2020 Smoke Taint is Real. Critics & Industry are Lying!

I work for no one and I pride myself in that fact. I get no free wine samples and I am fine with that also. Some of my favorite producers are experiencing smoke taint on their 2020s and they are trying to hide that or deny that from the public. Even my mom who is not a wine expert detected smoke taint on a recent Januik Syrah. Here are some of the wines impacted so far this past few years:

  • 2020 Kevin White Winery Les Terrasses Weather Eye Vineyard Yakima Valley – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley (10/29/2023)
    Day 1: Well not smoke tainted wine which is great. Floral, spice, earth, mushrooms, pepper and peppercorns. Medium finish and interesting Grenache wine. While not a top Kevin White wine it is solid. See how it evolves over 3 days. 91 points
    Day 2: Why you taste wines over 3 days when young. The wine shows more of its true character. For sure some smoke taint here with of course smoke, raspberries, dirt, spice and pepper. Heavy for a Grenache wine and lacks the acidity from day 1. Big decline. 83 points
    Day 3: Really grainy wine like drinking coffee with some grounds. While this is better than the more recent smoke tainted wines I can tell this would be a 94 plus in a good vintage. Smoke, spice, raspberries, dirt and charred meat. Drinkable but the price is too high for this vintage. 84 points
    Recommendation: While not crazy smoke taint if you own this drink now and on day 1. (91 points)
  • 2020 Andrew Januik Cabernet Sauvignon Stone Cairn – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain (10/14/2023)
    Day 1: This is not 91 points. I am one of the biggest names in the wine reviewing game and will put my palate against anyone. This is a terrible wine. Smoke taint for sure with earth and a lot of smoke. This wine should have never been made. Really angry against Januik and their family for producing this wine. 74 points
    Day 2: Like a corked bottle it the smoke taint will be even more noticeable and this wine is barely drinkable. Smoke, burnt toast, muted fruit and damp earth. Short finish. No thanks.
    Day 3: Even worse. Any wine critic reviewing this and giving a good score is on the payroll. I love Januik and top 5 Washington Winery for me but this wine is terrible.
    Recommendation: Buy another vintage as this is a great wine. (74 points)
  • 2020 Januik Syrah Ciel du Cheval Vineyard – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain (10/14/2023)
    Day 1: The nice thing about not being on the pay roll is you can give the most accurate and honest opinions on wine. This is terrible. Smoke taint city. Any critic above 85 on this should stop reviewing wines. In a normal vintage this is 90 plus but not 2020. SMOKE, along with some spice, earth and dirt. Short finish. This wine should have never been made. 72 points
    Day 2: Almost coughing from drinking this wine. My reviews in the past for this wine are as follows:
    2019 93 points
    2018 92-94 points
    2017 92 and 93 points
    2013 91 points
    When there is no fruit showing through on a younger wine like this that has expressed great fruit in the past that means it is for sure impacted by smoke taint. There might be a reason no one is reviewing this particular wine.
    Day 2.5: This is even worst. SMOKE and it tastes like when you get coffee grounds in the cup of coffee. Again a complete bomb and whether Suckling just gave the 92 on the same wine I am drinking is remarkable. 60 points
    Day 3: Gritty wine with smoke, dirt and no fruit showing at this time. Call this an easy pass.
    Recommendation: Going ahead and try it for yourself and see if you agree with James Suckling. (72 points)
  • 2020 Januik Cabernet Sauvignon Quintessence – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain (10/13/2023)
    Day 1: While 2020 is a vintage all over the map this is solid overall. Spice, mild smoke, cassis, minerals, earth and black licorice. Medium finish and very drinkable. 91 points
    Day 2: Similar to day 1. This is not even close to the quality however of other vintages. 90 points
    Recommendation: Pass and get another vintage. (91 points)
  • 2020 Seghesio Family Vineyards Zinfandel Sonoma County – USA, California, Sonoma County (10/8/2023)
    An off vintage and this shows. Smoke, earth, floral and some spices. Lacking in fruit. (86 points)
  • 2020 Cline Cellars Cashmere – USA, California (10/8/2023)
    Another cheaply made wine. Some fruit, sweetness on that fruit along with spice and some floral notes. Short finish. (82 points)

  • 2020 Kevin White Winery Syrah En Hommage – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley (10/7/2023)
    Day 1: A bit thin for a Kevin White wine and the initial day 1 review is not favorable on this wine and why independent wine critics are more important than the “Pros” Not balanced with smoke, muted fruits, spice and some dried flowers. This is the worst Kevin White wine I have tasted and could have had some smoke taint issues as this bottle surely does. 78 points
    Day 2: This is why you never give up on a wine. This will never reach 90 points but is certainly way more drinkable on day 2. The smoke impact is present as just tasted a 2021 from the same shipment which was outstanding. Smoke, underbrush, muted fruits, spices and earth. Finish is a bit disjointed and maybe should have been put into the base bottling for this vintage. 85 points
    Day 3: Again better than day 1 but can’t get past that smoke. The fruit is hidden and offers underbrush, dried flowers, spice and earth. Easy pass. 85 points
    Recommendation: Buy any vintage other than this as this wine is always 93 points or higher for myself. (85 points)
  • 2020 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah California – USA, California (4/8/2023)
    Day 1: This is a terrible wine and for sure smoke issues. Light is an understatement with this wine almost watered down. Smoke, dried twigs and light fruits. The minute you smell this wine you get that smoke taint and you really get it on the palate. For $25.00 Result of a Crush, crushes this wine probably even on a good vintage. AVOID! 70 points
    Day 1.5: This is not any better and trust me this is a terrible wine. Simple is an understatement. As one of the only uncompressed professional wine reviewers I take pride in my work. This is not a good wine. 70 points
    Day 2: Even worse. Muted fruit, smoke and iodine. While I love Bedrock this is an easy pass. 68 points
    Day 2.5: This is again why you never give up on a wine. While this is not a wine I would ever buy again it is much better than the previous 3 glasses. Pepper, spice, muted fruit, smoke, sour cherries and mild funk. It is trying to come together but thin overall. We will see what day 3 reveals. 85 points
    Day 3: While again more concentrated then day 1 to early day 2 still get some smoke taint. Again drinkable but this will not be a wine I would rush out to. The 2021 Tensely Santa Barbara is cheaper in my area and much better. Band aide, muted fruits, smoke, pepper and charcoal.
    Recommendation: Try a bottle for yourself and see what you think. (85 points)
  • 2020 Sea Slopes Fort Ross Winery Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Fort Ross – Seaview (10/30/2022)
    Day 1: Only buy one 2020 at a time is the advice I am giving myself. This is the worst of the Sea Slopes Pinot’s I have tasted. Burnt toast, cranberry, spice and floral notes. It is not bad it is just not in the league of prior vintages. This is a pass on day 1 but things have changed before. 86 points
    Day 2: More noticeable. Burnt toast, muted fruit, sour berries and short finish. Even worse on day 2 and this is one of many 2020’s that will disappoint. 80 points
    Day 3: The nice thing about 3 day wine review is the flaws get multiplied on day 3. This wine is not drinkable and I will be returning it for a full refund. 65 points
    Recommendation: This is always a 90 plus wine for me but not in 2020. Buy different vintages from Sonoma and Napa in 2020. (86 points)