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January 13, 2021

Bri’s Best Bottles: January Edition

2021 came in hot, didn’t it? It sort of feels like an extension of 2020 a bit, right? All we can do is move forward with life, as difficult as it may seem. I am focusing on doing things that bring me joy, which includes enjoying some spectacular wines. Today I’m hosting a Zoom webinar where I share with you my Best Bottles…the 10 wines I am going to enjoy in the month of January to usher in a fresh, new year. If you missed the Zoom, don’t fret, all the wine details are here!

Paco & Lola Albariño 2012 (SRP $50)

What you know about aged Albariño? Before this Paco & Lola bottle, I knew absolutely nothing! I had always enjoyed youthful Albariño wines that were fresh and fruity. This is the serious kid in the Albariño class. The wine is aged on fine lees for a year with weekly bâtonnage, then four more years aging in stainless steel tanks. This is one of those wines where you open the bottle and you’re reminded why you love wine. Creamy, round, and slightly perfumed on the nose. Great acid plus an oily quality I do not normally get from an Albariño. Lovely. Just lovely. This wine makes me smile. 

Carr Winery Pinot Gris 2017 (SRP $24)

Ryan and Jessica started Carr Winery in 1999. They were college sweethearts and, in fact, they met on their first day of college! Recently I posted on Instagram about Carr wines and the rabbi who went with me and Aaron on our Honeymoon Israel trip dropped me a note and says she knows Ryan and Jessica from college….small world! This wine is aged sur lie, so you get a yeastiness and doughiness on the nose. It’s super vibrant and fun. This is NOT a wimpy, vapid white wine. Full body. Good acid. Funky, savory, and different.

Chalk Hill Estate Bottled Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (SRP $33)

This wine is spectacular. I fall more in love with it every time I try it. On the nose, I get the full fruit spectrum (from citrus to tropical fruit). But the palate is super-duper tropical, including melon and ripe pineapple. A very full and complex Sauvignon Blanc. No green vegetal notes like you’d find in New Zealand. Pretty white flower notes round it out. This Sauv Blanc is lush, rich, and vibrant. And once the world opens up, a visit to Chalk Hill Estate in Sonoma should DEFINITELY be on your list. It is a spectacular property with food and wine experiences that are unrivaled!

Llamas Family Carneros Chardonnay 2016 (SRP $39)

This might be my favorite Chardonnay of 2020. Llamas is a Mexican-owned winery with small production wines, focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay farmed by their family. Originally ranchers from Jalisco, Mexico, the family migrated north to farm fields, orchards and vineyards. They worked tirelessly in all aspects of the wine industry, from tending the vines to producing wine. After over 40 years of farming the vines of Napa Valley, the family has further defined its agricultural heritage and takes great pride in sourcing grapes exclusively from vineyards farmed by their family. This 2016 Chardonnay is exquisite. I found it to be balanced and precise…..two words not always associated with California Chardonnay. The 2018 current release retails for $39 and the 2016 is not on the website, but it IS available. Email me and I can help you get it! Lots of fresh fruit characteristics spanning the range from citrus to green fruit to tropical fruit. Definitely some oak influence, but all in balance and harmony with the other structural elements. Mil gracias Llamas for bringing life to this beautiful wine!

Margerum Cinsault 2019 (SRP $29)

Over the summer I was able to take a day trip to Santa Barbara and met Doug Margerum of Margerum Wines at their downtown tasting room. Doug has been making wine in the area since the 80s and started Margerum in 2001. While his forte is blending, this varietal Cinsault is killer. The wine features all estate fruit from their Los Olivos District vineyard.  Bright ass juicy red fruit and pepper. Lots of pepper, yet this wine is still light and peppy. Drink this wine slightly chilled, to increase its crushable factor, as the kids say.

Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2017 (SRP $68)

The grapes for this wine were planted in 1998. Merry Edwards purchased a 24-acre site of abandoned apple orchards and converted it to Pinot Noir vines. This is now their flagship wine. A true California Pinot. No Willamette or Burgundian style here! This wine is big and bodacious. Dark, bold fruit plus cola notes, signature of California Pinot Noir. This is a big boy. You’ll need to wear a seatbelt for this ride. Sometimes it’s fun to enjoy something that is so far from the “norm” or what you know, and that’s how I’d define this Pinot Noir.

Theopolis Vineyards Petite Sirah 2017 (SRP $39)

This Theopolis estate-grown Petite Sirah is full-bodied and fruit-forward, plus with a hefty dose of tannins… be sure to enjoy some food with this bad boy. A full spectrum of aromas and flavors including red fruit, black fruit, pepper, toasted oak, and chocolate/cocoa. Something for everyone! What I also love about this wine is the story behind the wine. Theodora Lee is a Bay Area-based trial lawyer and partner who bought land a few years back and planted Petite Sirah, though she had never tasted it! The goal was to get back to her Texas farming/agricultural roots. She sold the grapes and one year a big contract fell through and she was looking at a whole lot of Petite Sirah with nowhere to go. Long story short, she made some wine, and the rest, as they say, is history. Now, this Petite Sirah is her signature wine.

Kenwood Vineyards Jack London Dry Farmed Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (SRP $55)

When it comes to wine brands, not all big ones are bad. It’s trendy to say that all big is bad, but that’s just not the case. The big boys have the resources to innovate and make meaningful change in the industry. Kenwood produces 300,000 cases per year and the brand has wide distribution (which means you can find their wines in a lot of different retail stores, including grocery stores and chains). They’re big, BUT they do make honest, regional wine. For over 40 years, Kenwood Vineyards has had the unique opportunity to be the exclusive producer of wines from the historic vineyards of the Jack London Ranch in Sonoma. The ranch is the former home of famed American author, Jack London. This is one of their smaller production wines. You might ask, why dry farm? They see more vintage variation with dry farming, which allows the grapes and the terroir to shine. It’s not about creating a signature style year after year with this wine. It’s about variations and distinctions. This is a textured/full-bodied wine with aromas of black currant, dried bay leaf, and black pepper. Also, MAJOR pyrazines here (aromas of green bell pepper or jalapeño), which I love. Personally, I don’t consider pyrazines to be a bad thing. Really strong, grippy tannins as well. All structural elements are very well-integrated and I’d consider this to be a VERY age-worthy wine. Wapping up with a persistent finish full of dark brambly black fruit. 

Teachworth Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (SRP $125)

I’d consider this to be a benchmark Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Benchmark because it showcases all the things you’d expect to find in a Napa Cab, but in a balanced and elegant way that can be an example to other producers. The Teachworth’s lost their entire library to the Glass Fire, and the owners actually lost their home, but they are persisting. This wine is aged 24 months in new French oak. A deep, inky Cabernet Sauvignon color with aromas of ripe, dark black brambly fruit plus tobacco. A persistent and strong deep berry finish on the back palate. Only 200 cases produced.

Dow’s 10-Year-Old Tawny Port (SRP $39)

Not all Port is sweet red wine! Tawny Port is a lighter style than Ruby Port. It is generally a lighter color (it can be pink or brown in color). What I love about Tawny Port is that it’s more about tertiary notes versus just sweet fruit. This Dow’s 10yo has a gorgeous tawny/light brown color with red fruit notes still present (cherries). But the main event here is the nuttiness (almonds and toffee) plus vanilla notes. This wine will pair with any cinnamon-based dessert.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re looking to Up Your Wine Game and Drink Better, consider booking a private in-person or virtual wine tasting experience.
Brianne Cohen Wine Educator
Brianne Cohen is a Los Angeles-based certified sommelier, wine educator, consultant, and writer.

Brianne has educated and entertained over 10,000 people through her in-person and virtual wine tasting experiences.

Brianne holds the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) Diploma certificate, one of the most coveted wine certifications in the world. When she’s not helping people Up Their Wine Game, she can be found judging at international wine competitions

Brianne aims to make wine approachable and conversational, to surprise and delight with unexpected wine finds, and to give people knowledge (and confidence) about wine in their everyday lives.

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Sample Policy

As a wine writer, I frequently accept samples for review on my  website and on my social media channels. Please contact me at to discuss sending samples for review. I promise to always be honorable with the samples. I will evaluate all wines in good tasting settings and with no distractions.

All reviews are my opinions, and mine only. Because of the volume of samples I receive, I cannot promise that all samples received will be reviewed, but I will do my best.

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