Top Two Dozens of 2022

Year started. The year ended. What happened in between? Lots of things, many of them… well, you know. You live here too.

As it has been a tradition since this blog started, it is time to sum up the year in wines (well, the time was at least a week ago… I know…). The quintessential exercise in pain and pleasure. It gives me great pleasure to relive the great moments enabled and enhanced by all the wonderful wines. It gives me great pain having to decide on what wines should be on this list, and what should be the wine of the year. Lots of great moments, lots of uneasy decisions.

The original thought behind my very first Top Wines list was to come up with the 10 best wines. Even on the first try, I realized that I can’t stay within this limit of 10, and the limit was changed to 12 (hence a Dozen). Next came the realization that even 12 is not enough, and thus for most of the years my lists consist of 2 dozen wines, but even that often is not enough, so the final count can be 25, 26, and even more.

The criteria for inclusion into the Talk-a-Vino top list is simple – the wine has to be memorable. It should be easy to recall when, where, why, and even with whom I shared that wine, and what emotions did the wine solicit.

Oh yes, as I love analyzing the other Top Wine lists, let me give you the stats for the Top Talk-a-Vino wines of 2022. Total of 26 wines, 19 reds, 3 whites, 2 fortified, 1 sparkling, and 1 pink (it is not a Rosé, it is skin contact white). 6 wines are from California, 5 from Spain, 5 from France (interestingly enough, all from Bordeaux), 4 from Italy, 2 from Portugal, 2 from Washington, 1 from Australia, and 1 from New York.

That’s all there is to it. Without much further ado, let’s get to our list:

25. 2020 Field Recordings Domo Arigato Skin Contact Pinot Grigio Central Coast – a stunning concoction, almost magical. 2 of us finished the bottle and said “what just happened? where did this wine go? “. It is elegant, balanced, complex, and magical. Oh yes, I already said that.

24. 2012 Bodegas Excelencia Los Frontones Crianza Sierras de Málaga DO – one of the memorable surprises of the trip to Malaga. I had no idea that Bordeaux varieties can be the main grapes in the winemaking region in Spain – and then there was this beautiful 10-year-old fresh and delicious Bordeaux blend. If you are in Malaga, please ignore the dismissive comments “ahh, it is just local”  – this is what you want to drink.

23. 2020 Rosina’s Barbera Hudson River Region New York – I have the good fortune of being invited as a wine judge for the annual Hudson Valley Wine and Spirits competition. This Barbera from New York was dark, smokey, and powerful – and a totally unexpected surprise.

22. 2017 Quinta do Vale Dao DOP Portugal – No matter what Portugal continues to be the spelling for the wine values. This $6.99 red was simply stunning – round, generous, impeccably balanced. In a blind tasting, this wine would easily put to shame many of the $100 bottles. Don’t take my word for it – I dare you to check it for yourself…

21. Bodega Callejuela Oloroso Origen Callejuela Jerez-Xérès-Sherry DO – this wine was simply singing from the glass. Sherry might be the most complex wine in the world, and when it is done right, like this fine specimen… Oh boy, that’s lots of pleasure. But then put it next to the charcuterie… And you might think you accidentally made it to heaven…

20. 2018 Turley Tecolote Red Wine Paso Robles – of course everyone knows Turley Zinfandels, but Turley’s prowess extends way beyond that variety. Turley wines are notoriously hard to get, and Tecolote, a Spain-inspired blend of Grenache and Cariñena might be one of the most difficult ones to procure. If you will be lucky enough to come across it, get as many as you can – the lip-smacking voluptuous goodness of this wine is something to be experienced.

19. 2018 Double Lucky #8 Walla Walla Valley – one of the latest Cayuse projects, created under the No Girls line and crafted by Elizabeth Bourcier, was introduced to wine lovers in 2021, in a midst of covid. I found the introductory 2017 to be too powerful and too concentrated, the absolute “liquid rock” rendition. 2018 was surprisingly approachable, definitely powerful but balanced enough to be enjoyable even at this young age.

18. 2017 San Felice Bell’Aja Bolgheri Superiore – A beautiful example of super-Tuscan, with my notes (overdue to be published) saying “beautifully elegant, perfectly layered and scrumptious”. A pure pleasure.

17. 1997 Chateau Montelena Saint Vincent Red Wine Napa Valley – Sangiovese from Napa Valley is always a surprise. The Sangiovese-based blend from Chateau Montelena should count as a double surprise, as this is not the grape the winery is known for. The wine was well-structured and delicious, didn’t disappoint at all.

16. 2016 Hacienda Calavia Reserva Rioja DOC – When you drink good Spanish Rioja while in Spain this shouldn’t be surprising, right? And nevertheless, I was surprised at how unquestionably perfect, unquestionably Riojan this wine was, offering a beauty of the dark berries and cigar box. Clean, assertive, classic, delicious.

15. 2013 Campochiarenti Passione Divina Vini Storiche Toscana IGT – Sunningly beautiful pure Sangiovese from Campochiarenti. If you like Italian wines, especially the Brunello level, I’m sure you experienced that moment when you take a sip of the wine and it literally sends jitters all over your body. The wine that almost affects you on a physical level (no, I’m not talking about being drunk). I don’t know how to properly express it, but again, if you are an Italian wine aficionado, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. And if you are not, then consider becoming one.

14. 2019 Chateau L’Annonciation Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – if you find a classic Bordeaux in a bottle of Bordeaux – should that be surprising? A delicious pop’n’pour classic Bordeaux – should I say more?

13. 2018 Alto Moncayo Veraton Campo de Borja – your palate knows delicious, isn’t it? This wine is as stunning as it is delicious from the moment you pull the cork. Layers of goodness, succulent fruit, perfect amount of tannins to support the structure. If you looking for instant pleasure, this is the wine to open.

12. 2006 Trabucchi d’Illasi Amarone della Valpolicella – Everyone here knows that I love Amarone. But – it doesn’t mean that I love any bottle which says “Amarone” on it. I’m very particular about the balance in Amarone, and this wine delivers everything – dried fruit, fresh fruit, perfect power and perfect acidity. If I could only procure a case (or 5) of this wine…

11. 2019 BARRA of Mendocino Petite Sirah Mendocino – surprise is always a good way to create lasting memories. Petite Sirah is one of my all-time favorites grapes, but more often than not it requires time to be enjoyable, lots and lots of time. This wine was just perfectly ready the moment the cork was pulled out. dark concentrated, layered, well structured, perfectly balanced, and ready to deliver the pleasure on the moment’s notice.

all great wines, but only Petroni made the cut

10. 2010 Petroni Rosso di Sonoma Sonoma Valley – what happens when the Italian makes wine in California out of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon? A super-Californian! This was my last bottle, luckily snatched from WTSO. Beautiful, layered, delicious wine.

9. 2008 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli – well-aged Brunello should be on every wine lover’s “try before you die” list. This was simply an experience, the experience you want to go on and on and on, sip after sip. Pure, unadulterated pleasure.

8. 2007 François Cazin Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny AOC – another case of the “last bottle”. I was slowly depleting my stash of this Loire white, made from the rare grape called Romorantin. Every bottle showed differently over the years, but this one was the ultimate reward. Honey, flowers, and perfectly fresh acidity. Ahhh…

7. 1998 d’Arenberg Cabernet Sauvignon High Trellis McLaren Vale – spectacular. Still young, fresh, and loaded with gobs of cassis and cherries. An absolute beauty with much more time left.

6. 1969 Oliveras Cercial Madeira – I now think that Madeira might be the most interesting wine in the world. Think about it – the wine had everything done to it – heat, oxidation, everything. And then when you open it, it is ageless, it is vibrant, it is alive, and it can last forever. If I need one New Year resolution here, it might be “drink more Madeira!”

5. 1998 Château Tournefeuille Lalande-de-Pomerol – what a beauty! This might be a year of the classic Bordeaux for me. Cassis, cassis, more cassis. Layered, round, seductive, and luscious. I’m ready to meet with it again at any time.

4. NV Lanson Le Green Label Organic Champagne – this was my first encounter with Champagne Lanson, and I was duly impressed with precision and finesse. This Green label organic was my favorite, offering a perfect balance of yeast, toasted bread and cleansing acidity – every sip encouraging you to take another. An absolute beauty.

3. 2013 Alban Roussanne Edna Valley – Roussanne might be my favorite white grape (pssst… don’t tell that to Chardonnay and Riesling). Well-made Roussanne offers this round, beautiful, present, silky mouthfeel that no other white grape can. And when this Roussanne is made by the California Rhone Rangers pioneer such as Alban, it becomes an absolute pleasure trip. If you can find this wine – don’t miss it.

2. 1997 Château Haut-Piquat Lussac Saint-Émilion – more stunning Bordeaux. This is the fifth bottle of Bordeaux on this top list, but it is only reminiscent of the year, this was not by intent, but rather a surprising realization. Still perfectly fresh, balanced, firmly structured, and precise. I wish humans would age like this.

Cue in “yes, I did it again”. Because I’m guilty as charged. I didn’t want to take upon myself the burden of decision regarding the top wine, and tossing the coin would be simply not fair to either of the wines. But this is my blog, my rules. hence two #1 wines of 2022. Here we go:

1. 2018 Revelry Vintners Reveler Columbia Valley – I was blown away with my first sip. I think if I will count repetitive words in this post, “precision” would come out on top. And so this was yet another precise, delicious, spot-on, love-at-first-sight Bordeaux blend, powered by Washington’s rocky, lava-laden soil. The word “superb” doesn’t describe this wine.

1. 2020 Abadia Retuerta L’Domaine Ribera Del Duero – I know Abadia Retuerta Ribera del Duero reds, but I never heard of their white wines. My trip to Spain brought this revelation on the last day – this Sauvignon Blanc-based blend was absolutely spectacular – it would well compete with Chablis with its clean acidity, gunflint, firm structure, and pure, refreshing mouthfeel. This wine is absolutely world-class, ready to compete with the best of the best white wines can offer.

Now we are done, my friends. The presentation of Talk-a-Vino Top Wines of 2022 is complete. What were your most memorable wines of 2022? Cheers!

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