Mark Aselstine
January 3, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

My Favorite Wines, Winemakers and Wineries of 2011

10) B Cellars: I’ll admit it. I love Napa. It’s part the ambiance. It’s part tradition. It’s part nostalgia. It’s mostly the incredible wine, both the consistently great Cab’s produced everywhere in the valley, but also the innovative smaller wineries that you haven’t heard of yet. We shipped Blend 24 by B Cellars, partly because we loved the wine, but also partly because they’re willing to experiment and grow one of the best Sangiovese crops in California.

9) Anything from Los Olivos (the other side of Santa Barbara). Dragonette. Tensley. Stolpman. Blair Fox (more on him/them later). Beckmen. Kaena. The list goes on and one, with all the offerings priced incredibly fairly given the quality. If I had one day to taste with a group of friends, Los Olivos might be the stop considering there are 30 tasting rooms within walking distance of each other.

8) Kamen: I’m going to date myself here a bit, but Karate Kid is one of my favorite movies of all time. Yes, I am about the perfect age, but meeting the guy who wrote the screenplay was one of life’s little thrills. Robert Kamen might write screenplays for a living, but his Kamen wine label might be the best Cabernet produced in Sonoma. If you’re anything like my wife, you might not be as thrilled to meet the guy who did the screenplay for Karate Kid, but might be more interested in a Walk in the Clouds!

7) Blair Fox: Certainly one of the coolest winemakers on the block. We haven’t shipped one of his Syrah’s…..yet. Tierra Alta Vineyard is my personal favorite.

6) Copain: Lower alcohol has a home in California wine. You just need perfect vineyard locations and a willing winemaker to make it happen consistently. Welcome to Copain where we will vouch for literally any wine they make from their entry level Tous Ensambles, to their vineyard designate wines which truly shine.

5) Andrew Will: Bordeaux has already found its way to Washington, most wine drinkers simply haven’t discovered it yet. These are restrained wines considering their vineyard sources and are clear crowd pleasers whenever they are opened.

4) JC Cellars: Multiple wines rated in the mid 90’s and priced at around $40 will get you a lot of attention. Think Tensley 3 years ago, before the massive hype and waiting list.

3) Woodward Canyon: Great high end Cab’s. A great entry level second label.  There isa  lot to like here on a number of different levels.  If you want to try your first Washington wine, this is a place to start.

2) Sojourn: We love fleshy Pinot’s. If I want a Pinot to break apart in my mouth, I’ll buy something from Oregon. Winemaker Erich Bradley crafts quality Cab and Pinot all in a Burgundian style.

1) Anything made by Mike Smith. We’re guilty of liking the exclusive and getting the heads up about Mike’s label from Maybach didn’t hurt either. High quality Cab’s from some of the top vineyard sources in the state. All of the wines made by Mike show a level of sophistication not often seen at their prices. Parker said to get on the list before he left town and we couldn’t agree more. It doesn’t hurt that we like Mike quite a lot, he also helped us to find one of the great hole in the wall Mexican food restaurants in all of Napa.


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