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Photo credit: David Benthal

We’re just going to throw down and say this: In Napa or Bordeaux or any other lauded land, there is no way you’d be paying well under $40 for this wine. The 2015 Leo Family Red is beautiful, and beautifully made. Since 1999, John Leo has been making wine for others: as the head winemaker for Clovis Point, for Onabay and for myriad other labels whose juice gets the custom treatment at Premium Wine Group. He’s a wine whisperer. Maybe more importantly, a wine listener. Leo Family Wines is his own project and he’s choosy about when to make it and when to release it. Case in point: 2015, for which he created 430 cases, is the most recent release. Although, by the time you’re reading this, he may well have released the 2019 Leo Family Red into the world. The 2022s? They’re still in barrel.

The Winery: Leo Family Wines
The Winemaker: John Leo
The Wine: Leo Family Red 2015
The Price: $35 per bottle

The Grapes: 50% merlot, 30% cabernet franc, 12% cabernet sauvignon, 5% malbec, 2% petit verdot, 1% syrah

What’s in your glass: Not all grapes ripen at the same time. Some simply need longer in the sunshine to be ready to pick. That’s why, during harvest, you might notice some vineyards picked clean of their fruit while others are flush with bunches. “The 2015 vintage was warm and dry when it needed to be and dry and cool when it mattered toward the end of ripening,” says Leo. What that means for you is that every grape ripened beautifully and fully. All that good sunshine also means it has a surprising 14.3% alcohol; on the high side for our cool, maritime climate, and yet seamlessly integrates into the plush dark notes of brooding blackberry and juicy dark plum, along with aromas and flavors of licorice, tobacco and cassis. It spent about a year and a half in French oak, and the result is velvety and mouthfilling. 

Pairs with: Roast fowl or duck confit, but it sidles up well to veggie dishes, too. “It shows an extra burst of vibrancy with sautéed mushrooms and roasted root vegetables,” he says.

To hold or not to hold: At nine, the 2015 is riding high on flavor; if you ask us, we think it’s got a solid five years to go. Of course, every year is different, but Leo himself is enjoying the 2012 and 2013s of his label right now. “I honestly don’t know how long the 2015 will go,” he says. “[It’s] still harmonizing and getting more nuanced year by year.”