Russ Winton: Wine List

Rebuilding Buena Vista tops best list

January is the month I like to revisit the 24 Wine Line columns I wrote the previous year. I do this to remember the good times the Navigator and I had tasting great wines, enjoying excellent food and meeting dedicated owner/winemakers from California’s beautiful wine country. Here, in my opinion, are some of the Best of 2014.

The Boisset Family Estates rebuilding the Buena Vista Winery and saving this historic winery from demolition is tops on my list. Jean Charles Boisset, who is in charge of his family’s California operations, oversaw the renovations and gets my vote for Man of the Year. Cheers to Peter Mondavi, president of Charles Krug Winery, for celebrating his 100th birthday. 2014 also marked the 50th anniversary of Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy, America’s first true red blend. It’s the perfect house red at a bargain price. Two of my favorite family wineries, Navarro and J. Lohr, turned 40 and continue to make outstanding wines at sensible prices.

The best new Valley winery award goes to Lucca Winery on River Road in San Joaquin County. If you like big reds, winemaker Mark Lucchesi, hits the mark with his sangiovese, carignane and mourvedre. Two new and well-designed Lodi wineries worth visiting are m2 Wines and LangeTwins Winery. The layout of the LangeTwins tasting room is unique and perfect for a tour and tasting. The m2 winery is a beautifully designed small winery with an open-air tasting room. The tasting room with the best view goes to Skinner Vineyards in Fair Play. The view and their medal-winning grenache are terrific.

The best new wine walk (Yes, Murphys is hard to beat), is Sutter Creek. There’s plenty of parking, 10 tasting rooms and half a dozen excellent restaurants. Second place goes to the Avila Beach Wine Trail with five tasting rooms. Driving the Pacific Coast Wine Trail from Cayucos to San Simeon was a real treat. There are seven tasting rooms with plenty of places to eat or picnic or just enjoy the view. The best wine deal of the year goes to Grocery Outlet for carrying the 2008 Columbia Winery Syrah ($4.99) and the 2008 Three Rivers Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.99). My unofficial tasting panel gave these aged reds a “Buy All You Can” rating. Four wine country restaurants we always seem to return to are Il Cortile in Paso Robles, The Fremont Diner and the Girl and the Fig in Sonoma County and Taste in Plymouth.

And finally, the best reader emails I received in 2014 were those who confessed to putting ice in their red wine. I love it. Good for you. Drink what you like. Here’s to 2015. Cheers!

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