Big Splurges $75+, Buys under $75, Red; Mostly Napa Cabs

Top Red Wines of 2020

Yes, 2020 sucked. And yes, we can’t wait to say good riddance. But before we toss 2020 in the dumpster, pour a gallon of hand sanitizer on it and set it on fire, let’s at least reflect on the good things about the year. Like, the best red wines we tasted, from Napa to Washington, to Puglia, Montalcino, the Rhone and Saint-Emillion. Apparently alcohol consumption is up 14% in the US this year. We’re proud to say we didn’t up the quantity of our drinking, but we did increase the quality. Here are our 11 top reds we enjoyed in 2020; some are $18, others $70. Let us know what your favorite wines were during this awful year.

Mercer Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 Columbia Valley (WA)   $18 
Lisa and Gary almost never agree on red wines. Our palates are completely different. But this winner was #1 with both members of the Duo. We first tasted the Mercer Cab at Tempo restaurant in Waltham. We liked it so much we bought a case. This wine gives aromas of dark red ripened fruit and blackberry pie. The super-fine tannins offer a silky, inviting palate yielding flavors of black currant/black cherry notes and a nice finish. This is a new-world wine all the way and it’s well worth double the price.

Hess Allomi/Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017       $30
If someone tells you that you have to spend more than fifty bucks to get a decent Napa Cabernet, don’t listen to them. Instead, pour a glass of the Hess Allomi. Allomi is one of our house wines when we can get it on sale. The 2017 is delicious! It’s got good heft, smooth tannins and great fruit on the palate with a decently long finish. It’s not Caymus or Silver Oak, but you’re spending around thirty bucks for a wine that punches well above its weight. It’s a must-buy!

Noemi Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon,  2016   $70  The wine is an inky, deep garnet with a cassis, black plum nose. Fine, young tannins back up the big ripe flavors of black cherry reduction, cocoa and a hint of black pepper. A great choice for any steak, lamb or roasted poultry.

Titus  Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016    $60
85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6.5% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot, 3.5% Malbec
The nose is all about fresh Bing cherry and hints of dark mocha chocolate. Fine, powdery tannins deliver a silky-smooth palate followed by notes of black plum, currant and espresso. This is a well-balanced wine; not too acidic, not too fruity and minimal sweetness that easily compares to the likes of Pine Ridge, Stags Leap, etc.

Beau Vigne Romeo, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017     $70
The deep garnet color in the glass yields notes of cassis and liquorish on the nose. While delicious, we did find it a bit young on the palate, with tannins too firm for our taste; we’ll revisit in 6 months. Beau Vigne is a new vineyard to us but Vivino reports that it’s one of Robert Parker’s favorite wineries

XYZ Merlot, Washington State, 2018   $16
This medium- to full-bodied Merlot is blended with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon to provide structure to the plush fruit profile. Aromas and flavors of black cherries, raspberries and pomegranates. Accents of baking spice, wet stone, and white pepper unfold on the palate layer by layer and carry the wine to a long finish.


Saint Jean du Barroux, La Pierre Noir 2011 (Rhone)     $20
85% Grenache; Syrah  This lovely cuvee is finally ready for prime time. Its silty black plum and cassis flavors are layered on smooth tannins with a long-lasting finish. Delicious and well priced!

Domaine la Guintrandy, Vieilles Vignes Cairanne Cotes du Rhone Villages 2015       $20
Jammy palate with blackberry-currant reduction notes. Absolutely delicious with a spicy chicken dish. Several of the reviews of this wine wrongly underrate its virtues. The 2015 is at its peak right now. It’s a true crowd pleaser and a great value for this region.

Chateau Fombrauge Saint-Emillion Grand Cru, 2015     $45
Merlot, Cab Franc The 2015 Chateau Fombrauge Grand Cru would be enough to bring Sideways’ Paul Giamatti back to Merlot…this silky juice rocks!  Deep garnet color with layers of black fruit notes and a long finish.


Livio Sassetti “Pertimali” Brunello di Montalcino, 2013   $70
100% Sangiovese
This 2013 bottle shows that a sub-$100 Brunello can be taken seriously. The bright red cherry notes float over silky tannins. An elegant but sturdy wine. Enjoyed this with vegetarian Indian food and the wine stood up to the spicy Dosa, Manchurian Idli, and more.

Feudo Croce‘ 2017 Imperio LXXIV Primitivo di Manduria (Puglia)   $18
Full-flavored wine with black current, cherry and plum notes. We visited the winery in 2018 (remember travel?) and found this wine was their standout—a refined Puglian Primitivo that stands up to and exceeds many Napa/Sonoma/ Paso Robles Zinfandels [Primitivo’s cousin] at a fraction of the price.


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