Editor's note: Sonoma County vintner Tom Simoneau has chosen his best red wines of 2019. This is the second of a two-part series.
Duckhorn Vineyards 2016 Rutherford, Napa Valley, $100. Duckhorn may have made its reputation with Merlot, but those of us in the know have always had our eyes on their Cabernet releases. So now the secret is out. With several Appellation-designated Cabs, you can have a tasting tour of the Napa Valley. This Rutherford Cab is a classic. Andre Tchelistcheff coined the phrase Rutherford dust, but I’ve never completely agreed. You can’t taste dirt. But with this wine, I see his point and you will too with one taste. Limited production. duckhorn.com
Soda Rock Winery 2017 Postmaster Reserve, Sonoma County, $42. Unfortunately the big story here is the Kincade Fire which burned Soda Rock Winery to the ground. But you can’t keep owners Ken and Diane Wilson down. The winery will be rebuilt and they are opening a Soda Rock tasting room in downtown Healdsburg. In the meantime, open up a bottle of this Postmaster Zin and toast Sonoma Strong. sodarockwinery.com
Paradise Ridge 2014 Russian River Valley, $38. The winery was destroyed in the 2017 Tubbs Fire and has just reopened. The view from the deck is great and so are their wines. A stop at Paradise Ridge in Santa Rosa is highly recommended. prwinery.com
Shone Farm Winery 2017 Russian River Valley, $18. The Santa Rosa Junior College Shone Farm Winery was established in 2008 by visionary educators and Sonoma County wine industry luminaries. It is still one of only three bonded wineries operating in the California Community College System. shonefarm.santarosa.edu/winery
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Benziger Family Winery 2016 Tribute, Sonoma Valley Estate, $85.This wine is a prime example of why red blends are so popular. It’s 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Malbec, 11% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. Made with Demeter Certified Biodynamic Grapes. benziger.com
Best Buy Red:
J. Lohr Winery 2017 Merlot Los Osos, Paso Robles, $15. Year in and year out the J. Lohr wines deliver some of the best values at all prices. This Merlot, which is blended with 16% Malbec, drinks like a $25 a bottle wine. Congratulations to Steve Peck and his winemaking team. jlohr.com
Kelley & Young 2016 Malbec, Alexander Valley, Robert Young Vineyards, $45. People have said you’ll find the best Malbecs from Argentina, but I say go taste this Kelley & Young. Husband-and-wife team Kathleen Kelley and Jim Young have created quite a business with their wine brand and tasting lounge, as well as The Wine Garden Inn in Cloverdale. kelleyyoungwines.com
Siduri 2016 Saralee’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley, $50. From long-time Pinot Noir super star winemaker, Adam Lee, this Pinot comes from the Expansion Block at Saralee’s where every other row is planted to a different clone. Do not miss this Pinot Noir. siduri.com
Winery of the Year:
J Vineyards & Winery. With the J Cuvee 20 being my sparkling wine of the year, that’s just a small tease as to what is happening at J. Purchased by E&J Gallo Winery in 2015, the brand continues to flourish under the new ownership. Winemaker Nicole Hitchcock oversees a portfolio that includes a Pinot Gris, a Vin Gris, six Chardonnays, 10 Pinot Noirs, and eight Sparklers. I was the lucky guy who got to taste most of them last month. The tasting room is a must stop as they have an in-house chef to pair these stunning wines with some very creative small plates. Congratulations to J Vineyards & Winery as my 2019 Winery of the Year. jwine.com
Cynthia Sweeney's top 5 most memorable stories of 2019
It's been a busy news year in Calistoga, so picking a handful of favorite stories can be tough. But here are five that stand out in my mind for a variety of reasons.
PG&E is taking Calistoga vineyard owner Terry Gard to court to seize a portion of his land for a natural gas plant.
How a column started out about the Kincade Fire and digressed into a diatribe about PG&E.
Susie's Bar in downtown Calistoga got into hot water with the city over an awning with a curvaceous silhouette.