Crazy Quilt of Wines from 2017

January 2018 Wine Column

The start of the New Year seems like a good time to recall some memorable bottles tasted in 2017. Here is a crazy-quilt of wines in my rear view mirror:

Last year, great sparkling wines were never more available or affordable–with Italian Proseccos leading the way. Tommasi Prosecco Tenuta Filodora ($15), White Knight Prosecco ($15), Martini & Rossi Prosecco Brut (Extra Dry) and Martini & Rossi Sparkling Rosé (Extra Dry), ($15.00) were just plain fun to drink. Gerard Bertrand 2014 Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux ($16) and Albert Bichot Cremant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé ($26)–both out of France–drank like Champagne without breaking the bank. Just remember, “Brut” is drier than “Extra Dry,” (I know….).

On the tangy side of things there was New Zealand’s highly rated Matua Sauvigon Blanc ($12) Montes 2016 Spring Harvest Sauvigon Blanc, ($16) from Chile, and California’s lush 2016 Rutherford Ranch Sauvigon Blanc ($22.)

My wife—who likes her chardonnay oaky and creamy—was impressed by Geyser Peak’s 2016 Water Bend Chardonnay ($26), Marques de Casa Concha 2015 Chardonnay ($22), and Hahn SLH 2015 Chardonnay ($25.)

The only thing hotter than the weather last summer was Rosé; it was front-and-center at tastings, parties, and restaurants, and the queen of summer-sippers, showed up from every corner of the world: 2016 Casillero del Diablo Rosé from Chile ($11), 2016 Matua Rosé from New Zealand ($12), 2016 Bila-Haut Rosé from France ($15), and 2016 Justin Rosé from California ($22.)

Among lighter reds, New Zealand’s 2015 Mudhouse Pinot Noir ($18), Landmark Vineyards Overlook 2015 Pinot Noir ($20), Hahn 2015 SLH Pinot Noir ($25), and 2013 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rouge ($15) made my short list for quality and value.

Many robust reds stood out last year: Robert Mondavi’s highly rated 2014 Napa Valley Merlot ($25), 2014 Geyser Peak Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon ($30), Australia’s 2015 Jacobs Creek Double Barrel Shiraz ($20). Trivento’s 2015 Reserve Malbec ($11) was a cheap way to sample Argentina’s most famous grape and Italy’s 2016 Dark Knight ($17), from Castello di Gabbiano, made for a memorable Tuscan blend—without the Super Tuscan price.

Red blends from California included some dandys last year: 2014 Smith & Hook Proprietary Red ($25), 2015 Predator Six Spot Red, ($17), 2015 Leese-Fitch Fire House Red, ($12) and 2016 Moobuzz Cabernet (20% Petite Verdot,) ($22). All of them left lasting impressions–and high hopes for new vintages to be released later this year.

P.S. I Love You Inc.

Petite Sirah (sometimes spelled “Petite Syrah”) is a separate grape variety and distinct from the better-known Syrah varietal. Petite Sirah makes a big impression in the glass with its intense deep purple color—a visual hint of what’s to come: rich, full body with aromas and flavors of blue berry, chocolate, plum, and pepper. All wrapped in robust but velvety tannins. Wine geeks would call Petite Sirah a “big” wine—but it is a gentle giant.

Crazy Quilt of 2017 Wines

Long one of California’s leading producers of Petite Sirah, Concannon Winery in Livermore, California, led the way in developing Petite Sirah and establishing it as a single varietal. Fourth generation wine-maker Jim Concannon will proudly confess to being a founding member of a Petite Sirah booster group: P.S. I Love You Inc. After a taste of 2016 Concannon Petite Sirah CV ($20), you might want to join the organization.

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