Gems in My Glass . . . May 2020

Tasting Notes


Just days before the coronavirus shelter-in edicts were announced in March, I had the pleasure of judging the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition, under the capable hands of Chief Judge Rich Cook, and a team of hardworking, dedicated volunteers. Unbeknownst to us at the time, ten wine competitions scheduled to be held over the next four months would be cancelled. This competition remains a fond memory, judging and socializing with longtime colleagues and friends, swirling and sipping noteworthy wines. And what an honor it was to be named the recipient of the David Stevens Award!

My co-panelists this year were Master Sommelier Wayne Belding and winemaker Christian Roguenant; a cohesive and energetic panel! The wines noted below are among my favorites of our Gold and Platinum awards. Congrats to these, and all the winners this year. For a full list, visit

Macchia 2018 Luxurious Old Vine Zinfandel Rous Vineyard, Lodi: This Platinum winner opens with a captivating nose of fresh ripe berries and spice. On the palate, juicy black cherry, spiced berry compote and vanilla accents intertwine. Full bodied and rich yet finely balanced with a lingering finish. SRP: $30

Macchia 2018 Sumptuous Zinfandel, West Side Vineyard, Lodi: From head trained old vines comes this gem, another Platinum award for Macchia. The shimmering blackish-purple hue engages the eye, and the aroma screams ZIN! In the mouth, a melding of blackberries, ripe plums, savoriness, and roasted marshmallows; sumptuous indeed! SRP: $26

Luisi 2017 Chianti Riserva DOCG; Chianti, Tuscany Italy: The engaging nose of this Gold medal winning Chianti is irresistible, and drives you into the glass. Aromas and flavors of forest mushrooms, Montmorency cherries, smoke and spice glide smoothly across the palate with brilliant acidity and nice depth. SRP: $17.99

Navarro Vineyards 2018 Barbera, Mendocino: This splendidly textured Platinum winning Barbera was also awarded Best Barbera of the competition. Opening with a hint of lavender on the nose, it bursts onto the palate with luscious Bing cherry and raspberry fruit, subtle oak nuances, vanilla bean and a hint of fresh ground star anise. Well structured and balanced through the extended finish. SRP: $25

Navarro Vineyards 2018 Pinot Noir, Methode a l’Ancienne; Anderson Valley, Mendocino: Capturing Gold, this deeply flavored, magenta hued Pinot Noir is mouthwatering. Immaculately balanced with silky tannins and bright acidity, it displays layers of Sweetheart cherries, pomegranate, sandalwood, exotic spice, and hints of earthiness, and the finish is memorable. SRP: $35

Louis M. Martini 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley: Earning a Platinum award is this expressive, well structured Cab Sauv. Alluring aromas of mixed berries and hints of tobacco waft from the glass. Flavors of cassis, purple plum, spiced blackberry jam and underlying oak weave brilliant flavors on the palate, persisting through the long finish. SRP: $35

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2018 Grenache, Umpqua Valley, Oregon: This Gold medal winning wine leads off with a nose that fully engages the senses. Purity abounds as layers of fresh raspberries, nutmeg, hints of clove, and cocoa dusted strawberries flow seamlessly across the palate. Impeccably balanced with refined tannins, and a vibrant finale. SRP: $29

Breathless NV Blanc de Noirs, Sonoma County: Earning Gold is this lively sparkling wine crafted of 45% Pinot Noir; 42% Chardonnay 13% Pinot Meunier. A fragrance of rose petals and warm baked bread leads to broad flavors of strawberry, Rainier cherries, cranberry-apple, grated ginger, and nutmeg accents, and the tiny bubbles are endless. SRP: $32

McBride Sisters Collection Sparkling Brut Rosé, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand: This tantalizing Brut Rosé captured Platinum and Best Sparkling of the competition. Vibrant and expressive, with the fragrance of a bowl of berries and citrus blossom tickling the senses. Zingy, as juicy strawberries, mandarin orange, and hints of lemongrass light up the palate. SRP: $22.99

Talbott 2018 Kali Hart Chardonnay, Monterey: Securing Gold, this Chard offers up aromas of Golden Delicious apples and hints of toast; no doubt what’s in this glass! The palate mirrors the nose, with butter-sauteed apples and well-integrated oak joining spice and citrus accents. Creamy in texture, while the bright acidity keeps it beautifully balanced. SRP: $23