These are troubled times and 2023 was especially tumultuous, with war abroad and civil unrest stateside closing out the year. For me and my wife, enjoying wine became even more meaningful this year. At our age, we’re delighted and surprised when we make new friends, which happened a few anointed times this year, each one over great bottles of wine.

We’ve become more discerning, too. We’re older and can’t drink as much as we used to, so when we do open a bottle of wine at home, we choose carefully and enjoy it with some time on our hands.

I’m grateful for the many beautiful wines I enjoyed this year; for the company I was with and for the moments we spent together, when worries were suspended however briefly by an urgent kind of joy.

  1. 2020 Ryme Cellars Aglianico, Luna Matta, Paso Robles, CA

Cedar box.  Bushy-tailed.  Waves of darkness.  $42.00

  1. 2021 A Cerca Dos Frades Verdelho, DOP-Pico, Azores

Mint garden stroll.  Lime zest.  The Atlantic. $35.00

  1. 2022 Holus Bolus Roussanne, Bien Nacido, Santa Barbara, CA

Alert and ready.  Breezy.  Wholesome. $40.00

  1. 2022 Balletto Pinot Gris, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, CA

Summer-y.  Glistening.  Apple orchard in the morning. $25.00

  1. 2022 Kings Carey Semillon, Happy Canyon, Santa Barbara, CA

Fresh fig skin. Cut grass under the sun. Sprig of marjoram. $25.00

  1. 2021 Hammerling Sunflower Sutra, Various Appellations, CA

Sparkling beauty. Brioche baking. Chamomile mist. $44.00

  1. 2022 Tyler Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, CA

Cold flower petals. Keen. Delicate bones. $38.00

  1. 2022 Lady of the Sunshine Sauvignon Blanc, Stolpman, Ballard Cyn., Santa Barbara, CA

Salty beach breezes. Small white flowers. Melon and feta. $36.00

  1. 2020 Stony Hill, Estate Riesling, Napa Valley, CA

Regal body. Imaginative. Complete. $75.00

  1. 2022 Farm Cottage Pinot Noir, Trout Gulch, Santa Cruz Mtns, CA

Stark fruit. Cheeky. Brightness. $54.00

  1. 2021 Fine Disregard Chenin Blanc, Chalone, Monterey, CA

Crisp, cold pear. Meyer lemon peel. Canopy of Manzanita. $40.00

  1. 2021 High Camp Rose of Grenache, Paso Robles, CA

Charming. Blooming. Sunset at Joshua Tree. $28.00

  1. 2022 Massican Annia, Napa Valley, CA

Summer chill goosebumps. Shimmer of Blue. Abalone. $32.00

  1. 2022 Birichino Malvasia Bianca, Monterey, CA

Fennel pollen. Orange grove at night. Summer jasmine. $18.00

  1. 2021 Arnot Robers Syrah, Clary Ranch, Petaluma Gap

Plaintive voice. Goes inward. Quietly over-delivers. $65.00

  1. 2022 End of the Day Albarino, Paso Robles, CA

Enthusiastic. Pleasurable restraint. Illuminated. $28.00

  1. 2019 Antica Terra Antikythera Pinot Noir, Eola Amity Hills, OR

Otherworldly. Liminal spaces. Spiritual. $150.00

  1. 2022 Madson Chardonnay, Ascona, Santa Cruz Mtns, CA

Wispy clouds. Unwilted. Kicking.  $48.00

  1. 2020 Matt Taylor Wines Chardonnay, Komorebi, West Sonoma, CA

Forest energy. Shiny leaves. Depth of light.  $100.00

  1. 2021 Potek Pinot Noir, Sanford & Benedict, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, CA

Pulsing. Fog and sea salt. Geraniums in bloom. $75.00

  1. 2019 Chamisal Syrah, Califa, Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo, CA

Balanced power. Deep, dark earth. Rainy day chanterelles. $65.00

  1. 2020 Sante Arcangeli Pinot Noir, Ananda, Santa Cruz Mtns., CA

Smoke-free. Earl Grey tea outside at dawn. Conifer. $69.00

  1. 2021 Nicora Undisclosed, Paso Robles, CA

Roussanne nuance. Giving way to Viognier. Lifted autumn. $55.00

  1. 2021 Alfaro, Whole Cluster Pinot Noir, Alfaro Family Vyd. Santa Cruz Mtns., CA

Graphite restraint. Bright fruit core. Elegant texture. $48.00

  1. Slamdance Kooperative Wines Red Blend, Various Sites, CA

Historically curious. Honest. Heady linearity. $38.00

  1. 2019 Babcock Chardonnay, The Limit, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, CA

Definitive. Artfully balanced. Tangerine dream. $55.00

  1. 2022 Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc, Swartland, South Africa

Uncomplicated. Seaside kite flying. Sliced white peaches. $15.00

  1. 2022 Lorenza Rose, Lodi, CA

Joyfully assured. Coral Rhone beauty. Gladness.

  1. 2022 Blade & Talon Negrette, Calleri, San Benito, CA

Unpredictable. Brush of the Pinnacles. Brooding. $28.00

  1. 2021 Archery Summit Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, OR

Dundee in the glass. Brambleberry fruit in the rain. Lifted. $65.00

  1. 2021 McPrice Myers Clairette Blanche, Paper Street, Paso Robles, CA

Untamable. White chalk and sea spray. Uni unadorned.  $48.00

  1. 2020 Wendouree Shiraz, Clare Valley, Australia

A feral original. Outsider beauty. Stardust. $250.00

  1. 2019 Cornell Cabernet Sauvignon, Courtship, Sonoma, CA

Hibiscus nobility. Red exuberance. Mountainous. $95.00

  1. 2021 Samsara Chardonnay, Zotovitch, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, CA

Point Sal winds. Green melon with prosciutto. Lemons. $59.00

  1. 2021 Piro Pinot Noir, Point West, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, CA

Florist shop fridge. Fresh-cut sage. Garnet light. $32.00

  1. 2021 Storm Rose, Los Alamos, Santa Barbara County, CA

Watermelon. Oysters all day long. Julia Child’s smile. $28.00

  1. 2022 Casa Dumetz Chardonnay, LaBarge, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, CA

Own-rooted. Bursting with the ocean. Foggy mornings. $56.00

  1. 2021 Flowers Pinot Meunier, Sea View Ridge, Sonoma Coast, CA

Austere pleasure. Windswept. Bracing. $100.00

  1. 2019 Shafer Syrah, Relentless, Napa Valley, CA

Masterful. Aromatic treasures. Subterranean musings. $90.00

  1. 2021 Tiberio Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy

Modern. Vigorous. Spirited.  $27.00

  1. 2019 Kathryn Kennedy Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate, Santa Cruz Mtns., CA

Bright-eyed. Crisp Sandalwood breezes. Beautiful. $289.00

  1. 2021 Monochrome Albarino, Barrel Distortion, Paso Robles, CA

Thoughtful side. Internal. Chamomile growing by the sea. $50.00

  1. 2021 Sandar & Hem Chardonnay, Bald Mountain, Santa Cruz Mtns., CA

Apricots in winter. Brisk. A diligent loveliness. $56.00

  1. 2021 Saintsbury Pinot Noir, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, CA

Chilly Jalama winds. Beaming acidity, translucent red fruit. $80.00

  1. 2020 Fingers Crossed Grenache, Head Held High, Ojai, CA

Gift from the Underland. Precise. Memorable. $130.00

  1. Quench + Temper Grenache, Chapter V, Bas, Paso Robles, CA

Coyote Bush nights. Silica’s call. Dry-farmed. $60.00

  1. 2022 Holus Bolus, Chardonnay, Joy Fantastic, Sta. Rita Hills, CA

Diatomaceous profile. Sandy vibrancy. Refreshing. $55.00

  1. 2020 Jonata Cabernet Franc, El Alma de Jonata, Ballard Canyon, Santa Barbara County, CA

Quarry sage. Mint beneath a Cherry tree. Neruda. $175.00

  1. 2019 J. H. Wheeler Cabernet Sauvignon, Vine Hill Ranch, Napa Valley, CA

Core of purity. Textural wonder. Unrelenting aromatics. $275.00

  1. 2021 Jasud Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate, Diamond Mountain, Napa Valley, CA

Wilderness made. Abiding humility. Electrifying character.

By R.H. Drexel
Contributing Writer
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