Our Favorite Wines From 2023

Wine Reviews: Best of 2023
Wine Reviews: Best of 2023

We asked the Beverage Dynamics national wine panel to taste and rate their favorite pours from this past year. As always, these reviews include tasting notes, ratings and suggested retail price for a 750-ml. bottle (unless otherwise noted).

If you are a beverage professional with a specialty in wine who is interested in participating in the panel, please contact Kyle Swartz at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or 763-383-4447.

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 Stars

(98) Alexander Valley Vineyards “Cyrus” 2017 (CA)

This family-owned winery continues to pay tribute to the Sonoma valley with this best of the best Meritage blend . . . their 23rd release. Nine of the best lots were fermented and aged separately before entering a 24-month further aging program in French oak. Deep extracted color, with black fruit notes, dark chocolate aromas and oak and vanilla notes. Balanced tannins highlight the Bordeaux style blending. This is THE wine for holiday dinners. ($74.99)

(98) Penfolds Grange 2001 (Australia)

After 45 minutes of decanting and a slight chill, the first sip of this 100% shiraz showed blueberry, blackberry and hints of spice. As it evolved chocolate, cocoa and cinnamon underpinned a complex, perfectly balanced wine supported by firm, lush tannins. While it seemed perfect, it probably has at least 10 more years to develop. What a treat! ($800).

(96) Cuvaison Pinot Noir 2021 (CA)

More than 50 years farming the famed Carneros region decidedly gives you a leg up in producing world-class wines. Estate-only fruit, longer fermentation and minimal barrel time yield this concentrated and aromatic pinot. Red and black fruit notes, earth tones and a hint of spice dominate California’s classic interpretation of Burgundian style. Deserves a spot on the holiday dinner table. ($41.99)

(96) J. Lohr Arroyo Vista Chardonnay 2021 (CA)

Kristen Barnhisel works her magic with chardonnay . . . again. The gloves are off on this premium offering, starting with early-morning hand harvesting and whole-cluster pressing. Different clones give overlapping layers of flavor. Malolactic fermentation, aging on the lees for 14 months and five different French coopers add barrel complexity. Lemon, tangerine and peach flavors add to the sweet oak finish. Think of this as Riverstone chardonnay on steroids! This wine was made for turkey pairing during the holidays. ($24.99)

(95) Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (CA)

A cuvee from five vineyards. Fresh and pure, with black cherry, cedar, cassis, ripe blackberry, coffee and tobacco. Long and supple, it is truly a classic Napa cab. ($85)

(95) Buena Vista Cabernet Sauvignon Chateau Buena Vista 2019 (CA)

With a rich history that dates back to before the American Civil War, this offering reinforces that cab is king in the Napa Valley. Sourced from select valley sites with additional fruit from the Atlas Peak and Oak Knoll AVAs. The addition of merlot, cab franc and petite verdot adds bright red fruit notes to the blend. Aged 24 months in French oak, with semisweet notes of cherry and maple syrup, black fruit hints, all which lead into a smooth slily finish. Classic Napa cabernet! Wonderful addition to the holiday dinner table. ($49.99)

(94) J. Lohr Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (CA)

One of the early pioneers of this AVA, and winemaker Brenden Wood utilizes primarily the estate fruit from Lohr’s own Shotwell and Beck vineyards as the foundation for this offering. Estate-grown petite verdot, malbec and cab. Franc is added for rich complexity. 16 months in French oak, sourced from five select coopers. Deep color, concentrated black fruit notes, balanced tannins, with a smooth lingering finish. Perfect for a roast beef holiday meal. ($34.99)

(94) Raymond Chardonnay Reserve Selection 2021 (CA)

Founded in 1970, Raymond has produced wines for decades. This is classic California chardonnay. Sourcing from four select sites in southern Napa, including Carneros. 100% barrel-fermented in French oak, but no malolactic fermentation, and then aged on the lees for 10 months. Traditional apple and stone fruit, with a hint of lemon. Lighter style highlights the balanced acidity and kiss of vanilla. An easy go-to wine for everyday drinking . . . solid value. ($24.99)

(94) Cuvaison Chardonnay 2021 (CA)

With all the new kids on the block, it’s easy to overlook the pioneer families that put Napa on the map. Cuvaison is a perfect example. Established in 1969, it now encompasses more than 200 acres in the premier Carneros AVA in Napa. All estate fruit was utilized with a subtle approach to winemaking. Very aromatic on the nose with an atypical style of light butter notes and peach, apricot and plantain notes. Only 11 months in oak adds balance to the finish. A very elegant and full-bodied wine for the holiday season dinners. ($24.99)

(94) Herman Story “Casual Encounters” 2017 (CA)

Beautiful blend from the America’s top Rhone varietal region – Paso Robles. This rich, powerful meritage of syrah, mourvedre, grenache, carignan and tannat fills your mouth with dark currant, dry blackberry, chewy tannins and a touch of aromatic pepper. Fully mature with great balance. The equal of many northern Rhone’s (Cote Rotie, Croze-Hermitage) for less than half the price. ($45.99)

(94) Lloyd Chardonnay 2022 (CA)

Rich, succulent fruits burst from this Carneros chardonnay. Hints of lemon curd and stone fruit play off the subtle honeysuckle, clove and vanilla. Refreshing acidity due to the cooler climate in the region gives this wine the backbone to stand up to any meal or party. ($49.99)

(94) Violet Hill Santa Barbara Pinot Noir 2021 (CA)

Medium-bodied, with aromas of dark cherry, mocha and floral, that are echoed on the silky palate, with a bright finish. ($22.99)

(94) Sean Minor Four Bears Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (CA)

Ruby in color and displays aromas of cassis, black cherry, mocha and violets. Ripe flavors of blackberries and raspberries hit the mid-palate of this Paso Robles wine with a medium-long finish. ($16.99)

(93) Petites Secondes Chardonnay 2019 (OR)

Produced by the Drouhin family. The oak aging is evident from the first sip on this Willamette Valley chardonnay. Aside from the warm oak and cedar notes, there are hints of juicy pear and crisp green apple that give the finish of this wine a zesty feeling that enlivens the palate. ($32.99)

(93) Elizabeth Spenser Sauvignon Blanc Special Cuvee 2021 (CA)

Husband and wife team of Elizabeth Pressler and Spenser Graham established the winning template for their style of wine. Utilizing the best regions of the North Coast AVA, each lot is vinified separately to maintain its unique characteristics. Stainless-steel fermentation preserves the purity of the fruit. Exceptionally smooth, light acidity and good minerality highlight the lychee, citrus and apricot notes. Very versatile food wine which would work with appetizers or an easy alternative to chardonnays. Exceptional value for the money. ($24.99)

(93) Deloach Pinot Noir Heritage Reserve 2021 (CA)

Retired San Francisco fireman Cecil Deloach helped put Sonoma on the map in the mid 70’s. The Heritage Reserve series offers great value with exceptional wines. Sourced from key cool climate sights in northern and central California, including the famed Russian River AVA. Beautiful berry flavors, rich color extraction, a kiss of spice and great body. Perfect first pinot for the holiday ham dinner. ($14.99)

(93) Raywood Chardonnay 2021 (CA)

Rich with creamy notes of vanilla bean, almond and tropical fruit. Balanced acidity and savory toasted notes lead to a long, smooth finish, remembered for its touch of sweet vanilla. Best value of the year! ($11.99)

(92) Raywood Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (CA)

Plush, velvety and ripe. You will be hard pressed to find a better value California cabernet! Rich red fruit notes are underpinned by gentle oak and a touch of pepper, all leading into a silky finish. ($11.99)

(92) Cuvaison Sauvignon Blanc 2022 (CA)

Cool-climate grapes thrive in the Carneros region, and this example is a real sleeper. 100% estate fruit, 100% Napa and 100% Carneros fruit yields intense notes of lemongrass and citrus, while the addition of a kiss of semillon adds a softness. Brie and honey notes add complexity to the aromatics. Beautiful aperitif wine to start the holiday proceedings. ($27.99)

(92) Cambos Feret Les Buissons Symphonie 2022 (France)

This is a blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc from Bordeaux. Notes of lychee, candied fruits like peaches, and apricot jump out of the glass. A mild sweetness makes this the perfect companion to any cheese plate, curry or a stellar finish to any meal. ($11.99)

(92) Domaine St. Germain Bourgogne Blue Chardonnay 2022 (France)

An exemplary food-pairing wine. Its mouthfeel is buttery, a little creamy but with bursts of apple and crisp melon. This Burgundy wine lingers for a while, leaving a vibrant vein of minerality on the finish. ($16.99)

Four Stars

(92) 1858 Pinot Noir 2021 (CA)

Monterey County’s mix of warm sun and cool fog produce grapes that are incredibly high quality for the price point, and this wine is no exception. This wine delivers an elegant combination of juicy plum mixed with cinnamon and spices. It compliments everything from a dinner party cheese plate to the cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving turkey. ($29.99)

(91) Rise + Fall Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (CA)

Paso Robles fans: Don’t miss this wine. The classic combination of earth, tobacco, dark and sumptuous black fruits, and herbs that Paso has become known for is evident here. The notes of black fruits are juicy but not overbearing with a perceptible tannic quality on the finish that’ll leave you wanting more. ($18.99)

(91) Coltbridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (Australia)

A steal for the price. Fresh red fruits like raspberries and red currants drive this very solid wine. Medium bodied with a hint of licorice and charred meat on the palate, and the perfect amount of tannin on the finish. ($10.99)

(91) Poggio Anima Belial 2020 (Italy)

Black cherry, iron, tar, menthol and licorice give this Tuscan wine a super-distinctive, wild profile. There is plenty of depth and volume. The 2020 sangiovese offers a decidedly wild, gamy expression. ($15.99)

(90) King Maui Pinot Noir 2021 (New Zealand)

A pinot noir for everyone and anyone. This is a lighter-style wine delivering notes of baked red fruits and a subtle earthiness. Pair this Marlborough bottle with grilled meat and hearty fare. ($19.99)

(90) La Belle Angele Chardonnay 2022 (France)

This unoaked chardonnay is a lighter and easier drinking style but doesn’t skimp on the aromatics. Notes of crisp, juicy apple, pear and fresh tropical fruits like pineapple and kiwi erupt on the palate. ($11.99)

(90) Yves Cuilleron Les Vignes dÕa Cote 2020 (France)

Made from grapes at the edge of Condrieu, the depth and concentration is amazing for a wine at this price. Juicy and fresh and full of peach, apricot, citrus and honeysuckle, it does not overpower the palate. A delicious, mouthwatering example from Cuilleron, perfect for sipping or to accompany any manner of shellfish. ($29)

(90) Alma Brut Sparkling NV (Brazil)

Pale straw gold color with a hint of yeast and toast on the nose. This blend of moscato and trebbiano is festive and lively with burst of pineapple, apricot and light honeyed notes on the palate. ($8.99)

(90) Caliveda Chardonnay 2021 (CA)

Buttery chardonnay lovers rejoice! Its golden color perfectly represents the warmth and creaminess of this wine. Dense and heavy mouthfeel with subtle tropical notes of melon and pineapple – but the buttery goodness is the star of this show. ($14.99)

(90) Rickshaw Chardonnay 2021 (CA)

Sandalwood, lemon peel and crisp cider-apple aromas converge on the nose of this bottling. The palate taste of baked lemon and roasted apple flavors, forming the core. ($12.99)


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