This past year saw many Foley Family Wines earn 90+ scores, Double Gold honors, and other various top awards from numerous publications and competitions throughout the wine industry. We asked Eric Stine, Vice President of Winemaking for FFW, to share his thoughts on some of the very best of those wines earning praise in 2019 – fourteen to be exact. These wines do not just represent the high quality of winemaking found throughout the FFW portfolio, but also the great diversity of varietals, produced across various regions, including California’s Central Coast, Napa, Sonoma, and the Pacific Northwest.
So, to celebrate a very successful 2019 and usher in a very happy and healthy 2020, here are 14 of the best Foley Family Wines to have earned acclaim in 2019.
2016 MERUS CABERNET SAUVIGNON, COOMBSVILLE
96 Points, Wine Spectator
Wine Spectator: A towering young wine, laden with gorgeously pure plum, boysenberry, and blackberry flavors, showing flashes of violet and apple wood. Beautifully rendered, with power, grace, and beguiling perfume throughout, revealing, a long, refined structure through the finish. Best from 2021-2035. 1,900 cases made.
Eric’s Notes: Back to the future, the 2016 Merus is reminiscent of the opulence and depth of past fantastic vintages.
2017 THE FOUR GRACES PINOT NOIR, WILLAMETTE VALLEY
93 Points, Wine Spectator & Best Wines for Thanksgiving – Food & Wine
Wine Spectator: Graceful and sleekly complex, with pretty cherry blossom aromas that open to poised raspberry, green tea and spice flavors that glide along the finish. Drink now through 2026.
Eric’s Notes: The Four Graces keeps on killing it! The last three vintages have been spectacular in Oregon and 2017 Willamette shows the powerful blend of our Dundee and Yamhill vineyards.
2017 THE FOUR GRACES RESERVE PINOT NOIR, DUNDEE HILLS
94 Points, Wine Spectator
Wine Spectator: A delicate and polished beauty, with expressive aromas that open to gracefully layered cherry and spice cinnamon accents that build richness toward refined tannins.
Eric’s Notes: Normally a very cool spot producing leaner wines, the warm 2017 vintage shows the vineyard at its absolute best.
2016 SEBASTIANI CHERRYBLOCK CABERNET SAUVIGNON
94+ Points, Robert Parker & Splurge-Worthy California Reds – Food & Wine
Food & Wine: Sebastiani may be more well-known for its everyday-priced offerings, but this exuberant Cab is worth a look. It’s fresh and bursting with cherries and mixed berries and leaves notes of cinnamon stick, ripe black raspberries, and a touch of pomegranate syrup in its wake. The slightest hint of smoldering sage complicates the delicate yet persistent finish.
Eric’s Notes: Cherryblock is a perennial masterpiece. The low vigor, rocky soils allowed this vineyard to consistently produce some of the best Cabernet since 1904. Winemaker, David Nakaji, has continued the tradition with a deft touch of barrel selection.
Eric Stine, Vice President of Winemaking for Foley Family Wines
2016 CHALK HILL ESTATE CHARDONNAY
91 Points, Robert Parker Wine Advocate & 91 Points, Wine Spectator & 25 Amazing Sonoma Wines to Drink Right Now – Food & Wine
Wine Advocate: The 2016 Chardonnay Estate is scented of ripe Bosc pears, fresh apple slices and nutmeg with hints of peach kernels, lightly browned toast and struck flint. Medium to full-bodied, the palate offers plenty of apple and pear goodness, with a satiny texture and lively line, finishing creamy. 14,000 cases produced.
Eric’s Notes: Unfiltered and unfined, is incredibly uncommon in Chardonnay, but the rich texture of this wine will express why it’s worth all the fuss.
2016 FOLEY JOHNSON ESTATE MERITAGE
91 Points & Best Buy, Wine & Spirits & Years Best US Cabernets and Blends – Wine & Spirits
Dark ruby in the glass, it exhibits aromas of black currant, cassis and a hint of smoky tobacco. Notes of black cherry, plum, vanilla and mocha are present on the medium-bodied palate. Its smooth mouth-feel and soft tannins make this a wine perfect for drinking now or will age gracefully over the next 5-7 years.
Eric’s Notes: A Wine Spectator top 100 wine last year, the Foley Johnson Meritage has the silky texture and fruit intensity that our Rutherford Estate vineyard can express. Try it and see how this bend of the best, somehow still became better than the sum of its parts.
2017 ROTH ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON, ALEXANDER VALLEY
92 Points & Gold Medal, San Francisco International Wine Competition
The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is bold, full-bodied and rich. Dark in color, it displays mighty aromas of black cherry, blackberry and baking spices with intense fruit on the finish.
Eric’s Notes: Bold and unapologetic, the 2017 Roth Alexander Valley Cab is a Cabernet lover’s ideal wine. A perfect mix of luscious fruit and full structure.
2016 TWO SISTERS RESERVE PINOT NOIR, STA. RITA HILLS
95 Points, Wine Enthusiast
Wine Enthusiast: The black cherry aroma on the nose of this bottling is enhanced by tobacco, bay leaf, dried pine and mushroom accents. The palate is loaded with dark fruit, anise and gingerbread spice, as well as more of that earthy mushroom quality. Soft tannins and lingering bright acidity complete the picture.
Eric’s Notes: Produced from the lowest producing, south facing, hillside blocks on the Courtney and Lindsay’s West vineyard. This vineyard is just 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and the intensity of sand farming and wine swept location makes intensely concentrated wines.
2016 CHALONE VINEYARD ESTATE RESERVE CHARDONNAY
91 Points, Wine & Spirits
Wine & Spirits: Chalone’s 2016 Reserve is Chardonnay played at high volume: It’s lactic and powerful, with scents of honeycomb and white flowers and fleshy flavors of apples and pears. It’s got plenty of oak to line that fruit, and the weight to pair well with pork loin.
Eric’s Notes: Perched nearly 2,000 feet in the hillds of Monterey, Chalone has soils and climate like no other vineyard in California. 2016 was a warm vintage and the result is concentrated and structured Chardonnay.
2016 CHALONE VINEYARD ESTATE CHARDONNAY
90 Points, Wine & Spirits
Wine & Spirits: Drawn from vines planted in the early 1970s, this is a broad-shouldered white, nutty and bright, with lemonzest features. Its baked-apple breadth and sweetness is lined with dusty caramel notes from oak. Pour it with crab cakes.
Eric’s Notes: A taste of history, this wine shows why Chalone Chardonnay was the #1 wine at the “Re-tasting of Paris.”
2016 LANCASTER ESTATE WINEMAKER’S CUVÉE
94 Points, Robert Parker Wine Advocate
Wine Advocate: The 2016 Winemaker’s Cuvée is medium to deep garnet-purple in color and scented of cassis, blackberries and preserved plums with suggestions of cedar chest, wood smoke, dried herbs and tapenade plus a waft of charcoal. Full-bodied with tons of black fruit and wood-inspired flavors, it has a solid line of ripe tannins and plenty of freshness, finishing long.
Eric’s Notes: The combined efforts of two exceptional winemakers is the secret behind Lancaster Cuvée. David Drake and David Nakaji, D2, argued and fussed over this wine— the results are in the bottle.
2016 SEBASTIANI MERLOT, NORTH COAST
Wine Enthusiast: Well-balanced and nicely concentrated, this full-bodied wine fills its firm frame with a core of rich black cherry and shades of roast beef and pepper. It shows firm tannins and good acidity to counter the deep fruit notes.
Eric’s Notes: Maligned for years now, Merlot has everything when made at this level. If you haven’t had a merlot recently, give one from producer as renowned and masterful at the variety as Sebastiani a try, and you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life.
2016 FIRESTONE CABERNET SAUVIGNON, PASO ROBLES
90 Points, Wine Enthusiast
Wine Enthusiast: Black cherry… and cocoa… aromas show on the nose. Bright berry and cherry flavors meet with tobacco and ancho chile dust on the palate.
Eric’s Notes: The 2016 Firestone Paso Robles Cab shows off the ripeness of the region. The warm growing season in Paso Robles is perfect for making such a rich and lush wine.
2016 LINCOURT RANCHO SANTA ROSA CHARDONNAY, STA. RITA HILLS
91 Points, Wine Spectator
Wine Spectator: Big and juicy, showing concentrated flavors of baked apple, glazed pear and pineapple that are supported by fresh acidity. Creamy and rich on the spicy finish. Drink now through 2022. 4,105 cases made.
Eric’s Notes: Santa Rita is uniquely suited for Chardonnay. It’s cool and windy conditions are challenging, but there are beautiful days as well. As balanced as I’ve tasted, the 2016 Two Sisters is as beautiful as a coastal afternoon.