Anywhere you look, people are summing up their experiences for the year which will become history in the mere 5 days. “The best thing I did last year”, “the best thing I ate”, “the best trip I took”, “the best picture” and so on and so forth.
This very blog is not an exception to that “the best thing I had” phenomenon. I have my top dozen wines summarized for 2010 and 2011, and now it is time for 2012. But I have to tell you that this year I have an issue. Last two years I managed to identify precisely 12 wines I wanted to include in my “Top” list. This year, it appears that I tasted so many great wines, that I feel that the limit of 12 is too constraining – hence this post, where I will share with you the second dozen (or more) of wines which caused an “aha” moment, and stirred my memory and emotions. In the other words, these are the wines which I would gladly (very gladly) drink at any time. As usual, all the wines will be linked to the original posts in case such post exists, and I will provide pricing information where I can. Here we go.
26. 2011 Walnut Block Wines ‘Collectables’ Sauvignon Blanc, Marlboro, New Zealand ($11.99). In general, I like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – may be I had a few that I didn’t really care for, but for the most of the cases I really enjoy that fresh in-your-face acidity with bright fruit underpinning and fresh cut grass. This wine happened to be single best New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc I had last year, perfectly matching the description I just provided.
25. 2012 Flat Creek Estate Winery Viognier, Texas ($NA) – that experience of drinking literally just blended wine was first and unique, and the wine was excellent. I will be very happy to get a bottle of the released 2012 Flat Creek Estate Viognier and compare the notes.
24. Domaine Ste. Michelle Cuvee Brut NV ($10.99) – one of the best sparkling wines I tasted throughout the year. It is perfectly brut, perfectly acidic and perfectly balanced. I really want to see this wine in the blind tasting, against any of the $30-$40 Champagne – so many people will lose their bets, swearing that they just tasted a perfect glass of Champagne, and finding out that it was a domestic sparkler. Next time you see it on the shelf – do me a favor, pick up a bottle and let me know what you think (you can thank me later).
23. 2010 Anakena Indo Sauvignon Blanc, D.O. San Antonio Valley, Chile ($15) – A perfect Sauvignon Blanc for my palate. Beautiful fruit and acidity combination, a touch fruitier than NZ Walnut Block, but absolutely refreshing.
22. 2005 Giribaldi Cento Uve Langhe DOC ($75) – Very much Barolo-like (no wonder – 50% of the grapes are Nebbiolo), but they didn’t use for nothing 152 grapes to produce this wine – this is a very perfumy Barolo, with a lot of floral notes. No, I didn’t taste all those grapes by themselves, but sheer number of grapes (152) used in production of this wine is enough to put you at awe.
21. 2009 Craggy Range Te Kahu Hawkes Bay, New Zealand ($25) – Craggy Range is an area in New Zealand which became a source of the great wines, and it also know for the cost of land being dirt cheap about 30 years ago, and becoming absolutely unaffordable nowadays. This wine is an excellent Bordeaux blend, except that you don’t need to wait for 15-20 years before you can enjoy a glass – you can just open and pour. Perfect fruit and perfect balance – if you didn’t try this wine before, and you like Bordeaux style, you just owe it to yourself to find the bottle and enjoy it.
20. 2008 Torres Atrium Merlot, Penedes, Spain ($26 in the restaurant) – this was total surprise – the wine was suggested to us in a restaurant in Florida, as previous two choices were unavailable. We didn’t have much expectations – until the first sip. Dark fruit, soft, supple and round, perfect acidity, long finish. The second surprise came when we saw the bill – I never had a wine of this quality in the restaurant for $26. My only issue – this wine is only available for restaurants, and even my friend Zak who owns wine store, can’t get this wine. If you can – send me a note…
19. Abrau-Durso Semi-Dry NV, Russia ($12.99) – Never heard of this wine until this year, and it appears that this is a very old Russian “Champagne” house which was supplying sparkling wines for Tzar. Didn’t have much expectations before trying this wine – and it was delicious. Touch of sweetness, perfectly refreshing and supple – this actually will be the sparkler I plan to pour to ring the New Year in.
18. 2009 Wente Small Lot Petite Sirah, Livermore Valley, California ($35) – Wente Small Lots Grenache was #6 on my Top 2011 list. This year I opened Petite Sirah – an absolute beauty, silky smooth, dark fruit, perfect acidity and tannins, very balanced. It is unfortunately only available from the winery or through the club, but if you are in the area, don’t miss it.
17. 2009 Sant’Elena Pinot Grigio, Friuli, Italy ($18.99) – Yes, I’m a wine snob – as the result, Pinot Grigio is typically not the wine which would be served in my house. And Pinot Grigio is usually not the wine I would include into any of the “high regad lists”. Except when it is truly outstanding. And this wine is exceptional. Yes, it is called Pinot Grigio – but this is only due to the grape used in production of this wine. Otherwise, this is an “orange wine” – dense, concentrated, with dark white fruit, very complex and thought provoking.
16. 2008 Achaval-Ferrer Quimera Mendoza, Argentina ($24.99) – I wanted to try wines of Achaval-Ferrer for a very long time, but they are not exactly affordable on a given day. Thanks to WTSO ( who else?), I was able to get few bottles of this Bordeaux blend called Quimera, and boy, was that a great wine. Dense and powerful, with lots of dark fruit, very delicious. And – it will definitely improve with time, so I’m glad I still a few bottles left.
15. 2009 Beaulieu Vineyard Reserve Tapestry Red Blend Napa Valley ($60) – it seems that I discovered so many worthy great Bordeax blends this year, from all the different regions. Yet this BV Tapestry squarely hold place on its own – dark, robust, classic, with all the cassis and eucalyptus flavors you want, it rolls on your tongue and delivers pleasure, as you expect your wine to do.
14. 2006 Laetitia La Colline Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grande Valley, California ($24.99) – I can’t believe I didn’t put this wine into the top dozen. When you take a sip of wine, it usually generates a reaction. It can be “hmm, this is nice”, “hmm, I should let it breathe”, “hmm, I need some food”, “hmm, now I need steak”. And then there are wines where you reaction has no hmms in it, it is “I need a refill now, before this deliciousness is all gone”. This Laetitia La Colline Pinot Noir is exactly that type of wine – round and delicious from the get go, you just want you rglass to last for long, very long time.
13. 2008 Kovacs Nimrod Battonage Chardonnay, Eger Winery, Hungary ($20.99) – I love Chardonnay – and I so rarely get to enjoy it, unfortunately. I don’t have any deep cellars of Burgundy, and a lot of wineries in California and outside are trying to make Chardonnay to taste like Pinot Grigio – beats me. Luckily, not this Chardonnay from Hungary. This wine greets you the nose with vanilla and butter, and perfectly supports that round package on the palate – more vanilla, more butter, toasted oak, golden delicious apples – just the Chardonnay I want to drink.
That’s all for today, folks – will be happy to hear your thoughts. Have you tried any of the wines above? Did you like them? And yes, my Top Twelve of Twelve is coming out very soon. I’m not going to spoil a surprise for you, but I’m sure you will find my Wine of the Year choice a bit unusual (if you want to guess, write your ideas down in the comments section). Cheers!
Few days ago we had a magnificent experience with two great Bordeaux wines from Margaux Appellation (I love my friends!). Margaux appellation is located on the left side of Gironde river in Medoc, and it is a home to so called First Growth, Chateau Margaux, and it also has the biggest number of classified second and third growth out of all other appellations in Bordeaux. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are the main grapes used in the wine production.
Two wines we had with the dinner were 1998 Chateau Palmer (classified third growth) and 2001 Chateau Lascombes (classified second growth). We decanted both wines for about an hour, just to get them to open up. Chateau Palmer showed lots of white truffles on the nose from the get go, and those white truffles stayed with the wine until the last drop. Chateau Lascombes started very tight, and opened up little by little to show some black truffles on the nose.
I can’t help but to mention that Chateau Palmer has a great web site, where you can find information about wines from the past vintages going back to 1959. The 1998 Chateau Palmer we were drinking was composed of 52% Merlot, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. If you like wines with the little age on them, this wine was just amazing. White truffles on the nose, white truffles on the palate. Round and polished, with great structure and tannins which are not firm already, but have enough grip if you swish the wine around in the mouth for a few moments. Good acidity, overall very balanced. One word description – delicious. Drinkability: 9-.
Chateau Lascombes was three years younger, but of course that age difference has little meaning when it comes to wines which can last for 50 years or longer – growing conditions would have much bigger effect. 1998 had nice and dry summer, and 2001 had very hot summer and rainfall right before the harvest time (here is the link to the wine information on the Chateau Lascombes web site). This is all interesting, right? Well, okay – not that we could taste it in the wine. 2001 Chateau Lascombes was big and powerful. Hint of black truffles lasted for a while after the wine was open, but it was not present on the palate. The wine was very structured, still with the firm tannins and lots of dark fruit on the palate, very balanced. Drinkability: 8.
This was definitely a great experience with magnificent wines (I can’t thank Emil enough!). I don’t know how I would do in a blind tasting, but it was very interesting to find great similarities in the wines made in a close geographic proximity and technically having very similar terroir. White truffles or black, but the wines were similar on the nose, which I find fascinating – it was the first time I tasted wines of such level effectively back to back, so it was a great learning moment.
That’s all for now, folks. I wish you great wine discoveries – cheers!
I recently mentioned that I started to write a series of posts for The Art Of Life Magazine. Currently, the series is covering Best Hidden Secrets of the Wine World, and last post was dedicated to the second labels. As the whole notion of the second labels was originated in France, of course my intent was to talk about one of the “second label” wines from Bordeaux.
I decided to go with Chateau Leoville Las Cases Clos Du Marquis, which is a second label of Chateau Leoville Las Cases Grand Vin de Leoville. 2005 was available ( and it was a great year), and I ordered (online) the Clos du Marquis for about $50 – of course I would be glad to go with second label of Chateau Latour, but that would ring about $500, which was definitely not budgeted for this exercise.
So I got the wine, it was the right year, and it was Chateau Leoville, so I tasted it for the post. Then I started working on the post, and of course I wanted to mention both first and the second label. This time I used the full name of the wine, Chateau Leoville Poyferre, and when I failed to find it as a second label, I finally understood that something is off! Well, it was a rare case of “off” to my benefit. Actually Chateau Leoville Poyferre which I got instead of Clos De Marquis is a first label (second label for this wine is called Château Moulin Riche), never mind the fact that it costs twice as much as Clos De Marquis was. I ended up getting another, real second label wine for The Art Of life Post, as talking about this wine would not help the goal of the article (La Croix de Beaucaillou was also not bad, as you can read for yourself in that post).
As everything in life has two sides, tasting this wine was also good and bad. The good part was in the fact that this wine, 2005 Chateau Leoville Poyferre from Saint Julien in Medoc, was outstanding. To describe it in the few words, it is muscles and power in a perfect balance. Perfect balance of dark fruit, spices, eucalyptus, tannins and acidity, however all in need of time. This wine needs another 10-12 years to really shine. Don’t get me wrong – it is perfectly enjoyable now – but it begs you to give it time to evolve. I would put drinkability to 9.
Where is the bad part, you ask? The bad part is that at $100 a bottle, it was truly an accidental experience – this is outside of my wine budget, so I will have to hope for another lucky mistake (yeah, fat chance). Oh well, I’m glad I had this experience and I was able to share it with you. Until the next time – cheers!
Somehow, last weekend happened to evolve around Bordeaux. First, there was “Lafite Around The World” tasting at Saltwater Grille restaurant in Stamford, featuring Lafite-Rothschild wines from around the world (don’t worry, there was no “all you can drink” Chateau Lafite). The actual French wines (2008 Chardonnay from Languedoc and 2009 Lafite Reserve Speciale Blanc and Rouge) were rather unimpressive (drinkable, but not necessarily enjoyable). Chilean Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is usually a good wine, and the 2008 was no exception. Amancaya, which is a blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina, produced jointly by Lafite-Rothschild and Nicolas Catena, was best of tasting, with silky smooth tannins and soft full-bodied fruit expression. It perfectly complemented couple of excellent appetizers served at the tasting, such as steak tartar and roast beef.
The next Bordeaux experience was courtesy of Cost Less Wines and Liquors, which was running a Bordeaux tasting. Two of the wines in that tasting were from 2009, which is being touted as the best vintage in Bordeaux in many decades. In general, comprehending young Bordeaux wines, especially from the great years (like 2000, 2003, 2005, 2009) is not simple, as Bordeaux wines really need time in the cellar to shine. The good thing about great years in Bordeaux is that you really don’t need to look for top producers (and deep into your retirement savings to be able to afford it) – pretty much any producer will deliver a very nice and enjoyable wine. I don’t know if it is just a year, or is it a widespread change in production methods in Bordeaux, but 2009s are a lot more approachable than 2000s – and quite enjoyable already.
As we discussed before, a lot of factors influence taste. I don’t know if this is just because of the widespread notion “2009 Bordeaux are great”, but when I was drinking these 2009s, a little voice in my head was saying “just think how amazing it will be in 10-15 years…”. If you can only learn once thing from the wine world, I think that “thing” should be … patience. From harvesting the grapes at the best moment to waiting for the wine to reach optimum age to even moving very slowly while pealing a label from the bottle – patience is a friend around wine…
To give you quick roundup on the tasting, the last two wines were my favorites – 2006 Marquis de Pez, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, was austere and fruit forward at the same time, and 2009 Chateau Haut Beyzac was very round and polished already – it’s good now, just imagine it in 10 years! And a bonus “feature” of these two wines – they both are under $15.
As Bordeaux 2009 start coming on the shelves, you will have to make a hard decision – drink now or wait. Not so hard, you say? Well, I heard that while 2009 was vintage of the century, 2010 might be even better….