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Top Wines of 2017

January 5, 2018 Leave a comment

And here are my top most memorable wines of 2017. A few days ago, I published the first part of the top wines list, and now the time has come to look at the most memorable wins of 2017. The logic behind the list is explained in the post about the second dozen of the top wines of 2017, so let’s just proceed.

12. 2016 Salabka LA COQUINE Chardonnay Praha Czech Republic (€25) – we finished the second dozen list with Chardonnay, and we are starting this one with  Chardonnay, however, of a very different character. This was yet another surprise during Salabka winery visit in Prague – bright and upbeat, excellent core of acidity surrounded by tropical fruit and apples with a tiny touch of vanilla – a pure delight in a glass.

11. 2010 La Rioja Alta Viña Alberdi Reserva ($16) – I have an unquestionable love to La Rioja Alta wines – didn’t find yet the one I didn’t like. This 2010 Viña Alberdi is a classic, generous Rioja – red and black berries, cedar box, mint, sweet oak, rounded by clean acidity and delicious finish. It was literally my “go to” wine this – I took a number of bottles with me in my travels and the reaction everywhere was the same – “wow, this is a good wine!” – including the dinner at the wine bloggers conference this year.

10. 2011 Fiction Red Wine Paso Robles by Field Recordings ($20) – Field Recordings is one of my most favorite producers. Fiction red was also one of my “convert” or maybe rather a “discovery” wines – tasting the 2010 Fiction made me fall in love with Field Recordings wines. The 2010 Fiction was my Top Wine in 2011.  This 2011 Fiction was almost a revelation this year – I didn’t expect much from the 6 years old screwtop wine, meanwhile – it evolved dramatically, showing delicious berry medley elevated with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a slimmer of sage on top. A wow wine.

9. 2007 Marchese Antinori Tenuta Montenisa Contessa Maggi Riserva Franciacorta ($50+) – drinking this wine at the old and authentic Montenisa Estate definitely had some effect – regardless, the wine was outstanding, boasting vintage sparkling wine qualities, freshly toasted, yeasty bread, plenty of fruit and beautiful acidity. A treat.

8. 1967 Fratelli Giacosa Barolo DOCG ($65 at Benchmark Wine) – 50 years old wine deserves respect, isn’t it? Still was drinkable with characteristic Barolo plums and lavender. It was showing a bit of an age, but still was going strong. Great example of excellent winemaking and a testament to Barolo’s longevity.

7.  NV Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage Champagne ($50) – Sauvage means “wild” in French, and this is a perfect name for this champagne. Exuberant, in-your-face, fully loaded with fresh succulent strawberries – there is nothing subtle about this wine, it is very present in every sip you take – but it is unmistakably Champagne, delivering lots of pleasure. Will be definitely looking for this wine again – it will brighten up any occasion.

6. 2012 Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ($75) – if I will say that this was Gaja Brunello – would that be enough of the description for you? Supremely delicious from the get-go, Brunello from one of the best producers in Italy, from one of the best vintages for Brunello. The wine was beautifully showing, fully extracted and powerful, but nevertheless perfectly balanced. Outstanding.

5. 2013 Sandhi Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills ($35) – Sandhi Chardonnay was mentioned in the second dozen of top wines for 2017, but it was this Pinot Noir which made me say “wow” while discovering Sandhi wines. Unmistakably California Pinot Noir with gentle red fruit in the leading role and violets and sage supporting the bouquet. Luscious, silky smooth, perfectly dense and balanced – the wine which needs to be experienced.

4. 2014 Unionville Vineyards Amwell Ridge Cabernet Franc New Jersey ($28?) – It is interesting how many wines on this top list represent “surprises” ( but then, of course, the surprise factor is what makes the wine memorable, right?). This wine tremendously exceeded my expectations and showed a classic, perfectly balanced, new world Cabernet Franc – blackcurrant, a touch of mint, medium body, perfectly balanced with clean acidity. An excellent wine worth seeking.

3. 2011/2012 La Valle Brut Rosé Franciacorta DOCG ($45) – visiting La Valle winery in Franciacorta and meeting charismatic Stefano Camilucci was definitely one of the main highlights of our trip to Franciacorta. On top of that, this Rosé sparkling wine was yet another highlight – from beautiful presentation of the bottle to the delicious, perfectly clean and balanced, playfully effervescent liquid inside. 2011/2012 is not a mistake – most of the Franciacorta wines are vintage wines; I had both vintages, and they are both excellent. Yet another wine I recommend most highly.

2. 2015 Nevada Sunset Winery Syrah El Dorado County ($20) – I love surprises, and this was a big one! Tiny city winery, officially opened only two months prior to my visit, and then the wine which can be a crown jewel for any winery’s portfolio. Definitely a new world Syrah, but impeccably balanced. Intense dark fruit with chocolate and espresso on the nose, and the same matching profile on the palate with the addition of a touch of pepper – silky smooth, full-bodied, and – did I say it already – impeccably balanced. Wow.

1. 1982 Olga Raffault “Les Picasses” Chinon, Loire ($85?) – for any Cabernet Franc aficionado, Olga Raffault is “the name”, Chinon is “the place”, and 1982 was really a legendary vintage in France (for sure in Bordeaux, don’t know if this can be reciprocated to the Loire, but still). Tasting this 35 years old wine was a pure delight – no sign of age, cassis all the way, complex bouquet, great balance – what else can you wish for in wine?

Here we are, the Top wines of 2017. I could easily double the number of wines here, as lots and lots of well worthy wines were not included – ah, well… Let’s look at the “diversity” as we did for the second dozen. Out of 12 wines, 5 countries, 11 different regions, some of them I bet you never had the wines from such as Nevada and New Jersey – I believe it is an interesting mix and well on par with diversity in the wine world today.

As everything works in life, one list is finished, and the new one is starting right after. Happy wine year 2018! Cheers!

 

Top Wines of 2017 – Second Dozen

December 31, 2017 1 comment

? It’s that time again! The year is ending, and it is always fun to look back and reflect on the things which are now becoming the past. Of course, there all sorts of memories linked to the year which is about to depart, the bad, the good (hopefully none of the “ugly”, right?). It’s the good things we want to carry with us, and so this is the primary purpose of this post – well, just a reminder – it is the wine we are talking about here.

The “Top Dozen” posts are a tradition here, ever since the blog has started – here are the links for all the past “Top” lists: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. To build these top lists I usually go through my posts and label journals, as the idea is simple – the lists represent the most memorable wines I came across during the year. Some of the wines were written about, in this case I will offer you a link to the original post. Some of the wines never made it into the posts, but they are still well worthy of being on this list. Also, I can rarely contain myself to the one dozen of wines – in most of the cases, I have to split the wines into the first and second dozen and have two separate posts.

The year 2017 was very happening wine year, full of great discoveries, and thus warranting the two posts. We will start with the second dozen, and then the top dozen post will be coming out shortly. The order of the wines on the list is somewhat random, with the exception of the Top Wine. And yes, building up such a list is never easy – but you derive lots of pleasure along the way. Okay, enough of the introductions – let’s talk about the wines now.

25. 2016 Terlato Vineyards Pinot Grigio Friuli Colli Orientali DOC ($22.99) – I don’t know if “typical” Pinot Grigio exists anymore – you know, the one which resembles more water than wine – but this is not your typical Pinot Grigio. This wine had excellent aromatics and lots of depth on the palate. I also managed to pleasantly surprise some people at a dinner in a restaurant when I ordered this wine. A perfect all occasion white.

24. 2011 Quinta dos Murças Reserva Douro Valley, Portugal ($45) – when it comes to Portuguese red, my preference is at the Reserva level – this is not a random word on the label. The reservas typically offer a much higher concentration of the flavor, and this wine was not an exception – lots and lots of layers on the palate, delicious now, and can age for a long, long time.

23. 2014 Thelema Sutherland Sauvignon Blanc WO Elgin South Africa  ($20) – fresh grass with lots of complexity. This wine is not “in your face”, it opens up slowly in the glass (and can stay for a while in a bottle), and it offers way more than just grass and grapefruit. Classic Sancerre level of complexity, perfect on the sunny deck or by a cozy fireplace.

22. 2013 Valdivieso Caballo Loco Grand Cru Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($35) – cassis berries and leaves combined – does it get any better? Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon are relatives, having a common parent, Cabernet Franc. In this wine, which is a blend of these two grapes, both perfectly contribute their best varietal characteristics, resulting in layered, luscious, velvety smooth wine. Most highly recommended – if you can find it.

21. 2016 Paul Mas Rosé Aurore Pays d’Oc ($8) – Best Rosé ever, eh? For sure when it comes to the QPR, as for measly $8 you get a 1L of a delicious wine, which can brighten up any day, summer or not. Simply delicious – let me leave it at that.

20. 1994 Chateau Lilian Ladouys Saint-Estéphe ($15) – This wine keeps surprising me. It is 23 years old, it doesn’t come from any of the ” x growth” chateaus, and it is simply delicious Bordeaux which still can age for longer – it shows fresh and delicious, literally no sign of tertiary aromas yet. Outstanding.

19. 2016 Troon Riesling Whole Grape Ferment, Applegate Valley, Oregon ($20) – Craig Camp keeps on making unique and different wines. His whole line of wines at Troon Vineyards in Oregon deserves another post, but for now, I want to single out this Riesling which I tried at wine bloggers conference this year. This is what technically people call an “orange” wine, considering the color the white wine would obtain if left in contact with the skin for an extended period of time. “Whole Grape Ferment” in the name of the wine signifies exactly that – and the wine is totally unique. It is a bit closer to sherry than to the regular wine, but at the same time, it still has the bright fruit and perfect acidity. I would happily pair this wine with the steak (I didn’t have the pleasure), as I’m sure it will be delicious. And it will beat most of the wines next to cheese. Find it, let’s talk later.

18. 2007 Salabka Le Diamant Praha Czech Republic (€25) – talk about surprises. Very small vineyard and winery, right in Prague – and a world-class sparkling wine, méthode classique? Yes! I never wrote a post about that visit (which I’m not happy about), but the wine was a pure standout. Vanilla, toasted bread, apples, generous, voluptuous, fresh, and crispy. Outstanding. No chances of finding this wine in the US, but if Prague, which is a beautiful city, is part of the travel destination, don’t miss unique experience at Salabka vineyards and winery.

17. 2015 The Infinite Monkey Theorem Cabernet Franc, Colorado ($21) – my Colorado wine experience was not going great – and then I found this wine, and everything was right with the world. Blackcurrant all the way, excellent acidity, clean, lip-smacking – just an excellent example of the Cabernet Franc capabilities and good winemaking. And that label…

16. 2016 Bodega Javier Sanz V Malcorta Rueda D.O. ($26) – discovered during the Rueda wines seminar at Spain’s Great Match event this year. I couldn’t stop smelling this wine while others already finished drinking it. It had great complexity, the herbs, the flowers, the fruit and the spices (ahh, nutmeg) – this was a type of wine I can smell literally forever. Clean and delicious on the palate too – outstanding.

15. 2011 Turley The Label Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($50)  – this is not the first time Turley The Label makes the top list. I had a few bottles of 2011  throughout the years, and it continues to evolve, literally getting better and better. This year, the wine was a textbook Cabernet Sauvignon – cassis, mint, eucalyptus – in a perfect, velvety envelope. Delicious and perfectly on par with the very best wines Turley produces.

14. 2014 Shiloh Mosaic Israel ($55) – was literally blown away by the first sip. Israeli wines are unquestionably world class – but this wine was also Mevushal, which means it was pasteurized one way or the other. Typically, you would expect pasteurization to affect the flavor one way or the other, but this was not the case here. Spectacular Bordeaux blend – this is when after the first sip you say “mmmm!” and you don’t put down the glass until it is empty. Then quickly ask for a refill. Superb is the word.

13. 2012 Sandhi Chardonnay Santa Barbara County ($35) – let me be brief – this is the wine to be experienced. I discovered Sandhi wines this year, and while I was initially skeptical because of the whole IPOB juggernaut (I believe the balance can be found equally in wine at 11% and at 17% ABV), this wine was real – sublime interplay of Chardonnay flavors, with vanilla, apple and a touch of butter been in a perfect harmony. Delicious – definitely look for it.

I don’t try to “engineer” my lists in any way (this is not a paid publication, and I have zero vested interest in promoting any of the wines above) – but just take a look at the happenstance diversity here. The wines represent 9 different countries (Italy, Spain, France, USA, South Africa, Czech Republic, Chile, Israel, Portugal), 13 different regions, a bunch of different grapes and the price range from $8 to $55. Can’t wait to see how the top dozen will fare – and that list is coming up soon. Stay tuned…

Top Twelve of 2016

December 31, 2016 10 comments

pol rogerAnd now, the moment you’ve been waiting for … cue in the drum roll… Talk-a-Vino Top 12 wines of 2016. Well, okay. I’m sure you were not really waiting for this moment, but nevertheless, I made up my mind about best of the best wines I experienced this year, and now I’m ready to present you with my list.

The list of top wines of 2016 consists of 2 dozens of wines – here you can find the first half of this list, containing the wines from 13 to 24 – note, the order is not essential, it doesn’t mean that I liked wine #13 more than wine #14. That first post also explains how the wines are selected for this Top Dozen list. In this post, I would like to share the top wines of 2016 (the order is not essential with the exception of the top 3 wines.

Here we go:

12. 2010 Fields Family Wines Tempranillo Lodi ($25) – I’m a Tempranillo buff, a snob, if you will, and this was one of the very first wines I tasted while attending the welcome reception at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi. And I have to honestly say that table of the Fields wines was the closest to the food. Once I had a sip of  this Tempranillo, everything changed – Ribera del Duero style, fresh and firm, just outstanding.

11. 2012 Viña Maipo Syrah Limited Edition DO Buin Valle del Maipo ($35) – Here is another great discovery of 2016 – Chile is not only the land of Cabernet, it makes perfect Syrah. This wine was spicy, dark, vibrant but restrained, a classic, classic Syrah. Yum!

10. 2013 McCay Cellars Grenache Abba Vineyard Lodi ($32) – Here is another standout from Lodi – the smoke and roasted meat over the violets. A “dangerous wine”.

9. 2013 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia Bolgheri Sassicaia ($200) – ahh, the layers. The layers of goodness. Silky smooth, mouth-coating nectar. This is not called “Super” Tuscan for nothing. The most amazing part – this 3 years old wine was ready to drink. Wow.

8. 2013 Viña Maipo Protegido Cabernet Sauvignon Valle del Maipo ($50) – World-class Chilean Cabernet at its best. Fruit, herbs, balance. Smooth, powerful and delicious.

7. 2016 Field Recordings Pét Nat Arroyo Grande Valley ($20?) – I might be just lucky around Field Recordings wines, as I understand that Pét Nat wines can be all over the place – but this wine had a perfect finesse of bubbles in a very simplistic package – a bottle topped with a beer cap, and delicious, classic sparkling goodness of Chardonnay in a glass. A perfection.

6. 2012 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia ($210) – I now learned my ways at Gambero Rosso, so I know to start from the most “cult” wines first (after missing on Massetto 5 years ago). The Ornellaia was definitely a personal surprise – didn’t expect 4 years old Super Tuscan to be so ready to drink – but it was. Generous fruit, perfect structure, layers of pleasure – this is the wine you finish with “ahh”.

5. 2001 The Lucas Winery Chardonnay Lodi California ($37?) – there are 4 wines from Lodi among the 24, and I had to hold myself from including more. An absolute surprise of the tasting – I couldn’t expect 15 years old California Chardonnay to taste this fresh and vibrant. Yes, the wine was made by Heather Lucas, an owner/winemaker,  in Burgundian style – nevertheless, I’ve seen way too many failed California Chardonnay to truly appreciate what was done here.

4. 2005 Domaine des Monts Luisants Les Genavriéres Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru ($50) – I.want.to.drink.this.wine.every.day. That’s it.

3. 2015 Vidon Vineyard Chardonnay Estate Chehalem Mountains, Oregon ($35) – Oregon’s supremacy is unquestionable when it comes to Pinot Noir. Pinot Gris from Oregon are also a safe bet anywhere you find them. But Chardonnay? Considering this wine from Vidon Vineyard, the Chardonnay is also a thing in Oregon. Bright, beautiful, vanilla laced golden delicious apples chased by the pure lemon. I wish your white Burgundy would be as good as this wine.

cesari bosan Amarone

2. 1997 Cesari Bosan Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC, Italy ($85) – Amarone might be my “curse of oenophile”. Ever since trying this wine for the first time and been blow away with the contrast of beautiful nose of dry fruit and perfectly dry, powerful and balanced palate, I had been on the quest to repeat that experience. And I keep failing and failing over that, with Masi single vineyard wines providing an occasional salvation. This Cesari Bosan single vineyard Amarone brought that old memory back – dry fruit on the nose and polished, structured wine on the palate. A pure delight.

sir winston churchill champagne

1. 2002 Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill Champagne ($230) – definitely surprised myself with this choice of the wine #1 of 2016. I had vintage Champagne from the very solid producers before – Krug, Piper-Heidsieck, Dom Perignon, Roederer Cristal; in the same tasting there was ’02 Bollinger RD and ’06 Roederer L’Ermitage, both superb. But this Winston Churchill Champagne… The interplay on the nose, the complexity and richness were stunning. Before you take a sip, you have to smell this wine. And smell. And smell. Reflect. And smell again. Wow. Too emotional? Might be. Find the bottle of this wine, invite me over, let’s smell it together, then talk.

This is it, my friends. Two dozens of most memorable wines of 2016. Can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring. Cheers!

 

Top Wines of 2016 – Second Dozen

December 30, 2016 2 comments

Here we are again – another year is about to become a history, which means it is time for one of my favorite wine aficionado exercises – reliving the best wine moments of the year to create the list of Top Dozen wines of 2016.

Ever since this blog started back in 2010, Top Dozen list was always a feature – here are the links for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Many years I couldn’t even limit myself to one dozen, thus some of the years had two dozens of top wines. It seems that 2016 is one of those years – so I’m really trying hard to stay within that two cases limit (how many of you were successful with limiting yourself at the wine store, raise your hands, please), will see where I will end up.

The way these Top Dozen lists are built is simple. These are the most memorable wines I had throughout the year. As I was preparing for this post, I looked at some of the wines in the past Top Dozen posts and had an immediate “ahh, I remember that…” emotions. Wine creates emotional connections, wine creates and enhances memories – this is what makes the wines “top list”-worthy.

I always try to present the wines randomly – and I’m reasonably successful, with the exception of the wine #1 – that wine is always the most memorable wine of the entire year, and sometimes that internal deliberation takes a while to complete.

I wrote about some of these wines during the year – some, but not all. If there is already a post about the wine in this Top list, the link to such post will be included. I also include the pricing information where available, but not any of the technical details of the wines or my ratings – the idea is to focus on what made those wines memorable.

Without further ado, here we go:

24. 2013 Domaine de la Vallée du Bras OMERTO Vin Apéritif de Tomate Moelleux Québec ($20) – the tomato wine? Yes, please, any time! This was a delicious treat which nobody could believe can be made out of tomatoes. As you can see , this wine has the vintage designation, so it would be fun to taste a flight and try to pickup the differences. In any case, the wine is reminiscent of a nice Riesling or a Muscat, slightly off-dry style. Try it for yourself!

23. 2012 Kaiken Ultra Malbec Uco Valley, Argentina ($25) – sexy is the word. Layered, seductive, silky smooth. Not sure will get you laid, but worth a try!

22. NV Champagne Emile Leclère Cuvèe Du Bicentenaire ($26) – growers champagne at that price? Thank you WTSO! Toasty, rich, voluptuous – lots of delicious Champagne pleasure in every sip.

21. 2016 Field Recordings Nouveau California ($20?) – It is a rare treat to drink the wine that young and that delicious. Outside of the name, there is nothing really “Nouveau” about this wine – it has enough restrain, but still delivers plenty of succulent, balanced fruit with classic California Pinot Noir flair. Would love to get more of this wine, but I think it was a rare treat for the club members – thank you, Andrew Jones.

 

20. 2011 Masciarelli Marina Cvetić Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva ($28) – “rich and opulent” – describes this wine completely. Dense, smooth, texturally present – drinking this wine is truly a decadent experience.

19. 2014 Maeli Fior d’Arancio DOCG Sweet ($27) – this was a perfect starter to the memorable lunch with Gianluca Bisol. While sweet, the wine was effervescent, elusive and seductive. It would be equally perfect at the end of the meal – albeit if you will be able to find it.

18. 1998 Mauritson Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley California ($31) – love surprises! This was clearly an odd bottle in a tiny liquor shop in Florida, I’m sure forgotten there by some accident. The wine, however, was spectacular – lots of mature fruit, enough freshness and acidity, an abundant pleasure in every sip. Yum!

17. 2014 Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato Venezia Giulia IGT ($18) – it is hard to believe the conversion of somewhat pedestrian Pinot Grigio left in the contact with the skin for 24 hours – onion peel, sapidity, intrigue – definitely the next level of enjoyment.

16. 2013 Borra Vineyards Heritage Field Blend Lodi ($25) – if you love smoke and tar in the wine as much as I do, this is your wine. Spectacular depth, tobacco, tar, dark fruit – this is how delicious power tastes like. I’m so glad about my discovery of the Lodi wines in 2016 – this wine is a great example of what Lodi is capable of.

15. 2015 Henri Cruchon Nihilo La Côte AOC Switzerland (25,00 CHF) – ahh, fresh crunchy fruit, live, succulent, delicious – organic, biodynamic, pure – the wine I would be happy to drink every day.

14. 2013 Carlisle Grüner Veltliner Steiner Vineyard Sonoma Mountain ($30) – if you want summer in the glass, this wine might be it. Perfect balance of fresh fruit and grass, sprinkled with lemon zest. Refreshing and delicious.

13. 1998 Patrick Lesec Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes ($NA) – the barnyard hint on the nose is often polarizing for the oenophiles, but I’m squarely in the “love it!” camp. Add to that touch of barnyard smoke and ripe plums, and you will get a delicious, mature adult beverage. Judging by the wine like this, I need to drink Burgundy way more often (I wish I could). 

This was not easy, but we are done for now. Cheers!

To be continued…

 

Top Twelve of 2015

February 8, 2016 7 comments

In the 5 years this blog exists, I always summarized my wine experiences of the year with the list of most memorable wines. For the 2010 and 2011, the top lists included exactly 12 entries. However, 2012, 2013 and 2014 lists comprised of a first and a second dozens for the total of 24 wines or even more.

There were lots and lots of great and spectacular wines in 2015. But it is February of 2016 already, so I will simply limit the list to only 12 wines. Okay, of course not only 12, but I will stay as close as possible to the 12 – which makes it a fun challenge in itself, as now I need to go over the bigger list again and decide what to include into the  one and only. From here, it makes sense to explain how this Top Wines list is built.

The Talk-a-Vino Top Dozen list is simply based on the memorable wines of the past year. I don’t take into account color or style of the wine. I don’t take into account price. I don’t take into account availability. What matters for this list is that one look at the name of the wine is enough to say “ohh, yes, I remember that” – these are the wines which left the biggest impression.

Done with all the explanations, let’s get to the list, shall we?

14. 2012 Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Pomino Bianco Benefizio Riserva DOC ($45) – I have a weak spot for a good Italian Chardonnay, and this wine was just that – classic, clean and beautiful.

13.  Changyu Red Wine Blend Ningxia, China (~$36 on the wine list in a restaurant in Beijing) – this wine was definitely an unexpected surprise, especially after unsuccessful first encounter with the Chinese wine. Classic round Bordeaux-style, with perfect balance and lots of pleasure in every sip.

12. 2013 Fero Vineyards Saperavi, Pennsylvania ($25) – Saperavi of course is best known as the star Georgian grape. However, it is quickly rising in popularity in the eastern US. Fero Vineyards might be a good example as to why – this wine had a characteristic Saperavi tartness over firm structure and nice earthy profile. It was my first and successful experience with the New World Saperavi.

11. 2014 Left Coast Cellars White Pinot Noir Willamette Valley ($24) – of course we are all familiar with “white Pinot Noir” in the form of the Champagne and other sparkling wines. But this was a still wine, and it was clean, crisp and unusual, just if you would think about.

10. 2010 Massena Mataro Barossa Valley, Australia ($35) – I still have to write this post, as this wine was a surprising find in the Mourverde single-grape wine tasting. The wine was powerful, luscious and delicious.

9. 2014 Sangiovanni Leo Guelfus Piceno Superiore DOC, Marche ($20) – organic and superbly refined. I don’t drink a lot of Piceno red wines, as they are scarcely available in the typical wine store. This particular wine showed perfect silky layers and beautiful balanced fruit. An amazing QPR at a price.

8. 2010 Turley Zinfandel Tofanelli Vineyard Napa Valley ($45) – it was the smell which made me think of this wine over and over again. Fresh berries with spices, just unstoppable. Smell is the best part of wine drinking – and this wine was offering an infinite pleasure.

7. 1994 Chateau Lilian Ladouys Saint-Estéphe ($15) – love surprises. When I picked up a bottle of this wine at the local store, my only thought was “what do I have to lose”. After two hours in decanter, after the first sip, my only thought was “I really, really hope they still have it in the store!”. Outstanding.

6. 2010 Irwin Family Tempranillo Piedra Roja Block 22 Sierra Foothills ($36) – Best US made Tempranillo. Don’t think I need to say anything else. You disagree? Try this wine first, then let’s talk.

5. 2009 Quinta do Tedo Vintage Porto, Portugal (~$70) – After been told that 2009 was a very bad year in Portugal, I didn’t expect to find any Vintage Porto from 2009. The one I tasted during the visit to Quinta do Tedo was absolutely magnificent as all the young Porto wines are – powerful, full of fresh berries and in-your-face greatness.

4. 2014 Abbazia di Novacella [Kerner, Gruner Veltliner, Sylvaner, Sauvignon Blanc] Alto Adige, Italy (~$20) – yes, that is a whole bunch of wines for one single entry, but there is no way to chose only one. Spectacular aromatics and mind-boggling deliciousness (yes, I’m getting very excited as I even write this) across all.

3. 2011 Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Giramonte Toscana IGT ($150) – I can’t tell you too much or too little about this wine. Instead, I will use just one word – finesse.

No, there is no mistake down below. Both wines are #1 – best of the best from the 2015.

1. 2011 Quinta do Tedo Grand Reserva Savedra Douro ($30) – Spectacular – only as the best Portuguese Reserva wines can get. Espresso, dark chocolate, eucalyptus – there is no end to the descriptors you can apply to this wine. Truly outstanding and pretty much a steal at the price (problem is to find it anywhere outside of the winery).

1. 2011 Emiliana Coyam Colchagua Valley, Chile ($35) – imagine your mouth is full of ripe blueberries and wild strawberries. Now swallow all that, and take another handful of those fresh berries and eat them too. Repeat until happy smile will show on your face. Yes, that was my impression of this wine. Outstanding.

That’s all I have for you, my friends. Better late then never, that is the way I see it – yes, this is a late post, but I still wonder if you had any of these wines on your own and if you did, what do you think of them. Or if any of the wines from 2015 are still in your memory, I would love to hear about them too. Cheers!

 

Top Twelve of 2014

December 31, 2014 11 comments
1966 Louis M. Martini Pinot Noir

1966 Louis M. Martini Pinot Noir

And here we are – Talk-a-Vino Top Dozen of [most memorable] wines from 2014. I already presented to you the second half of the top list (here is the link), together with all the explanations regarding rationale and all the dos and don’ts, so instead of repeating myself, let me jump directly to the wines. If you still need explanations, use the link above.

12. 2005 Domaine Philippe Bornard Arbois Pupillin La Chamade Ploussard, Jura, France ($50) – To a degree, this wine was representative of a great Jura tasting I attended. As most of Jura reds, it had an impression of lightness masking a great level of complexity – fruit, herbs, minerality, sapidity – a very impressive package. It is not easy to find, but worth looking for.

11. NV Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur ($32) – one of my very favorite Champagnes. It has everything I want in the Champagne – yeastiness, toasted bread, apples, clean and vibrant acidity – with all the elements coming in the “just enough” amount. A perfect Champagne sip every time – try it for yourself.

10. 2012 Centanni Rosso Di Forca Rosso Piceno DOP, Italy ($19) – I was familiar with the wines of Marche region in Italy for a while – but my preference was always with the Marche whites – until I tasted this wine. Luscious, layered, with impeccable aromatics and complexity – delizioso!

9. 2010 Marco Sambin Marcus Veneto IGT ($NA) – A soulful wine – is that a good enough description?

8. 2010 Vineyard 511 Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain ($125) – Stunning California Cabernet Sauvignon – restrained and tightly weaved, as you would expect from the mountain – side fruit, and then balance, balance, balance.

7. NV Foggy Ridge Serious Cider, Virginia ($16) – discoveries, discoveries, discoveries – 2014 was anything but short on those. Who knew that cider (just think about the word – somehow, the mental picture doesn’t equate to “greatness”) can be so amazing? Phenomenal acidity, coupled with such a firm structure and effervescent lightness that you say “wow” and pour yourself another glass. Seek hard cider, people, as it has greatness!

6. 2012 Mark Ryan The Dissident Columbia Valley ($34) – yet another wine chosen to represent a great discovery of 2014 – wines of Washington state. This wine was a quintessential representation of Cabernet Sauvignon blends I tasted during the visit, with a pure cassis expression and impeccable balance. Yes, I’m abusing the “balance” descriptor, nevertheless – a beautiful wine.

5. 2011 Fekete Béla Olaszrizling, Somló, Hungary ($25) – yet another discovery: there is lots more to the Hungarian wines than Tokaji and Egri Bikavér (red wine also called Bull’s Blood). It appears that Hungary has lots of volcanic soils, and the winemakers there can bring it on (yep, the famed “terroir”) to the forefront of your glass. This wine was complex, mineral driven with the pure gunflint notes, and simply delicious.

4. 2011 Michel Chapoutier Tournon Mathilda Shiraz Victoria, Australia ($14.99) – you could see my raving mentions of this wine in a many posts throughout the year. Sorry, but I can’t help it – this wine is so unique and different, with such a purity of the peppery expression of Syrah – you can’t help it but to say “wow” with every sip.

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3. 2012 Willis Hall Viognier Columbia Valley ($22.99) – may be the best Viognier I ever had. If not The Best (this is a very hard nomenclature when it comes to wines), but definitely one of the very best. Perfumy nose and elegant, silky smooth body. Simply delicious.

2. 2007 Pago Marqués de Griñon Emeritus, DO Dominio de Valdepusa ($75) – until I tasted this wine, yes, I knew that Spain produces good wines from the international grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. But at such level? This wine was a true revelation – classic Cabernet Sauvignon with cassis, mint, eucalyptus and finesse.

1. 1966 Louis M. Martini California Mountain Pinot Noir ($NA) – I had no expectations when I opened the bottle of the 48 (!) years old wine. To be more precise, I was not expecting anything good. What I found in my glass was simply mind blowing – still fresh, still elegant, perfectly recognizable as Pinot Noir and delicious! This was the first wine ever to receive a 10 rating from me – I hope it tells you something.

And we are done here, my friends – the last post of 2014! I wish you happy, healthy, joyous and peaceful 2015, full of amazing discoveries!

Happy New Year 2015!

Top Wines of 2014 – Second Dozen

December 30, 2014 5 comments

Clos Erasmus 2005Here we go again – another year is winding down in a mere 2 days. Thus the time has come to summarize all the great wine experiences of the 2014. It is always fun, and it is always a challenge – was that wine worthy of the “Top Wines” list? Or may be the other one? You know, this is my personal list, so trying to conduct a voting wouldn’t really help, it still will be up to me to decide. But at this point this is a tradition (no, I’m not looking for an easy play on the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, where “Tradition” is an actual theme of the challenge #14) – I created the Top Wines lists in all the years this blog existed – here are are links for 2010, 2011, 2012 second dozen, 2012, 2013 second dozen and 2013 top – so 2014 will not be an exception.

Let’s make things clear. This list doesn’t have any technical merit. It doesn’t have any price merit. I’m not trying to be fair to all regions. The wines included into this “Top” list created an emotional connection. They were thought provoking. They made me to say “wow”, may be multiple times. And they created memories, they didn’t leave me indifferent. So in reality, this is the list of most memorable wines of 2014 – here, I said it.

For the past two years instead of being a “top dozen” list, the list rather includes two dozen of wines, and sometimes even a few more. I do get to taste a lot of wines throughout the year, so I don’t feel that I have to constrain the list to the 12 wines only – hence the two separate posts. Well, and I have to say that even for the memorable wines, the list is not all encompassing by any means. Lots and lots of very worthy wines were left outside of this list – but they all live on the pages of this blog. And the last few words about the information you will see below. If I wrote about the wine in the past, you will see a link. Also, in the past, I was requested a few times to provide the retail prices for the wine. I will gladly comply, where possible, however, there might be some unavoidable omissions.

Here we go:

24. 2012 Villa Bellangelo 1866 Reserve Riesling Finger Lakes ($32) – this probably was the best one out of the group of excellent wines from Villa Bellangelo and a number of other wineries from Finger Lakes. To be entirely honest, I chose this wine to rather represent my discovery of the Finger Lakes wine region as world-class wine producing area. I had a number of Finger Lakes wines in 2014, and they were simply one better than the other. This particular wine had a beauty of Riesling with all the restrained white fruit notes, supported by excellent minerality and acidity – just the wine you want to drink all the time.

23. 2010 Bodegas Rafael Cambra Soplo Valencia DO ($11, 100% Alicante Bouschet) – beautiful, powerful and playful. A unique grape, often used only for the blending, as it adds color, produced powerful and delicious wine.

22. 2007 Ferrari Perlé Trento DOC, Italy ($35) – simply delicious sparkling wine. If I would drink sparkling every day, Perlé would be one of the top contenders. Round and perfectly balanced in every drop.

21. 2010 Le Tourmentin Valais AOC, Switzerland ($NA, blend of Pinot Noir, Cornalin, Humagne Rouge, Syrah) – delicious old world wine – bright fruit and the wine cellar aromatics. Outstanding. Wish it would be available in US…

20. 2011 Navaherreros Blanco de Bernabeleva Vinos de Madrid DO ($14.99, 50% Roussanne, Albillo, Macabeo) – big, plump and balanced – ripe white fruit in the firm package, with minerality and baking spices complexity.

19. 2013 La Garagista Coup de Foudre White Pétillant Naturel, Vermont ($NA, 100% Brianna) – this was my first experience with Pétillant Naturel wines – sparkling wines where the first fermentation is finishing in the bottle. The wine was refreshing, with perfect minerality, and thought provoking, with each sip begging to take another. A great discovery of 2014.

18. 2011 Adega Pedralonga Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain ($22) – an incredibly sophisticated Albariño – lots of minerality, a fresh sea breeze, delicious fruit and perfectly balancing acidity – a beautiful and unique wine. You really have to try it for yourself – if you can find it.

17. 2010 Lenné Estate Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Oregon ($45) – I had a number of delicious Oregon Pinot Noir wines, all of a great power and finesse, so it was really a learning experience. I chose Lenné to represent this discovery, as the wine was outstanding – different, dark, concentrated, with explicit minerality, herbs and perfect balance.

16. NV Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, California ($20) – a Champagne precision – acidity, elegance, touch of fresh apple, perfectly balanced. California Sparkling wines give a great run to Champagne for the money, and this Mumm sparkler is one of the best examples. Whatever you are celebrating, this wine will perfectly complement it.

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15. 2010 St. Clement Oroppas Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($45) – Delicious Cabernet Sauvignon, classic Napa Valley rendition – fruit forward but restrained enough to let the balance shine – tannins, acidity, fruit – everything in a perfect harmony.

14. 2007 Teixar Garnatxa Vella Montsant DO ($75) – a textbook Grenache. Dark chocolate, ripe fruit – all tightly put together on the firm, muscular body. A hedonistic pleasure.

13. 2005 Clos Terrasses Clos Erasmus Priorat DOCa ($1,000) – elegant, beautiful, tremendously complex – what else can I tell you? A delicious wine! I don’t get to drink Priorat wines too often, and much more rarely I drink the wines at this price level. However – and you don’t have to believe me – I was first simply blown away by the taste of this wine, and only then I learned about the cost, which is a result of 100 points Parker rating and practically an absence of this specific vintage on the market. Either way, I’m glad I got to taste it.

Before we part, one more note – the wines are numbered, but only for the purposes of the count itself – outside of the wine #1, which is the most memorable wine of the year, the number in the list doesn’t mean much. In other words, it doesn’t mean that I like wine #15 more than wine #20 – I’m sure you got my point.

Have you had any of these wines? What do you think of them?

To be continued…

Top 12 of ’13

December 29, 2013 18 comments

Here we are again, on the subject of Top Wines of 2013. You already saw my second dozen (and some), and the time has come to present the top list. In case you missed my lengthy explanation about the logic of this list, let me reiterate the main point – these are my most memorable wines of 2013. May be the word “wine” is even a bit limiting – these are the most memorable wine experiences of 2013. These are the wines which are so easy to recall – when you are talking about wines, these are the wines you use as an example. These are the wines which serve as memory links, easily allowing you to re-live the moments of your life. These are the wines which give you an ultimate pleasure. Let’s go:

12. 2008 Seresin Chardonnay Reserve Marlboro New Zealand – one of the best Chardonnays of the whole year – impeccable balance of apples, vanilla, butter and toasted oak, all I want in Chardonnay, nothing more and nothing less.

11. 2011 Antica Terra Erratica Willamette Valley Oregon – probably the best Rosé I ever had. May be even calling it a Rosé is simply a mistake. It was spectacular wine, complex, living in the glass, changing from mouthful of strawberries to tart raspberries and mouthfeel of a balanced red wine. An experience.

10. 2009 Tua Rita Redigaffi Toscana IGT – Tua Rita Redigaffi is listed in my “must try wines” list – need I say more? One of the best in the world renditions of Merlot. It was a pure pleasure – both the wine and the experience.

9. 2009 Chamonix Pinot Noir Reserve Franschhoek South Africa – mind-blowing. Exuberant. Over the top. Spectacular. I’m out of words. If you want rediscover Pinot Noir, go find this wine and taste it.

8. 2012 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc – truly a humbling experience and a life lesson. If you think you know everything about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, try this wine. You can thank me later.

7. 2007 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Amarone “Campo dei Gigli” – when I’m saying that I don’t have my most favorite wine, I’m lying. Amarone is the one. But for the past 5 years or so, practically every bottle of Amarone I touch becomes a huge disappointment. Not this one. This was a pure delight and the discovery of the year. Nose of dried fruit and perfectly balanced, round, dry and silky smooth mouthfeel. Thinking about this wine makes me smile.

6. 2005 Henry’s Drive Dead Letter Office Shiraz, South Australia – If anyone remembers Tastings column at Wall Street Journal, this wine was rated “Delicious!”, which was the highest rating. When I tasted this wine, it all made sense – absolutely delicious, round, plush, silky smooth and powerful at the same time, with plenty of blackberries and blueberries which only the best Shiraz can demonstrate. I was planning the whole post dedicated to the Dead Letter Office vertical tasting, but 2008 was only okay, and 2006 and 2009 turned out to be a complete disappointment, so no post. But if you can find this 2005 anywhere, get it – I promise you lots and lots of pleasure.

5. 2010 Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria – the only wine in Italy which received highest ratings in 2013 from all three wine rating publications. Once you will try this wine, you will understand why. The balance and complexity is nothing short of spectacular. Stop reading this blog, go find the bottle for yourself.

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4. 2002 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Herrenweg de Turckheim Gewurztraminer Alsace – I know that Zind-Humbrecht is considered one of the best producers in Alsace. I tasted this wine a few years back, and I was definitely underwhelmed. This year, this wine magically turned around, showing perfect balance of exotic fruit, lychees, honey, candied apricot and everything else you can to look for in Gewurztraminer, with perfectly balancing acidity. An ultimate treat.

Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer

Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer

3. 2009 Casa Burmester Reserva Douro DOC – talk about “oenophile defining moments”. I had excellent Portuguese wines before I tried this wine, but the very first sip of this Casa Burmester Reserva made me go “what? seriously? wow!!!”. In a blind tasting, this wine would stand up to the best of the best of California Cabernet – beautiful fruit, texturally present, firm, powerful and impeccably balanced and elegant.

DSC_0414 Casa Burmester

2. 2005 Frédéric Gueguen Chablis Les Grandes Vignes – I remember almost making fun of someone else using the word “gunflint” in the wine description. And here I am, taking a first sniff of this wine with the first word coming to my mind … gunflint! That sensation of gun powder-like smell, the smoke was incredible – and it was very pleasant at the same time. Tremendous minerality, lemony notes and some apples, clean and vibrant acidity and perfect balance. This wine was definitely an experience.

Frédéric Gueguen Chablis

Frédéric Gueguen Chablis

1. 1970 Quevedo White Port – even people in Portugal are not aware of the aged white Port – I witnessed a few surprised looks when talking to the people about white Port which is aged. This wine might be never bottled, as I’m sure it is hard to create a category from pretty much a single barrel of wine. Nevertheless, the ultimate complexity of this wine, coupled with the visual snapshot of tasting it in the Quevedo Port cellar (cue in all the aromatics and mysterious atmosphere), makes for an ultimate experience which will stay in memory forever.

1970 White Port

1970 White Port

By the way, did you notice that 3 out of my 4 top wines (even though I’m trying no to prioritize the list outside of the wine #1) are the white wines? Quite fascinating. Do you find this list too emotional? May be, but isn’t it  the purpose of wine, to solicit emotion? Anyway, for what it worth, this completes the list of my best wine experiences of 2013. What were yours? Cheers!

Top Wines of 2013 – Second Dozen

December 22, 2013 9 comments

“Best wines I had in a year”, “my best restaurant experiences”, “top gadgets of the year” – as the year is winding down, the “best of the best” lists are being produced all of the blogosphere and traditional media. Of course, your truly is not an exception – this is the forth year in the row I would like to summarize, share, and maybe even re-live (just a little bit, okay?) the best wine experiences of 2013. And in case you are curious, here are the links for the 2010, 2011, 2012 second dozen and 2012 top dozen.

I really like writing this “Top Wine” posts, as it gives me an opportunity to reflect on the past year in wine and bring back the memories. In a typical year, we are probably going through a few hundred bottles of wine – if I would add all the wines tasted as part of the different events, winery visits, dinners, etc., this number will easily get close to the couple of thousands. How do you select most favorite 20 -something bottles out of all of those wines? I actually have a two-pass approach here. In the pass number one, I simply push my memory to produce the names of the wines which are on top of my mind – and write down those names. The second pass involves going through the label journals. When faced with the bottle of wine, taking the label off, putting it in my journal and adding the notes is my topmost priority. To refresh the memory, I simply go through that journal(s) with the mission of finding most memorable wines. Yes, it is possible that I gave the wine a high rating, but if looking at the label doesn’t trigger the reaction, such wine most likely will not be included into the consideration for the Top Dozen list.

Similar to 2012, I didn’t even try to limit my top list to only 12 wines. The list is split into the first and second dozens, and I think the “dozen” will be treated a bit loosely here – let’s say, a dozen and a few. The actual Top Dozen includes the most memorable (read – easiest to recall) wines of 2013, and the second dozen includes the wonderful wines which I feel I must mention. I will have the Top wine of the year, but otherwise, both lists are not prioritized – this is way too much work to decide that I like the wine #3 a 0.0001% more than the wine #4, thus please don’t look at this list as sorted – this is just the random list of my most memorable wines of 2013.

And now, without further ado, let me present to you Talk-a-Vino Second Dozen+ of wines of 2013.

27. 2011 Haute Cabrière Unwooded Pinot Noir Franschhoek South Africa – light, tangy, refreshing, thirst-quenching, crowd-pleasing wine. It is a quintessential Pinot Noir, with all the smoke, violet and cranberries, packaged in a delicate, effervescent frame.

26. 2005 Jamesport Vineyards Merlot Block E, Long Island, NY – one of the very best Long Island can produce. Powerful, concentrated and dangerous – you just don’t want to put the glass down. A pure delight.

25. 2010 Montesco Passionate Wine Parral, Tupungato, Mendoza – the wine with the soul. The passion, which s part of the name of this wine, is showing in every sip. Powerful and delightful.

24. 2008 Paritua Riesling Central Otago New Zealand – perfectly delightful or delightfully perfect? Clean, balanced, refreshing, light and delicious – all in one package.

23. NV Boroli Barolo Chinato, Piedmont – I think adding aromatic herbs to the Barolo is a stroke of a genius.  Yes, it is more of an after dinner drink than the wine, but you can’t stop smelling your glass, the aromatics are just incredible. Definitely one of my personal discoveries of 2013.

22. 2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County – beautiful Pinot Noir – clean and perfect. Do I need to say more?

21. 2010 Le Cimate Montefalco Rosso DOC – I had to include at least one of the beautiful Montefalco winesinto the Top list, as Montefalco wines (both Sagrantino and Rosso) where another personal discovery of 2013. Le Cimate was a love from the first sip – powerful, concentrated, lip smacking cherries – delicious.

20. 2007 Mount Palomar Charbono Temecula Valley, California – I probably managed to hit the sweet spot – this wine was definitely at its peak. Layered fruit, concentrated, silky smooth and perfectly balanced.

19. 2012 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir North Canterbury, New Zealand – pure, beautiful and classic. An excellent rendition of Pinot Noir – delicate, but present, elegant, round and perfectly balanced.

18. 2004 Coume Del Mas Quintessence Banyuls Red Dessert Wine – may be a single best (definitely one of the very best) red dessert wines I ever had. Supple dried fruits – prunes, figs – supported by balancing acidity. Outstanding.

17. 2001 Nino Negri ’5 Stelle’ Sfursat di Valtellina DOCG – I love the contrast of the sweet dried fruit on the nose, which you often get from grapes dried under the sun before they are pressed, and full and powerful body of wine. This wine had it all – sweet dried fruit on the nose, and perfectly balanced, perfectly dry palate, tons of pleasure in every sip. Yes, I would gladly repeat the experience again.

16. 1974 Quevedo Colheita Tawny Port – What can beat the taste of 40 years old port? Well, may be a 50, but I can’t tell firsthand. This was absolutely delicious, complex and still fresh, as only the old port can get. Wines of that level make the whole table to go quiet for a moment (or two), and just reflect on life.

15. NV Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru, Ambonay – This wine restored my love and appreciation for the fine Champagne. Somehow, for the most of the year, I was in the mode “Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, Sparkling Shiraz – who cares, they are all the same” (okay, may be except the sparkling Shiraz) – the first sip of this wine put a “wow” back into the glass of Champagne for me. This was perfectly complex, with every sip making me crave another one.

14. 2005 Domaine Laleure-Piot Pernand-Vergelesses AOC, Burgundy – it is the wine like this which makes you say “boy, this is the wine I want to drink every day”.  Round, supple, yet effervescent – vanilla, sweet oak, fresh apples – all painted with the light touch, everything is in the perfect balance, everything is present, but so perfectly weaved together, you can only think of this wine a whole. Ouch, I need a sip of it right now…

13. 2011 Niepoort Tiara Douro Branco – this wine should probably be called a “perfect pick me up”. If you are in a bad mood, after a long day, after your boss was the usual jerk, have a glass of this wine. Your body will straighten itself, automatically assuming the perfect posture after the first sip. After the second sip, all the problems will go away, and you will be ready to face a new day or whatever is that you need to face. Delicious.

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There you have it – an extended second dozen of Top wines of 2013. Tried any of these wine? Didn’t try but have something to say? Comment away! Cheers!

To be continued…

Top Twelve of ’12

December 30, 2012 11 comments

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).

DSC_0185 Retro Cellars Petite Sirah12. 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…

P1130822 Ethos Syrah

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.

Turley The Label - Label9. 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!

DSC_0864 Saint Prefert CdP White7. 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.

P1120580 gloria Ferrer6. 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.

2010 Ornellaia Poggio Alle Gazze5. 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.

DSC_0692 bv clone 64. 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.

Carlisle Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

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.

P1130189 Rioja 1947

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.

DSC_0793 Phantasi 2010

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!