Introducing the Viney awards

The calendar is about to set on 2016.

In what I’ll call the first annual Viney Awards, here’s are some of the best wines I tasted this year:

• 2013 Rall White ($29)

Even my non-white wine drinking friends enjoyed this delightfully crisp and elegant blend of chenin blanc, viognier, chardonnay and verdelho from Swartland and Stellenbosch in South Africa. The wine has a mineral core from the chenin blanc with delicious floral notes from the verdelho and viognier. Great with seafood and as an aperitif.

• 2016 LangeTwins Nouveau ($18)

Winemaker David Akiyoshi’s clever treatment of fresh-picked zinfandel in a manner similar to nouveau Beaujolais produced a wine that bridges the gap between rose and red. It’s not a lightweight but it won’t knock your block off either. Gorgeous rose petals, strawberries and watermelon flavors and aromas are what you’ll find with this beauty.

• 2014 Bokisch Monastrell ($23)

The last vintage from the Belle Colline vineyard is 100 percent monastrell, crafted by winemaker Elyse Perry. The wine has some of the earthy elements consistent with the grape’s French variation, mouvedre, but it also possesses beautiful red fruit, such as raspberry, cranberry and pomegranate. The Belle Colline vineyard is being replanted to a different variety. Markus and Liz Bokisch have planted monastrell in the Sheldon Hills Vineyard in the Sloughouse sub-AVA, but it might take a few years before the vines have sufficiently matured.

• 2015 Heritage Oak Sauvignon Blanc ($18)

Tom Hoffman made his 2015 sauvignon blanc from his estate fruit in Acampo the same way he’s always made it. But the nose on the 2015 blew him away: “Grapefruit just screams out at you,” he said. The flavors are citrusy and tropical with great acid balance.

• 2015 Acquiesce Viognier ($24)

If you want to try this magnificent white wine at owner Susan Tipton’s tasting room just off Peltier Road in Lodi, you’ll have to wait until March. That’s what happens when you craft tiny lots of glorious wine – you sell out, which she did earlier this month. In March, she’ll re-open and offer her new releases. If you love something, you’d be wise to purchase it right then and there.

• 2012 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon ($55)

This is like saying oxygen is my favorite element. You don’t need Jordan cabernet to survive, but it sure helps. Rob Davis, the only winemaker Jordan ever has had (and that’s going back more than 40 years) has been quoted to say the 2012 is his favorite vintage: “2012 was truly a phenomenal growing season – every winemaker’s dream – which shines through as one of the most complex Jordan cabernet sauvignons to date.”

• 2013 Harney Lane Cabernet Sauvignon ($35)

So, you think Lodi is only good for big, jammy zinfandels, right? Harney Lane’s Kyle Lerner would like to change your mind and his first proprietary cabernet sauvignon might just do the trick. There are components to this wine a Bordeaux drinker would appreciate: good structure, nice acid balance, solid fruit, light oak, nothing over the top. Winemaker Chad Joseph calls it a cab with “true varietal character.”

• 2014 Balo Anderson Valley Suitcase 828 Pinot Noir ($40)

Balo’s first attempt at bottling a single clone pinot has an interesting story behind it. This controversial pinot droit clone was smuggled into the country from Burgundy many years ago by a famous Oregon winery. Its vigorous growth profile has raised questions about its origins. Great story, but is the wine any good? Yep. It tastes like a pinot noir that’s in a relationship with Beaujolais. It’s a beautifully nuanced wine.

Those are just several of my favorites this year – the first annual Vineys. Tell me about the wines you tried this year that were your favorites. Shoot me an email. Happy New Year.

– Contact reporter Bob Highill at (209) 546-8282 or Follow him at and on Twitter @BobHighfill

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      Bob Highfill

      Record Sports Editor Bob Highfill is a wine enthusiast and has earned Level 3 certification with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust of London through the Napa Valley Wine Academy. Bob will share some of his experiences from his travels to Lodi and other prime wine locales in his blog and welcomes your suggestions, reviews and wine speak.
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