Wine Enthusiast Advance Buying Guide
“Best of the Year 2022”
“U.S. consumers drink far more California wine than wine from any other place. This preference for drinking domestic is not unusual for a major wine-producing region; just ask the French, Italians, or Spanish. For U.S. wine drinkers, California wine is often more accessible than imported wine and it is, of course, American-made, something we take pride in supporting. California winemakers have been working their way to the top tier of the international quality pyramid for 40 years, and now have clearly arrived alongside historically renowned regions such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Barolo. This Buying Guide is packed full of proof of that progress, featuring hundreds of highly rated wines blind-tasted by our three dedicated California reviewers: Matt Kettman, Stacy Briscoe, and myself.
In particular, you’ll find dozens of excellent Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons, which are California’s top-selling varietal wines and demonstrably the two types that California winemakers have mastered more frequently than any other. So don’t let the naysayers who put down Chardonnay as the generic vanilla wine and Cabernet as the overblown chocolate wine put you off. Those stereotypes stem from mass-market, lower-priced wines made in big volumes, while the reviews in this issue—and every issue of Wine Enthusiast—identify plenty of excellent-quality Chards and Cabs with authenticity and personality.
Ten Chardonnays are rated 95-plus and come from four different counties: Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Sonoma, and Napa. The two highest-rated wines (96 points) show the range of styles available. The Croix 2020 Richard Dinner Chardonnay made from Sonoma Mountain grapes is full-bodied, luscious, and tropical in flavor, while the Tolosa 2020 Poletti Chardonnay from Edna Valley grapes is lighter-bodied,
Jump to the Cabernet Sauvignon section and a 100-point 2019 from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars tops an incredible list of beautiful wines, mostly from Napa Valley but with a few from Paso Robles and Livermore Valley. The memorable Fay Vineyard Estate Grown wine shows old-school aromatics and a supple but cellar-able structure that will help it age gracefully for 20 years.
Yes, many of the top wines are very expensive, but they are not for everyday drinking, and the marketplace has voted that they are worth these prices. High demand and quite limited supply dictates luxury pricing for many of the highest-rated examples in this Buying Guide.
But we urge you also to consider the many relative values highlighted in these pages. Pay attention to the individual reviews and you will find highly recommended wines under $30 and even less than $20. If you want to experience the best that California’s vineyards can offer, there is no better time than now.”
2020 MacRostie Dutton Ranch Chardonnay Russian River Valley – 95 Points, Editors’ Choice: Superb; a great achievement
“A vein of handsomely toasted, not-too-heavy oak runs through this elegant, well-structured wine. It adds savory, smoky touches from the sniff to the sip and into a lingering finish. Toasted almonds, Bosc pears, and grilled peaches contribute to its complexity and concentration.”
2020 MacRostie Nightwing Vineyard Chardonnay – 94 Points, Editors’ Choice: Superb; a great achievement
“Very ripe, almost sweet pear and peach flavors are bolstered by good fruit acidity in this well-balanced wine. Complex accents of toasted almond and butter are layered into the delicious fruits.”
2019 MacRostie Gap’s Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir – 93 Points: Excellent; highly recommended
“Fresh strawberries and raspberries in the aroma turn a bit darker in the flavors, where black cherries and black tea give this wine some delicious bass notes. It is a well-balanced, true-to-type, cool-climate wine with concentrated flavors and light tannins.”
2019 MacRostie Manzana Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – 93 Points: Excellent; highly recommended
“Both savory and fruity, this medium- to full-bodied wine elicits redwood forest, dark plums, black tea, and black cherries on a moderately tannic and slightly tangy texture. It is well balanced for drinking through 2028.”
2020 MacRostie Kent Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay Russian River Valley – 93 Points: Excellent; highly recommended
“Aromas of brown butter and vanilla lead to a refreshing, dry, and balanced palate lifted by lemon and crisp apple notes and accented by nutmeg, toast, and almond. The wine holds back a bit on richness, and this restraint is seductive.”
2020 MacRostie The Key Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – 93 Points: Excellent; highly recommended
“Fragrant and honeyed, this wine is balanced by acidity, providing a good back and forth between ripe peaches and crisp lemons. Vanilla, toast, and ginger notes reveal as you sip, showing the nice shaping influence of new oak in the aging process of this wine.”
2020 MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – 93 Points: Excellent; highly recommended
“Prominent toasted-oak and butter aromas precede rich pastry-shop flavors in this full-bodied, full-bore wine. Poached pears, vanilla, and hazelnuts register on the palate, while a creamy texture carries them into a lingering finish.”
2021 Clockwise Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon – 90 Points, Editors’ Choice: Excellent; highly recommended
“Who said that Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t good for rosé? This dry and tangy wine is a brilliant pink in color, and almost as vivid on the palate. Crisp cranberry and red-cherry notes are laced with good acidity for lip-smacking enjoyment while you sip.”
2019 MacRostie The Loch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – 90 Points: Excellent; highly recommended
“This mellow, smooth and rich wine offers smoky, earthy accents on the nose and dusky forest-floor and black-plum flavors on the palate. The texture is soft and soothing.”
2020 MacRostie Bacigalupi Vineyard Chardonnay Russian River Valley – 90 Points: Excellent; highly recommended
“This solidly built, full-bodied, and somewhat restrained wine blends mostly tangy citrus flavors with light butter accents for a fruity, straightforward style that’s moderate in flavors and nicely appetizing. Further aging may bring out more complexity. Best from 2025.”
Wine Enthusiast Advance Buying Guide
“Best of the Year 2022
2021 MacRostie Pinot Noir Rosé Russian River Valley – 93 Points: Excellent; highly recommended
“Made entirely from Pinot Noir, this wine shines in light layers of grapefruit, strawberry and wet stone. Balanced and refreshing throughout, it offers a finishing touch of lemon pith that further complicates matters in a good way.”