The Best Wines of 2014

Our national wine panel recommends wines throughout the year, typically by varietal or season, and provides brief tasting notes, ratings and the wine’s retail price (which varies from store to store and market to market). These are the highest-rated wines for 2014 they have selected. If you’re a retail or on-premise beverage professional who would like to learn about participating in our panel, call Melissa Dowling at 203-855-8499 ext. 223, or email her at MDowling@SpecialtyIM.com.

FIVE STARS      

(98) Sonoma-Loeb Envoy Carneros chardonnay 2012 (California). Sourced from the famed Sangiacomo Vineyards with the best clones, this is a rich elegant Burgundian-styled wine with beautiful tropical fruits, rich butter and caramel flavors, and toasted oak. Save this for that special dinner. ($55)

(97) Alexander Valley Vineyards Cyrus 2010 (California). Done in the meritage style (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petite verdot and malbec); winemaker Kevin Hall uses just eight very select barrel aged lots for his final cuvee. Aged 12 months in French oak and an additional eight months aging in the bottle—an incredible wine. ($65)

(97) Buccella Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2010 (California). A small-production cult wine; deep purple, opaque in color with concentrated black currant, licorice, exhibiting intense and floral characteristics. ($150)

(97) J.Lohr Hilltop Paso Robles cabernet sauvignon 2011 (California). A beautiful, harmonious blend of cabernet sauvignon, petite verdot, malbec and syrah from prime vineyard sites. The wine is aged 18 months in oak; it is smooth, balanced, full-bodied, with rich layers of cherries and blackberries. ($40)

(97) Duckhorn Napa chardonnay 2012 (California). This is the 35 vintage year, and this wine reflects the very best of Napa. Sourced from 11 different vineyard sites, it showcases a wide variety of flavor components, including melon, pineapple, and peaches. A beautifully regimented barrel aging program adds rich, complex textures to balanced acidity; has a long, lingering finish. ($53)

(97) Joseph Drouhin Nuits-Saint-Georges Damodes 1er Cru 2011 (France). From one of the most established and respected houses in Burgundy, this Premier Cru Burgundy wine exudes class and elegance. Brilliant ruby in the glass; complex nose, with hints of red fruit, berries, along with subtle spicy notes. On the palate, the elegance continues with tastes that echo the nose, along with a bright edge. ($111)

(97) Scott Family Estate Arroyo Secco chardonnay 2012 (California). All estate-grown fruit from Arroyo Secco area in the Monterey AVA; intense, rich, concentrated viscous fruit; Dijon clones offer fresh notes of vanilla, pear and orange zest; butterscotch flavors at the finish after waves of tropical fruit; great long lingering finish; overdelivers for the money. ($36)

(97) Frank Family Vineyards chardonnay 2012 (California). Classic new-world style; fruit-forward, rich creaminess, long finish; very balanced; Carneros fruit overdelivers; floral notes of honeysuckle and fresh bread dough; tropical fruit flavors dominate. ($48)

(96) Nth Degree Livermore Valley cabernet sauvignon 2010 (California). Sourced from Wente’s best estate-vineyard sites, and meticulously “ultra farmed,” this is a rich, elegant blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petite verdot. Rich black cherry flavors dominate, with a subtle hint of mocha; seamless till the end and very balanced through the finish; spectacular. ($132)

(96) Cade Winery Howell Mountain Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2010 (California). This 100 % estate-grown cabernet is loaded with aromas of blueberry, blackberry and plums. Big, bold and elegant; the finish is nicely balanced and lingers for minutes. ($170)

(96) Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2011 (Italy). Supremely elegant and fine, the wine exudes class on the nose and palate; lots of red fruit, with notes of spice help emphasize the wine’s pedigree. Very satisfying now, the wine will certainly benefit from medium term aging. ($57)

(96) Joseph Jewell Russian River Sonoma pinot noir 2011 (California). Very elegant wine from this young winery (established 2006); beautiful red hues, strong cherry notes, with a very light touch of oak; black tea and baking spice aromas dominate the nose. This is a perfect wine for the late spring and early summer months. ($60)

(95) Alexander Valley Vineyards Alexander School reserve cabernet sauvignon 2010 (California). Older, low-yield vines produce very intense concentrated fruit; 100% cabernet sauvignon; aged almost two years in premium French oak barrels. A very big wine, rich and chewy, with dark fruit, tobacco and semi-sweet chocolate flavors. ($45)

(95) Daou Paso Robles cabernet sauvignon 2012 (California). This full-bodied wine displays black fruits, cassis, wild herbs and earthy notes with ripe, rich tannins. Grown at the highest elevation in Paso Robles, it shows the great complexity of the area. ($30)

(95) Fattoria di Felsina Maestro Raro cabernet sauvignon 2009 (Italy). Cherry, black currant, cedar and coffee aromas leads you into the intense flavors with refined structure; ripe and focused tannins provide grip; tobacco spice notes. ($60)

(95) Caymus 40th Anniversary Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2012 (California). A delicious celebration of Napa Valley cabernet; rich and robust berry fruit, with balanced tannins marry together for a truly silky finish. ($73)

(95) Long Shadows Feather cabernet sauvignon 2011 (Washington State). Dark fruits with a hint of chocolate, this is a rich and full-bodied wine with a luxurious texture. ($60)

(95) Ahnfeldt Provocative Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2011 (California). Gorgeous bouquet of lilacs, roses and ripe black fruits; flavors of blueberry, black currant and plum abound with just a touch of toasted oak; tannins are supple. This wine is absolutely enjoyable now. ($40)

(95) Poggio al Tesoro, Sondraia Bolgheri Superiore 2011 (Italy). From Tuscany, this cabernet-dominant blend combines elegance and power. The 18 months in oak, contributes a spiciness to the red and black fruit notes; the taste is fresh and clean, with a long and elegant finish. A highly polished wine that will pair with a wide range of meats, cheeses and other foods. ($55)

(95) Chateau Ste. Michelle Ethos Reserve cabernet sauvignon 2011 (Washington State). Most of the grapes used to produce this outstanding wine came from the established Cold Creek vineyard. Rich and powerful, with a great deal of elegance; dark fruit is accented by spice, on the nose and palate. Delicious now, be sure to age some as well. ($48)

(95) Artesa Estate Reserve Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2010 (California). From one of Napa Valley’s top-flight properties, this cabernet exhibits dark fruit and power. The fermentation and aging in oak contribute spice and structure; a very fine wine, enjoyable now, but with potential to age gracefully. ($46)

(95) Robert Mondavi Oakville Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2011 (California). Dark in the glass, with plenty of dark fruit notes on the nose, the wine is rich, with hints of spice and herbs; an exceptionally long finish, with great balance. ($45)

(95) Elderton Ashmead cabernet sauvignon 2009 (Australia). This wine is exceptionally concentrated, with plush black fruit; the mouthfeel and finish are outstanding, and examples of world-class Australian winemaking. A real keeper, as well as a wine that’s showing superbly well now. ($104)

(95) Chateau Franc Coutelin Saint-Estephe Bordeaux 2009 (France). A blend of 70% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot and 10% petit verdot; the cabernet is most evident, with aromas and flavors of black cherry, currant and blackberry. A note of toasted oak on the finish, along with some firm tannins. ($30) (Victoire Imports, Sonoma, CA)

(95) Root:1 Colchagua Valley cabernet sauvignon 2012 (Chile). From ungrafted vines of original European rootstock that have never been blighted by phylloxera; bold, rich varietal aromas and flavors in a ripe, mouth-filling, and easy-to-enjoy style; richness, quality and value. ($13) (Winebow, New York)

(95) Flanagan Family Sonoma cabernet sauvignon 2010 (California). Ripe and concentrated fruit; cassis and vanilla on the nose; unusually soft tannins for such a powerful cabernet. ($85)

(95) Carmen Gold Reserve Maipo Alto cabernet sauvignon 2011 (Chile). A big, hearty Chilean cab; lots of oak and vanilla overtones with deep blackberry fruit; balanced tannins from this warm-weather region. ($75) (Trinchero)

(95) True Grit Reserve Mendocino cabernet sauvignon 2010 (California). This is Parducci’s reserve-level cabernet sauvignon. Eighteen months in French and American oak add a vanilla softness to the mix; small amounts of cabernet franc, petite verdot and syrah add richness; beautiful cherry and cassis aromas finish out the wine. ($39) (Parducci)

(95) Itsas Mendi Blanco D.O. Bizkaiko Txakolina 2012 (Spain). From Spain’s Basque country and made from the indigenous Hondarrabi Zuri grape. At first, reminiscent of vinho verde, tart and light; after some aeration, a floral bouquet bursts into flavors of lush tropical fruits, ending with lip-smacking sweet/tart acidity. ($23)

(95) Migration Russian River chardonnay 2012 (California). This wine is sourced from 11 vineyards in the Russian River Valley. Rich fruit notes of pineapple, peach, orange and nectarine are complemented by aromas of allspice and sweet vanilla. ($48)

(95) Miner Gary’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands pinot noir 2011 (California). A bouquet of wildflowers and red raspberry lead to a viscous texture on the palate with flavors of red fruit, cherry, coffee, and spice. Supple tannins with a nuance of toasty oak balance the whole. ($70)

(95) Paul Hobbs Russian River pinot noir 2012 (California). Exceptional deep color; aromas of black raspberries and cassis; full-bodied, silky texture; cellar worthy for at least five years. ($60)

(95) Loveblock Central Otago pinot noir 2011 (New Zealand). A bright, ruby-red color; complex aromas include cherry, strawberry, violets, mushrooms and herbs; on the palate, a rush of sweet/tart berry flavors meld with lightly toasted oak, truffles and a hint of earthiness. Firm tannins linger on the finish suggesting some cellar time would be most rewarding. ($35)

(95) Alexander Valley Vineyards Sonoma chardonnay 2012 (California). Estate grown, night harvested; interesting approach to blending stainless steel with no malolactic fruit with whole cluster fruit. Aged in French oak with malolactic fermentation; rich mouthfeel, balanced, good acidity; toasted oak, rich butterscotch and tropical fruit flavors blend harmoniously. ($18)

(95) Hartford Court Jolene’s Vineyard Russian River Valley zinfandel 2011 (California). A stunning zinfandel from 100-plus-year-old vines that shows near perfect balance between fruit, tannins and acids. ($60)

(95) Outpost Howell Mountain zinfandel 2011 (California). Full-bodied with loads of ripe fruit; blackberry jam, wild berry and black cherry flavors fill the palate and lead way to a robust, spicy finish, with a hint of crack pepper. ($50)

(95) Brown Chaos Theory Napa red blend 2009 (California). Blockbuster blending of cab/zin (60%/40% for this vintage); all estate-grown fruit from the Brown family, who started farming over 30 years ago in Napa; bold, balanced, great concentration of flavors; black peppercorns, wild blackberries, black cherries; richly textured; the finish is long and lingering. ($69)

(94) Rodney Strong Alexander’s Crown Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon 2010 (California). Juicy cabernet with smooth tannins and deep layers of oak, black fruit and mocha; high alcohol makes a bit hot; decant to enjoy the complexity or cellar. ($60)

(94) Rutherford Ranch Napa cabernet sauvignon 2012 (California). An intriguing blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec. Aged 14 months in oak; rich and chewy, with dark chocolate, vanilla and black fruit flavors; very subtle finish. An elegant wine at a great price point. ($30)

(94) Wente Charles Wetmore Livermore cabernet sauvignon 2012 (California). This estate vineyard is named for the gentleman who helped develop the area in the late 1800s by bring cutting from some of the best vineyards in Bordeaux; in that same style, this cabernet sauvignon has small amounts of petit verdot, petite sirah, malbec, cabernet franc and merlot added for intense complexity; aged 14 months in French and American oak; overdelivers in terms of value and quality. ($36)

(94) Frisson Vineyards Napa cabernet sauvignon 2010 (California). A classic Napa Valley cabernet; very balanced, with dark rich fruit, and a nutty hint of dark chocolate. Restrained tannins, and a moderate alcohol level make for an elegant wine. ($75)

(94) Smith & Hook cabernet sauvignon 2012 (California). This wine pairs a vibrant purple color with expressive aromas of blackberries and cassis. Richly textured on the palate, this wine’s robust tannins provide a frame for black cherry flavors and spicy notes of vanilla and cloves; air this with your favorite burger off the grill. ($23)

(94) Ironside cabernet sauvignon 2012 (California). A big, elegant classy wine with lots of fruit, friendly tannins and structure; great value. ($18)

(94) Hess Allomi Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2012 (California). This single-vineyard cabernet from one of the Valley’s best known wineries is full of rich black and red fruit. Dark ruby in the glass, with plenty of richness on the nose and palate; hints of spice and tannin provide a backbone for the fruit to surround; the finish is well balanced, and quite lengthy. ($30)

(94) Michael Mondavi Emblem Oso Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2011 (California). This exceptional, single-vineyard cabernet is produced from grapes grown high above the valley floor, which contributes a freshness and structure that complements the abundant fruit. Plenty of black and red fruit is accented by spice and toasty notes; a wonderful long and balanced finish. ($60)

(94) Viña Los Vascos Le Dix de Los Vascos 2011 (Chile). The Le Dix is produced from very old-vine cabernet, from the estate’s original vineyard. The vineyard contributes a dark, lush fruitiness, and the 18 months in oak add an appealing spiciness and texture. Hints of chocolate add to the wine’s complexity; it finishes with a luxurious mouthfeel, and balance. ($60)

(94) J.Lohr Riverstone Arroyo Seco chardonnay 2013 (California). A top chardonnay for the money; very balanced with great fruit and just enough oak; creamy texture, with good acidity. ($18)

(94) J Vineyards Russian River pinot noir 2012 (California). A beautiful pinot noir with layers of deep fruit balanced with a pop of acidity. The wine’s rich and lingering flavors surround your mouth and keep giving up secret flavors long after the finish. ($36)

(94) Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune du Château 1er Cru 2009 (France). A brilliant medium ruby in color; the nose is filled with a complex mix of red fruit, along with floral and spicy notes; in the mouth, the bright fruit leads the way, followed by a long and elegant finish. ($40)

(94) La Follette Van der Kamp Sonoma Mountain pinot noir 2011 (California). Brilliant ruby/garnet; a rich wine, with the nose dominated by elegant red fruits, as well as hints of spice with floral hints; the palate is rich and spicy, with great complexity and length. ($42)

(94) Girard Russian River chardonnay 2011 (California). Delicious chardonnay from Russian River; fresh fruit on the nose with a beautiful vanilla undertone. Light to medium in body; will pair well with all light to grilled foods. ($25)

(94) Robert Mondavi Carneros Napa Valley chardonnay reserve 2011 (California). A rich, yellow gold in the glass, showing its weight and viscosity; the nose is full of ripe tree fruits, with hints of toast and oak; rich and full, with balancing acidity, and a long, lingering finish. A very classy and fine wine. ($60)

(94) Domaine Renaud Macon Village Burgundy 2012 (France). Classic old-world style chardonnay; very clean and crisp with rich minerality; lighter in style and very user- and food-friendly; perfect first white burgundy for the consumer. ($28)

(94) Montes Alpha Casablanca Valley chardonnay 2012 (Chile). A bright gold, with the faintest hints of green in the glass. Tropical fruit notes dominate the nose, with a trace of oak; the mouthfeel is luxurious, with flavors that echo the nose; the finish is long, and lingering. ($23)

(94) Cline Big Break zinfandel 2011 (California). Big and bold; the higher alcohol and extremely concentrated flavors offer up layer after layer to explore. ($25)

(93) Cosentino Barrel Select Napa cabernet sauvignon 2011 (California). This cabernet exhibits a great deal of lush black and red fruit; the oak aging contributes spice and texture, making the wine more complex and complete; lots of weight, texture and delicious fruit add up to a well-crafted and balanced wine. ($50)

(93) Familia Zuccardi Zuccardi Q cabernet sauvignon 2011 (Argentina). From one of the premier family operations, in the Mendoza region, this is an outstanding example of what an Argentinean cabernet can be. The grapes are sourced from vineyards over a half mile in altitude, contributing elegance and backbone. The concentrated black fruits on the nose and palate contribute to the complexity and richness, accented by spice; the extended finish is well balanced. ($20)

(93) Parallel Wines Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2010 (California). An outstanding example of Napa Valley cabernet; plenty of dark fruit on the nose and palate. Dark in the glass, the richness of the wine makes it exceptionally appealing. An interesting brightness and spicy aspect to the wine; great with a wide variety of foods, or to enjoy on its own. ($72)

(93) Decoy Sonoma cabernet sauvignon 2012 (California). A blend of 82% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot, 6% cabernet franc and 2% petit verdot; alluring black cherry and raspberry jam aromas, as well as more subtle notes of nutmeg, spice and chocolate. On the palate, lovely layers of raspberry and plum are supported by excellent structure and seamlessly integrated oak. ($23) (Duckhorn)

(93) Freemark Abbey Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2010 (California). Aromas of dark cherry, red plum and blackberry are integrated with the spicy sweetness of oak, cedar, cinnamon, clove and toast. The body is full, with a soft entry, coupled with dark cherry/berry flavors. Great texture and mouthfeel, this cabernet is full bodied, rich and opulent. ($42)

(93) Napa Wine Company Oakville cabernet sauvignon 2011 (California). This single-vineyard wine soars with extensive aromas and flavors of blackberries, leather, dried leaves, and baking spices. Its dazzling, graceful finish is backed up by fine grained tannins. ($42)

(93) Priest Ranch Somerston Estate Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2011 (California). Lots of bright fruit jumps from the glass; elegant and well balanced; long lingering finish. ($45)

(93) Chappellet Napa chenin blanc 2012 (California). Young and lively, with beautiful acidity; exotic hints of lychee, citrus, and guava underscore the rich minerality of mountain fruit. ($50)

(93) MacMurray Estate Vineyards Sonoma pinot gris 2013 (California). From prime Sonoma locations, this pinot gris has plenty of clean, unoaked fruit, with lots of weight and texture, so the wood is not missed. This wine is a great match for a wide range of grilled, smoked, and roasted dishes. ($20)

(93) Bruno Giacosa Roreo Arneis 2012 (Italy). From one of the world’s top Nebbiolo producers, this finely textured white is a surprise; weight and complexity add to its pedigree. The finish is long and elegant. A wine to enjoy with grilled fish, and other summer treats. ($30)

1 Comment

  1. corchr90 Reply

    “An interesting brightness and spicy aspect to the wine; great with a wide variety of foods, or to enjoy on its own”
    I don’t agree, read that:
    https://fdfds.org/upload/files/2016/04/wine-2016-auction-pages-iipdf1460490822.pdf
    Friendly, Corene

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