Top 25 Wines of 2022!

Another crazy year has ended, however hopefully the world continues to get  less crazy in the next.  As in 2021, it was very different than a normal year, as the large wine tastings and festivals are really just starting to come back, and instead of sampling 600-800 wines, our field of view was once again smaller.  This year it was in the neighborhood of 300-400. Some make a more memorable impression, and from those we present our 25 top wines from the past year.

Number 1 for 2022!

As always this is based solely on our opinions, and we only have a staff of two.  Value is the primary driver here, but having said that there are always wines that are simply too sublime not to include, even though they might strain the budget a bit. Our self-imposed limit is $100, however this list is comfortably in the affordable category and tremendous value bottles abound.  You’ll find one for under $10, and many under $20.  We made a November trip to Sonoma and Napa Valleys and visited 10 wineries/producers, and those are well represented here also.  As 2023 begins we look forward to many more opportunities to taste the best values the world has to offer.

Here are the wines.  If you click on a highlighted wine’s name you’ll go to the detailed review.  If there is no link associated with the wine, then the review for that wine is not published yet, but we’ll update this list when it does.

1. 2018 Foppiano Gianna’s Block Petite Sirah – this is a single block wine, located next to the Foppiano tasting room outside patio.  It is named after current owner Paul Foppiano’s daughter Gianna.  After fermentation it was aged in tight grain, new oak barrels, 50% French and 50% American.  The juice is very dark, opaque purple red.  On the nose you get mostly red fruit, with vanilla and a hint of oak.  It’s a rich nose, followed by an equally rich, full bodied experience in the mouth.  The fruit core just courses through this wine, right up to the long finish.  This is one excellent Petite Sirah.  At $48 is is also a ridiculous value, especially when you consider wine club members get it for even less.  Wow!

2. 2018 Paradigm Cabernet Sauvignon –  medium dark ruby in color, this has a nose full of berry fruit and a touch of tobacco.  The juice is full bodied but refined, with a focused fruit core.  That core flows through the mid-palate right to the end.  A pretty wine, also elegant and refined but firm and substantial at the same time.  It finishes long and has a very long life ahead of it.  90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 4% Petite Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc.  Beautiful wine.  Right at the $100 mark, less for wine club members.  This has sold out at this point, which is a reason we are likely joining their wine club in the spring.

3. 2018 Quinta do Vallado Douro Sousao – this wine is 100% Sousao, which is not aSousao 2018 varietal you’ll find a lot of outside of Portugal. The wine is aged for 16 months in 40% new oak, 60% once used. It was all foot trodden for 5 days. This is traditional, totally indigenous, and a classic example of a purely Portuguese wine.  The wine is a dark purple red an opaque. The nose is rich with balsamic, dark fruits (plum predominant) and tobacco. It is full bodied, mouth coating and complex, with a long finish. This is a worthy wine equal to top shelf bottles of international varieties from anywhere in the world. It is pretty great.  SRP of $54.99, and that is a value for something like this.

4. 2016 Verbena Brunello di Montalcino – From a family owned and operated winery, this juice is medium dark red trending toward garnet.  The nose is huge, and delivers waves of black cherry and berry aromas accented with tobacco leaf, some herbs and spice as well as orange peel.  On the palate it is full bodied, with refreshing acid and a keen balance.  The wine has an energy to it now, and is exuberant in its youth.  Brisk tannins will soften with time.  On the palate the fruit core is just beautiful and is really the hallmark of this wine, at least right now. It should age effortlessly and for a long time.  Delicious now and perfect for cellaring, this is a great Brunello.  $40

5. 2018 Benza Vineyards Three Tuxedos Pinot Noir – this is the flagship wine from Benza Vineyards.  All five of the Pinot Noir clones in the estate vineyards are represented here, and only the very best barrels are selected for this wine.  It is aged in 40% new French Oak.   The nose is resplendent with red and black fruit, although more toward the red side.  We got cherry, raspberry and currant as well as orange peel, vanilla, leather, oak and the traditional earthiness that frequently results in the comparison of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir to red Burgundy.  This is seriously complex.  It is just full bodied now, with medium tannins.  There is a great energy to the wine, and the acid is very present which balances out the wine beautifully.  It is rich and lively at the same time.   Priced at the winery at $68, less for club members, it is very much worth it, and compares favorably with the aforementioned red Burgundy.  You’d expect to pay a lot more for Burgundy at a similar quality level.

6. 2018 Foppiano Estate Zinfandel – This has a medium, ruby red color and a bright nose of raspberries, other red berries and spice.  It is medium+ in body with nice texture.  Beautifully balanced, the fruit hides the alcohol in a pretty big wine that doesn’t overly announce its presence.  The core of fruit is just spectacular.  It is delicious in every way, and at the price point you just don’t expect this much.  This is superior at $28.

7.  2018 Canard Vineyard Thowback – incorporating all five of the estate red grapes, this wine is primarily CabernetIMG_1566 Sauvignon, and the 2015 version was our top wine of the year from 2019.  We loved it then and we love it now.  Medium dark ruby in color, the juice presents dark fruit including currants and blackberry.  It is rich and full bodied, balanced, elegant and very long.  This wine exudes quality.  $85

8. 2019 Paradigm Merlot – the original Merlot vines at Paradigm were cuttings from Chateau Petrus in Bordeaux.  This vintage is a medium ruby red, with a nose of red and black fruit.  Cherry and plum flavors of remarkable purity support a rich palate.  There;s a touch of anise and other spice.  It is full bodied with medium+tannins.  Elegant, balanced, not overworked and simply gorgeous.  90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  $68

9. 2021 Turnbull Josephine Sauvignon Blanc – making this wine requires tremendous effort, as the grapes are picked in three different rounds.  They come from the Fortuna Vineyard and the Home Vineyard.  Fermentation occurs in a combination of stainless steel, concrete, terracotta and oak.  The result is a wonderfully fruity wine, full of tropical fruit aromas and flavors.  You also get some peach and white flowers.  It’s incredibly smooth, fresh, and surprisingly long.  Impeccable quality here.  $50

10. 2018 Los Vascos Cromas Cabernet Sauvignon – Los Vascos was started in 1988,Los Vascos 2018 and is a venture by the indomitable Lafite Rothschild of Bordeaux.  This particular wine is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah and 5% Carmenere.  The Lafite team treats this wine with the same care they would show their Bordeaux First Growth.  The juice is fermented in stainless, and after malolactic fermentation is completed, 50% of the wine goes into French oak for 12 months.  Medium ruby in color, this wine benefited from some time after opening.  On the second day it showed red and black berries, some cherry, macerated strawberry, herbs and floral notes on the nose.  It is just full bodied, with good acidity and freshness.  The fruit core maintains throughout the long finish.  This is excellent.  $22

11.  2019 Clif Family Gewurtztraminer – this wine is delightful.  Pale straw in color, the juice is complex on the nose but restrained at the same time.  Fruit aromas are coupled with floral notes and some herbs.  It is dry, and very precise in the mouth.  This is so refined and belies it 14% alcohol, you just don’t feel that.  We love it.  $32

12. NV Acquesi Asti Spumante –  this is a very pale golden color.  The nose has pear, hawthorne, honeycomb and some spice.  This has some noticeable sweetness, and is clean and fresh.  It is just a lovely wine, delicious and beautifully made, not to mention an incredible value. $12

13. 2019 Laurel Glen Counterpoint Cabernet Sauvignon – made from primarily estate grapes, this wine is 83% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17% Merlot.  It is aged in 40% new oak (30% French and 10% American).  The juice has a rich, dark ruby color.  Dark berries dominate the nose, along with accents of menthol, oak and caramel.  On the palate the wine is full bodied, with a great fruit core and balancing acid.  It has focus, and that fruit core is everything.  Medium+ tannins suggest this will age a long time.  This is an excellent Sonoma Mountain Cabernet, and a great value too at $55.

14. 2018 Ferrari-Carano Siena – this wine is primarily Sangiovese, with smaller amounts of Malbec, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon added.  It presents a nose of red and black fruits, including plum and berry.  There is a lot of complexity here, as oak, leather and herbal notes chime in.  It is a full bodied wine, with medium+ tannins and a palate that matches the nose.  You get the fruit, the oak, the herbs and a long finish.  Alcohol checks in at 14.5%.  At the end some mocha and charred oak makes an appearance.  With some air time this actually becomes more fruit focused, and smoother.  It’s very good and quite complex.  $25

15. 2018 Schug Carneros Pinot Noir Sangiacamo Vineyard – this wine has a deeper color, as well asIMG_1423 rich aromas and flavors.  It is also aged for 16 months in French oak.  Black cherry plays off oak, bramble, a hint of tar and spice. It is medium+ in body, long and quite excellent.  This is a really nice bottle, showing great complexity balanced with pure fruit. $52

16. 2017 Sola Provus Cabernet Sauvignon – dark ruby in color, this wine has huge legs in the glass and a rich, complex nose.  Currant, mint, anise, vanilla, tobacco, caramel and cedar are all in play.  It is full bodied and rich.  On the palate you get red berry and cherry, along with some herbs.  The balance is excellent, and medium+ tannins frame the wine nicely.  We paid $40 on a crazy sale price so we include it.  The winery price was $110.

17. 2019 Il Casato Red Blend – the wine is a ruby color, trending towards garnet.  The nose was closed down at first but opened up with air time to reveal red plum, some berries and some orange hints.  It is medium+ bodied, with red and black fruit on the palate, more than the nose had promised.  It is smooth and integrates and deepens as it sits in the glass.  This is pretty delicious stuff, and one of the more extreme values we ran into last year.  $12

18. 2016 Bodegas Manzanos Voché Rioja Reserva – Dark red in color, this wine has a rich nose filled with dark fruits, tobacco/cigar box, leather and vanilla. There are herbal notes as well. It’s complex in a classic Rioja way. On the palate it is full bodied and very smooth. The medium+ tannins are sweet and integrated.     A long finish caps off a really nice bottle of classic Rioja juice. This is very good. A blend of Tempranillo with some Graciano,it was aged for 24 months in French oak, half new and half second year barrels.  $18

19. 2018 Chateau Soutard-Cadet – this wine from St. Emilion on the Right Bank of Bordeaux is a dark purple red in color.  The nose is black currant, graphite, tobacco with some herbal notes.  It smells decadent.  On the palate it is a rich, mouth coating wine.  Deep fruit flavors highlight dark berry.  Medium+ tannins provide backbone.  Some caramel and a hint of mint join the party.  It has a super long finish.  This is a delicious wine right now, and it should age effortlessly for quite some time.  $40

20. 2018 Frescobaldi Nippozzano Reserva – this is from a small, high altitude subzone of Chianti generally considered to rival Chianti Classico in quality.  The wine is a medium dark cherry red in color with a bright, cherry dominated nose.  There is also cedar and leather.  On the palate it is fairly tannic, with bright cherry fruit and a long, somewhat lean finish.  This is still very young and will smooth out with a couple of years in bottle, but we like it now as well.  It is a perfect pizza wine, or you can dress it up with a wild boar ragout.  Very nice, more rustic style.  $20

21. 2016 Ego Bodegas Goru 18M –  this is a blend of Monastrell (70%), Syrah (20%) and Petit Verdot (10%) from Jumilla in Spain. While it is already five years old, the color is vibrant, a dark purplish red.  The nose is big and inviting.  There is currant and blackberry, and a little cherry too.  Oak notes and orange peel add to the complexity.  This is complex.  It’s also quite tannic, but very approachable now.  Brisk acid keeps the balance and allows the beautiful fruit core to flow throughout the experience.   It’s got the balanced edge of a good Sagrantino, but not quite the bracing acid.  This is very, very good.  We paid $30 in another great sale, but it was originally $85

22. 2020 Liebe Winemaker’s Collection Riesling – The wine is a light golden color.  A bright nose of apple, grapefruit and lemon is followed by a very smooth and off dry wine.  There is a tiny hint of petrol, but this is fruit driven.  On the palate it is clean and refreshing, with a long finish.  It will go very well with spicy food, and seafood, and presents a somewhat unbelievable value.  $7

23. 2017 Cecilia Beretta Amarone della Valpolicella –a wine with a rich nose of berries, orange peel, vanilla and a touch of wood.  Raspberry was prominent.  It did not have the overripe, raisiny notes that Amarones can have.  That is fine with us, as it is not our favorite style.  This juice is full bodied, just, with a good core of fruit.  Medium tannins are well integrated.  There is a nice balance overall, and it stays fresh through the long finish.  This would pair well with pasta or an Osso Buco.  Very nice all around, and a really good value.  $22

24. 2020 Corvezzo Prosecco Rose – A pale, goldish pink in color, the wine brings strawberry and citrus notes, along the lines of a tangerine or clementine.  It is brisk and vibrant on the palate, very clean and fresh and quite fruity.  The finish is clean and long and sums up a really impressive prosecco.  It drinks almost like a Champagne, with class and elegance.  You get a firestorm of bubbles in the glass, which are very persistent.  Beautiful wine, with a quality level that goes so far beyond its price.  Great value and very highly recommended.  $13

25. 2019 Ventisquero ‘Grey’ Sauvignon Blanc – this is the desert wine, from the Atacama Valley.  It is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, taken from Block 22 on the first terrace next to the Huasco River.  The juice is a very pale yellow with a greenish hue, with a bright nose filled with citrus along with some herbal and spice notes.  There are hints of white flowers.  A smooth entry leads to a citrus filled palate with lemon and lime.  Some salinity does come through at the end, but it is subtle.  It finishes with great acid and a super long finish.  This is pretty exceptional, top quality and a stunning value at $25.

There are so many great values on this list it is impossible to go wrong.  Whether you like red or white, robust or elegant, modern or rustic, there is something that will impress.  Obviously there are hundreds of other wines which could have made the list, but you have to draw the line somewhere.  There are also a number of wines which would be at or near the top of this list from a quality perspective, but which don’t meet our $100 limit.  Many are from our recent trip to Napa and Sonoma.  You can start that journey by clicking here.

Here’s wishing you a great 2023!  There are so any wines to discover.

A votre santé!