Best Wines Over $20
2005 Domaine Carneros Brut by Taittinger ($26)
A ringer for a very good Champagne from a ripe year. This Pinot Noir–dominated blend by head winemaker Eileen Crane, aged for three years in Domaine Carneros’s Napa cellars, is dry—even austere—when first poured. But it takes on flesh and weight in the glass, soon brimming with classic notes of pear, brioche and yellow apple and revealing a fine, full, mid-palate creaminess.
2007 Spottswoode ($32)
Spottswoode made its mark in Cabernet but also produces sensational Sauvignon Blancs like this one, mingling grapefruit-rind notes with melon and fig, and finishing clean and dry. Winemaker Jennifer Williams blends in a portion of fragrant Sauvignon Musqué to give the firm white an exotic note.
2007 Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc ($40)
A spicy blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc with aromas of spring flowers and honey, this white is creamy and juicy yet also entirely dry. The grapes, from Tablas Creek’s organic Paso Robles estate vineyard, are related to those from parent winery Château de Beaucastel’s famed vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
2006 Tandem Porter-Bass Vineyard ($42)
This is Tandem’s last Porter-Bass wine—the grapes will now go to the family’s own label—but winemaker Greg La Follette closes the series with a bang. This flamboyant white has notes of lime and ginger.
2006 Peay Vineyards Scallop Shelf Estate ($52)
This cool, foggy Sonoma Coast vineyard has a long growing season, allowing Pinot Noir grapes to develop intricate layers of flavor. Winemaker Vanessa Wong bottles this wine unfined and unfiltered to preserve its graceful depths.
2006 Pride Mountain Vineyards ($56)
Atop Napa’s Spring Mountain, family-owned Pride has made itself into a Merlot star with wines like this one. Winemaker Sally Johnson added some Cabernet for structure, but the black cherry fruit is pure Merlot, mingling with mocha, graphite and wild berries.
2007 Seghesio Family Vineyards Home Ranch ($36)
Sonoma’s Seghesio family founded its Home Ranch vineyard in Alexander Valley back in 1895, and fourth-generation winemaker Ted Seghesio feels that 2007 produced one of the finest wines ever from these 114-year-old vines. Almost black in color but refined in flavor, it balances rich cocoa-inflected blackberry and raspberry flavors against hints of black pepper.
2007 Arnot-Roberts Alder Springs Vineyard ($60)
Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Roberts reached up to Mendocino for these grapes—way, way up to what they call Alder Springs’s “precipitous, decomposing sandstone mountainside.” The resulting Syrah suggests a ripe Côte Rôtie, robust and complex but restrained, with notes of herb, flowers, smoke and wet ink.
2006 Hourglass Blueline Estate Vineyard ($125)
This poised Cabernet is the first release from cult-wine Hourglass’s new Napa Valley vineyard, planted on the gravelly soil of two ancient riverbeds. Winemaker Robert Foley has turned in a polished bottling that seamlessly meshes mint-chocolate-spiced notes of sweet plum and black currant.
American Wine Awards 2009 Winners:
Best Wines Over $20