100 Amazing Wines 2022: 5 other reds

Approximately 2,000 wines were evaluated in 2022 for the Amazing 100 list, to discover fine wines in all styles, from a diversity of regions and American Viticultural Areas and across all price points.|
Acorn Medley Top 100 Wines of 2022 November 28, 2022.  (Chad Surmick / The Press Democrat)
Acorn Medley Top 100 Wines of 2022 November 28, 2022. (Chad Surmick / The Press Democrat)

Acorn Winery/ Alegría Vineyards

2018 Medley Russian River Valley ($50)

Bill and Betsy Nachbaur are so low-key that if they ever toot horns, they do it so softly that few wine buffs realize they grow more than 100 grape types on their 32-acre Certified Historic Vineyard in eastern Russian River Valley. They produce only about 2,000 cases of wine each year. The primary varieties, first planted in 1890, are zinfandel, alicante bouschet and petite sirah, along with carignane, trousseau, sangiovese, petit bouschet, negrette, syrah, plavac mali, tannat, muscat noir and others. Medley is a field blend of up to 60 varieties; the 2018 vintage includes syrah, zinfandel, cinsaut, dolcetto, cabernet franc and viognier. It’s a whole vineyard in a bottle, and it’s delicious. Very juicy and reminiscent of blackberry pie a la mode, plum jam and cherry cola, Medley is fascinating to drink and a marvel of winemaking. Bill Nachbaur basically assembles a “blend of field blends,” with grapes harvested in three stages based on when they ripen and fermented together before they go into barrel for 10 months or so. Then he creates a final blend from the field blends, and Medley goes back into barrels for another nine months. Whew.

Bedrock Wine Co.

2020 The Bedrock Heritage Sonoma Valley ($50)

After leaving Ravenswood Winery following its 2001 sale to Constellation Brands, Joel Peterson refired his old-vine-seeker engine and purchased a Sonoma Valley vineyard planted in 1888. It had gone by several names over the decades, so Peterson called it Bedrock Vineyard. His son, Morgan Twain-Peterson, who grew up working in the Ravenwood cellar, buys grapes from his father for his own Bedrock Wine Co. The vineyard is planted to zinfandel, carignane, mataro and a couple dozen other varieties, and several show up in this Heritage red blend. It’s youthful and muscular now, with tight tannins that should relax with a few years of cellaring. Under all its sinew lie vibrant dark berries and spice, with a prominent crack of black pepper and coriander.

Mengler Family Wines

2019 Alegría Vineyards Russian River Valley Sangiovese ($45)

The Nachbaurs of Acorn Winery/Alegría Vineyards also sell zinfandel, syrah and sangiovese grapes to their neighbors, among them Chris and Rita Mengler. The Menglers are relatively new to the Sonoma County winemaking scene, having established their business in 2014. Viognier, chardonnay, rosé of syrah and dolcetto are in their lineup, though sangiovese is arguably the headliner. The fruit comes from Alegría, in which 26 clones of sangiovese are rooted. I tasted this wine at The Press Democrat’s North Coast Wine Challenge this year (where it advanced to the sweepstakes round), and my notes were virtually the same as when I tasted it earlier: Weightier than Italian sangiovese but not too heavy … juicy, generous dark fruit … toasty oak and pleasant earthiness … firm tannins … great acid on the long finish. It “Amazed” me last year, too.

Saini 2019 Top 100 Wines of 2022 November 28, 2022.  (Chad Surmick / The Press Democrat)
Saini 2019 Top 100 Wines of 2022 November 28, 2022. (Chad Surmick / The Press Democrat)

Saini Vineyards

2019 Angelo’s Paint Brush Dry Creek Valley ($40)

Carignane, sangiovese and grenache marry nicely in this blend, made by Julia Iantosca (Lambert Bridge, Lasseter) for the Saini family. Juicy red fruits and savory spice are framed by toasty, vanillin oak and supple tannins. It’s way too easy to drink. Michele Saini immigrated to San Francisco in 1908 from Genoa, Italy, and purchased a ranch in Dry Creek Valley in 1917 with brother-in-law John Cuneo. They grew apples, pears and prunes, then diversified with wine grapes and sold their vinous crops to area wineries. It took fourth-generation farmer Mike Saini — Angelo’s dad — and Mike’s friend George Christie to take winemaking seriously, and they launched Saini Vineyards in 2008. Mike still farms. His wife, Laura, is the general manager, and their daughter, Valentina, has a rosé named for her. Iantosca’s grenache ($45), sangiovese ($45) and Trailer Block Carignane ($50) are also noteworthy.

San Lorenzo 2020 Top 100 Wines of 2022 November 28, 2022.  (Chad Surmick / The Press Democrat)
San Lorenzo 2020 Top 100 Wines of 2022 November 28, 2022. (Chad Surmick / The Press Democrat)

San Lorenzo Winery

2020 The Pearl Alexander Valley Red Field Blend ($75)

After the Seghesios sold their namesake Healdsburg winery and 300 acres of vineyards in 2011, CEO Pete Seghesio maintained ownership of the San Lorenzo Vineyard (which spans the Alexander and Russian River valleys), believed to have first been planted in 1892. At what they call San Lorenzo Planting, Pete and his wife, Cathy, reside and raise cattle and chickens. They host a large vegetable garden for SingleThread restaurant, grow grapes and produce wine for their Journeyman label and San Lorenzo. They also own Journeyman Meat Co. The Pearl is an old-vine field blend of zinfandel, petite sirah, carignane, grand noir, alicante, negrette and mataro. Full-bodied and intense, it boasts bold black fruit and meat-friendly tannins, with crisp acidity locking in freshness on the palate.

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