North County Wine Company’s Bill and Jim Tobin pours samples of their Top Ten recently and it included the Arcanum Il Fauno 2012 from Tuscany, a TASTE OF WINE choice. Photo by Frank Mangio
Community Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: The Top Ten tasting wines of 2016

This past year was a fascinating one for a wine industry that has never been one to rest on its past successes. Great chefs have flocked to San Diego and brought with them menu formats that include great wines.

The urban winery format has multiplied in our large communities where one brand is served, made from grapes brought in from the best vineyards in the state.  The wines of Baja Mexico are finally showing what they are made of (I have one in my Top 10).

The list also includes two from Italy, one from Washington and six from California. An amazing six blends make up the majority of flavors, with two Pinot Noirs, one Chardonnay and one Sangiovese.

The lovely wine and bottle design of Ferrari Carano’s 2012 Tresor. Photo courtesy Ferrari-Carano
The lovely wine and bottle design of Ferrari Carano’s 2012 Tresor. Photo courtesy Ferrari-Carano


Prices can always vary, but the ones shown are the best I could find after sourcing (five of the wine are priced under $25). Wines are shown in alphabetical order.  All are ranked “Excellent” by my guidelines of flavor, body and value.


  • Arcanum Il Fauno Blend, Tuscany Italy, 2012; $20.  Here’s what’s called a “Super Tuscan” in the old country, but at a price that can’t be beat!  It’s a polished, flavorful red in a spicy, earthy style.  The wine ranked No. 19 in Wine Spectator’s year-end top 100.


  • Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux Red Blend, Wash., 2012; $12. A lively blend named for the horses that roamed Horse Heaven Hills in Eastern Washington. Dark, fruity, cherry flavors, with smooth tannins. Another low priced triumph for Columbia Crest.


  • Enlace Pinot Noir, Monterey, Calif., 2014; $16.  The values keep coming.  This one fills a few bins at COSTCO.  Deep, inky red.  Fruit forward boysenberry sourced from several Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards. Long elegant finish.


  • Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy 2012; $21.  A rich handcrafted wine of Sangiovese clones. Flavors peak with beef and sharp cheeses.


  • Frei Brothers Chardonnay, Sonoma, Calif., 2015; $12. Russian River Chardonnay with quality way above its price. Cool climate brings out the flavor of green apple and zesty orange with nutty notes.


  • Ferrari-Carano Tresor Blend, Sonoma, Calif., 2012;  $38. Bordeaux style wine from the vineyard’s finest lots of Cabernet, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot. Dramatic sunset painting alone worth the price.


  • Lewis Cellars Alec’s Blend, Napa Valley, Calif., 2014; $62. A big powerful red with candied black fruit flavors. Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet team up for this muscle wine.  Wine Spectator awarded Lewis’s all-Cabernet.


  • Rafael Adobe Guadalupe Blend, Baja, Calif., 2012; $98. A south of the border red blend from 55 percent Cabernet and 45 percent Nebbiolo (yes, the legendary Italian grape from Piedmont, Italy).  Small production and strong, luscious flavor reminds me of Italy’s Barolo.


  • The Prisoner Blend, Napa Valley, Calif., 2013; $36.  Launched in 2003, this was the first of the new breed red blends, with mainly Zinfandel to go with Cabernet, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Charbono. Pure cherry and chocolate flavor.  Delicious!


  • Tolosa “1772” Pinot Noir, Edna Valley San Luis Obispo, Calif., 2014; $60. A favorite appellation with its rolling fog into the vines.  Best grape blocks used to produce a wine of exceptional character. Aged in French oak.  Rich mouthfeel.


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.