100 Best Sonoma Wines 2018
by LINDA MURPHY
Sonoma Magazine’s annual selection of the “Top 100 Wines of Sonoma” has been announced. Click through the gallery to see which wines and wineries made the list and read the article below for tasting notes and methodology.
A year ago, wildfires ripped through Sonoma County, destroying lives, homes, and businesses. Wine Country became Fire Country in the eyes of the world, yet paradoxically, flames did relatively little damage to local wineries and vineyards.
Paradise Ridge Winery, located in Santa Rosa’s Fountaingrove area, was demolished by the Tubbs fire, but this was the worst of it for Sonoma wineries. A few suffered structural damage, which they’ve since repaired.
Backfires intentionally set protected many wineries, including Sonoma Valley’s Arrowood Winery, from the conflagration.
But the major savers of Sonoma wines are the grapevines themselves, living plants with moisture in their veins. They served as natural firebreaks, with flames moving on to easier targets such as trees, brush, and structures.
Paradise Ridge is rebuilding, with its LOVE art sculpture standing strong after the fires. We celebrate that, and all recovery efforts, with this Top 100 Wines list. It’s heavy in sparkling wines — to toast Sonoma’s resilient personality — and with plenty of Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Noirs, and Zinfandels to please all crowds.
Welcome to resurgent Sonoma.
*NCWC refers to The Press Democrat’s 2018 North Coast Wine Challenge competition.
Landmark Vineyards 2015 Overlook Sonoma County Chardonnay $25 This multisite blend over delivers on price, with aromas and flavors of starfruit, apple, pear, grilled pineapple, mango, and crystalized ginger. It’s a rich, mouth-filling wine that finishes brisk and fresh, thanks to balancing acidity. 95 points at NCWC.
Sojourn Cellars 2016 Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay $45 The legendary Sangiacomo grapegrowing family’s Roberts Road vineyard, in the Petaluma Gap AVA, is the majority source of grapes for this distinctive wine. It’s not for lovers of fat, rich Chardonnays, but rather for those who appreciate elegance and nervosity. The winery doesn’t say this, but the wine is Chablis-like in firm structure, yet with juicy Sonoma fruit.
Sojourn Cellars 2016 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir $65 It melds plump black cherry and blackcurrant fruit with this vineyard’s signature savory qualities — black olive, cola, incense, anise, and fresh earth — in a sophisticated, complex wine. This yin-yang contrast works beautifully, with rich fruit meeting assertive minerality.
Carol Shelton Wines 2014 Florence Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Petite Sirah $40 Jack Florence’s vineyard produced this bold, spicy wine, which in the hands of winemaker Carol Shelton scored 95 points at NCWC. It’s jammy like a ripe Zinfandel, with black raspberry and blackberry fruit coated in melted chocolate and sprinkled with baking spice. The bright, crisp finish balances the richness.
Red Bordeaux Varietals & Blends
Trentadue Winery 2015 La Storia Block 500 Alexander Valley Merlot $28 NCWC judges loved this 99-point wine for its sweet vanillin oak wrapping around perfectly ripe plum and black cherry fruit. Firmly tannic and with crisp acidity, it’s youthful and a bit tight now, but six more months in the bottle will soften it a bit. For now, think grilled ribeye.