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For the Love of Merlot

Robert Whitley on

Bridlewood Estate Winery 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles ($15) -- If you're on a budget but you don't want to settle for mediocre, this vintage of Bridlewood cabernet sauvignon is just what the doctor ordered. It's fleshy, juicy and complex, showing red and dark fruits, wood spice and supple tannins. It's perfect for that tailgate party with tri-tip and barbecued baby back ribs! Rating: 90

Donnafugata 2015 Sedara, Sicily, Italy ($16) -- Even at the entry level, Donnafugata simply doesn't make bad wine. The 2015 sedara blend (mostly composed of nero d'avola) is a fruity, delicious companion to pasta dishes, smoky barbecued meats or with savory cheeses. It shows juicy blue fruits with a subtle whiff of black pepper. And the price is right. Rating: 87.

Tasting Notes

Gloria Ferrer 2010 Anniversary Cuvee, Carneros ($40) -- Gloria Ferrer's sparkling wines have been on a decade-long roll, so hardly anything it does surprises. The latest and greatest from the team is the 2010 Anniversary Cuvee that was aged for more than five years prior to disgorgement and is priced remarkably low (for this genre of bubbly) at $40. So, what's in the bottle? It's a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, top-heavy on the pinot, and it's a major triumph: fresh and inviting, yet toasty and mysterious, with complex layers that show notes of pear and spice. With exceptional depth and impressive length, this is immediately one of California's most formidable sparkling wines, a worthy alternative to more expensive vintage Champagne. Rating: 96.

Penner-Ash 2015 Old-Vine Riesling, Hyland Vineyard, McMinnville, Oregon ($35) -- The cult of minerality is on full display with this beautifully crafted old-vine riesling from Oregon. On the nose, it shows a breathtaking wet-stone minerality that is rare in domestic riesling. On the palate, the wine is bone-dry and exhibits complex aromas of tropical fruit, dried apricot and spice. The finish lingers impressively. It's gorgeous now but most certainly a wine that will reach new heights with significant age. Rating: 95.


Clos du Val 2015 Pinot Noir, Gran Val Vineyard, Carneros ($60) -- This stunner from Clos du Val is dazzling on the nose and delicious on the palate, exhibiting intense red cherry aromas complemented by a touch of wood spice. Tannins are supple and sweet. The exquisite balance of this wine suggests it will age nicely, although I would hardly frown upon immediate consumption. Rating: 94.

Donnafugata 2016 Grillo 'SurSur,' Sicilia DOC, Italy ($20) -- Donnafugata excels with white wines, perhaps because it is situated on the cooler side of the island. The SurSur grillo is remarkably fresh and zesty, with simple but delicious yellow-fruit aromas and an intriguing savory note on the finish. It's an excellent match for grilled or roasted fish, or savory Mediterranean tapas. Rating: 90.


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



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