It would be difficult, perhaps even impossible, to overstate the brilliance of the Napa Valley's V. Sattui Winery. Situated along Highway 29 in Saint Helena, in the heart of the Napa Valley, the V. Sattui picnic grounds have been a magnet for wine enthusiasts over the past few decades. The idyllic setting aside, the wines of V. Sattui are, and always have been, the main attraction.
That point was underscored once again this past weekend at the 12th annual Sommelier Challenge in San Diego. A gathering of 15 prominent sommeliers from across the nation, including three master sommeliers, evaluated roughly 1,000 wines. They were tasked with awarding worthy wines a platinum (the top award), gold or silver medal.
The tasting was blind, meaning producer names, vineyard or reserve designations, and prices were not disclosed to the judges. V. Sattui entered 30 wines. In a stunning performance, every wine but one earned a medal. The scorecard read five platinum, 17 gold and 7 silver awards. Its top-scoring wine was the 2016 Mount Veeder cabernet sauvignon with 97 points.
Here's the rub: Don't think you can run down to your favorite wine shop and purchase any of V. Sattui's delicious wines. They are only sold at the winery or over the internet!
For a complete list of the V. Sattui wines and all of the other Somm Challenge winners, visit SommelierChallenge.com. Director's awards for best of show, best of class, wine of the year and winery of the year will be posted later in the week.
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.
Cameron Hughes 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon-Petit Verdot, Cesseras Pays d'Oc, France ($13) — If you love good wine at a great price and don't know Cameron Hughes, you're missing out on one of the greatest treasures the wine industry has to offer. Cameron Hughes buys up odd lots that failed to make the cut for the final blend at top-notch wineries and sells them under his own name at a fraction of the price they would have fetched under the wineries' labels. This Bordeaux-style blend from France is a beautiful example. It delivers excellent concentration of flavor and shows notes of red currant and cassis, supple tannins, a delicate note of wood spice and a long finish — all at an amazing price. Rating: 94.
Banfi 2015 Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, Italy ($19.99) — This famous producer from Tuscany's Montalcino district has staked out a position in the neighboring Chianti region and found remarkable success there. The beauty in that is the price. The excellent Chianti wines from Banfi sell for a fraction of the price of Brunello and are exceedingly drinkable when young. The 2015 Riserva exhibits notes of black cherry and spice, moderate tannins and wonderful balance. Rating: 94.
Cupcake Prosecco Extra Dry, Prosecco DOC, Italy ($15.99) — Cupcake prosecco is an excellent example of the extra-dry style, which, ironically, is actually slightly sweeter than the brut style. This latest release from Cupcake is smooth and fresh on the palate, shows luscious notes of stone fruit and spice, and finishes crisp and clean. Rating: 93.
Marques de Caceres 2015 Excellens Cuvee Especial, Rioja Crianza DOCa, Spain ($19.99) — This lovely crianza is 100 percent tempranillo. It shows excellent depth and palate weight for a crianza, with notes of earthy black cherry and blueberry, dusty tannins and excellent balance. It's sure to improve with another few years in the cellar. Rating: 92.
Tom Eddy 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($150) — Tom Eddy favors cabernet that makes a statement, and the 2013 Napa Valley cab from this impressive house does so with an exclamation mark. The 2013 vintage is rich and powerful, with firm tannins that bode well for exceptional longevity as this brilliant wine makes the long, slow journey to full maturity. On the palate, the wine shows complex layers of blackberry and cassis as well as a complex note of graphite/lead pencil. Though only in its infancy, this wine is enjoyable now and is one to hold for another 10 years — and probably longer, for a reward worth waiting for. Rating: 98.
McIlroy Cellars 2018 Chardonnay, Aquarius Ranch Vineyard, Russian River Valley ($34.99) — The new style of California chardonnay is actually an old style that has been given new life. McIlroy's Aquarius Ranch chardonnay is on board with the new style, which means it shows balance and restraint without sacrificing the charming aromas (lemon, apple and pear) that make chardonnay one of the world's most popular white wines. This vintage expresses notes of lemon oil and apple, a touch of wood spice and a firm structure that bodes well for improvement in the cellar. Rating: 95.
Eberle 2017 Sangiovese, Paso Robles ($36) — Sangiovese is the secret gem in the excellent Eberle stable of wines, secret because it is often overshadowed, and thus overlooked, by the winery's success with cabernet sauvignon and syrah. This wine sails along under the radar, making friends everywhere it lands. The native grape of Tuscany thrives in the dry, warm climate of Paso Robles. Eberle's expression highlights the pure black cherry fruit of sangiovese coupled with an exceptional acid/sugar balance. The vintage builds momentum in the glass and is an outstanding match for grilled meats and pasta dishes prepared with a red sauce. Rating: 94.
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]