Top Red Dessert Wines - 2016

I tend to taste and drink a lot of wine over the course of a year.  I am in a few tasting groups, sometimes the wines are consumed at various local wine store tastings and a number drunk with friends and family.  Early on, it was evident that the best way to pay attention and also to remember what wines were consumed was to write a tasting note.  Over the years, I have written well over 10,000 tasting notes probably representing 70% of the wines I have tasted.  I make no pretense about the quality of the notes, but sip by sip and bottle by bottle, the notes have gotten a bit better.  It always interesting at the end of the year to go back and review what wines were consumed and which ones I liked the best – overall and in categories.  In 2016 I wrote 1,334 tasting notes.  Thanks to computers, I can sort and select them down into various lists.  I give you these to use as you wish – suggestions, comments, and reasons to laugh or disagree.  

Caveat - I have for the most part not repeated wines that were tasted multiple times or the same wine from a different but close vintage in an effort to list more wines for those looking for suggestions.  I drink, for the most part, what my wife and I like, so did I miss out on categories or specific wines?  You bet.  There is a lot of great wine out there and one can’t drink it all.  Part of the fun is seeing, over the years, how tastes change, finding new discoveries, following the development of vintages but most of all, just enjoying this special beverage. Cheers! - Loren Sonkin

1.  1997 Romano Dal Forno Recioto della Valpolicella - Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Recioto della Valpolicella

Opened as an extra to finish the evening. I love this wine. Ruby purple in color. The nose has black raspberries, dark chocolate and some dark cherries. Slight dust. On the palate, this is warm not hot though. Delicious. Black raspberries layered with dark chocolate and some cherries into a liquefied nectar. Some resemblance to a port but rounder, softer and not quite as sweet. Gorgeous wine. Expensive but a nice splurge. (97 pts.) 

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

2.  1966 Krohn Porto Colheita - Portugal, Douro, Porto

The bottle was opened and allowed to breathe for a couple of hours. It got better all night long. Great showing IMO. Light iced tea color. The nose is great with caramel, nutty, slight raisin and slight light cherry. On the palate, this is sweet. Good acidity. Very complex. Long finish. Quite popular to just sip and with a dried fruit/chocolate dessert. (96 pts.) 

3.  1994 Graham Porto Vintage - Portugal, Douro, Porto

Beautiful showing. Stood up for a few days, then pop and pour. Ruby/slight purple in color. The nose has raspberries, milk chocolate, slight raisin. On the palate, this is sweet and slightly viscous. Not in any way cloying though. Raspberries, slight raisins and dark chocolate. Complex. Deep. Long finish. Really delicious. Went great with a cigar, next to the fire pit. Amazing wine. (95 pts.) 

4.  1997 Fonseca Porto Vintage - Portugal, Douro, Porto

From a .375. Pop and pour, it took a few minutes then opened up beautifully. ruby in color. The nose has raspberries, some licorice, some chocolate. Medium bodied. Sweet, especially for Fonseca. Raspberries. No heat. Good finish. Light on its feet. A nice end to the meal. (94 pts.) 

5.  1985 Gould Campbell Porto Vintage - Portugal, Douro, Porto

A very nice showing for this. Opened at noon. Decanted at 5:00. Served at 9:30. Ruby in color. The nose has raspberries, milk chocolate, raisins and slight heat. On the palate, medium bodied. Layers of complexity. Great acidity. Raspberries and chocolate covered raisins. A slight warming as it finishes. Much better than a prior bottle and I attribute that to really giving it enough air in a gentle manner. (93 pts.) 

6.  1994 Warre Porto Vintage - Portugal, Douro, Porto

From a 375. Pop and pour and shared with 5 people so, we all just got a couple of ounces. Perhaps hard to evaluate but a nice, very pleasant end to an evening around the fire. Purple in color. The nose is milk chocolate covered raisins. Some raspberries. On the palate, sweet, layered, depth. Smooth. No heat. Long finish. What a pretty wine. Glad to have a few more. In this format, still young but probably closing in on peak. No hurry though. (93 pts.) 

7.  1991 Graham Porto Vintage - Portugal, Douro, Porto

Last wine of the night. Sitting with neighbors outside next to the fire on a cool autumn night. This was from a half bottle that had been standing up. A decant would have been a good idea, but it was not going to happen. I poured out four equal glasses and told every one to swirl. There was a couple ounces left when we were cleaning up, it had an amazing amount of sediment left in the bottle. With enough air, the wine is purple in color. The nose has milk chocolate covered raisins and lots of raspberries. Slightly sweet on the palate. Nice complexity but not amazing. I have a bunch more of these and will give one the proper air soon, just for scientific purposes. That said, it was delicious and a very nice end to a very nice evening. (92 pts.) 

8.  2000 Warre Porto Vintage - Portugal, Douro, Porto

Stood for a day, then pop and pour. Not decanted. This is in a very nice spot now. Still some youthful edges but showing a bit of maturity. Nice nose of black raspberries, milk chocolate, slight raisin. On the palate, sweet but not overtly. Black cherries and slight chocolate covered raisin note. A bit of woodiness. Good balance. Not a monster but not elegant either. (92 pts.) 

9.  1997 Gould Campbell Porto Vintage - Portugal, Douro, Porto

This bottle was opened and allowed to breather for 12 hours. From Magnum. The crowd liked this more than I and it got a few votes for WOTN. I will say that again, this was a great wine for the spot it was in. A bit of sweetness with some chocolate cake to finish the evening. Just right. The nose has raspberries, white chocolate, milk chocolate and raisins. On the palate, this is medium bodied. Some depth and complexity. Slightly sweet. No real heat. Nice finish. (91 pts.) 

10.  2012 Paul Lato Syrah The Last Kiss - USA, California, North Coast, Napa / Sonoma

A nice finish to the day. This has a lot of candied black raspberries. A bit cloying, it could use more acidity. Still a small pour went a long way and was much appreciated. (91 pts.)