Results > 2018 Platinum Reviews

Zonte's Footstep, Adelaide Hills (Australia) Sauvignon Blanc "Excalibur" 2017 ($20):  

Adelaide Hills shows why it's a nice home for Sauvignon Blanc in an array of styles in this wine, which presents a more subdued profile than many examples from the region.  There is a lees-stirred quality that gives a rich texture and tames the acidity slightly, yet allows the bright citrus and mild grass to speak clearly on the nose and in the mouth.  Here's to variety within variety!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Barossa Valley:

Red:

Heirloom Vineyards, Barossa (South Australia) Shiraz 2016($40):   Nothing says Shiraz quite like Australia's Barossa Valley. This is the home of big, bold Shiraz that gets your attention with its raw power. This vintage from Heirloom has all of that and more. Beautifully structured, it is at the beginning of what promises to be a long life. It exhibits exceptional fruit purity, primarily blueberry, with loads of spice and a touch of mocha. It's definitely an Aussie bad boy, but in a good way. A Platinum award-winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 96 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

Monterra, Barossa (Australia) Shiraz 2016 ($25):  Good value in this Barossa beauty that features blackberry, blueberry, a little wood smoke and a faint touch of menthol that brightens the nose and freshens the palate, balancing the other elements well, and extending the finish.  Lamb, please!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Southeastern Australia:

White:

Colab & Bloom, Adelaide Hills (Australia) Pinot Gris 2017 ($20):  New World Pinot Gris typically trends toward lightness, making for easy drinking and immediate gratification. Colab & Green, however, seem to have taken a page from their brethren in the Hunter Valley, where Semillon is released in an austere phases that gives way over time to voluptuousness. I don't know that this Pinot Gris will get there, but it's sure thinking about it. Underneath the appealing minerality that strikes one at first, there is plenty of fruit lurking in the background. While enjoyable now, this wine will show more richness and complexity the next couple of years. At this price, a person could buy a case and drink half now and half in a couple of years. I have no doubt it would be a rewarding experience.   A Platinum award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

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FRANCE

Rhône:

White:

Coup de Rhone, Cotes du Rhone AOC (Rhône Valley, France) Blanc 2016 ($30):   White wines from France's Rhone Valley are consistently underrated and undervalued as a consequence. The 2016 Cotes du Rhone blend from Coup de Rhone makes that point emphatically. A blend of predominantly Viognier with Roussanne and Marsanne playing a lesser role, this wine shows exceptional complexity on the nose, with a mix of honeysuckle and tropical fruits. On the palate it is soft and inviting, with uncommon richness without losing its structure and verve. A Platinum award-winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 94 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

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ITALY

Red:

Bell'Agio, Emilia IGT (Italy) Rosso Dulce NV ($13, Banfi):   If sweet reds are your thing, the Bell'Agio Rosso Dolce may be the ticket for you. It's beautifully crafted, medium sweet and finishes clean. If sweet reds aren't your thing, you might give this delicious Lambruso a whirl anyway the next time you have barbecue baby back ribs with a sweet BBQ sauce. Or a dessert with chocolate. Or ripe red berries. You get the idea. A Platinum award-winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
91 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

Tuscany:

Red:

Cala de Poeti, Maremma DOC (Tuscany, Italy) 2015 ($25):   The Maremma, on the western side of Tuscany close to the Mediterranean Sea, continues to represent exception value in Italian reds, particularly the "Super Tuscan" blends. Though this vintage is 60 percent Sangiovese, the money grape of Tuscany, it has generous doses of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon plus some unidentified red varieties. It is a beautifully balanced wine that shows bright acidity, firm tannins and layers of red and black fruits. Add a spice note and you have a perfect wine for grilled meats and winter roasts.  A Platinum award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
93 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

Castello Banfi, Rosso di Montalcino DOC (Tuscany, Italy) 2015($27): Banfi has been on a roll in recent vintages, producing exceptional wines at all price points. This Rosso di Montalcino is a perfect example. Go ahead and call it a "baby Brunello" if you like because it surely fits. This is a Rosso for the ages, firmly structured and powerful enough to pass for a much more expensive Brunello di Montalcino. It shows rich black cherry fruit and spice, firm tannins and impressive length. And it's less than half the price of the Brunello.  A Platinum award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

Veneto:

Red:

Bolla, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC (Italy) 'Le Origini', Riserva 2010 ($65, Banfi): Bolla is back in a big way and it really shows in the winery's Amarone. The 2010 Le Origini is a monumental wine that exhibits classic Amarone flavors of raisins, blue fruits and spice with ultra smooth tannins, a layered palate and an impressive finish. A Platinum award-winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.  
95 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

Bolla, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG (Veneto, Italy) 2012 ($46, Banfi):  A fine example of Amarone, where ripe and dry make a fine partnership.  The process allows this richness of super ripe characteristics to shine without having residual sugar clutter up the profile, and the result here is floral and raisin box aromas that lead to a powerful berry and spice expression where acidity and weight balance well and keep the flavors lingering long.  A nice value from the region. A Platinum award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
93 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Sartori di Verona, Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC (Veneto, Italy) Estate Collection 2013 ($16, Banfi):  Want serious value for your money? Look no further than Valpolicella.  This is a standout from the region, with cherry, blackberry, and classic "animale" that really works in concert with the fruit.  Great acidity, palate weight and concentration throughout make for one of the great bargains of the wine world.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Palazzo delle Torre, Veronese IGT (Veneto, Italy) 2013 ($22): This red blend from Allegrini is one of the best values in red wine from Italy. The only thing that keeps it from being classified Valpolicella is the splash of Sangiovese in the blend. It shows notes of mixed black fruits, cherry and dried herbs, with firm tannins.  A Platinum award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.  
93 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

White:

Caposaldo, Provinia di Pavia IGT (Veneto, Italy) Moscato NV($15): Caposaldo's non-vintage Moscato hits the sweet spot, delivering a beautifully balanced slightly effervescent white wine that is perfect for summer sipping or served with Italian cookies and cakes. The nose is floral, and on the palate the wine shows notes of orange blossom and tangerine. A Platinum award-winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.  
92 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

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NEW ZEALAND

White:

Whitehaven, Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 2017($20): From the first whiff this is obviously a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The initial impression is pungent lemon grass that give way with aeration to lovely citrus notes of lemon and lime, followed after a bit more air by gooseberry. Crisp and refreshing, it is beautifully balanced and classic New Zealand Sauvignon.  A Platinum award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.  
94 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

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SPAIN

Ribera del Duero:

Red:

Vina Mayor, Ribera del Duero DOC (Spain) Tempranillo Crianza 2014 ($20): This wine shows exceptional concentration and palate weight for a Crianza. With aromas of blackberry and dark cherry and a generous dose of wood spice, it offers excellent complexity for the price. This outstanding "value" wine is enjoyable now, but will likely improve in the cellar over the next two to three years.  A Platinum award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.  
92 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

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UNITED STATES

American:

White:

Villa Bellezza, American (United States) "Petit Blanc" 2016 ($15):  Here is a tasty blend of Prairie Star and Edelweiss that delivers pleasant citrus, peach and soft spice in a just off-dry style that makes for an easy drinking porch pounder.  Don't let the bubble gum note in the nose fool you -- this is serious wine.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 92 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Villa Bellezza, Upper Mississippi River Valley (United States) "Dolce" White Wine 2016 ($24):  Here's to the existence of continuing adventures and undiscovered pleasures in the wine world, as presented in this gorgeous glass of crisp dessert.   It's a blend of Edelweiss and Brianna, and it really works at its eight percent sugar level, with racy acidity carrying flavors of spiced peach, pineapple and sweet lemon off into the distance.   For dessert, just present an elegant glass of this with no accompaniment.  Very satisfying.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 94 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Villa Bellezza, Upper Mississippi River Valley (United States) La Crescent 2016 ($21):  Native American and hybrid varieties are always a treat to taste -- they are something quite different, but can be as pleasant to drink as anything else when made well.  Villa Bellezza has been making very interesting wines from the largest domestic AVA for some time now, and this moderately sweet white wine features loquat and spice aromas and flavors, with emphasis on the spice in the finish that would pair well with salads or mild appetizers.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.  
92 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

California:

Red:

Dark Horse, California (United States) Petite Sirah 2015 ($10):  95 points divided by ten bucks equals nine and a half cents per point.  And it means a six-ounce glass poured at home at full retail, which you'll never pay, will cost you a little over two dollars.  For a 95-point wine.  Need to hear more?  How about bold ripe blackberry and blueberry, with notes of tar, pepper and fall spice, not weighed down by ponderous jammy character, with the acidity to take on medium to strong cheeses.  Available everywhere -- go get it.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 95 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Giovinazzo, California (United States) Teroldego 2015 ($36):  Giovinazzo flies under the radar a bit considering their track record with Italian varieties, and this Teroldego is a spot-on example. Despite its domestic provenance, it would fit right in at a tasting of wines from northern Italy, with bright acidity and a firm grip that's built for rich foods.  Blackberry, black cherry, bay leaf and brown spice are well integrated, and a touch of charred oak complements without taking over.  Well done!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Alexander Valley Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel "Redemption" 2014 ($22):  Often my favorite of the winery's Zinfandel offerings, this vintage of Redemption offers vibrant berry fruit and proper pepper aromas and flavors, bright acidity and what I call an attractive rusticity that is a hallmark of the variety.  Looks like Angus burgers with a blue cheese sauce tonight.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Baileyana, Edna Valley (California) Pinot Noir Firepeak 2016($30): Winemaker Christian Roguenant exhibits his deft hand with this stunning Pinot Noir from the Edna Valley. It sings with notes of dark cherry, spice and woodsmoke. On the palate the wine is concentrated and rich without losing the silky elegance and for which this grape variety is prized. Fresh and beautifully balanced, it is a wine to drink now or hold for a few years. The quality is sensational for the price, for Pinot Noir of this ilk routinely retails for $60 and up.  A Platinum award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.  
95 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

Noble Vines, Lodi (California) Merlot "181" 2015 ($15):  Big value in this Merlot from Lodi -- an unusual locale for the variety.  Everything is working in the glass, with big berry and cherry aromas and a touch of fall spice translating nicely on the palate and lingering long.  It's fine as a tasty solo glass, or pair it with red meats.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.  
93 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Barefoot Cellars, Lodi (California) Zinfandel NV ($7): Jen Wall's winemaking team at Barefoot Cellars does a remarkable job combining high quality with high volume and the multi-vintage Zinfandel is consistently one of its biggest winners. It shows a nice pepper note, spice and plenty of rich red-berry fruit. If you're thinking about a summer barbecue and you want a fab red at a budget price, you won't go wrong here. A Platinum award-winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.  
92 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

Navarro Vineyards, Mendocino (California) Grenache 2016 ($27):  Navarro seemingly always makes an appearance at the Platinum table in the Challenge series wine competitions, and they score big again with this delicious, mouth-watering Grenache.   Bright cherry fruit, joined by fall spice, white pepper and a touch of citrus are lively on the nose and fresh on the palate, with that difficult combination of silky texture and racy acidity pushing it all through a blossoming finish.  A fabulous food wine, and great as an intriguing solo glass.  Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
96 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

V. Sattui, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Morisoli Vineyard 2014 ($95): This storied Napa Valley Cabernet Vineyard is one of the biggest guns in the V. Sattui arsenal. And it never misfires, at least in my experience over the past quarter century. This vintage is richly layered, textured and showing the depth and complexity Morisoli Cabernets are famous for. Aroma of blackberry and cassis dominate, with notes of oak vanillin, spice and graphite. Beautifully structured, with firm tannins, it's a solid candidate for cellaring though rewarding to drink now. A Platinum award-winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
97 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

Idlewright, Napa Valley (California) Opulent Red 2013 ($32): While I'm reluctant to identify a $30 wine a "value" buy, given that this red blend is sourced from the Napa Valley and comes from the sensational 2013 vintage, it qualifies.  Rich and luxurious, this predominantly Merlot blend exhibits ripe red-fruit flavors, nicely integrated tannins and a subtle note of graphite for additional complexity.  A Platinum award-winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.  
94 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

William Hill, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014($45):  A classically styled Napa Valley expression, with firm grip, nice oak spice and concentrated blackberry, cassis and dried herb aromas and flavors.  It's quite ready to drink with a little time in the decanter, or cellar 2 to 5 years.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

V. Sattui, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel Gilsson Vineyard 2015 ($38): The beauty of Russian River Valley Zinfandel is its structure. The cool nights instill excellent acid balance and acidity, and the warm days ensure ripeness and flavor. The Gilsson Vineyard Zinfandel from V. Sattui in 2015 is a gem, a bit of a spice bomb with complex layers of red and black fruits. It shows impressive depth and length, with a sensationally long finish. A Platinum award-winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 95 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

Solterra, Santa Barbara County (California) Syrah Genevie 2015($65): Big, bold and rich, Solterra's Genevie is a monster Syrah that shows uber-ripe blueberry fruit, a spice box of complexity and impressive palate weight and length. A Platinum award-winner at the 2015 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.  
94 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

Wine Spots, Sonoma Coast (California) Pinot Noir 2016 ($25):  A dark cherry, toasty oak and fall spice expression that satisfies.  There is a nice bright acid streak keeping things knit together through the long finish.  Serve this with something from the red meat side.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.  
92 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Berryessa Gap, Yolo County (California) Malbec Coble Ranch Vineyard 2015 ($23): Yolo County isn't the first place that comes to mind at the mention of California wine country, but there is gold in them thar hills. In this case, it's actually platinum. That's the award this lovely Malbec earned at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. This wines shows an inviting floral nose, with plenty of spice and layered aromas of cherry and blueberry. The finish is long and lingering. An exceptional value from an up-and-coming winery in an up-and-coming wine region. 94 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

Rosé:

Barefoot Cellars, California (United States) Pink Pinot Grigio NV($7):  When the vineyard gives you pink, make pink Pinot Grigio.  The variety is particularly susceptible to pinking of the skins -- there is not thought to be any impact on flavor.  It's no problem in this case, with a just off-dry presentation brightening the expected citrus aromas and flavors.  You'll be able to find it, and it's a party budget ally.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
90 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Hart Family Winery, Temecula Valley (California) Rosé of Sangiovese 2017 ($23):  Winemaker Jim Hart has a way with Rosé, and it shows again here in this neon watermelon colored glass.  An initial wildflower nose leads to crisp dry cherry, strawberry, white pepper and bay leaf aromas and flavors that are presented in a crisp dry style, with a nice push in the finish intensifying the flavors.  Summer is always coming, so stock up!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 94 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Sparkling:

Domaine Carneros by Taittinger, Carneros (California) Brut 2013($33): Domaine Carneros sparkling wines are the epitome of elegance, floating across the palate softly but delivering a big kick in terms of complexity and nuance. This 2013 brut shows a touch of brioche, with notes of citrus, pear and spice, a gentle mousse and impressive length on the finish. A Platinum award-winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 95 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

White:

V. Sattui, Anderson Valley (Sonoma County, California) Riesling Select Late Harvest 2016 ($45): V. Sattui has cracked the code on dessert wine, producing a late harvest white that would rival the finest dessert wines of France or Germany. The 2016 late harvest Riesling exhibits gorgeous aromas of pineapple, mandarin orange and honeycomb, with refreshing acidity that keeps the finish fresh and clean. A Platinum award-winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 96 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

Francis Coppola Diamond Collection, California (United States) Pinot Grigio 2016 ($16):  Here is a Pinot Grigio that's easy to love, one made of California fruit, but presenting itself as distinctly northern Italian in the glass, with a solid core of stony minerality running through lively lemon, lime and white peach fruit.  Crisp acidity helps the finish linger long, and gets you to come back for more.  Beautifully made.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 94 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Chateau Souverain, California (United States) Chardonnay 2014($15): Winemaker Ed Killian is a master of restraint, crafting Chardonnay with richness and depth without killing the fruit. This vintage from Souverain shows a wonderful note of lemon creme with a slightly oily texture that contributes to its easy drinking nature and all without sacrificing the freshness and structure that lifts Chardonnay when its done right. Well done Mr. Killian.  A Platinum award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.  
93 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

Cakebread Cellars, Carneros (Napa Valley, California) Chardonnay Family Vineyards Reserve 2015 ($56):  Beautifully stylized Chardonnay that continues a long track record of excellence.  Crisp yet creamy, the wine delivers lemon crème, apple, soft oak toast and delicate spice aromas and flavors that fill the mouth and finish clean with a big integrated push of flavor.  This is my kind of Chardonnay.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
95 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

V. Sattui, Napa Valley (California) Chardonnay 2016 ($38):  Lively oak spice is the calling card here, with bright lemon and apple joining in and carrying the spice load with ease.  For fans of full throttle spicy Chardonnay flavor without any cloying buttery texture.  It's a cocktail style that will please a crowd.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
93 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Trefethen Family Vineyards, Oak Knoll District (Napa Valley, California) Chardonnay Estate 2016 ($36): Over the half century Trefethen has been in business, its Chardonnay has stood out among the Napa Valley's finest. Always well-balanced and age-worthy, Trefethen resisted the temptation to follow the trend of the 1990s toward more lavish oak and uber-ripe grapes. The 2016 is in keeping with past vintages, exhibiting a note of pineapple/tropical fruit, pear and green apple with a mere hint of wood spice. This wine will age nicely, unlike many other Napa Valley Chardonnays, and retain its freshness for several years to come. A Platinum award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.  
94 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

D & L Carinalli, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Estate 2015 ($20):  Here is a Chardonnay with a full oak load and the fruit to support it, made in a bone dry style that will make a fine foil for foods with delicate flavors that would be smothered by a wine with less finesse.  Bright toasty oak lemon, golden apple and a touch of nut are nicely integrated and finish long.  D & L Carinalli is a very consistent producer.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Maurice Car'rie, Temecula Valley (California) Moscato 2017 ($21):  Sweet wine is far more popular than most wine snobs care to admit, which may be one of the reasons that they are referred to as such.  This expressive Moscato gets the sweet right, without leaning into soft or cloying.  There's bright tangerine and spice, and lively dried apricot in the finish and great acid balance that keeps things lively.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
90 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

North Carolina:

Red:

JOLO Winery & Vineyards, Yadkin Valley (North Carolina) Cynthiana "Pilot Fog" 2016 ($29):  At the Winemaker Challenge we have judges who not only know, but appreciate native grapes.  They showed their appreciation for this Cynthiana -- also known as Norton -- by tagging it with a Platinum award.  Aromas of black fruit and clay entice, and the black fruit carries the palate with good grip and notes of citrus and brown spice.  One of the best wines I've tasted from this variety. It sounds like a road trip is in order.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
95 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Virginia:

White:

Horton Vineyards, Orange County (Virginia) Rkatsiteli 2016($15): This is primarily an East Coast grape variety popular in both New York and Virginia. Horton's expression of Rkatsiteli is brilliant. It delivers a stony minerality that is invigorating, but at the same time shows succulent aromas of nectarine and meyer lemon. This beautifully balanced wine exhibits crisp acidity that lifts the fruit and provides freshness and a clean finish. A Platinum award-winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 94 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018


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