The Best Wines of 2018

The end of another year is soon upon us — and what great drinks we all enjoyed in 2018!

As we look back, we asked our National Retailer Wine Panel to pick out their favorite bottles from 2018. What follows is their grades and tasting notes from the wines that stuck out the most in their minds.

Other rounds of reviews in 2018 included:

As always, these selections include brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’s retail price (which can vary from store to store and market to market). Unless noted otherwise, the price reflects a 750-ml. bottle. If you’re a beverage professional with a specialty in wine and you’re interested in participating in the panel, please contact Managing Editor Kyle Swartz at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or 203-855-8499 x225.

Rating System

Five Stars (100-92): A top-flight wine, superior in taste and character, and providing a superior price/value ratio.

Four Stars (91-86): A very good wine and an excellent value. A wine for which customers will keep coming back.

Five Star Wines

(98) Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (CA). From one of Napa Valley’s long-time iconic producers, their top wine is an outstanding combination of dark fruit, power and elegance. A spectacular representation of Napa Valley winemaking. ($145)

(97) Miner Family Winery “The Oracle” Red Wine Blend 2013 (CA). A lovely red blend, with a bit more than half cabernet sauvignon. Supple and elegant, with a mixture of black and some red fruit on the nose. Touches of spice and tannin add to the complexity on the palate. ($100)

(97) Chateau de Beaucastel 2015 (France). What an amazing wine! Opens up with red fruit on the nose, hints of spice, star anise and a slight floral aroma. On the palate it confirms these flavors and the addition of blackberries, mineral and slightly dried fruits start to evolve with each sip. The balance of tannin-to-acid really creates a wonderfully long finish, and lifts the aromas of this wine to the very end. ($85)

(97) Il Pollenza Il Pollenza Marche IGT 2015 (Italy). You can think of this as a “Super Marche,” produced from the central eastern region of Marche. A touch of merlot and petit verdot are part of the cabernet sauvignon-dominated blend. Exceptionally deeply colored in the glass, the nose is composed of dark fruit and touches of spice. In the mouth the wine has plenty of weight — and fruit. The finish lingers on and on, showcasing the wine’s complexity and quality. ($124)

(96) Eroica Riesling 2016 (Washington). Such a great wine at this price — an amazing value! Bright and clean, with fresh tropical and citrus notes, this is both a world-class riesling and a tremendous bargain. It’s a real buy, by-the-case, summer refresher, as well as an exceptional food-friendly wine for the holiday season. ($19.99)

(96) Austin Hope Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon (CA). An amazing cabernet with dark rich fruit followed by hints of eucalyptus and a lingering finish. This could be a Hall of Fame wine! ($55.99)

(96) Sullivan Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2014  (CA). A balanced and structured cabernet sauvignon, that is elegant and focused with berry and currant notes, as well as chocolate and spice undertones. Full-bodied, with surprising density, yet very polished and pretty. Should open up quite nicely after being in bottle for a few years. ($95)

(95) Dowdell Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2014 (CA). Rich black-currant aromas lead to big dark fruit flavors with crushed stone and notes of tobacco that finish with soft and subtle tannins. Certainly a value for the price. ($65)

(95) Darioush Napa Valley Chardonnay (CA). The mouthfeel and depth of flavor are the first things that make you pause after the first sip. You are then hit with rich butterscotch, a slight pop of apple and then a silky buttery finish. ($49.99)

(95) Quinta De La Rosa Douro Estate Red 2016 (Portugal). Deeply colored, with a berry, brambly nose, this outstanding example of a Douro Valley red has plenty of structure. It’s a versatile red, matching a number of dishes: meat from the grill, aged cheeses and more. ($20)

(95) Talley Rincon Vineyards 2015 (CA). Perfect combo of minerality and butter. Rich, silky, elegant with a super-long finish. Aromas are like a field of wildflowers. A true treat. ($45)

(95) Twomey Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2015 (CA). Absolutely stellar, elegant and seductive pinot noir from the Silver Oak people. Silky, smooth, aromatic ripe berries and a long, luscious finish. ($50)

(95) Gran Moraine Pinot Noir 2015 (OR). This dark, red-hued pinot noir opens with a ripe black cherry bouquet with hints of raspberry, tea and cigar box. On the palate, this wine is medium-bodied, balanced, refined and smooth. The flavor profile is a gentle red plum, flinty minerality, notes of black cherry and a hint of cinnamon. The finish is smooth and dry, while its flavors fade away nicely. ($55.99)

(95) Paradigm Merlot 2013 (CA).  Strong aromas of red berries, black cherries, spice and vanilla lead to an outstanding wine with elegant ripe plum and blueberry. Complex flavors also include rich blackberry cobbler, with the berries, brown sugar and vanilla, along with sandalwood incense and a hint of cocoa. This is an impressive wine with big, yet fine, texture and a lengthy finish. ($59.99)

(95) The Mascot 2012 (CA). Wonderful aromas on the nose of raspberries, currants, spice and vanilla, with subtle hints of stone and graphite. On the palate this wine opens up to blackberries, slight herbal notes of tarragon, with gripping-yet- elegant tannins and a balanced acid that creates an amazing long finish. ($130)

(95) Hagen’s Reserve Cabernet 2015 (CA). This stunning cabernet is a packed with power and elegance, with notes of raspberry and dark cherry, all held up with tannic backbone. With all its youth and power this is sure to age beautifully and will improve — but the wine is showing fantastically today. ($79.99)

(94) Abstracto Fifth Empire Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Vino 2017 (Argentina). A flavor-packed explosive wine that jumps out of the glass with richness and a taught powerful texture. The French oak gives great structure to the main show of overwhelming raspberry and dark cherry notes. The finish just keeps going. ($29.99)

(94) Keenan Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (CA). This complex Napa cabernet sauvignon offers extracted rich fruit flavors of currant, cassis, black cherry and blackberry. There is a hefty mouthfeel mid-palate giving way to some rustic flavors, black licorice, kirsch and spice. The finish lingers with a fair amount of tannins. Ready to drink now, but will age well for another seven years. ($55)

(94) Sonoma Loeb Pinot Noir 2016 (CA). This is bright, intense, red fruit-dominated pinot noir is stunning with more than enough fresh acidity and beautiful texture to make this a standout. The elegance is striking and plentiful because of the lengthy finish. ($34.99)

(94) Aubry Brut Premier Cru Champagne NV (France). This is not your typical non-vintage brut. A blend of ancient indigenous varieties, which make up 5% of the blend; pinot meunier accounts for 45%, the balance in equal parts pinot noir and chardonnay. The taste is like an essential champagne, with scents of chalk, mushroom, pear and lemon curd creating a bold surround sound of flavor. There’s purity to the expression and a healthy weight to the wine. ($48.99)

(94) Aperture Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (California). This barrel-fermented white is blended with 5% sauvignon musqué for an interesting twist on this variety. The wine has light, inviting apple blossom aromas. It demonstrates a refreshing complex arrangement of hay, honey, apple, savory fig and lemon curd. A chardonnay-lover’s sauvignon blanc. ($46.99)

(94) Blackbird Paramor Red Blend 2007 (CA). A wonderful red blend with nuance of spice, red pepper, cassis and oak on the nose. The palate showcases the rich plums, blackberries and graphite with a finish of beautiful, dense, yet smooth tannins, with slight basil and dried fruit lingering minutes later. ($90)

(94) Daou Paso Robles Chardonnay 2015 (CA). A beautifully balanced chardonnay from Paso Robles. It has a rich mouthfeel of butter and a hint of caramel with pops of tropical fruit and acidity. An amazing wine for dishes with butter as a theme. ($20.99)

(94) La Serena Toscana Rosso 2015 (Italy). Intriguing aromas of wild berries, cherry and spice with inviting flavors of cherry, mocha and vanilla giving way to hints of black pepper and exotic spice. Full-bodied and well balanced. A lot to like for the price. ($35)

(94) Malleolus Tempranillo 2014 (Spain). Emilio Moro Bodegas has been around a long time. Still family owned, it generates some of the best tinto fino in Spain. Light earth, dark berries and perfectly integrated tannins carry this jewel to a long, lingering finish. Think clams and chorizo. ($46)

(94) Vista Red Blend 2017 (CA). The nose screams dark chocolate and fresh blue fruits. The palate coats your mouth with black and blue fruits. The dusty minerality rounds out the medium finish on the wine. I don’t know how a $12.99 wine from Atlas Peak AVA exist, but I’m glad it does. This is hands down the deal of the year. ($12.99)

(93) Averaen Pinot Noir 2017 (OR). This wine is loaded with dark cherry and earthy spice. Loads of acidity bring this insane value of a wine full circle and checks all the boxes. ($19.99)

(93) Butternut Chardonnay 2017 (CA). Apple, pear and buttercream on the nose lead to a creamy, buttery finish. The oak seems to be dialed back a touch this year and it really lets the fruit shine through. ($15.99)

(93) Requiem Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (WA). I’m not sure the guys at Banshee make a bad wine. Their new project out of Washington is setting the bar high. Somehow they have packed fruit from Champoux, Wallula, Sevein and Loess Vineyards into a $20 wine. Aromas of dark berry, cedar and plum on the nose with chocolate, blackberry and a nice earthy funk on the nose. Wow! ($19.99)

(93) Daou Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (CA). A wonderfully balanced and yet complex wine. Rich berry fruit are complimented with a hint of cedar and a slight, yet pretty herbaceous note. This is a substantial cabernet that over delivers for the price. ($29)

(93) Pride Mountain Vineyards Merlot 2015 (CA). Aromatics of licorice, leather and blackberries jump out of the glass. On the palate you get plum, raspberries and cocoa all up front, with a floral-and-cinnamon spice mid-palate lift. As the wine finishes you get a balanced acidity with wonderful silky tannins that deliver enough grip to please any bold-red drinker. ($62)

(93) Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Cabernet 2014 (CA). Plump and elegant, full, rich and concentrated with a touch of spice. Long finish. Enjoy now or cellar for a few years. ($60)

(93) Malabaila Barbera d’Alba “Mezzavilla” 2015 (Italy). Reminiscent of blueberry pie, this gem is exploding with dark fruit, blackberry and plum. The New World flavor is silky and jammy, with balanced acid and a lip-smacking never-ending berry finish. ($21.99)

(93) Tarima Hill Monastrell D.O. Alicante 2015 (Spain). Dry-farmed from old vines with strict organic practices and aged 12 months in French oak. The wine exudes spicy black cherry and leather aromas. On the palate, the wine shows full-bodied, balanced flavors of dark cherries, blackberry, plum and a light smoky character backed by a dark-cocoa finish. ($19.99)

(93) Mollydooker Gigglepot Cabernet 2016 (Australia). Rich and creamy with heaps of dark chocolate and vanilla. Nice toasty and spicy long finish that goes on forever. ($50)

(93) Crossfork Creek Merlot 2016 (WA). This wine has a beautiful nose and palate of blueberries, blackberries and some nice toasted oak notes. Has fantastic power, balance and a lingering finish that’s impressive to say the least. ($19.99)

(93) ZD Chardonnay 2016 (CA).  Aromas of pineapple, lime zest and pear mingle with hints of vanilla and orange blossoms. The palate is rich and full bodied with the exceptional balance between fruit, toasty oak, and lively acidity. The finish is amazingly long and lasting. ($56.99)

(93) Il Fauno di Arcanum 2014 (Italy). This is a Bordeaux-style blend: 72% merlot, 20% cabernet franc, 4% cabernet sauvignon and 4% petit verdot. The palate is soft with elegant tannins and textures. The nose explodes with bright raspberries and wild berries, with some floral tones of lavender. The slightly higher-than-usual acids firmly frame a potpourri of blueberry and sour cherry. The fruit slowly subsides, giving way to exotic spice, and finishes with sweet black licorice. ($29.99)

(92) Saladini Pilastri Montetinello Rosso Piceno Superiore 2015 (Italy). Bing cherry and raspberry dominate the nose and palate, accompanied by notable leather and spice notes. This wine hits well above its weight class with a lot of power and a smooth-as-could-be texture that is my favorite thing about it. ($17.99)

(92) Round Pond Kith & Kin Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (CA). The deep rich color is the first indication of the fantastic tasting experience you will have with this cabernet sauvignon. Intense berry fruit, firm tannins and balanced acidity give this wine an amazing structure and flavor. It gets better with every sip. ($35)

(92) Beringer Bros. Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet 2016 (CA). Great value — hard to resist. Smooth and easy drinking with lots of dark chocolate, toffee and a touch of spice. ($15)

(92) Dominique Lafon Bourgogne Blanc 2016 (France). A stunning example of chardonnay! From the yogurt (lees) and chalky aromatics on the nose, laced in with green apple, kumquat, key lime and Meyer lemon on the palate. This wine delivers a racing acidity that refreshes and ensures you want another sip. ($49.99)

(92) Pine Ridge Chenin-Viognier 2016 (CA). A go-to party wine. Great balance of ripe pear and apple with a touch of citrus. Easy drinking dryness without a lot of acidity. Great with apps, salads, shrimp, marinated herring and grilled asparagus. ($13)

(92) Ronchi Barbaresco 2012 (Italy). Fresh berries and minerality up front with light tannins at the rear. For the price, it is hard to imagine a better example of barbaresco. Perfect with a cheese and charcuterie platter. ($30)

(92) H Mynor Zinfandel 2015 (CA). Ruby in color. Aromas of raspberry, blueberry and vanilla. The palate is bold and full of red fruit and fresh pepper. ($17.99)

Four Star Wines

(91) Finca Decero Malbec, Remolinos Vineyard 2015 (Argentina). This is an elegant, fresh style malbec. It exhibits bright, juicy cherry, plum and currant flavors, with an underlying ginger spice and integrated tannins. ($17.99)

(90) The Hermit Crab 2016 (Australia). Viognier and marsanne have never tasted this good! Much like a young Chateauneuf du Pape, this lip-smacking, full-bodied white will do wonders for anything fried. ($16)

(89) Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2016 (Australia). Brilliantly crafted quality Viognier. This white entices with delicate floral and nectarine notes. On the palate, the wine is mouth-coating: citrus, pear and apple backed with ginger spice and white pepper with a slightly bitter finish, making this an excellent wine with a variety of foods. One of the most interesting viogniers on the market. ($19.99)

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