Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: Cheers to Justin and 2015!

Goodbye, 2015. Twenty-four columns and – whoosh – it’s gone. What winey things were important? I confess I have to go back and re-read all 24.

With highlighter in hand, I get to decide what I think was the best of 2015, including the 10 best-value red wines of the year. Here were my favorite wine stories:

1. Justin Vineyards & Winery was named the 2015 American Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine. The Paso Robles winery will be presented with the award at the annual Wine Star Gala on Jan. 25 in New York City. The prestigious Star Award is huge for the Paso Robles region, the winery and for founder Justin Baldwin. The award comes on the 25th anniversary of its flagship brand, Isosceles.

2. Meiomi Wines sold its brand (yes, just the label) for $315 million to Constellation Brands.

3. The 2015 harvest was very early, quick, had light tonnage but exceptional quality.

4. Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Best value 2015 reds

Readily available and an outstanding quality to price at $6.29, the 2012 Columbia Crest Merlot was my favorite red wine of 2015. It’s a bargain and terrific house wine. Other reds on my list are; the 2013 Hahn GSM, the 2013 McManis Barbera, the 2012 Louie Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2013 Coppola Rosso & Bianco Rosso, the 2013 Dry Creek Heritage Vines Zinfandel, the 2012 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2013 Seaglass Santa Barbara Pinot Noir, the 2012 Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel and the 2013 Famille Perrin Cotes Du Rhone Reserve. All but one, are under $10.

Best of the rest

Best picnic spot: The Beauregard picnic area in the Santa Cruz Mountains is in a beautiful stand of giant redwood trees. It is mystical and magical, or maybe just the wine talking?

Best wine party: The Bokisch wine pick-up party with amazing food, wine, terrific hosts and yes, I am a member.

Best new wine event: The Amador Four Fires Festival, a great all-day food and wine party which is returning on May 7.

Best wine event: Amador Vintners’ Behind the Cellar Door, a wine weekend for just $50 with food, wine, music, tours, classes coming up March 5 and 6.

Best uncrowded wine regions to visit: San Luis Obispo and El Dorado are regions that produce great wines, are seldom crowded and always welcome you with a smile.


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