With several wines in each region earning recent acclaims, there are plenty of critics’ picks to try during your upcoming visit to wine country. But we also know every estate has its sleeper picks. You know what we’re talking about — those lesser-known varietals and limited release blends that make you wonder “How have I not tried this before?” or “Where have you been hiding this?”
So, in this installment of What to Taste This Weekend, here are our top choices for the best critics’ picks and sleeper wines to try at various FFWS tasting rooms this weekend.
FOLEY SONOMA | 5110 HIGHWAY 128, GEYSERVILLE, CA
Critics’ Pick: 2017 Foley Sonoma Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
Foley Sonoma winemaker Courtney Foley hand-crafted and selected this Rosé of Pinot to be included in the Winemaker Series, making it one of the favorites of this small-but-mighty property. Featuring a whimsical watercolor label representing the Russian River Valley hillside vineyard where the wine is sourced, this Rosé is made for poolside enjoyment or porch sipping and is sure to deliver a sense of youthfulness and cheer.
Sleeper Pick: 2014 Foley Sonoma Tannat, Alexander Valley
“One of the varietals that sold this winery was the Tannat,” said Foley Sonoma winemaker Courtney Foley. While a varietal Tannat may be uncommon, Courtney adds that the grapes are “just happy here” as they produce one of the property’s most distinctive wines aromatically; expect beautifully perfumed raspberry and cherry aromas with rich forest floor on the nose.
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FIRESTONE VINEYARD | 5017 ZACA STATION ROAD, LOS OLIVOS, CA
Critics’ Pick: 2014 Firestone Vineyard Clone 174 Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley (92pts, Wine Spectator)
“Combines a brooding core of lively tannins and acidity with rich and lively blueberry, crushed stone and cracked pepper flavors. Would benefit from time in the cellar. Best after 2018.” – Tim Fish, Wine Spectator
Sleeper Pick: 2014 Firestone Vineyard Malbec, Santa Ynez Valley
The Malbec grape thrives in warm, sunny conditions — and that’s exactly what it got in the Santa Ynez Valley in 2014. The result? The grapes were able to ripen at an optimal pace and produce a wine that has an aroma dominated by black cherry, blueberry, and vanilla notes.
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LANCASTER ESTATE | 15001 CHALK HILL ROAD, HEALDSBURG, CA
Critics’ Pick: 2014 Lancaster Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley (94pts, Wine Spectator)
“Big and rich, with firm, structured tannins that are powerful and edgy, framing the core of blackberry, black cherry, plum and espresso flavors. An impressive effort. Best from 2019 through 2029.” – J.L., Wine Spectator
Sleeper Pick: 2016 Lancaster Estate Reserve Sauvignon Blanc
Lancaster Estate may be known for their lush reds, but the Sauvignon Blanc is not to be overlooked. This wine is 100% fermented in concrete, resulting in a much more opulent, full-bodied white that is still being clean and refreshing. It’s not currently available online, so make sure you add this to your list in the tasting room — you’ll be glad you did.
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Want to read about more of our critic and sleeper picks? Read another edition of What to Taste This Weekend featuring wines from Chalk Hill Estate, Roth Estate, and Foley Johnson.