Ebbe Roe Yovino-Smith

When 48 of the West’s top wine tasters judge almost 3,000 bottles, the results yield terrific insider tips for drinking well. We’ve mined our Gold Medal winners from this year’s Sunset International Wine Competition for trends that will put the best bottles on your table

Bubbles: They're What's for Dinner Now

Sparkling wine took a lion’s share of our Gold Medals this year, and the judges remarked on their potential beyond the toast to the table. Pair these bubblies with everything from seafood and poultry (chicken potpie!) to barbecue and Asian curries.

 Ebbe Roe Yovino-Smith

  • Gloria Ferrer NV Blanc de Blancs (Carneros; $22)
  • Moët & Chandon 2008 Grand Vintage Brut Rosé (Champagne AOC; $70)
  • Nicolas Feuillatte NV Brut Réserve (Champagne AOC; $36)
  • Roederer Estate 2009 “L’Ermitage” Brut (Anderson Valley; $48)
  • Scharffenberger NV Brut “Excellence” (Mendocino County; $20)
 Ebbe Roe Yovino-Smith

Budget-Friendly Wines, Gold-Medal Quality

It’s not hard to find a tasty $80 bottle of wine. But tasting blind to price, our judges found plenty to love for less than $25.

  • Croft Vineyards 2014 “River Runner Red” Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley; $20)
  • Doña Paula 2016 “Los Cardos” Chardonnay (Mendoza, Argentina; $10)
  • Don Sebastiani & Sons 2015 “Aquinas” Cabernet Sauvignon (North Coast; $22)
  • Elizabeth Chambers Cellar 2016 Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley; $18)
  • Handley Cellars 2016 Riesling (Anderson Valley; $22)
  • Huston Vineyards 2016 “Chicken Dinner White” (Idaho; $16)
  • Joel Gott 2015 Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley; $16)
  • King Estate 2016 Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley; $19)
  • Lazy Creek Vineyards 2016 Gewürztraminer (Anderson Valley; $22)
  • Pacific Rim 2015 “J” Riesling (Columbia Valley; $11)
  • Pike Road Wines 2014 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley; $20)
  • Pouco-Comum 2016 Alvarinho (Vinho Regional Minho, Portugal; $15)
  • Primarius 2014 Pinot Noir (Oregon; $15)
  • Prophecy 2015 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand; $14)
  • Skinner 2014 “Smithereens” Red Blend (El Dorado; $20)
 Ebbe Roe Yovino-Smith

Chardonnay Delivers Again

Wine experts can be harsh on this most popular wine in the country when it’s too “big”— buttery and overoaked. But from old standbys to new labels, Chardonnay earned our judges’ praise for lovely balance this year.

  • Ferrari-Carano 2015 “Fiorella” Chardonnay (Russian River Valley, Sonoma County; $36)
  • Lucia Highlands 2015 Kelly’s Vineyard Chardonnay (Santa Lucia Highlands; $25)
  • Maldonado 2014 Parr Vineyard Chardonnay (Sonoma County; $32)
  • Robert Mondavi Winery 2014 Chardonnay (Napa Valley; $20)
  • Rodney Strong Estate Vineyards 2015 Chardonnay (Chalk Hill, Sonoma County; $22)
  • RouteStock 2014 Chardonnay (Carneros; $16)
  • Sea Bird 2015 Sangiacomo Vineyard Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast; $25)
  • Stoller Family 2015 Estate Grown Reserve Chardonnay (Dundee Hills; $35)
 Ebbe Roe Yovino-Smith

At All Price Points, The King of Reds Still Rules

They may be different animals, but Cabernets (and Cab blends) less than $50 satisfied our judges with their balance of fruit, structure, and oak; above $50, their more complex layers often defied words (and scores).

UNDER $50

  • Goose Ridge Vineyards 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley; $38)
  • McGrail Vineyards 2014 “Shamus Patrick” Red Blend (Livermore Valley; $42)
  • Mobius 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County; $30)
  • Sutro 2013 Warnecke Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley, Sonoma Valley; $50)
  • Tempus Cellars 2013 Dionysus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley; $34)
  • Walla Walla Vintners 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (Walla Walla Valley; $42)

OVER $50

  • Alexander Valley Vine- yards 2012 “Cyrus” (Alexander Valley; $65)
  • Blackbird Vineyards 2014 “Illustration” Proprietary Red Blend (Napa Valley; $135)
  • Col Solare 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (Red Mountain; $75)
  • Goosecross 2013 State Lane Vineyard “Aeros” (Napa Valley; $150)
  • Halter Ranch 2014 Estate Reserve “Ancestor” (Adelaida District, Paso Robles; $55)
  • House Family Vineyards 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Cruz Mountains; $56)
  • Obelisco Estate 2014 Estate Grown “III Nefer” Cabernet Sauvignon (Red Mountain; $125)
  • Rombauer Vineyards 2014 “Diamond Selection” Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley; $100)
  • Summit Lake Vineyards 2012 “Emily Kestrel” Cabernet Sauvignon (Howell Mountain; $75)
  • Whitehall Lane 2014 “Mancino Lanciatore” Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley; $65)
 Ebbe Roe Yovino-Smith

Lesser-Known Varieties Shine

It’s time to break up the monot- ony of house faves with some- thing new. More “alternative” wines than ever were entered in this year’s competition—and earned terrific scores.

OFFBEAT REDS

  • Abacela 2014 “Fiesta” Tempranillo (Umpqua Valley, Southern Oregon; $23)
  • Ascension Cellars 2014 “Mayhem” Syrah (Paso Robles; $56)
  • Axis Mundi 2014 Windmill Vineyard Grenache-Syrah (Ballard Canyon; $25)
  • Dana Campbell Vineyards 2013 Tempranillo (Rogue Valley, Oregon; $30)
  • Dark Star Cellars 2014 “Soft Shoulder” (Paso Robles; $36)
  • Dashe 2014 “The Comet” (Sonoma County; $35)
  • LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards 2014 Red Tail Vineyard Nero d’Avola (Lodi; $20)
  • Thacher 2014 “Oddly Natural” (Adelaida District, Paso Robles; $50)
  • Trenza 2013 “Mosaico” (San Luis Obispo County; $33)
  • William Knuttel 2013 D. Rafanelli Vineyard, Rex & Amarica Blocks, Vineyard Designate Series Petite Sirah (Dry Creek Valley; $32)

OFFBEAT WHITES

  • Anaba 2015 “Turbine White” (Sonoma Valley; $32)
  • Bokisch Vineyards 2016 Terra Alta Vineyard Albariño (Clements Hills, Lodi; $18)
  • J. Lohr 2016 Limited Release “Gesture” Viognier (Paso Robles; $30)
  • Lawer Estates 2015 Betsy’s Vineyard Viognier (Knights Valley, Sonoma County; $24)
  • Paskett Winery 2016 Silvaspoons Vineyard Verdelho (Lodi; $27)
  • Pech Merle 2016 Salem Vineyard Viognier (Dry Creek Valley; $33)
  • Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2015 Smaragd Estate Grown Grüner Veltliner (Umpqua Valley, Oregon; $32)
  • Southwest Wine Center 2016 Yavapai College Vineyard “Sunlight” (Arizona; $25)
  • Stolo Family Vineyards 2016 Anno di Bella Estate Gewürztraminer (San Luis Obispo County; $25)
  • Trefethen Family Vine- yards 2016 Dry Riesling (Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley; $25)
 Ebbe Roe Yovino-Smith

At the End of the Day... One Exquisite Port

Special night coming up? Here’s the one (old) dessert wine you need to share. It was the highest-scoring bottle in our competition this year.

  • Kopke 1957 Colheita (Porto DOC; $375)