Home » Wine Reviews by Denman Moody

Great Values at All Prices


Paolo Damilano, owner of the Damilano winery in Piedmont, Italy.

Paolo Damilano, owner of the Damilano winery in Piedmont, Italy.

Some Almost Too Good To Be True!

White Wines

Meiomi Chardonnay 2013 — I don’t usually quote the winery, but these comments from the back label are right on: 49 percent Santa Barbara County, “exotic spice and lively tropical fruit notes,” 30 percent Sonoma County, “crisp apple and lean minerality,” 21 percent Monterey County, “ripe stone fruit core and round creamy texture.” From the Wagner family of Caymus fame, a steal at $20.

Patz & Hall Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard Carneros 2012 — From low-yielding Hyde-Wente clones, this is an almost perfect Chardonnay. Persistent, elegance with charm, class and minerality. A tour de force by winemaker James Hall. $60

Other Excellent Whites: Livio Felluga Vertigo — 80 percent Chardonnay, 20 percent Ribolla Gialla. 12.5 percent alcohol, $15; Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2013 — Hard to find anything by famous, flying winemaker Hobbs at this price. Tremendous value at $23; Arietta White Keys 2012 and 2013 — very limited production. Impressive and unique. Each $60.

Red Wines

Some almost too good to be true!!!

Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva 2011 — Some predominantly Sangiovese wines from Tuscany produce a wine that is a little harsh to the American palate, especially without food. Acidic with too little fruit. But when paired with Italian pastas with tomato sauce and olive oil, watch out! This Monsanto does not have this problem. In fact, it is one of the most delicious Chianti Classico Riservas by itself that I have come across. And fabulous with the aforementioned foods! A tremendous find! $25

The Prisoner 2013 — This special wine is an unlikely blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Charbono, primarily from Calistoga and Yountville vineyards. The intriguing label is Francisco de Goya’s etching from the 1800s, “El Prisionero.” The wine is also intriguing and a great value. I would try with meat pizzas, cheeseburgers or a big steak with blue cheese dressing! $32

Wolffer Estate Lambardo Merlot 2011 — The Wolffer Estate and Stables was established on Long Island in the ’80s by Christian Wolffer. Sustainably farmed, this wine is one of the best examples of just how good Long Island Merlot can be, as well as cementing its reputation as world-class. Winemaker and partner Roman Roth suggests pairing with rich pan-seared or grilled duck, beef stew or a hard cheese like manchego or pecorino. $35

Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 — From the heralded Pritchard Hill Vineyard — owned by the Chappellet family since 1967 — this is one of the great values in Napa Cabernet. Rich in color and taste with enticing layers of flavors. And the amazing 2012 vintage shines through! Try with your favorite steak. $53

Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon Generations Napa Valley 2012 — Dean of Napa Valley winery owners, Peter Mondavi Sr., still comes to work every day — at 100 years of age!! Co-owner and winemaker Peter Mondavi Jr. recently tasted me on several of his new releases, all of which are excellent. This one, however, blew me away. It’s not only the best wine I’ve had from Charles Krug, but one of the best I’ve had anywhere — especially at this price. With blackberries, mocha and solid tannic structure, this beauty is fabulous now and should age well in the future. The production was 2,400 cases. $55

Melka CJ Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 — Iconic winemaker Philippe Melka has worked at Chateau Haut-Brion, Chateau Petrus and Dominus — an impressive background. This is the best “introductory wine” I’ve ever tasted — this being the least expensive of his current releases. 1,700 cases produced with 18 months in 30 percent new French oak. A left bank Bordeaux blend sans Malbec, with amazing depth of flavors and harmony of all components. Competitive with $100 plus offerings. $65

Mount Brave Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2011 — A new wine for me, the blend is 94 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 3 percent Merlot and 3 percent Cabernet Franc. Because of the steep slopes on Mount Brave, all vineyard work is done by hand. Steep and high above the fog line at 1,400 feet to 1,800 feet, the sun and drainage is perfect, resulting in tiny berries with intense flavors. Another surprisingly excellent 2011. $75

Damilano Barolo Cannubi 2009 — Priced surprisingly low for a wine from this well-known producer and world-famous Piedmont vineyard. A big, rich example of a stellar, world-class Nebbiolo. Not so much the traditional tar and faded roses, but more deep, rich, complex and satisfying flavors with chocolate, cherries, plums and sweet tobacco. Try with braised beef or osso buco alla Milanese. $85

Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon Monitor Lodge Napa Valley 2011 — The grapes from the prized Monitor Lodge Vineyard have been an important component of Duckhorn’s blends since 1985. In a way, this small but significant release of Monitor Lodge from Duckhorn as a single-vineyard bottling is similar to the iconic Martin Stelling Vineyard — the primary vineyard for Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon — as a single vineyard bottling for Nickel & Nickel. Both the Monitor Lodge Cabernet Sauvignon (75 percent) and the Merlot (25 percent), ripened early and perfectly resulting in another fabulous 2011. While enjoying with a friend who is somewhat of a connoisseur — and eating a beef tenderloin — my friend said it was the best Cabernet Sauvignon he had ever tasted! $95

Other Excellent Reds: Chateau Latour de By 2010 $23; Borgogne Haute Cotes de Beaune Domaine Carre 2012, $25; Coup de Grace Red Wine Lodi 2012 — A stunning blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Try with meat pizza or burgers, $28; Fulcrum Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2012 — Lovely, with cherries and spice. Pair with roasted chicken or grilled salmon. $50

Roman Roth, winemaker and partner at Wolffer Estate, tending his grill.

Roman Roth, winemaker and partner at Wolffer Estate, tending his grill.

Phillip Corallo-Titus of Chappellet Vineyard.

Phillip Corallo-Titus of Chappellet Vineyard.

Peter Mondavi, Jr. , co-proprietor of Charles Krug in St. Helena, Calif.

Peter Mondavi, Jr. , co-proprietor of Charles Krug in St. Helena, Calif.

Nicole Marchesi , winemaker at Far Niente.

Nicole Marchesi , winemaker at Far Niente.

Philippe Melka, owner and winemaker.

Philippe Melka, owner and winemaker.

James Hall, winemaker for Patz & Hall

James Hall, winemaker for Patz & Hall


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