2020 Favorite Wines of the Year with Tom Simoneau

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California Wine Country today has Tom Simoneau in the studio with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger, to present his favorite wines of 2020. At the end of this episode they speak with Joy Sterling, from Iron Horse Winery, which is Tom Simoneau’s 2020 Winery of the Year. Here are the wines presented by Tom and Steve. Today’s page was written by Tom Simoneau. He can be reached at tom@simoneauvineyards.com.


Best Whites

Sparkling Wine:
Iron Horse Vineyards 2016 Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs, Green Valley, $55.

This sparkling wine is a limited edition bottling. Iron Horse gives $4 a bottle to National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative. Crisp, delicate, nice and dry. This 100% Chardonnay Sparkler is just that “sparkling” bubbles with a cause. ironhorsevineyards.com

Chardonnay:
Clos Pegase 2018 Carneros Napa Valley, Mitsuko’s Vineyard, Estate Grown, $30.

From this iconic Napa Valley winery, this wine with its classic cool region Chardonnay flavors of peach, apple, and pear shows how this varietal grown in the right place can produce an almost perfect wine. The vineyard, 365 acres in size, takes its name from founder Jan Shrem’s late wife. clospegase.com

Sauvignon Blanc:
J. Lohr Estates 2019 Flume Crossing, Arroyo Seco, Monterey, $14.
The blend is entirely from the Sauvignon Musque Clone picked over a month’s time at different ripeness levels. Early picks give bright acidity and key lime flavors while more ripeness gives grapefruit and passion fruit. And the final pick achieves mango and fig notes, complex and delicious. Another terrific release from J. Lohr, one of California’s finest. jlohr.com

Off Dry White:
Dry Creek Vineyard 2019 Dry Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, $16.
Congratulations to founder Dave Stare and his family for continuing to produce Chenin Blanc while other wineries gave it the Sideways treatment (ie. – Anything but Merlot.) This slightly sweet wine is perfect as a summer sipper showing bright mouth feel, all orange blossom and candied lemon. drycreekvineyard.com

Alternative White:
Priest Ranch Wines 2018 Grenache Blanc, Napa Valley, Estate Grown, $22.
Not familiar with Grenache Blanc? It’s an aromatic white wine. Think biting into a ripe white peach and as the juice runs down your chin, lick it all up. The taste is bracing, yet balanced. It’s intoxicating! The Priest Ranch is now part of the 1,615 acre Somerston Estate of which 215 acres is planted to grapes. Also available in 375ml cans – 6 packs $60. priestranchwines.com

Best Value White:
Inman 2019 Vin Soave, DOC Classico, $16.
This product of Italy’s Veneto region is 100% Garganega. How many new friends have you made this year? Well, I say this Vin Soave could be your new best friend. The flavors are a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc with a hint of Viognier, a crowd pleaser. dallaterra.com

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Most Fun Wine:
Prosecco by Korbel, D.O.C. Sparkling Wine Product of Italy, 187 ml bottles, $5.25.

Korbel, always a trend setter, now has a full line of mini-bottles. Pop the top (unscrew), insert a straw, and you’re good to go. Prosecco is a screaming category of sparkling wine accounting for $1 in every $5 spent. Prosecco facts: made in the Charmat process, tank fermented from the Glera grape grown in the Veneto in North Eastern Italy. korbel.com

Rosé:
Inman Family 2019 Endless Crush, Rosé of Pinot Noir, OGV (Olivet Grange Vineyard), Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, $38.
The word delicate defines this wine. From its delicate pink color to its delicate pink kiss on your palate. All watermelon and wild strawberry… delicate and delicious. Kathleen Inman is a master winemaker who happens to be a woman. inmanfamilywines.com

Sweet Wine:
Tenuta di Capezzana Vin Santo di Carmignano, D.O.C. Riserva, 375 ml bottle, $70.
Among the oldest wine estates in Tuscany, Capezzana has been producing wine since 804 A.D. This Carmignano is made from mainly Trebbiano. The grapes are dried for several months, then fermented and aged for more than five years in wooden casks. It is considered one of the best sweet wines in the world. Sherry in color, nutty with candied apricots in taste. The finish is never ending. If you can find it, buy it. You’ll be thanking me. dallaterra.com

Book of the Year
French Wine, A History by Rod Phillips, University of California Press. From the Greeks and Romans, the Black Death, the Classification of 1855, Phylloxera, and two world wars, do you need all this information? If you’re a wine guy… you do!
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Best Reds

Cabernet Sauvignon:
Jordan Vineyard and Winery 2016 Alexander Valley, $58.
Goodbye Rob Davis, hello Maggie Kruse. With the retirement of Jordan’s original and only winemaker, Rob Davis, Maggie Kruse is now in charge. You might wonder, with all the success Jordan has had over the years, what a new winemaker might bring. No worries, the baton has been successfully passed. With one taste of this ’16 masterpiece, any concerns will be dismissed. Mocha, cherry, and spice – delicious. A trip to Jordan is highly recommended. jordanwinery.com

Zinfandel:
J. Rickards Winery, 2018 North Coast, La Cosecha, Three Valley Blend, $32.
What makes a cult winery a cult winery? A hot shot winemaker, vineyard sources, awards? I’ve interviewed many cult winery owners and most will say they got lucky. Owners Jim and Eliza Rickards check all the boxes. They just need a little luck, and then, you’ll see their picture on the cover of Wine Spectator. This juicy and zesty Zinfandel is just one part of their story. Stop by J. Rickards Winery in Cloverdale and join the wine club while you can. jrwinery.com

Merlot:
Girard Winery 2017 Napa Valley, $50.
With Sideways now in the rearview mirror Merlot is on the comeback kid trail and this small lot beauty is one of the reasons why. This 100% Merlot from Girard’s Yountville Vineyard is a red raspberry and plum tart beauty. Available only at the new winery on Dunaweal Lane in Calistoga or the tasting room in Yountville. This Merlot is a good reason to stop by and tell’em The Wine Guy sent you. girardwinery.com

Rhone Style Red:
Longboard Vineyards 2017 Carignan, Vincenzo Vineyard, Mendocino County, $56.

According to the Rhone Rangers more gallons of Carignan are produced on this planet every year than any other wine. And virtually none of it is bottled under that name. You’ll find it in red blends. A big, brooding red with lavender and tarragon, tar and earthy flavors screaming Carignan. From 80 year old vines. longboardvineyards.com

Blended Red:
Gamble Family Vineyards 2016 Paramount Red Wine, Napa Valley, $90.
From third generation Napa farmer Tom Gamble. This wine was grown to be a Meritage with vineyard sources from Oakville, Yountville, Mt. Veeder, and Rutherford. Did I say all star vineyards? Mouth feel and texture define this wine. As it says on the bottle, grown, harvested, and slowly made into wine by Gamble Family Vineyards. gamblefamilyvineyards.com

Best Buy Red:
Toad Hollow Vineyards 2017 Merlot, Sonoma County, Richard McDowell’s Selection, $15.99.
Toad Hollow Vineyards’ fans know when they reach for a bottle, they’ll always get big bang for their buck. A no nonsense wine showing forward fruit all cranberry, blueberry, and cherry. Often discounted. toadhollow.com

Pinot Noir:
Cuvaison Estate Wines 2018 Spire, Napa Valley, Los Carneros, $60.
What makes a great wine? Vineyard sites and experience and this wine fits the bill. Grown on Cuvaison’s finest hillside and hilltop blocks, hence the name Spire. Made by longtime winemaker Steve Rogstad, 2002 was his first vintage at Cuvaison. With all the buzz about Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley, don’t forget Los Carneros wrote the book on cool region Pinot Noir. The Carneros Quality Alliance paved the way for California Appellation groups. This Pinot is savory and fruity. Its complexities will develop even more with time in the bottle – exceptional! cuvaison.com

Luxury Wine:
Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery 2017 Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon, $85.
Named after the fragrant Linden trees that surrounded a gazebo on the estate in the late 1800’s, it is now the second label for Spottswoode. Did I say second label? Well if any winery, other than Spottswoode, made this wine, it would be their Flagship, showing dark berry notes, all lilac and thyme with a ghost of oak and a mouth feel without rival. Sign up to get on their list at spottswoode.com

Winery of the Year:
Iron Horse Vineyards located in the heart of Green Valley. Iron Horse is well known for its sparkling wine. But, Iron Horse is more than a sparkling wine house. Iron Horse was established in 1976 by pioneering founders Barry and Audrey Sterling, who saw the potential of Green Valley as a wine growing region way before anyone else. Still family owned and operated now by daughter Joy, CEO and son Laurence, Director of Operations. Iron Horse has an extensive portfolio of both sparkling and still wines, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, all of which are estate grown. Congratulations to Iron Horse Vineyards my 2020 Winery of the Year. ironhorsevineyards.com

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