Tom Simoneau: The Wine Guy
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Tom Simoneauís Wines of the Year 2014

Best Whites.

Sparkling Wine:  J Brut Rosé, Nonvintage, $38. With the popularity of dry Rosé in the marketplace today, it’s no wonder that more and more sparkling wine houses are coming out with Brut Rosés. J has been producing Brut Rosé for over a decade. All strawberry and rose petals. Delicious.

Chardonnay: Migration 2012, Santa Maria Valley, Dierberg Vineyard, $55. Migration is part of the Duckhorn Wine Company and specializes in cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. From the terrific 2012 vintage this wine shows honeysuckle, light caramel, all bright Chardonnay fruit with lush mouth feel. Made by winemaker Bo Felton.

Sauvignon Blanc: Robert Mondavi Winery 2012 Fume Blanc, Oakville District, $40. From the To Kalon Vineyard which surrounds the Robert Mondavi Winery (To Kalon is Greek for the highest beauty.). This Sauvignon Blanc is blended with 8% Semillon and is barrel fermented in neutral French oak, giving this wine its complex and integrated flavors and creamy texture.

Off Dry White: Navarro Vineyards 2013 Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, $19.50. From the family owned Navarro Vineyard, founders Ted Bennet and Deborah Cahn saw the potential of the Anderson Valley way back in 1973. After selling Pacific Stereo, they purchased a 900 acre sheep ranch on Highway 128 in Philo. Today they are one of the top producers of Alsatian wines and Pinot Noir in California.

Most Fun White: Middle Sister, Drama Queen Pinot Grigio, Non-vintage, California, $12. Join The Wine Sisterhood founded by longtime wine industry pro Terry Wheatley. You have to click on to see this sight for yourself. Their philosophy… Smile, it won’t mess up your hair!

Alternative White: Carol Shelton Wines 2012 Coquille Blanc, Paso Robles, $24. This stunning white Rhone blend is 40% Grenache Blanc, 25% Roussanne, 20% Viognier, and 15% Marsanne. Coquille is French for shellfish which is the perfect pairing for this crisp aromatic white. And yes, Carol Shelton “The Zin Master” does make terrific white wine too.

Best Buy White:  Rodney Strong Chardonnay 2013, Sonoma County, $17. You can’t miss when you reach for a bottle of Rodney Strong wine. This Chardonnay is all lemon, apple and melon. Often discounted and widely available.

Rosé:  J Lohr Vineyards and Wines 2013 Gesture Grenache Rosé, Paso Robles, $18.
J. Lohr has been producing Rhone inspired wines under its Gesture label as a limited production brand since 2007. This wine shows crisp acidity, all cranberry and pear.

Best Reds.

Cabernet Sauvignon:  Chateau St. Jean 2010 Cinq Cépages, Sonoma  County, $75. The flagship wine for St. Jean, Cinq Cépages means five varieties and is 78% Cabernet Sauvignon,  12% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc, 5% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec. As complex as any blend can be this wine shows all brown spice, mocha and black plum. Buy some and lay it down… you won’t be disappointed.

Zinfandel:  Pedroncelli Winery 2012 Dry Creek Valley, Mother Clone, $18. Founded in 1927 by John Pedroncelli Sr. Today the 4th generation is coming up the ranks. Pedroncelli wines are always a great value. This 2012 Mother Clone Zinfandel shows perfect balance, true to its varietal, and rich in the mouth.

Merlot:  Merriam Vineyards 2010 Windacre Vineyard, Russian River Valley, $28. From my longtime friend from Maine. Founders Peter and Diana Merriam still live in New England, but at crucial times you’ll see them manning the presses and pumps. This 2010 Merlot shows dark cherry and plum, with rich mouth feel. Blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and grown on their Estate Windacre Vineyard.

Rhone:  Fulcrum 2012 Petite Sirah, Landy Vineyard, Russian River Valley, $42. Fulcrum was founded in 2005 by winemaker David Rossi, who still makes his home in New Jersey. Often seen in the vineyard, the winery, and the airport. Rossi’s style produces wines of elegance and balance. This Petite Sirah shows just that!

Blended Red:  Dry Creek Vineyards 2011 The Mariner, Dry Creek Valley, $45. This blended red is Cabernet based and shows red fruit and dried herbs. This is a wine with plenty of life. If you choose to cellar this, you will be rewarded. From the family owned winery established in 1972.

Best Buy Red:  Concannon Vineyards 2012 Conservancy Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley, $18.  The Concannon Conservancy wines help protect vineyard land from urban development as all the winegrowers have placed their land into a legal trust that protects against development forever. This Cab is full of flavor, all blackberry and mocha. Often discounted.

Most Fun Red: Purple Cowboy 2013 Tenacious Red Blend, Paso Robles, California, $15. The official wine of The Professional Rodeo Cowboys’ Association. Another of the satirical wine brands from Canopy Management. With each purchase, a contribution is made to The Tough Enough to Wear Pick Breast Cancer Campaign.

Luxury Wine: Castello di Amorosa 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Don Thomas Vineyard, $145. From a sought after hillside vineyard on the western edge of the Rutherford Appellation, this fruit forward 100% Cabernet Sauvignon comes from talented winemaker Brooks Painter. You may know Castello di Amorosa for its lavish castle, but once you taste their wines, you’ll remember them for quality in the bottle.

Pinot Noir and Winery of the Year:  MacPhail Family Wines for their 2012 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Pratt Vineyard, $49. James MacPhail is one of California’s finest young winemakers. With their new tasting room located in the Barlow in Sebastopol, a stop to taste is a must. If you’re lucky enough to find James there, after a chat you’ll know why his wines are so good.  Which leads me to announce, MacPhail Family Wines, as my winery of the year. His MacPhail Pratt 2012 shows cherry berry flavors and is rich in the mouth. If I made a Pinot, this is the one I’d want to make.

Congratulations to MacPhail Family Wines, my Winery of the Year 2014.