Our Favorite Wines We Drank in 2020

For the final round of wine reviews in 2020, we asked our panel of independent wine professionals to recall their favorite bottles they drank in the past year.

As always, these selections include brief tasting notes, a grade and the wine’s retail price (which can vary from store to store and market to market). Unless noted otherwise, prices reflect 750-ml. bottles.

If you’re a beverage professional with a specialty in wine and you’re interested in participating in the panel, please contact Editor Kyle Swartz at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or 203-855-8499 x225.

Our Favorite Wines of 2020

(99) Château Pradeaux Bandol Rouge 2015 (France)

A benchmark Mourvedre. Aged for four years in large used oak ovals, unfiltered and unfined from 35+ year-old estate vines. A ferocious marvel with ethereal, savoriness, brooding and complexities that are the benchmark for this earth-driven, mineral-laced style. An experience in a glass not to be missed. ($52) 

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(98) Vinedos y Bodegas Garcia Figuero Noble 2015 (Spain)

100% tempranillo, and an outstanding cellar selection. Deep, intense, dark ruby layered with ripe blueberries, juicy plums and a hint of cinnamon, clove and mocha. Be sure to decant to enjoy a long, rich, smooth finish. One of those wines you just hate to finish the last sip. This wine screams for a good grilled steak, a chunk of hard cheese or a slab of dark chocolate. Enjoy now or cellar for the next 10 years. ($160)

(98) Mondavi Reserve Cabernet 1978 (CA)

A hidden gem from the cellar and a big surprise. Absolutely pristine and gorgeous. Still full of life with layers of black cherry, vanilla and a touch of spice. ($Priceless)

(97) Bernard Remy Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV Champagne (France)

An unusually attractive price for such a high quality wine. Sourced from top-grade vineyard sites, this grower Champagne is a true value, considering its quality. Elegant and focused, the brut level of sweetness accentuates the bright fruit, along with the wine’s backbone. The finish is long, balanced, and confirms the wine’s pedigree. ($43.50)

(97) Gloria Ferrer Carneros Cuvée 2010 (CA)

A combination of pinot noir and chardonnay, the wine sat in the bottle, after its secondary fermentation for over eight years! This provides a level of complexity and elegance rarely seen in a domestic sparkling wine. Whether you have a special occasion to celebrate or not, you owe yourself the opportunity to open a bottle. Enjoying this superb bottle will be a celebration, all by itself. ($80)

(96) Valenciso Reserva 2010 (Spain)

Decant this big boy or hold it for a few more years. Nineteen months in French oak brings out a perfect balance of fresh fruit, mineral and spice. Grilled lamb works just fine! ($42.95)

(96) Chateau Monbousquet 2016 (France)

If there is a value in the mid-range Bordeaux, this is it. The complexity coaxed out of this wine is amazing, with all the classic characteristics showing marvelously in this wine. Its inky dark appearance is propped up with the velvety mouthfeel that envelops all the dark brambly fruit this wine has to offer. I could barely get past the nose, though, with all the lead, damp earth, cigar and dark blue fruit components wafting magically from the glass. What a stunner! ($80.99)

(96) Foppiano Vineyards Petite Sirah 2016 (CA)

From one of the “masters” of this variety, the Foppiano family has been producing and bottling petite sirah for generations. Their dedication to the variety, and attention to detail in the vineyard and winery, are on full display here. The wine is dark in the glass, with a touch of purple hints. On the nose, and in the mouth, lots of dark fruit are accented by spice, and hints of dark chocolate. The balanced tannins supply a velvety texture, adding to the wine allure. ($24.99)

(96) Besserat de Bellefon Bleu Brut NV Champagne (France)

Using the three traditional Champagne grape varieties — sourced from top sub-regions across Champagne — in a well-balanced blend contributes to this lovely wine’s allure. Fruit and floral characteristics blend into a harmonious whole, with large quantities refinement and panache. ($60)

(96) WindVane Estate Pinot Noir 2016 (CA)

A wonderfully balanced pinot noir, from a well-known pino-producing region in Carneros. Brilliant ruby in the glass, with subtle garnet hints. The nose and palate burst with elegant red fruit. The acidity carries through the long and graceful finish. A wine to match with a wide variety of foods; it is exceptionally versatile.  ($30)

(96) Vietti Vigne Vecchia “Scarrone” Barbera d”Alba 2017 (Italy)

An eye-opening experience with a grape renown as a simple wine. Sourced from the oldest vines in this single vineyard. This tour de force offers floral and fruit with a depth and length to its complex medley of finesse, vibrancy and length. A momentous wine. ($50) 

(96) Teeter-Totter Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (CA)

Beautiful and explosive out of the glass, this full-bodied wine has a smooth texture and is energetic with raspberry and dark cherry flavors. Powerful and balanced with a nice long finish. ($74.99)

(96) Renato Ratti Marcenasco Barolo 2015 (Italy)

If somebody were to bottle a cherry pie, I would swear it was this wine. Ratti 50Th Anniversary bottling is an absolute home run! Classic nebbiolo aromas and flavors encompass this wine, but the dominant baked cherry pie with subtle spice is full frontal. The taught natural tannins of nebbiolo are in perfect harmony with the voluptuous fruit, and speak to the ability of this wine’s inherent ability for longevity in the cellar. ($59.99)

(95) Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay 2018 (CA)

Shafer has been crafting killer chardonnay for years, and this one another home run. The perfect balance of fruit, oak and acidity makes for an unctuous, full-bodied wine with scrumptious notes of caramel-covered golden apples with cinnamon sprinkled on top. The acidity on this wine gives it some racy qualities that clean up your palate and make you want more. ($54.99)

(95) Anthill Farms “Campbell Ranch” Pinot Noir 2018 (CA)

Elegant and silky — well structured with layers of fragrant cranberry and blackberry. Full bodied with a long, lingering finish. ($50)

(95) Bevan Ontogeny Red Blend 2017 (CA)

Wow, just wow! The cabernet franc in this blend makes itself apparent from the get-go. Earthy aromas of desiccated raspberry, sweet cigar leaf and baking spices emerge from the glass. The full-bodied palate of this wine encompasses a myriad of dark red fruit flavors, with a finish that seems to last forever. Amazing wine for the price. ($81.99)

(95) Rocim Brut Nature Espumante Rosé (Portugal)

From one of central Portugal’s top producers, this enchanting sparkling wine ticks all of the boxes. Produced from the iconic touriga nacional grape — better known for its dark fruit characteristics — this wine is pale salmon in the glass. On the nose and palate, it is refined, with focused ethereal fruit notes. The effervescence is long lasting, delivering the fruit and subtle spices to the nose and palate. ($29)

(95) Two Angels Petite Sirah 2018 (CA)

Intensely dark in the glass, with lots of purple tones. You can tell by the color that this wine is a powerhouse. The nose and palate confirm that assessment, with plenty of saturated dark fruit, with spice and hints of vanilla. Pair it with an identically intense dish and you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful flavor combination. ($26.99)

(95) Justin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon (CA)

Silky tannins, dark fruit and light spices carry this yummy cab to a remarkable finish. Complex and luscious without the big jam. Worth every penny. ($34.95)

(95) Foppiano Vineyards Estate Petite Sirah 2016 (CA)

Deep and brooding. Concentrated aromas and flavors of blackberries, raspberries and dark chocolate. A mouthful of pleasure. Easy tannins and a finish that just doesn’t quit. Everything a petite sirah should be — and a bargain to boot! ($25)

(94) Taittinger Brut La Française NV (France)

With Chardonnay making up a plurality of the blend, the La Française exhibits an energy and vitality that many of its peers lack. A brilliant pale gold in the glass, the wine delivers a complex mixture of clean stone fruit — with subtle notes of spice and floral characteristics — to the nose and palate. ($49.99)

(94) Mionetto Luxury Cartizze NV (Italy)

From one the top volume producers in the Prosecco regions comes a single-vineyard, top-end wine. Cartizze is the top-rated source for glera, and this fine example of a Cartizze Prosecco Superiore is a prime example of why the site is so highly regarded. On the nose, and in the mouth, you immediately notice the subtle tree and stone fruit, followed by a finish showcasing the quality of the wine. ($35)

(94) Chat du  Poyet Muscadet-Sevre et Maine 2017 (France)

The Monmousseau vineyards hit one out of the park on this exceptional muscadet. Considered the best vintage they have produced. Grab one while you can, and slurp it up with baked halibut. ($15.95)

(94) Leviathan Proprietary Red Blend 2018 (CA)

Andy Erickson, former winemaker at Screaming Eagle, has crafted this stunning blend from mostly hillside fruit. Powerful flavors of blackberry, black currant and cocoa are beautifully woven together before succumbing to a long luxurious finish sprinkled with leather and toasted oak. Don’t let the price fool you; this one can stand up to wines costing twice as much. ($34.99)

(94) Te Pā Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (New Zealand)

Mind-blowing flavors of gooseberry, green apple, kiwi, crushed peaches and guava rain down on the palate like being blasted with ripe tropical fruit. A long, sensuous finish sprinkled with hint of exotic spices and rose petal. A majestic wine that would pair well with shellfish, cheese and fruit salads. ($19.99)

(94) Domaine Pierre Guillemot Sauvigny Aux Serpentieres 2018 (France)

Great value Burgundy can be hard to find — but I just did. What a tremendous wine this is, with all the wet leaf, tea, mushroom and the cornucopia of red berries. The lengthy palate on this wine does a wonderful job of dancing between the complex fruit and perfectly balance oak, acid and tannin. Stash this one away in the cellar for future enjoyment. ($54.99)

(94) Remoissenet Fourchaume Chablis 2017 (France)

The Premier Cru of Fourchaume has a track record for quality. The 2017 is a prime example of harmony and grace with this complex Chablis. The nose opens up with subtle toast and minerality with restrained green apple notes. The palate of this wine has perfectly racy acids, with ample richness from perfect use of oak to balance it out. Baked Brie stewed golden apple, and more minerality round out a very impressive expression of Fourchaume terrioir. ($57.99)

(94) Fattoria le Pupille Morellino di Scansano Riserva 2016 (Italy)

Finding Morellino can often be tough in some markets, but I sure am glad I found this one. The blend is 90% sangiovese rounded out with 10% cabernet. I’m not sure what cabernet is bringing to the party here, other than to prop the wine up a bit, but the sangio is doing all the lovely work. Exotic aromas of red flowers and rustic red fruits abound from this lovely wine. Subtle mushroom and sweet damp earth also give way to an even-more-enticing taste. The depth of the palate on this wine is broad and silky, with tart-yet-sweet cherry and plum. What a winner on many fronts. ($24.99)

(94) Bodegas Roda Riserva 2015 (Spain)

If you have not heard yet, 2015 in Rioja was amazing. Yes, the stars aligned and produced what will no doubt become an epic vintage. The Roda Reserva is my cup of coffee in a wine glass. Yes, that sounds weird, but when a wine smells like a beautiful cup of dark roasted coffee, then why not? This New World expression of rioja is as good as it gets, with the espresso notes accompanied by lots of spice and dark fruit. The silky texture of this wine makes it even more of a winner. ($45.99)

(94) Domaine des Remizieres Cuvee Emilie Hermitage 2017 (France)

What a bargain-priced Hermitage is in comparison to most of its peers. The Cuvee Emilie has a beautiful violet perfume with smoky bacon fat notes as well. The inky syrah in this wine has a chalky, full-bodied mouthfeel, with dark blackberry kirsch and subtle white pepper notes. May be the value of the vintage for Northern Rhone. ($62.99)

(94) Lloyd Chardonnay 2019 (CA)

Ripe pear, apple and tropical fruits are potent, elegant and all over the nose and palate. Structure and balance are provided by rich vanilla notes, and the finish is powerful and luscious. ($47.99)

(93) Gerard Bertrand Cigalus Blanc 2018 (France)

This estate wine is made from a blend of predominantly chardonnay, rounded out with viognier and sauvignon blanc. The chardonnay is apparent with its full-bodied golden hue and notes, but the lesser varietals do a great job of adding enticing floral aromas and zippy acidity to this well-crafted blend. The oily mouthfeel makes way to the tropical fruits and rich depth that oak aging adds to this great white. ($44.99)

(93) Domaine des Braves Regnie Beaujolais 2018 (France)

Regnie is the youngest of all the crus in Beaujolais, but this wine is sure making its mark on my mind. Purple flowers erupt from the glass with loads of blackberry and plum aromatics. The palate is serious for Beaujolais, but not so much that it can’t be consumed in its youth. The soft tannins are in check, and fold perfectly into the kirsch and blackberry liqueur flavors of this delectable wine. ($21.99)

(93) Canepa Koch Cellars The Dude Pinot Noir 2018 (CA)

The label sure grabs your attention, but it is what is in the bottle that steals the show. Expressive fruity aromas leap from the glass. Concentrated raspberry, cherry and dark currant seduce the palate with a harmony of flavors. The pillowy-soft finish is caressed with a sprinkling of cocoa powder and dried cooking spices. Small production has this Russian River label flying under the radar — for now. ($24.99)

(93) Sonoma Loeb Chardonnay Reserve 2018 (CA)

Lively, with dense notes of apple, Bartlett pear, orange and spice that are elegant on the nose and palate. The aftertaste is long and memorable, with mineral-driven zesty notes layered in with the fruit. ($32.99)

(93) Aux Pied du Mont Chauve Montagny Premier Cru 2016 (France)

This Burgundy chardonnay is layered with white flower, pear and mango notes on the nose that are beautiful and elegant. The lovely fruit drives onto the palate and is paired with a zippy acidity and mineral aspect that keeps the finish going. ($29.99)

(93) Rapariga da Quinta Reserva 2018 (Portugal)

The wine is powerful with beautiful tannins and oak notes, giving it a complex subtlety and smooth mouthfeel, complementing the fruit. The structure and mouthfeel balances all the flavors nicely, and gives nuance to this punchy Alentejo. ($26.99)

(93) Latitud 42 Rioja Crianza 2017 (Spain)

A superb wine that is firm and bold in texture and flavor, while keeping the elegance of a classic Rioja. Soft raspberry and rich blackberry blend like a fine Bordeaux, and are bound together by a nice use of oak for structure. ($14.99)

(93) Masseria Borgo Dei Trulli Negroamaro 2018 (Italy)

Plush, gorgeous ripe fruit cascades down on the palate, showing raspberries, cherries and plum before surrendering to a silky finished kissed with nutmeg and blueberry. All the flavors work beautifully together, with nothing feeling out of place. An exceptional value that begs to always have multiple bottles on hand. ($14.99)

(92) Kia Ora Signature Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (New Zealand)

This reserve tier from Kia Ora shows elegance and complexity with layers of lilac, passion fruit  and bright lemon zest, not to mention the minerality exploding on the palate and through the lengthy finish. ($15.99)

(92) Miles From Nowhere Shiraz 2019 (Australia)

A powerhouse of a wine with an intense nose and palate dominated by rich cherry and plum flavors. These are joined by a complex medley of pepper and spice notes combined with a smooth texture that brings it all home. ($14.99)

(92) Bodegas Atalaya Laya Red Blend 2019 (Spain)

This deep, dark blend of garnacha tintorea and monastrell from Almansa shows intense flavors of blackberry, plum and espresso, with just a subtle hint of roasted fig sneaking in to add depth rarely found at this price. Year after year, this is one of the best values to be found — this vintage surely keeps the winning streak alive. ($9.99)

(92) Ropiteau Pinot Noir Reserve 2017 (France)

A muscular pinot with loads of Bing cherry and bright raspberry flavors from top to bottom. The texture is smooth and energetic, carrying this medium-plus-bodied wine to punch above its weight class. ($18.99) BD

(92) Black Stallion Chardonnay 2018 (CA)

Enticing aromas of baked apple pie grab your attention with flavors of candied peaches and green apple blossoming in the mouth. A smooth creamy finish with notes of crème brulee and baking spice. With the value of land in Napa Valley, it’s hard to imagine finding a better value Chardonnay out there. ($17.99)

(92) Line Shack Cabernet 2018 (CA)

A striking intense cabernet that has blackberry and cherry notes mixed with a complex spice element. The wine is powerful and textured with rich tannins that drag the flavors on for an impressive finish. ($17.99)

(92) Domaine de la Piegonne Valreas Cotes du Rhone 2017 (France)

This grenache-dominated blend is spiced up with syrah and mourvedre, making a dark berry-forward wine with a silky texture. The impressive, complex savory olive notes on the finish make this one quite memorable. ($14.99) BD

(92) Beyer Ranch Chardonnay 2018 (CA)

This classic chardonnay is full of bright papaya, lychee and pineapple notes on the nose and palate, glued together with luscious texture and vanilla oak notes. This classic American chardonnay is layered and beautiful from beginning to finish. ($14.99)

(92) Kaleidoscope Red Blend 2018 (CA)

A velvety texture with rich, bright raspberry and plum notes that are powerful and dominating initially. The wine overdelivers with balanced acidity and spicy accents throughout the midpalate and finish. ($13.99) BD

(92) Marchese di Borgosole Brindisi Riserva DOC 2017 (Italy)

Mostly using the grape negromaro, this splendid, intense wine is ruby red with aromas and tastes of Bing cherry, blackberry and ripe raspberry. The fruit-forward wine is amplified with beautiful oak notes that linger on the finish. ($12.99)

(92) La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Rioja Reserva 2015 (Spain)

La Rioja Alta has been crafting old world-style Rioja at exceptional levels for years. The 2015 Alberdi is a prime example of the value Rioja holds at all levels. The aromatics of this wine encompass the wonderful American oak notes that give off subtle-yet-sexy dill. The fruit is full of sour cherry and plump raspberry compote. May be the best bang for the buck for great value Rioja available. ($21.99)

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