After an exciting first round our field has moved into the round of 32! How will this round shake down and who will advance to the Sweet 16!

Let’s get to the action!

Cabernet

Del Dotto (1) vs. Galante (8): Galante is my go-to when in Carmel. It’s just a fun place with a great vibe and excellent wine. Two of my favorites are the Blackjack and the Kickass – both nice and strong wines. Del Dotto is a heavy hitter and just comes at you, one big bottle after another. The David is my favorite, but the Pinot from Chighiale Vineyard is sensational. There’s a reason why celebrities regularly hit Del Dotto when in the area. Del Dotto moves on.

Beaulieu Vineyard (5) vs. Turkovic (13): I really think Turkovich is going to grow and become well known. I love the tasting room and the fact the Winters Cheese Company is inside the tasting room. Very relaxing and the wine/cheese combo is awesome. Beaulieu is one of the oldest in the Napa Valley and taking the tour of the facilities adds so much to the experience. BV moves on here.

Justin (3) vs. Etude (6): If it had been 10 years ago, I go with Justin here, but it isn’t, so Etude gets the win. When you visit Etude, take one of the educational tastings as they will walk you through Pinot Noir for all the different regions. You can sample wines from Oregon, Santa Barbara, the Sonoma Coast, and of course, the southern end of the Napa Valley.

Korbel (10) vs. Cakebread (2): I love everything Korbel brings to the table – the atmosphere, the diversity of their portfolio, and the friendliness of their staff, but it’s just not enough to go up against the hard-hitting Cakebread that produces one of the top Chardonnays in Napa. But don’t sleep on the red wines at Cakebread either.

Pinot Noir

Silver Oak (1) vs. 3 Steves (9): The staid precision and excellence of Silver Oak taking on the fun-loving trio of Steves in what is one of the most fun matchups of this round. 3 Steves represents with wines with Cabs, Malbec, and a crazy blend – the CSM – a mix of Cab and Merlot that works! But at the end of the day there’s Silver Oak – a winery that just does Cabs and does them as well as anyone else. Silver Oak moves on.

Stags’ Leap (4) vs. Sawyer (12): Sawyer was one of my first wineries I visited and the wines are underrated, but Stags’ Leap takes your breath away from the time you get there until the time you leave. I can describe the beauty of the valley and the drive up to the winery, but until you make it yourself, it’s impossible to fully understand. Stags’ Leap is the easy winner.

Joseph Phelps

Joseph Phelps (3) vs. Duckhorn (6): Two of the most well-known wineries in the Napa Valley, both of which I have been in a big fan of since I first was blessed with appreciating wine. Duckhorn has one hell of a tasting experience, but so does Joseph Phelps. In fact, the first time my wife and I went to Joseph Phelps, they actually ran a test to see who in the group knew wine and who were pretenders. The group of businessmen from Chicago lost and we were ushered into private tasting with one of the winemaking team and $2,500 later we walked back to the limo! Got to go with Joseph Phelps!

Cardinale (2) vs. BoaVenture (10): BoaVentura is a great all-round experience with a wonderful vibe and terrific wine, but it just can’t go head-to-head with the power of the Cardinale wines. The tasting at Cardinale is regal in feeling. It’s the Napa wine tasting experience personified.

Rhone

Schramesberg (1) vs. Vine Cliff (9): From the time you head up the tree-lined, narrow driveway up to Schramsberg, you know you are in for a special experience. When you get to the winery, you feel the history and embrace the solitude you get from the Schramsberg property. Then you get to the sparkling – as well as the still wine and you are floored. Vine Cliff is a hidden gem to me, but this is too daunting a challenge.

Piazza Del Dotto (4) vs. Gargiulo (5): This one was tough on me but in the end had to go with Piazza Del Dotto. When you see the caves Dave Del Dotto envisioned come to life, it’s amazing. The artwork, the decorations – everything – is such class, yet still entertaining. The tasting room and the food and wine pairings are such a wonderful touch and the back area of the winery – the garden area that features peacocks, chickens, as well as sculptures throughout is such a Del Dotto touch. Gargiulo will always be arguably the best value wine in Napa and there’s a good chance you can find music on the weekends at the winery.

Nickel and Nickel (3) vs. Tobin James (6): The wild west of Tobin James taking on a winery founded by someone from Oklahoma. Look, I love Tobin James and every time I make it down to Paso Robles, I make it to Tobin James. But for me, I must go with Nickel and Nickel. Cabs are my favorite and the chance to drink single vineyard wines from the richest Cab region is just too much. Nickel and Nickel moves on!

Linne Calodo (2) vs. TH Estates (7): Man, brutal how this draw works out. Both are big wines in the Paso area and you really can’t go wrong at either winery. TH Estates doesn’t fall off anywhere through its roster and all wines I love to drink. On the other hand, Linne Calodo just is Paso Robles wine. Matt doesn’t make a bad one, or even just an average wine. Linne Calodo continues in the tournament!

Zinfandel

Groth (1) vs. Provenance (9): One tough cookie is Groth. An extreme Cab producer in the richest Cab region keeps Groth winning in this tournament. Provenance, in its defense, is more of an every man’s winery and your experience will be relaxing, fun and enjoyable. A good visit if you have never been there.

Cypher (5) vs. Prospect 772 (13): Two off the grid wineries and two that I love. Those close to me know this is a no-brainer for me as I rave about Cypher every chance I get. Ethereal, Evanescence, Loco, TNT, and Dirt Candy are the names of some of the wines. Prospect 772 may seem to be in the middle of nowhere, but the reality is it’s in the ever-growing Gold Country wine region as people flee the more crowded areas of the Bay Area. Make a point to get up and take in Prospect 772!

Cypher wines

B Wise (3) vs. Davies (6): Aw man, I have been a huge fan of the J. Davies Cab since the first time I had it and it will always be among my favorite bottles. Then came B Wise. On the strength of their Kenwood tasting room they would have earned a spot in the tournament, but certainly wouldn’t have been a third seed. Throw in their Estate Cave tasting and the wines that come with it and they are a threat to make the Final Four. The Trios Cab at $100 is an absolute steal of a wine as it is better than many higher priced bottles from the Napa Valley. B Wise is your winner!

Fan Niente (2) vs. Ancient Peaks (7): Got to tell you the time you have at Ancient Peaks will be memorable, especially if you get a chance to get out and see the oyster beds. And the Oyster Ridge Cab, a blend that is 80 percent Cab, is a keeper as we have cellared a few! All that being said, Far Niente is a hammer in one of the premiere wine destinations in the world and is deserving of every accolade it gets. Far Niente is your winner!

By Dennis Miller

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