15 high-end wines from Sonoma, Napa around California worth the price

Check out these top-scoring, splurge-worthy wines from Press Democrat blind tastings.|

When price is no object, the palate has free rein. And a recent survey indicates the palate trumps price when it comes to buying wine.

The survey of wine consumers in three countries — the U.S., Italy and Australia — concluded that taste is more important than price when consumers find a wine they want, according to Forbes magazine. If people have tried a wine before and liked it, they’ll spend the money to buy it, even if it’s a little pricey.

Conducted in May of this year, the survey tabulated the likes and dislikes of 2,014 wine consumers. Lead researcher Armando Corsi, an associate professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia, said consumers from the three countries agreed that a big predictor that they’ll buy a wine is if they have tasted it before. These consumers also agreed that a trusted recommendation has a big impact on their buying decisions.

Interestingly, price was the second most important factor for buying a wine for consumers in the U.S. and Australia — but not in Italy.

“Having tried a wine before is a strong predictor of future choice,” Corsi said. “However, if you didn’t try it yourself, Australian and U.S. consumers tend to rely on price, whilst Italians seem to be guided more by the food they are going to match with that wine.”

Here are 15 wines, from the least to the most expensive, at the higher end of the market that you may find well worth their price. All come highly recommended as standouts in Press Democrat blind tastings.

  • Cuvaison, 2021 Pinot Noir, Los Carneros, Napa Valley, 14.3%, $42, 4.5 stars: A gorgeous pinot noir from start to finish. Generous fruit, with aromas of wild strawberry and plum following through to the palate. With pitch-perfect balance, this pinot ends with a quench of cranberry. Striking.
  • Jordan, 2021 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, 13.7%, $42, 4 stars: A lovely chardonnay with layered notes of pear, lemon and mineral. Citrusy finish and a supple texture. Rich yet balanced.
  • Lang & Reed, 2021 Cabernet Franc, North Coast, 14.5%, $45, 4 stars: Aromas and flavors of black cherry, currant and rhubarb. Tangy fruit with crisp acidity.
  • Flambeaux, 2019 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, 14.9%, $50, 4.5 stars: Complex and layered with blackberry and boysenberry fruit. It has an undercurrent of spice with a kick of cracked black pepper. It’s a knockout.
  • Gary Farrell, 2021 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, 13.9%, $50, 4 stars: Buoyed by crisp acid, this complex pinot has aromas and flavors of red raspberry, black raspberry and cassis. Elegant and refreshing, this pinot finishes crisp.
  • Merry Edwards, 2021 Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, 14%, $50, 4.5 stars: Gorgeous stone fruit meets citrus in this tasty sauvignon blanc. Notes of peach, lime zest and grapefruit. Supple texture and a crisp finish.
  • Moret Brealynn, 2021 Stray Dogs Pinot Noir, Central Coast, 14.5%, $50, 4 stars: A supple pinot noir with notes of cherry, plum and chocolate. Balanced and buoyed with crisp acid, with a lingering finish.
  • Palmeri, 2021 Daisy’s Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, Durell Vineyard, 14.5%, $50, 4.5 stars: A chardonnay lover’s chardonnay. It’s lush yet balanced with crisp acid keeping ripe apple and toffee notes in check. Complex, with mineral and a hint of butterscotch. Silky texture. Impressive.
  • Cattleya, 2021 Cuvee Number Five Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, 14.1%, $55, 4.5 stars: Gorgeous stone fruit meets citrus in this lovely chardonnay. Notes of peach and lime with a hint of toffee in the finish. Impressive.
  • Chappellet, 2021 Chardonnay, Carneros, Sangiacomo Vineyard, 14.1%, $55, 4 stars: A silky yet complicated chardonnay. Aromas of white peach and white flowers follow through to the palate, with nutmeg and brioche in the mix. Just lovely.
  • Mercury, 2019 The Dark Side, Alexander Valley, 14.1%, $59, 4 stars: This syrah-based blend has generous fruit of blackberry, black cherry and plum, plus savory notes. It rides on an undercurrent of spice, cracked black pepper.
  • Fog Crest Vineyard, 2018 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 14.1%, $70, 4 stars: Black raspberry and tangy cherry aromas follow through to the palate. Balanced, with bright acidity. Nice length.
  • La Rochelle, 2017 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, El Coro Vineyard, 14.1%, $70, 3.5 stars: Bright and lively, weighted to red fruit of cranberry and pomegranate. Buoyed with crisp acid, it has a lingering finish.
  • J. Bucher, 2021 Opa’s Block Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Bucher Vineyard, 13.8%, $75, 4 stars: A layered pinot noir with notes of strawberry, pomegranate and cedar. This is a pinot with depth, great structure and nice length.
  • Chev, 2020 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 14.2%, $80, 4.5 stars: This lush chardonnay is kept in check with bright acidity. Layered notes of pear, honeysuckle and mineral. Nice length and well-crafted.

You can reach wine writer Peg Melnik at 707-521-5310 or peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pegmelnik.

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