great finish. As with the other Pinot Noirs here, it’s not your standard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and shows a more subtle, ethereal style. This is a stunning Pinot Noir that I suspect will keep for 20 years or more. With the wines made by Matt Courtney, this Russian River estate continues to make some of the best wines in the vintage. $80 97+
79 2018 Clos Saint Jean Châteauneuf Du Pape La Combe Des Fous + The star of the show in 2018 is the 2018 Châteauneuf Du Pape La Combe Des Fous and it has an incredible mix of complexity, power, and elegance that’s something to behold. Sporting a deep purple/plum color as well as a killer bouquet of blackcurrants, lavender, peppery garrigue, graphite, and white chocolate, it hits the palate with full-bodied richness, a seamless, multi-dimensional texture, incredible tannins, and a gorgeous finish. This is a good as 2018 gets and while it’s already impossible to resist, it’s going to evolve for 15+ years. $120 98
80 2017 Château Haut-Bailly + A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc, the 2017 Chateau Haut-Bailly spent 16 months in 50% new French oak. It reveals a medium ruby hue as well as a classic, medium-bodied, elegant yet also ripe style that’s common in the vintage. With medium body, ripe, polished tannins, beautiful elegance and purity, and a great finish, it’s a terrific wine in the vintage that will drink well for 25-30 years. $125 94
81 2017 The Walls Syrah Concrete Mama + The 2017 Syrah Concrete Mama (100% Syrah) reveals a deep ruby/purple hue as well as rocking notes of blackcurrants, cured meats, black olives, and peppery herbs. Full-bodied, concentrated, yet seamless on the palate, with terrific tannins, it’s a beautiful, singular Syrah from this estate that I suspect will evolve for 10-15 years. $75 96
82 2016 Alban Vineyards Syrah Lorraine + A perfect wine, the 2016 Syrah Lorraine is a quintessential example of this cuvée and has a glorious perfume of crème de cassis and black raspberry fruits interwoven with notes of chocolate, cured meats, white flowers, and toasted spices. Full-bodied, incredibly concentrated, and powerful on the palate, it still stays perfectly balanced, has a stacked mid-palate, ultra-fine tannins, and a finish that won’t quit. Drink this heavenly Syrah any time over the coming 20-25 years. There are certainly no dogs in the recent vintages from John Alban – 2016, 2017, and 2018 are all brilliant vintages. At the top of the heap, the 2016s have everything: Incredible purity of fruit, flawless balance, and power paired with considerable elegance. These are magical wines and some of the finest I’ve tasted from the estate. Mostly still resting in barrel, the 2017s have big, exuberant personalities with already complex aromatics as well as plenty of structure on the palate. I was only able to taste the Patrina from 2018, but this is always a good indication of the quality from John, and it has a touch of the 2016s’ purity and elegance. I’ll review the 2018s from barrel prior to release. Readers can’t go wrong with any of these latest wines. $160 100
83 2017 Ferren Wines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast + Moving to the reds, the 2017 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast comes from a mix of the single vineyard releases and spent 18 months in just 20% new French oak. Awesome notes of kirsch, wild strawberries, toasted spice, and flowery incense all emerge from the glass, and this beauty is supple, medium to full-bodied, and seamless on the palate. While it’s a big wine, it stays beautifully balanced and elegant. $60 95
84 2017 Avennia Sestina + The Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated release from Peterson, the 2017 Sestina comes from the Red Willow, Bacchus, and Dionysus vineyards. Rocking levels of crème de cassis, sappy herbs, violets, and cedar pencil all flow to a full-bodied, incredibly pure, polished 2017 that offers flawless balance, ripe tannins, and a great, great finish. It’s more approachable than normal yet is still going to evolve for 15 to 20 years. The blend is 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, and the rest Cabernet Franc, all raised 20 months in 50% new French oak. $55 95
85 2017 Next Of Kyn No 11 Cumulus Vineyard + Pure perfection, the 2017 No 11 comes all from the estate Cumulus Vineyard around the estate in Oak View and is 48% Syrah, 24.8% Grenache, 12.7% Mourvèdre, 10.6% Petite Sirah, and the balance a mix of white varieties including Petit Manseng and Roussanne. Fermented with 23% whole clusters and aged 32 months in 68% new French oak, this incredible 2017 boasts a saturated purple hue to go with full-bodied aromas and flavors of ripe blackberries, bouquet garni, ground pepper, white chocolate, and cured meats. Incredibly complex, flawlessly balanced, and with a seamless texture that needs to be tasted to be believed, this is a magical blend from California that can be drunk today with incredible pleasure or cellared for 15-20 years. Hats off to the Krankl family for another truly special wine! $250 100
86 2017 Andremily Mourvedre + The 2017 Mourvèdre is largely in the same mold, yet shows more meaty, spicy aromas and flavors. All Mourvèdre and revealing a more ruby hue, this full-bodied masterpiece gives up a huge core of blackberry and kirsch fruits as well as notes of dried flowers, peppered beef, herbes de Provence, spice, and hints of garrigue. It’s certainly a big, ripe wine, yet it has awesome complexity, silky tannins, and a finish that won’t quit. Winemaker Jim Binns continues to pretty much knock it out of the park in every vintage. His 2017s are unquestionably some of the greatest wines in the vintage, and the Mourvèdre (along with John Alban’s The Mason Forsyth cuvée) is undoubtedly one of the finest expressions of this variety coming out of California today. These are powerful, full-bodied wines that make no excuses for their fruit or opulence while staying perfectly balanced, pure, and elegant. Readers should not miss these stunningly singular wines. $93 98
87 2017 Dragonette Cellars Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard + Moving to the Syrah releases, the 2017 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard was mostly destemmed and brought up in 15% new French oak. Awesome Hermitage-like notes of cured meats, graphite, blackcurrants, bay leaf, and new leather all emerge from this beauty, and it’s medium to full-bodied, with flawless balance, beautiful acidity, and a great finish. It’s a stunning Syrah that has one foot in California and one foot in the Northern Rhône. $65 98
88 2018 Château De Beaucastel Châteauneuf Du Pape Hommage A Jacques Perrin + Lastly, the 2018 Châteauneuf Du Pape Hommage A Jacques Perrin showed beautifully, and while it doesn’t hit the heights of the 2001, 2007, 2010, 2016, or 2017, it’s a beautiful expression of this cuvée that deserves a place in the cellar. Revealing a deep purple hue as well as a kaleidoscope-like array of blueberries, charred meat, graphite, ground pepper, violets, and garrigue, it hits the palate with full-bodied richness, a layered, seamless texture, building tannins, and a magical finish. It doesn’t have the sheer wealth of material found in truly great vintage and stays compact and focused on the palate, but it has beautiful depth of fruit and intensity, as well as a seamlessness to its tannins. I suspect it will be relatively approachable by this cuvee’s standards, yet it still has enough structure and tannins to warrant a solid 7-8 years of bottle age. Given its balance, freshness, and purity, it’s going to age beautifully. Château de Beaucastel is located in the cooler, windier, and more pebbly clay soils of the northern part of Châteauneuf du Pape, and as such, were less affected by the devastating outbreak of mildew in the spring of 2018. In addition, Mourvèdre fared much better than Grenache in the vintage as well, all pointing to a great vintage for this estate in what was a more challenging vintage for much of the appellation. Marc compared 2018 to 2001 last year, and while I don’t think the quality, or concentration, is quite at that level, the purity of the tannins as well as elegance found in their 2018s share similarities to the 2001s. The 2019 whites from this estate showed beautifully, and these are world-class wines that deserve a place in every wine lover’s cellar. The general rule with the whites is to enjoy bottles on release and over the following 5-7 years, then they are best forgotten until around age 20. $350 97
89 2018 Myriad Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard + This iconic site located outside of St. Helena always produces a rich, powerful wine, and the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard is no exception, offering loads of black and blue fruits, gravelly earth, chocolate, and Asian spice notes as well as a full-bodied, opulent, sexy profile on the palate. With a beautiful sense of freshness, ripe, polished tannins, and a great finish, this gorgeous effort needs 2-3 years of bottle age and will cruise for 30 years or more. $150 99
90 2017 Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon Maya + The tiny production 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Maya is another thrilling wine. The normal blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet Franc that was brought up in two-thirds new French oak, it offers a full-bodied, concentrated, yet sensationally elegant style as well as fab notes of crème de cassis, chocolate, graphite, and scorched earth. It’s a primordial example of this cuvée that has ripe tannins, a stacked mid-palate, and a great, great finish. Do your best to give bottles 4-6 years of bottle age. $400 97+
91 2017 Patrimony Cabernet Sauvignon + Deep purple-colored, the tiny production 2017 Patrimony Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that spent 30 months in new French. This rocking wine has a huge nose of deep black fruits, new leather, unsmoked tobacco, exotic spices, and chocolate. Full-bodied and stunningly concentrated, with awesome tannins, a stacked mid-palate, and just a gorgeous finish, it’s a magical wine and an incredible 2017. Bravo! $275 99
92 2017 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Stonessence + All Syrah that was fermented with 25% stems and aged in 35% new oak, the 2017 Stonessence offers a stunning bouquet of crème de cassis and blackberry fruits interwoven with classic Rocks notes of cured meats, lavender, tobacco, and olives. With medium to full-bodied richness, a beautifully polished, balanced texture, and a great finish, it ranks with the top wines in the vintage. Drink bottles any time over the coming 10-15 years. $110 96
93 2018 Domaine Arlaud Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru Les Ruchots + The 2018 Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru Les Ruchots is smoking good. Loads of spice, dried flowers, mulberries, strawberries, and forest floor notes emerge from this beauty, which is medium to full-bodied and has a wonderful mouthfeel, ripe tannins, and a great finish. This rich, concentrated, nicely structured wine needs just 2-3 years of bottle age and will keep for 15+. $150 95
94 2018 Morlet Family Chardonnay Ma Princesse + The 2018 Chardonnay Ma Princesse comes from one of the greatest sites for Chardonnay in California, the Ritchie Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. Coming all from Old Wente Chardonnay (40- to 50-year-old vines) and fermented and aged in French oak, it has stunning notes of caramelized peach and lemon, toasted bread, vanilla, and white flowers that develop beautifully with time in the glass. Deep, full-bodied, and opulent on the palate, it carries a racy spine of acidity, beautiful balance, and a great, great finish. Picking a favorite from these 2018 Chardonnays from Morlet is just about impossible, but this is incredible juice that tops out on my scale. I followed this bottle for multiple days and it only improved with air. Enjoy this heavenly Chardonnay any time over the coming decade or more. $95 100
95 2016 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Dr. Crane Vineyard + Pure perfection in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Dr. Crane Vineyard offers more power and richness as well as a huge nose of blackcurrants, tobacco leaf, gravelly earth, violets, and cassis. A wine that blends power and elegance, it has a deep, multi-dimensional texture, building tannins, an incredible seamlessness, and a finish that won’t quit. I always find an earthy, Graves-like character from this vineyard, and this beauty has it in spades. Aged 24 months in new barrels, Napa Valley Cabernet doesn’t get any better, and this incredible wine can be drunk today or cellared for 2-3 decades. Hats off to winemaker Sam Kaplan. Both of these 2016s are heavenly wines. $225 100
96 2018 My Favorite Neighbor Cabernet Sauvignon + The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon (this was reviewed as the “My Favorite Neighbor” in last year’s report) is similarly deep purple/ruby-hued and has slightly more red fruits with lots of black raspberry, cassis, toasted spice, unsmoked tobacco, and incense aromas and flavors. It almost has a Margaux-like perfume and is medium to full-bodied, seamless, and wonderfully balanced on the palate. Some chalky minerality comes through with time in the glass, and it has plenty of tannins and a great finish. It’s not an over-the-top blockbuster and impresses just as much for its elegance as its richness. $85 96+
97 2017 Hayfork Cabernet Sauvignon Lewelling Ranch + Haley Wight continues to make wines under her own Hayfork label. They deliver both quality and value. The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Lewelling Ranch reveals a ruby/purple hue as well as a spicy bouquet of mulberries, blueberries, tobacco leaf, and chocolate. These all carry to the palate, where the wine is medium to full-bodied, has an opulent texture, and a great finish. It’s both complex and hedonistic, and you can drink bottles today or cellar for 10-15 years if you’re so inclined. $75 93
98 2018 Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir + The 2018 Pinot Noir from this great estate is a beauty, and certainly comes close to topping out my scale. Coming all from the estate vineyard in the southern end of the appellation, it reveals a translucent ruby/purple hue as well as a gorgeous bouquet of black raspberries, crushed flowers, spice, violets, and a kiss of wet granite-like minerality. This was a long, even growing season and you see it in the balance, purity of fruit, ripe tannins, and flawless integration of acidity and structure. While it’s supple and forward, my money is on it evolving beautifully for 10-15 years. $95 98
99 2017 Keplinger Syrah Hangman’s + Incorporating 5% Viognier, the 2017 Syrah Hangman’s comes from the Hudson Vineyard in Carneros, and it’s up with some of the greatest Syrahs to ever come out of California. Deep purple/blue-hued with awesome notes of blue fruits, chocolate, graphite, smoked game, and olives, it has an exotic tropical note (no doubt from the Viognier), full-bodied richness, a deep, concentrated mid-palate, and a great finish. It’s a stunning Syrah I’d be thrilled to have in the cellar. It should drink well for 10-15 years. $75 98
100 2017 Hartford Court Pinot Noir Seascape Vineyard + Coming from the Sonoma Coast, the 2017 Pinot Noir Seascape Vineyard nevertheless seems to have a touch of Russian River-like opulence and power, showing loads of mulberry and cranberry fruit as well as notes of scorched earth, graphite, licorice, and damp forest floor. Rich, concentrated, and medium to full-bodied, it shows the more focused, backward, chiseled style of the vintage yet is far from austere or angular. The cellar will be your friend on this one, and a solid 2-3 years of bottle age are warranted. Nevertheless, it’s packed with potential. $70 96+