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.
Dutcher Crossing 2014 Syrah, Hidden Hill Vineyard, Alexander Valley ($43) -- If more domestic syrah tasted like this, there would be a run on the grape. Dutcher Crossing has it dialed in with its 2014 Hidden Hill Vineyard Syrah from the Alexander Valley. Pretty aromas of blueberry, boysenberry and currant are complemented by the well-measured use of oak that lends just a hint of wood spice and virtually no bitter wood tannin. The balance is exquisite, and the finish is long and sensual. Rating: 96.
Kendall-Jackson 2014 Merlot, Vintner's Reserve, Sonoma County ($24) -- Longtime K-J winemaker Randy Ullom has done wonders with the vintner's reserve program, consistently crafting impressive wines despite the significant volumes. The 2014 Vintner's Reserve Merlot is an excellent example. Well-balanced and refined, it has an elegant mouthfeel, is very dry and shows nuances of red currants and plum. There is a touch of wood spice and beautifully integrated tannins. Rating: 93.
Le Volte 2015 Le Volte Dell'Ornellaia, Toscana IGT, Italy ($31) -- It has been apparent for a couple of decades that the Tuscany region in Italy is an exceptional location to plant merlot, particularly in the Maremma district west of Montalcino. This vintage of Le Volte is 67 percent merlot, with cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese making up the difference. The merlot provides the flesh; the cabernet provides the structure; and the sangiovese provides the bright acidity that allows this wine to soar. Notes of tart cherry and plum dominate on the front of the palate and lead to a spicy finish. Rating: 92.
Martini 2016 Prosecco DOC, Italy ($21) -- The trend in Prosecco in recent years has been toward the drier brut style, but the extra-dry vintage Prosecco from Martini is a stunner that's exquisitely balanced despite the greater dosage level. This is a bubbly with bright fruit aromas of green apple and lime, a creamy texture and a crisp finish. Rating: 92.
Penfolds 2015 Max's Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia ($25) -- This wine tribute to Max Schubert is shiraz-dominant, and it shows in the intense blueberry aroma on the front of the palate. Darker fruits such as blackberry emerge mid-palate, and the finish shows a touch of attractive wood spice. Well-balanced and inviting, this is a red that can be enjoyed now or savored and cellared easily for another six to 10 years. Rating: 90.
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