20-Year Aged Sherry Impresses Somms

By Robert Whitley

October 1, 2019 6 min read

Sherry, a fortified wine from Spain, is produced in styles ranging from dry to remarkably sweet. Master sommelier Robert Smith sat on the panel that evaluated the sherries entered at the 12th annual Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition Sept. 21-22 in San Diego, awarding a platinum medal to the stunning 20-year-old Don Guido Pedro Ximenez from Williams & Humbert.

This beauty is very sweet and complex, but what really stood out, in Smith's opinion, was the "beautiful acidity." And that, indeed, is the fascination with sweet sherry: fresh acidity that cuts through the sweetness and delivers a clean, palate-refreshing finish. The Don Guido is a classic and went on to be named import wine of the year at the 2019 sommelier challenge.

I reviewed this monumental wine in this week's tasting notes and awarded it a hefty score of 98 points. On the domestic side, two superb red wines, the 2013 Tom Eddy cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley and the 2016 Ledson cabernet sauvignon from Alexander Valley, tied for wine of the year, a sweetness in its own way.

Complete results including best of show and best of class awards can be found at SommelierChallenge.com.

Best Value

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.

Wakefield 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Clare Valley, Australia ($20) — The Clare, as the Aussies call it, produces red wines of elegance, and that is evident in this delightful cab from Wakefield. Well balanced and smooth, it offers a distinct palate of red-fruit aromas with a touch of eucalyptus and spice on the finish. Rating: 93.

Berryessa Gap 2018 'Alegria' Rose of Tempranillo, Yolo County ($4.75) — The wine-in-a-can phenomenon has arrived at the sommelier challenge! Presented in a 250 milliliter can, this beauty exhibits notes of wild cherry and strawberry, excellent balance and impressive persistence through the finish. Judges at the 12th annual sommelier challenge awarded it a well-deserved platinum medal. Rating: 92.

Dark Horse Double Down Red Blend, California ($10) — This is an easy-drinking red that shows exceptional red-fruit intensity with a touch of sweetness and soft, smooth tannins. Pair this wine with baby back ribs off the grill or a sweet/savory pulled pork. Rating: 91.

Tasting Notes

Ledson 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Vineyard, Alexander Valley ($100) — Winemaker Steve Ledson has his namesake winery firing on all cylinders these days. Witness this awe-inspiring cabernet sauvignon from Sonoma's Alexander Valley. Richly layered, the cab from Ledson's estate vineyard in the valley offers remarkable depth and impressive complexity. With notes of cassis and blackberry and firm tannins, it has the structure to improve with age over the next decade or more, although it's perfectly enjoyable right now. What's most impressive is that it's just another hit in a long line of hits from Ledson over the past few years. Rating: 98.

Williams & Humbert 'Don Guido' 20-Year-Old Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Spain ($49.99) — The Don Guido 20-year-old from Williams & Humbert is a monumental Pedro Ximenez, rich and viscous and remarkably complex. This expression of Pedro Ximenez shows intense notes of coffee, ripe date, toffee and brown sugar. Despite the sweetness, the balance is exquisite and the finish clean and refreshing. Rating: 98.

Marques de Caceres 2014 Rioja Reserva DOCa, Spain ($30.99) — Richly layered and smooth, the reserve from Marques de Caceres in this vintage is a beautiful example of Rioja at its best. Complex and weighty, it delivers a burst of dark fruit on the front of the palate, with an expansive middle and exceptional length on the finish. The oak sits in the background and doesn't dominate. With its firm tannins and exquisite balance, this is a Rioja for anyone patient enough to wait to cellar for another 10 to 15 years. Rating: 97.

Davis Bynum 2016 Chardonnay, River West Vineyard, Russian River Valley ($25) — The Davis Bynum River West chard from this vintage is one of the great values in California chardonnay. Rich and mouth-filling without going flabby, it shows notes of lemon creme, pear and apple, and a dollop of fall spice that carries through the finish. Rating: 94.

Gary Kramer Guitar Cellars 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estrella District, Paso Robles ($39) — Rich and dense, this 100 percent cab from Gary Kramer Guitar Cellars demonstrates why Paso is cab country. On the nose, it is all floral and spice, which follows on the palate. Full-bodied and juicy aromas of blackberry and currant dominate, with supple drink-me-now tannins and a lush finish that begs another sip. Rating: 94.

Rodney Strong 2018 Upshot, California ($28) — This dry white blend from Rodney Strong is not only delicious; it's great fun. The combination of chardonnay, grenache blanc, gewurztraminer, pinot noir, viognier and sauvignon blanc will keep you guessing with each sip. Yes, white wine can be made from a red grape, such as pinot noir. The aromas apparent in Upshot, from honeysuckle to pear to granny smith apple and on and on, deliver unparalleled complexity and pleasure. 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]

Photo credit: volkerschoen at Pixabay

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