As I look back on 2020 and the wine we consumed, we sampled some amazing juice. To be clear, if a specific wine was featured on our blog, it is one of the best we drank as many don’t make the cut. But the wine on this list is our favorite and most memorable for 2020. These wines are ones about which I can not stop thinking. These are wines that tick every box for what I love in a wine. These are also wines that shocked me. Shocked, insofar as I am usually not a big fan of that variety. (You will see a Chardonnay and a Pinot Grigio on this list.) But enough chatting, let’s get started.
2014 Sutro Cabernet Sauvignon, Warnecke Ranch,
Alexander Valley, Sonoma County
Alice Sutro began this journey of making wine with fruit from her family’s vineyard in 2012. Before this, the family sold all of their fruit to other wineries. She is the owner, operator, and all-around artistic director of Sutro Wine. She is also a visual artist. And while her wines are her vision, they are made with “…minimal intervention winemaking combined with restrained use of new oak (which) allows the volcanic terroir to…” be the star of the show.
And this wine’s star shines bright. Full-bodied with a smooth and velvety texture. Tannins are restrained but present. A mix of red and black fruit, along with a hint of peppery spice and cocoa, tease the nose and palate. I find it beautifully balanced with a lingering and luscious finish. It is an ideal Cab to enjoy in front of a fire or with a chargrilled steak (which is what I did). AVB 14.8%
The 2014 vintage is still available in limited quantities for $55.00 per bottle. 2015 and 2016 vintages are also available at the same price, and the current 2017 vintage sells for $50.00. These wines are sold directly from the winery. You can check it out on their website, Sutro Wine Co.
A Chardonnay and A Pinot Grigio
As I have continued on my wine journey these last five or so years, I have tasted every wine put in front of me. In doing so, I have strengthened and broadened my palate. In the process, I have found many new wines that I thoroughly enjoy from varieties that I “thought” I did not like – in this case, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. The “aha” is about winemaking style, not the variety of grape. And while I understood this, it took me a while to find truly memorable ones.
2019 Lenné Vineyards Estate Chardonnay,
Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon
After sampling many Chardonnay wines while in Willamette Valley, I found that I really enjoyed most that I sampled. Willamette Valley Chardonnay, or at least those I have tried, focuses on the terrior and how the varietal characteristics are translated into wine. Common features include being only lightly oaked, and if malolactic fermentation is involved, it is to create build texture without becoming too creamy or buttery.
An interesting tidbit about Lenné Estates and its Chardonnay.
When you go to the Lenné Estates website, you will see that they are makers of estate Pinot Noir. Just click on the navigation bar’s WINES tab, you can read all about each of the eight Pinot Noir wines they make. There is no mention of their extraordinary Chardonnay. Yes, it is normally available in the online store (the 2019 vintage appears to be sold out). But when it was listed, there was very little information provided, almost as an afterthought.
I hosted a virtual tasting with Lenné, and we sold more Chardonnay than all four of the selected Pinot Noirs combined. And we sold a lot of Pinot! The difference is that folks bought this Chardonnay by the case. Apparently, with 130 cases made, it is bound to sell out each year.
This wine is fermented and aged in oak puncheons for 9 months. Puncheons are huge oak barrels that hold almost three times as much wine as a traditional barrel.
The Tasting Notes
My sister laughed at me as I described this wine as we tasted it together. Her thing is, “do I like it or not, period.” … Gorgeous nose of honeyed apricot and fresh-baked peach pie. The body is medium-plus with a soft plush blanket texture. Acid is mid-range but lingering. The palate is clean and fresh with notes of tropical fruits, peaches, and a hint of fresh ripe pear. Love, love, love, the mouthwatering finish. AVB 13.9%
While this wine is not currently listed on the Lenné Estate website, if you are interested in getting some of this gem of a wine, I would call and see if any is available. Phone: 503-956-2256. It sells for $48.00 a bottle.
If you are a fan of a creamier version of this wine, you can check out the Lenné Estate 2018 SCARLETT’S RESERVE CHARDONNAY. The current 2018 vintage also sells for $48.00 a bottle.
Pinot Grigio Gets a Bad Wrap No Longer
I have not been kind to Pinot Grigio. In the past, I would rail against it as flabby, uninteresting, watered-down, or in a best-case “meh.” Again, I had to dig deeper into the variety and be willing to pay a bit more money than I thought a Pinot Grigio would be worth. In my quest, I found two regions that make Pinot Grigio that I love – Alsace in France and Alto Adige/Südtirol in the north of Italy bordering Austria and Switzerland. What do both of these regions have in common? The influence of Germanic culture and winemaking processes. Elena Walsh makes an excellent Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige, but my favorite is the one below.
2019 Kettmeir Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige-Süditrol, Italy
This wine came to our attention through the Wine Society at Savi Cucina and Wine Bar in Mount Pleasant. It was part of the monthly tasting lineup last November, and we have been keeping it on hand ever since. We are not alone in celebrating this wine as Wine Enthusiast listed it in their top 100 wines of 2020.
The color is straw yellow. It is clear and bright. The nose is overflowing with aromas of orchard fruits of pear and ripe apple with back notes of spring flowers and generic citrus. This wine has a richer texture than you will not find in many Pinot Grigio wines. This coming from time on the lees after fermentation. The palate is bright and fresh. Orchard fruits are present but take a backseat to more citrus and tropical fruits. The finish is mouthwatering as the tropical notes fade. AVB 13.5%
This wine is now available only as a special order from Savi, so you need to order it by the case but at $19.95 a bottle. It is worth the outlay of cash. Besides, how long does it take to run through 12 bottles of wine? Call them at (843) 606-1856 to get an order on its way.
Betcha Never Drank A White Pinot Noir
Yes, Pinot Noir is red wine. But what happens if you only lightly press the fruit, releasing the clear juice, and then discard the skins before they (the skins) add any coloration. And that would not take long given the dark blue-black skin color of ripe Pinot Noir.
Side Note: The same process happens for all Pinot Grigio white wines as their skin color is copper/red. And there is any prolonged skin contact (even an hour), Pinot Grigio turns Orange. (yes, orange wine is a thing)
White Pinot Noir is a relatively new phenomenon and, from my experience, is popular in Oregon as that is from where all that I have tasted are made. Some can end up with some reddish coloration, but to me, that is a rosé or a blush, not a white wine.
2019 “La Fleur” White Pinot Noir, Methven Family Vineyards,
Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
I first tasted this specific wine last March at a wine tasting that I hosted for the winery. I had tasted a few other White Pinots prior and really enjoyed drinking them. So when my friend Laura, from Methven Family Vineyards, mentioned that she would include it in the tasting she was doing, I was thrilled. It always sells out each year and is primarily sold to their wine club members. She even set aside seven cases for our tasters to order after the tasting as she knew it would be a big hit.
It was a big hit. A huge hit, as a matter of fact. But as it turned out, five of the cases set aside for us were mistakenly sold by someone at the winery, so that meant only 24 bottles remained to divide up for our tasters. It worked out. Everyone pared down their orders with the promise that we could order more when the next vintage was released.
That happened, and I could not be happier, as were several of my clients who put in case orders.
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir Dijon Clone 115 with no skin contact and fermented in 100% French Oak Barrels (75% Neutral Oak, 25% New Oak) and barrel-aged 10-11 months. AVB 13%
Expect a textured, full body with a huggable mouthfeel. Orchard fruits predominate on the nose and palate. These include Gala and Honeycrisp apple, pear, and white peach. The wine finishes with wonderful cleansing acidity. This is a white wine for folks that drink red wine and will be a favorite among Chardonnay and Marsanne-Roussane blends.
This wine sells directly from Methven Family Vineyards. Of the 62 cases made, less than 20 remain.
I guess I got carried away talking about these wines. Thus, I need to break the 2020 Favorites and Memorables into two posts. Stay tuned to the next post, which will include these wines below…
Rick & Gary
Next week’s 2020 Favorite and Memorable Wines
White Rhône Wines
Led Me Out of the Darkness!
2020 Favorite Pinot Noir
You Had Me at Pinot
Great Rosé Is Not Just From Provence Anymore
More Rosé if you missed the post last July.