The Napa Valley winery V. Sattui is famous for its picnic grounds, perhaps the most inviting and comfortable winery picnic grounds in all of California. It gets attention, too, for its unique marketing plan. V. Sattui wines are sold only at the winery or through its website.
Then there are the wines. V. Sattui has achieved an enviable record of excellence on the wine competition circuit with an array of wines. And V. Sattui is nothing if not consistent. For the third consecutive year, it has been named domestic winery of the year at the Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition, staged Jan. 19-20 in San Diego, California.
Not only did V. Sattui amass 36 medals from 40 wines entered but it also claimed four best-of-class directors awards with its 2017 Collina d'Oro chardonnay ($40), 2016 grenache ($38), 2016 malbec ($44) and 2016 Gilsson Vineyard zinfandel ($42). Among V. Sattui's 36 medals, three were platinum, and 14 were gold.
Castello Banfi was equally impressive, capturing the honors for best foreign winery, though there were far fewer entries. Its crowning achievement was the 2015 SummuS ($69.99), a red Super Tuscan blend that won imported wine of the year alongside the 2015 Ledson Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon reserve ($150), which won domestic wine of the year. Each wine was awarded a score of 98 points.
The SummuS continues a strong run for Banfi, which was the 2018 "Wine Talk" foreign winery of the year. Banfi earned 11 medals, including one platinum, six gold and one silver.
Ledson's wine of the year award was only the beginning of its strong showing. It took medals with all four of the wines it entered and earned another top award when its 2015 Bellisimo was voted best Bordeaux-style blend.
For the record, the value wines of Barefoot Cellars and Barefoot Bubbly, which retail for between $6.99 and $9.99, scored 24 medals and racked up a major award when the Barefoot non-vintage riesling ($6.99) was awarded best of show dessert wine. This is a wine that Barefoot should be especially proud of given the volume of production and its consistent high quality.
Complete results can be found at WinemakerChallenge.com.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Caposaldo Prosecco Brut, Prosecco DOC, Italy ($15.99) — Prosecco is one of the fastest-growing segments of the wine industry, and it's easy to understand why. Quality, on the upswing over the past decade, is high and the price relatively low. That and the fact that more producers have embraced the brut style and moved away from the sweetness levels that turned off many consumers in the past. The Caposaldo shows notes of ripe apple with a fine mousse and a crisp, clean finish. Rating: 94.
Oak Farm Vineyards 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Lodi ($19) — Oak Farm white wines have been knocking it out of the park in recent vintages, and the 2018 sauvignon blanc is another home run. Showing bright notes of melon and citrus, this young wine is refreshing and clean and well-balanced, and exhibits good length. Rating: 94.
Navarro Vineyards 2017 Gewurztraminer, Estate, Anderson Valley ($22) — Showing an intensely floral nose with hints of spice, the Navarro dry gewurztraminer is a classic. Of course, that's nothing new for this exceptional family winery in the heart of the cool Anderson Valley. The 2017 is mouthwatering and fruity, showing notes of peach and apple, exquisite balance and an impressive finish. Rating: 96.
Barboursville 2015 Nebbiolo Reserve, Virginia ($34.99) — Barboursville makes just about the finest nebbiolo in North America, and the 2015 could well be its best ever. Firmly structured, it is true to type but with more flesh and richness than is typical. It shows aromas of cherry and wood spice with a subtle earthy note. This wine will no doubt improve with additional time in the cellar, but I wouldn't hesitate to serve it now. Rating: 95.
Lafond 2016 Pinot Noir, SRH, Santa Rita Hills ($28) — This is a sensational effort from Lafond, and it comes at a price that is simply dazzling. Showing exceptional fruit purity with exquisite structure and balance, the Lafond SRH has the chops to hang with pinot noir twice the price. Fleshy aromas of raspberry and cherry fairly jump out of the glass. With a burst of oak spice on the finish, this is a beautiful package at a beautiful price. Rating: 95.
Starfield 2016 Tempranillo, El Dorado ($25) — The warm, dry climate of California's Sierra Foothills is ideal for Mediterranean grape varieties like tempranillo, the money grape of Spain's Rioja region. Starfield does an exceptional job with this grape, and the 2016 is an impressive example. Perfectly ripe and beautifully balanced, it shows gorgeous red and black fruit notes, a touch of wood spice and smooth, supple tannins. Rating: 95.
Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com. Email Robert at [email protected]