Editor’s note: Sonoma County vintner Tom Simoneau has chosen his best white wines of 2020. This is the first of a two-part series.
Iron Horse Vineyards 2016 Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs, Green Valley, $55.
This sparkling wine is a limited edition bottling. Iron Horse gives $4 a bottle to National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative. Crisp, delicate, nice and dry. This 100% Chardonnay Sparkler is just that — “sparkling” bubbles with a cause.
Clos Pegase 2018 Carneros Napa Valley, Mitsuko’s Vineyard, Estate Grown, $30.
From this iconic Napa Valley winery, this wine with its classic cool region Chardonnay flavors of peach, apple, and pear shows how this varietal grown in the right place can produce an almost perfect wine. The vineyard, 365 acres in size, takes its name from founder Jan Shrem’s late wife.
J. Lohr Estates 2019 Flume Crossing, Arroyo Seco, Monterey, $14.
The blend is entirely from the Sauvignon Musque Clone picked over a month’s time at different ripeness levels. Early picks give bright acidity and key lime flavors while more ripeness gives grapefruit and passion fruit. And the final pick achieves mango and fig notes, complex and delicious. Another terrific release from J. Lohr, one of California’s finest.
Off Dry White
Dry Creek Vineyard 2019 Dry Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, $16.
Congratulations to founder Dave Stare and his family for continuing to produce Chenin Blanc while other wineries gave it the “Sideways” treatment (i.e. anything but Merlot). This slightly sweet wine is perfect as a summer sipper, showing bright mouth feel, all orange blossom and candied lemon.
Priest Ranch Wines 2018 Grenache Blanc, Napa Valley, Estate Grown, $22.
Not familiar with Grenache Blanc? It’s an aromatic white wine. Think biting into a ripe white peach and as the juice runs down your chin, lick it all up. The taste is bracing, yet balanced. It’s intoxicating! The Priest Ranch is now part of the 1,615-acre Somerston Estate, of which 215 acres is planted to grapes. Also available in 375ml cans — 6 packs $60.
Best Value White
Inama 2019 Vin Soave, DOC Classico, $16.
This product of Italy’s Veneto region is 100% Garganega. How many new friends have you made this year? Well, I say this Vin Soave could be your new best friend. The flavors are a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc with a hint of Viognier, a crowd-pleaser.
Most Fun Wine
Prosecco by Korbel, D.O.C. Sparkling Wine Product of Italy, 187ml bottles, $5.25.
Korbel, always a trend-setter, now has a full line of mini-bottles. Pop the top (unscrew), insert a straw, and you’re good to go. Prosecco is a screaming category of sparkling wine accounting for $1 in every $5 spent. Prosecco facts: made in the Charmat process, tank-fermented from the Glera grape grown in the Veneto in North Eastern Italy.
Inman Family 2019 Endless Crush, Rosé of Pinot Noir, OVG (Olivet Grange Vineyard), Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, $38.
The word delicate defines this wine. From its delicate pink color to its delicate pink kiss on your palate. All watermelon and wild strawberry … delicate and delicious. Kathleen Inman is a master winemaker who happens to be a woman.
Tenuta di Capezzana Vin Santo di Carmignano, D.O.C. Riserva, 375 ml bottle, $70.
Among the oldest wine estates in Tuscany, Capezzana has been producing wine since 804 A.D. This Carmignano is made from mainly Trebbiano. The grapes are dried for several months, then fermented and aged for more than five years in wooden casks. It is considered one of the best sweet wines in the world. Sherry in color, nutty with candied apricots in taste. The finish is neverending. If you can find it, buy it. You’ll be thanking me.
Book of the Year
“French Wine, A History” by Rod Phillips
University of California Press
From the Greeks and Romans, the Black Death, the Classification of 1855, Phylloxera, and two world wars, do you need all this information? If you’re a wine guy … you do!
WATCH NOW: THE WINES OF ROUSSILLION
PHOTOS: HOLIDAY WINE BARREL TOUR IN ST. HELENA