Giovanna Moretti and columnist Frank Mangio taste the Sette Ponti Oreno. Photo courtesy Frank Mangio
Giovanna Moretti and columnist Frank Mangio taste the Sette Ponti Oreno. Photo courtesy Frank Mangio
Columns Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: The top 10 tastings — from July to September

The last 90 days of wine tasting have been one for the books for TASTE OF WINE.

The invitations blew the top off my appointment calendar. Big new events including Pala Casino, the Kobrand Italian show at the University Club, Newport Beach and their wine and food festival, then new restaurant introductions like Crudo in Del Mar Highlands and Decoy Dockside Dining at Lake San Marcos kept the excitement going.

September was California Wine month, with my touring and tasting of San Luis Obispo’s finest wineries, two of which made the top ten. So let’s get to it.

The following 10 are not ranked — all made an excellent rating.  The listing is alphabetically entered. Prices are the best found and may vary.

• Faustino Gran Reserva Spain, 2001.  $26.  From Spain’s grand Rioja district. Bright and intense with spicy notes and a pleasant licorice presence.  Over 26 months in barrel and three years in bottle before release.  Visit

• Fifty Row Cabernet Sauvignon Napa, 2012.  $50.  Here’s another wine with the greatest Napa harvest in over a decade. Great expression of the Rutherford district.  Blackberry, dark plum, chocolate and hints of tobacco. Visit

• Ferrari Carano Una Blend Dry Creek Sonoma, 2014.  $39.  This wine is a new release of limited production, a complex blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre Rhone Valley French grapes.   Available only at the winery.  Visit

• Laetitia Pinot Noir Reserve du Domaine San Luis Obispo Arroyo Grande Valley, 2013.  $42. Showered with major awards as a defining Pinot on the Central Coast, this wine has arousing aromas, silken texture and a seamless complexity and balance. Visit

• Lewis Cellars Alec’s Blend Napa, 2014.  $62. Powerful, balanced wine with 60 percent Syrah, 34 percent Merlot, and 6 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.  The 15.5 percent alcohol is high but brings out the intense flavor.  TASTE OF WINE’s wine of the month for October. Visit lewiscellars.comm.

• Olenik Vineyards Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Oregon, 2012.  $45. Estate grown Pinot grapes in the Chehalem Mountains with just a 185 case production.  The 31 acres is mostly a rock pile of volcano based soil.  Visit

• Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Sonoma, 2012. $75.  “Life is a Cabernet” is the motto of Silver Oak, a world leader with this lively, fruity expression from a great vintage. Unusual vitality.  Visit

• Starmont Chardonnay Carneros Napa, 2012.  $15.  Bright gold in color.  Aroma of red apple, mandarin and pear.  Traditional acidity, clean finish.  Visit

• Stephen Ross Pinot Noir San Luis Obispo, 2013.  $52.  Deep ruby crimson color tips off a powerful Pinot.  Black cherry and spice.  Solid example of the fine Pinot wines from this district.  Visit

• Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno Tuscany, 2014. $84. 

Great care and nurturing for a maximum harvest of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot blend.  Lots are blended when the wine is placed into small barrel barriques. Aged 18 months.  Visit

Wine Bytes

Congratulations to Jim Tobin, co-owner of North County Wine Company. With grit and determination, he met his personal goal earning the Certified Specialist of Wine, WSET Wine & Spirits Advanced Level and Certified Sommelier, all in 12 months!  NCWS has wine events on Wednesdays and Friday/Saturdays.  For details call (760) 653-9032

The annual benefit Wine & Wishes event is being planned for Oct. 22 starting 6:30 p.m. at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, boutique winemakers from Napa Valley along with chefs and restaurants offering delicious food samples.  Craft breweries will be pouring their latest creations. A silent and live auction will keep the excitement going.

Meritage Wine Market will be hosting a Make a Wish VIP dinner featuring top Napa Valley wines Oct. 21 starting at 6 p.m. at the Omni La Costa.  RSVP through Meritage at (760) 479-2500. Information on The San Diego Make a Wish Saturday event is at

Art Rhythm and Wine is a community art event at the Carlsbad Forum, Oct. 22 from 3 to 8 p.m. benefitting the Warriors Foundation. Highlights include an art contest, musical performances with gourmet restaurants and wine tastings.  Tickets at

The Sons of Italy in America La Costa dei Fiori are having their 38th Anniversary Dinner Dance Oct. 22 at St. Patrick’s Parish hall in Carlsbad from 6 to 10:30 p.m.  Buffet dinner, hosted wine and beer, live music, silent auction and dancing.  Cost is $60. Contact Sadie at (760) 452-6108 for details and tickets.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View his columns at and reach him at  Follow him on Facebook.