Here we are. 2012 is almost over. There were bad things, there were good things. And the world didn’t end on December 21st. Unexpected, huh? But we are talking about wine here, so let’s get to it. The time has come to finish summing up the year worth of wines, and come up with the dozen most memorable wines (my second dozen+ can be found here).
12. 2004 Retro Petite Sirah Howell Mountain ($35) – Power. More power. And more power. One of the biggest wines I tasted in 2012. Not in Barolo sense, not with the tannins which just close up your taste buds, but in the sheer amount of dense, chewy, dark fruit. It will be interesting to see how this wine will evolve…
11. 2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle Ethos Reserve Syrah Columbia Valley ($36) – I love roasted, meaty notes of Syrah (I can even go as far as proclaiming Syrah being the favorite wine, but it wouldn’t be entirely true – still, Syrah is definitely one of my favorite wines). This Syrah had that roasted, smokey and peppery notes, multiplied by juicy fruit. Very delicious – you should try it with your next BBQ and tell me what you think.
10. 2007 Villa Mt Eden Pinot Noir Reserve, Russian River Valley ($25) – I would typically describe California Pinot Noirs from the position of power – a lot of them are big wines, boasting of jammy fruit. And I would typically reserve the descriptor such as “finesse” for the Burgundy. When you taste this wine, actually the first word which comes to mind is finesse. It is absolutely elegant, with beautiful layered fruit, silky smooth tannins, and – very, very balanced.
9. 2010 Turley The Label Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($40) – in the old style bottle came beautifully styled Cabernet Sauvignon (you can read my escapades around the subject of the bottle if you will click on the name of this wine). This wine had everything you want from your Cabernet Sauvignon – black currant, mint, eucalyptus, touch of dark chocolate, supple tannins, perfect acidity – and it was not in-your-face, perfectly restrained and elegant. This was the very first vintage of this wine, produced by the venerable Zinfandel maker Turley, and I believe this wine has long life ahead of it.
8. 2009 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($125) – And then there was Rutherford dust. Absolutely perfect Cabernet Sauvignon, with all the classic traits and flavors, impeccably balanced, with an added bonus – a sensation of tiny particles coating your mouth, a very unusual and very memorable texture, associated only with wines produced in the area of Rutherford in Napa Valley. Before I tried this wine, I heard the “Rutherford dust” expression, but never experienced it – this was my first encounter, and boy, was that delicious!
7. 2010 Domaine Saint Prefert Cuvee Speciale Vieilles Clairettes Chateauneuf du Pape ($125 for magnum) – let me give you a very short description for this wine – a symphony in a glass. Do I need to clarify it any further? You know, all the memorable wines provoke certain association. Power, balance, finesse, roasted meat, sunshine, fresh meadows – and then there is this wine which you want to associate with music. Perfect clarity of this wine only makes you think of precisely taken high notes and how beautiful the music is. The wine has very little availability and only produced in Magnums, if I’m not mistaken – but, if you can experience it, you will not regret.
6. 1995 Gloria Ferrer Late Disgorged Carneros Sparkling Wine ($35) – who likes vintage sparklers – raise your hand! One of the best vintage sparkling wines I ever tried – perfectly mature fruit, yeast, brioche, toasted bread – everything in cohesive package, with enough acidity to support this massive sensation and keep the wine refreshing and enjoyable. I made a huge mistake with this wine – I bought only one bottle to try, and by the time I went back to the store, it was all gone… But – I’m glad I had a chance to experience it.
5. 2010 Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia, Toscana IGT ($45) – let me ask you a question – do you associate Sauvignon Blanc with Italy? Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, New Zealand, California, Chile – but Italy? It turns out that Sauvignon Blanc does very well in Italy, definitely when it comes from such a coveted winery as Tenuta dell’Ornelaia. Medium to full bodies wine, with beautiful white fruit, perfect balance and craving to drink it until anything left in that bottle. You have to taste it to believe it.
4. 2007 Beaulieu Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 6 ($140) – what a beauty! You know, I once read review by Joe Roberts, where he compared one of Cathy Corison Cabernet wines with black panther. I tasted that same wine, and the panther didn’t come to me. With this BV Clone 6 wine, I think I found my black panther. Slick, muscled, dangerous and stunning, this wine brings all together in one grand package – dark fruit, earthiness, coffee and dark chocolate. Hello, gorgeous!
3. 2000 Carlisle Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($35) – luscious deliciousness. Sounds overly enthusiastic? May be. But I will not accept any criticism here, until you will have a taste of this wine. It is possible that you will still not be able to share my enthusiasm – but for me, this was one beautiful wine. Layers upon layers of the fruit, dark fruit, blue fruit – blueberries, plums, blackberries, dark chocolate, all with perfect acidity and in perfect harmony. You would never tell that this wine has ABV of 16.5% – this is how delicious this wine was.
2. 1947 Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja ($400) – 65 years old wine – still bright and youthful. This was one amazing experience – tasting the wine of such an age, and finding that you can really like it without looking for any age discounts. Fruit was still bright, all wrapped into cedar box and eucalyptus notes, with soft tannins and fresh acidity.
And now ( drum roll, please)
2012 Wine of the Year
1. 2010 Phantasi Oregon White Wine ($100, Magnum price in the restaurant) – wine geeks, rejoice! This is your wine! If you read this blog for a while, you already know that I’m self-admitted wine snob. But – you probably also know that compare to the wine snob, I’m somewhat of a 100-fold wine geek. I would try absolutely any wine and I purposefully seek odd and unusual bottles.
When this wine was offered to us in the restaurant $100 for a magnum, this was an offer I couldn’t pass by. And what the wine it was! This is 100% Roussanne wine from Oregon, made by Antica Terra – unfortunately, you can’t even find any information about this wine on the winery web site.
The wine was served at the room temperature. Deep, pungent, concentrated – in the blind tasting (actually blind, so you would not be able to see the color in your glass) I’m sure this wine would be easily identified as red. Good acidity, good balance, very food friendly – and very unique.
That concludes my Top Twelve of ’12. I would love to see your comments and also to learn about your most memorable wines of the 2012.
Wishing you all wonderful wine, food and life experiences, each and every day. Cheers!
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 ($20.99) – I love Chardonnay – and I so rarely get to enjoy it, unfortunately. I don’t have any deep cellars of Burgundy, and a lot of wineries in California and outside are trying to make Chardonnay to taste like Pinot Grigio – beats me. Luckily, not this Chardonnay from Hungary. This wine greets you the nose with vanilla and butter, and perfectly supports that round package on the palate – more vanilla, more butter, toasted oak, golden delicious apples – just the Chardonnay I want to drink.
That’s all for today, folks – will be happy to hear your thoughts. Have you tried any of the wines above? Did you like them? And yes, my Top Twelve of Twelve is coming out very soon. I’m not going to spoil a surprise for you, but I’m sure you will find my Wine of the Year choice a bit unusual (if you want to guess, write your ideas down in the comments section). Cheers!
I’m not sure I fully believe it, but time has come to sum up another year. Same as last year, I’m going to present you with a dozen of most exciting wines of 2011. I keep mentioning that quality of the wines available from all over the world is getting better and better, and it was very hard to decide on only 12 wines out of many hundreds of great wines I had an opportunity to experience throughout the year. This list is unequivocally subjective, and to make it even more subjective my criteria was the “wow” moment experienced when I tasted the wines – this is always dangerous, as depending on the circumstances of the “wow” tasting, the same wine might not be as exciting the next time. Nevertheless, without further ado, here are my twelve best wines of 2011.
12. 2005 Maisuradze Wines Mukuzani ($NA) – power and more power. This wine is a monster powerhouse, and you are hypnotized by that power and don’t want to put your glass aside. Tremendous tannins, complemented by acidity and good fruit. Very big wine. Will be very interesting to lay it down for 10-15 years. Transformation should be remarkable, if you can wait, of course.
11. Bodegas Hidalgo Pedro Ximenez Viejo Triana ($24) – first, there is an element of awe when you drink this wine, as it is 250 years old ( at least in the trace amount, thanks to the Solera method when the new wine is added to the barrel which was never emptied completely for the last 250 years). Then the taste is spectacular – liquified fig jam, but very light and balanced with nice acidity.
10. 2009 Montalbera Laccento Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato ($30) – the wine opened up with a nice earthy smell, with fresh unadulterated grapey taste on the palate, somewhat similar to Beaujolais Noveau, but then quickly evolved to deliver the power punch of big voluptuous wine. This wine needs lots of time, but in the end, it will be glorious, multi-layered beauty. If you can find it, put a few bottles to rest and experience later for yourself (ability to wait is required).
9. 2009 Bodegas Shaya Habis Rueda DO ($28) – this wine is made out of old vines Verdejo (100+ years old vines). This is one of the most unanticipated wines I ever had, as while you are expecting Verdejo wines to be somewhat simple and easy, this wine delivers complexity of a top-class Chardonnay, with toasted apple, vanilla and hint of butter on the palate, all with the great balance.
8. 1982 Chateau Prieure-Lichine Margaux ($130) – This was a 1982 Bordeaux! Do I need to say anything else? A Bordeaux from Grand Cru producer from legendary year – it doesn’t get much better than that. The wine was beautiful, fresh, with great fruit and great balance of tannins and acidity. I rest my case.
7. 1993 Lopez de Heredia Vino Tondonia Rioja Blanco ($33) - it is rather expected that 1976 Vina Tondonia Rioja Gran Reserva would be good, but 18 years old white Rioja? Hmmm, I couldn’t imagine that – but then came 1993 Vina Tondonia Rioja Blanco, and it was beautiful, fresh and acidic, coming through as a very youthful wine, with lots of fresh fruit. You can still get it at PJ Wine, and I believe it’s worth every penny.
6. 2009 Wente Vineyards Small Lot Grenache Livermore Valley ($35) – opens up with a nose of ripe plums, continuing into plush, soft, round wine with velvety mouthfeel, very balanced. Very similar to great Spanish Grenache wines, like Alto Moncayo Aquilon, only coming from California. This wine is available only at the winery, but definitely worth a trip if you are in the area.
5. 1991 Justin Cabernet Franc, San Luis Obispo County – ($25) – this was a gorgeous wine, great structure, ripe fruit, balance and finesse – without showing any sign of age. The only problem was that I got only one bottle from the Benchmark Wine Company…
4. 2009 Peter Michael “Belle Cote” Estate Chardonnay – ($80) – this Chardonnay was a beautiful song, or may be rather a dance of impeccable synchronicity. Absolutely stunning in its balance of fruit, acidity and minerality, with the hint of white peaches and golden delicious apples on the palate, but just a hint – not a single element taking over and pushing others aside. From the moment I tasted this wine, it became my golden standard for what Chardonnay should be – you can even see it throughout my posts.
3. 2007 Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine ($130) - This was definitely the best Icewine I ever tried. Light and effervescent (not your usual descriptors for the icewine), with perfect acidity complementing beautiful fruit. True masterpiece.
2. 2001 Masi Mazzano Amarone della Valpolicella ($130) – this was an Amarone I’m constantly looking for and can’t find. Stunning nose of the raisined fruit, a dried fruit extravaganza – with powerful, structured and balanced body – not a glimpse of overripe fruit which is so common in the nowadays Amarone. Truly beautiful wine for the special moments.
1. 2010 Fiction Red Wine Paso Robles by Field Recordings ($20) – First and foremost, it is a smell which doesn’t lets you put the glass down. Fresh flowers, meadows, herbs, fresh summer air – it is all captured in the smell of this wine. On the palate, this wine shows bright red fruit, like raspberries and cherries, all perfectly balanced with a great finesse. Any time you want to experience beautiful summer day, reach out to that wine.
For what it worth, these are my favorite wines of 2011. I’m sure 2012 will bring many more exciting discoveries – it is great to be an oenophile today! What were your favorites of 2011? Please share it here! Cheers!