Reviews & Recognition

Top 100 Napa and Sonoma Wines of 2017, January 4, 2018

There has never been a better time to buy the best of Napa and Sonoma. Take a look at my list of top 100 wines from the regions that we’ve tasted in 2017 because there’s got to be a number of wines – both reds and whites – that you’ll like. From a fresh and balanced 2014 Oakville cabernet to a bold and bright 2015 Sonoma Coast pinot, these are the wines that you must drink. Come and taste the precision and pure fruit character that California does so very well.

Most of the wines in the list are from the 2014 vintage, which was a great follow up to the legendary 2013. As I wrote about Napa Valley’s 2014 vintage earlier last year, the 2014s show their true character and nature of their respective soils and microclimates. What’s in the bottle is more about their respective vineyards than the weather patterns during the year. It was altogether a more balanced growing season than most years in my recent memory.  In my mind, it’s better to drink the 2014s or 2012s now and leave the powerful 2013s to mellow with bottle age. I’d say the same when it comes to the 2015s as well. I am a huge fan of reds produced in 2013, as they show a superb structure that harkens back to the great vintages of the 1970s, 1960s, and 1950s. And you know what? Those classic reds from 40 and 50 years back are still drinking extremely well. So, stash some in your cellars.

The numerous 2015s in my list were from vineyards and wineries that were able to dial in the balance from what was a very short and hot year. The potential for making overly concentrated wines was certainly apparent in 2015, and many wineries couldn’t help it. But the 2015 reds and whites that I highly rated were those that showed some reserve and brightness with the flamboyant fruit character of the vintage.

And this is why, with all the above conditions considered, my Wine of the Year from Napa and Sonoma is the 100-point Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2014. It is a red that epitomizes the greatness of Napa reds with incredible panache and structure, and yet it has a linear backbone that gives the wine energy and precision. It does, however, cost a small fortune but the wine’s pure quality and greatness really stands out. It reminded me of that epiphany moment I had when I tasted it at the winery just one year ago.

The fact is that just about all my top wines are Napa Valley cabernets, and they are all expensive – some slightly less than others. I do wish that they are less expensive but nevertheless, most of the wines tend to sell out every year anyway. I did include some reasonably priced Napa reds such as those from Etude, Martin Rye, Larkmead and Flora Springs, among others. However, it seems like it’s been accepted that drinking the very best from Napa Valley is expensive. Shame, really.

Sonoma is a different story, and even the best wines are still relatively affordable. Take my No. 8 wine – Littorai Pinot Noir Sonoma County Sonoma Valley Sonoma Coast The Haven Vineyard 2015 – for example. The small-production red sells for about $125 a bottle, but that is only if you can find it. In fact, almost all the pinots and chardonnays in my top 100 list are being sold for that price or less.

I am not going to go on and on about each and every single wine in the list. Ultimately, they are all great wines. I hope you have the opportunity to try one in the near future. Unlike our global Top 100 of 2017, all of these wines were chosen for their sheer quality, and price was not a factor. Despite the fact that the Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Monte Bello 2014 is not from Napa or Sonoma, I included it in this year’s list. It’s a classic Californian wine and great like the rest of the selected ones. — James Suckling, CEO/Editor

 #50 Pahlmeyer 2014 Merlot Napa Valley

97 points. Blackberries, blueberries, forest floor and hints of Spanish cedar. Full-bodied and tight with firm and silky tannins and long and beautiful focus. Goes on for minutes. Terrific wine. Drink or hold.

#69 Pahlmeyer 2014 Proprietary Red Napa Valley

97 points. Fantastic aromatics with blackberries, blackcurrants and iodine. Licorice, too. Medium to fulll body, fine and velvety tannins and a very polished and gorgeous finish. Caressing and dialed in. Why wait? An intellectual wine here. Lovely now.