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Retrospective: 11 Years of Top Wines

January 5, 2021 2 comments

While I was working on the Top Wines list of 2020, it almost hit me – 2020 was the 11th year the list of the top wine experiences of the year was produced.

In every Top Wines post, I make an effort to explain my approach to the creation of the top wines list – it is all based on emotions solicited by the wine. The easier it is to recall the wine and relive the moment, the better it is.

I often state that the order of the wines is not so important (this is how I want it to be, but it is usually not the case – the order has meaning) – with the exception of wine #1. Wine #1, the Top Wine of the Year, is always the most memorable. For a few years, I even had difficulties deciding on just one top wine, so I had multiples of wine #1. Strange, I know – but I always have a simple excuse – this is my blog…

All of the Top Wines lists can be found via the Top Wine Ratings menu on the top of this page. However, what do you think of taking a look at the top wines from these past 11 years, just for fun? I would like to enjoy those memories again – and see if I still have them as vivid as I like to think. Let’s see:

2010: 

2007 Mara Laughlin Road Ranch Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($45) – I can attest that this was one of the best California Pinot Noirs I ever tasted. I still have a bottle each of Mara Pinot Noir 2007 and 2008 (2008 was a complete opposite to 2007, very lean and green) – should make it for an interesting evening one day.

2011: 

2010 Fiction Red Wine Paso Robles by Field Recordings ($20) – this was my first discovery of the Field Recordings wines, and that Fiction was unbeatable, it offered an incredible experience. I also loved the label and the story on the back label of that wine, which, unfortunately, disappeared in the later vintages.

2012:

2010 Antica Terra Phantasi Oregon White Wine ($100, Magnum price in the restaurant) – Definitely a memorable wine, a blend of Rhone varieties – I can close my eyes and imagine the taste of this wine in my mouth. While this is one of the most memorable Top wines, the wine in the second place was not any less memorable – 1947 Rioja Imperial. Also, it appears that I didn’t even include another wine from the same dinner when we experienced the Phantasi, 1998 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon in the Top Dozen list, which is a huge oversight…

2013:

1970 Quevedo White Port – tasting 43 years old elixir together with the winemaker, in the old cellar, directly from the barrel? It rarely gets any more memorable than that.

2014:

1966 Louis M. Martini California Mountain Pinot Noir ($NA) – I found this bottle at the store in Chicago. As this is my birth year, I couldn’t resist getting this bottle for a whopping $25. To my absolute surprise, the wine was perfectly drinkable and delicious. And the label is just purely nostalgic…

2015:

2011 Emiliana Coyam Colchagua Valley Chile ($35) – ordered this wine at the restaurant without any knowledge, mostly going by the price – OMG. This is one delicious wine.

 

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2016:

2002 Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill Champagne ($230) – one of the most memorable top wines. While I loved the taste, I could smell this wine indefinitely. Really, I have no need in drinking it, but I can’t let go of the aroma…

2017:

1982 Olga Raffault “Les Picasses” Chinon Loire ($85?) – this was unquestionably great – one of my most favorite grape varieties (Cab Franc), legendary vintage (at least in Bordeaux), great producer. The sad part? This is one of the few “Wine of the Year” wines I can’t recall the sensation of taste, smell, or the setting …

2018:

2008 Zenato “Sergio Zenato” Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG ($100) – Amarone is one of my most favorite wines in general – but I have exactly the same issue here as with the Olga Raffault – no detailed memories. I’m sure it was a good wine as it made it to the alternative #1 winner.

2013 Three Wine Company Suscol Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Block 5 Napa Valley ($60) – One of the very best Cabernet Sauvignon I ever tasted. We had this wine during tasting dinner at the restaurant during one of our traditional “adult getaways”. This was round and supremely delicious.

2019:

2013 Smith-Madrone Cook’s Flat Reserve Spring Mountain ($225) – Smith-Madrone makes beautiful wines. This wine can be described in one word – Pure. Pure indulgence, and pure, unadulterated pleasure.

2016 Tara Red Wine 2 Syrah Atacama Chile ($40) – I have a sad habit of not being able to write a post after a great winemaker dinner, as was the case with Tara wines. Magnificent Syrah, coming from the vineyards which in reality shouldn’t have existed because of the incredible salinity of the soil. As I say in such cases, this is the wine to be experienced.

2017 Peju Province Winery The Experiment Napa Valley ($100) – a prolific Napa Valley jewel. Power and balance, or balance and power – whatever description suits you more.

2020:

1999 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ($NA) – Meditazione vino. The whole group meditated over this wine, as it was simply a gift from gods. Incredible. If wine is not “just another beverage” to you, you would understand. And I wish for you to experience meditazione vino at least once in your life…

Here we are  – 11 years of top wines. This was definitely an interesting exercise – while I enjoyed recalling each and every one of these wines, this was also a great opportunity to think about my Top Wines process. I’m reasonably pleased with top wine selections during these years, but ideally, I would like to do better – every wine on such a list should solicit a memory and an emotion. Oh well, we should call this “the room for improvement”, right? Cheers, my friends!

 

Top 20 of 2020

December 29, 2020 2 comments

It is that special time of the year. Time to reflect. Time to conclude. Time to decide. It is Top Wines of The Year time.

I happily engaged in this Top Wine selection process for the past 10 years. What is a better way to reflect on your year in wines than thinking about all the wine experiences of the year, and deciding on the most memorable ones? Good wine should solicit an emotion – this is the main criteria for the wine to be included in this top list. The wine should be memorable, one way or the other, even if it was not the highest-rated wine of the year. If I can easily re-live the moment of tasting the wine, then the wine belongs to the top list.

Making decisions is not my forte in general. Making decisions about wines is even worse – a real pain. When I created my very first Top List in 2010, I wanted to create a Top 10 list. I quickly realized that Top 10 is not going to happen, then the Top Dozen was born. 2010 and 2011 both had a single Top Dozen list, actually consisting of 12 wines. In 2012, I realized that I can’t fit into one dozen anymore, the two dozen lists were born. In some years, even the 2 dozens were not enough and the lists were reaching 25, 26, and even 27 wines.

2020 presented truly a unique challenge. Every year until 2020, there were many opportunities to find the wines worth inclusion into the top wines lists – dinners with friends, samples, trade tastings, dinners with winemakers, and of course, all the wines casually consumed at home. 2020 completely changed that, and outside a few of the dinners with friends and trade tastings at the beginning of the year, the only sources of the wine experiences were a few samples and wines opened at home. As the end result, I was unable to come up with two dozens of wines for the top wines list. However, I still had more than a dozen wines that I really enjoyed and which would be easy to remember. Thus a compromise was needed, so the Top 20 seemed to be just the right number for the best wine experiences of 2020.

Without further ado, let me present to you the Top 20 of 2020.

20. 2016 Shelter Winery Spätburgunder Baden ($28) – While Germany has 3rd largest plantings of Pinot Noir in the world (which was a total surprise for me), I didn’t encounter an enjoyable German Pinot Noir yet – until this wine, which was classically old world, perfectly drinkable and enjoyable.

19. 1997 Burgess Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($NA) – Twenty three years is a good amount of time to render many wines non-drinkable. This, however, was a delicious California Cabernet in its prime. This wine could still evolve for a few more years, and it supported quite an enjoyable evening.

18. 2017 Shiloh Secret Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) – Israeli wines are underappreciated by wine lovers – maybe it is for the better for those of us who already discovered them? A classic Cabernet Sauvignon, with cassis and eucalyptus, just as you want your Cab to be, and perfectly balanced. Balance in the wine is a canvas for pleasure and this wine fully delivered.

17. 2006 Bodegas Emilio Moro Ribera Del Duero ($25) – One of the perennial favorites. This is one of the introductory level wines from the Emilio Moro universe, showing no signs of aging at the 14 years mark. Superb fresh fruit with a dark core of herbs. Drink Ribera del Duero wines, my friends.

16. 1998 d’Arenberg Cabernet Sauvignon High Trellis McLaren Vale ($19 @ BWG) – First, I have the utmost respect for d’Arenberg wines – great producer. Second, I’m always on the lookout for the wines from the 1998 vintage, as this year is special in my book (birth year of my son). Third – when you see d’Arenberg 1998 wine at $19 at the Benchmark Wine website, you just grab it instantly. Fourth – you open the bottle, say “ahh” and enjoy it. The wine was perfectly delicious, still young, fresh, and memorable.

15. 2018 Cecchi Sangiovese Toscana IGT ($12) – This wine was just a revelation. While Cecchi offers a great range of Sangiovese-based wines, with different levels of power and complexity, this simplest bottling brought literally an unexpected joy of the unadulterated beauty of Sangiovese, an open wine with the perfect balance of fruit and acidity. A memorable simplicity.

14. 2017 Alit Pinot Noir Willamette Valley ($33.64 | $18.50 Alit Collective) – Polygons. Basalts. Volcanic soils. Site-specific wines even if the whole site is only two and a half rows of vines. Alit, together with its sibling Rose and Arrow, are on the quest to discover the Oregon Grand Crus, and I’m happy I was able to join that quest. The wine is a quintessential Oregon Pinot Noir. Try it for yourself.

13. 2016 Château Vincens Prestige Cahors ($13.99) – I guess 2020 was my year of rediscovering Malbec, from both new and old worlds. This wine was simply spectacular, an unmistakable old-world jewel, magically transporting you to the old cellar, holding hundreds of years of tradition. Pure pleasure.

12. 2017 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles Paso Robles ($10) – Respect. Erich Russel bottled this wine in the spring of this year, under the first, crazy quarantine, while the world was crumbling and nobody knew what to do. He bottled the wine so people would have something to drink. This might be the best damn $10 wine the money can buy. And without any regard to price, this is simply delicious, approachable, perfectly balanced Californian wine, ready to drink from the moment you pull the cork. Thank you, Erich.

11. 2016 Campochiarenti San Nicola Chianti Colli Senesi (€11) – I tasted this wine for the first time during an amazing night of Gran Selezione Chiantis and Brunellos, so I was not impressed at all and couldn’t understand everyone’s rave. A few months later, I had a sip of this wine, and my instant reaction was “oh my god”, that is stunning. Beautiful, generous, succulent Italian wine – the price is great, but the qualities of this wine extend well past any price category.

10. 2016 Domaine Anderson Estate Chardonnay Anderson Valley California ($40) – A brilliant wine. The Chardonnay done perfectly right – just the right amount of apple and vanilla, on a beautiful core of acidity. Powerful, delicious, and utterly balanced – one of the very best California Chardonnays I ever tasted.

9. 2013 Cecchi Coevo Toscana IGT ($129.99) – I tasted this spectacular wine during lunch with Andrea and Giulia Cecchi in New York City at the beginning of the year. There was some wine left in the bottle, which I was generously offered to take home – I gladly obliged. In the evening, we went to see friends, and after a few bottles of random simple wines, mostly from California, we poured Coevo. Upon the first sip, my friend’s reaction was priceless – “huh, why you didn’t tell us that brought serious wine” was the question. The depth and complexity of this wine are simply superb.

8. 2018 Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay Sonoma County ($27) – Another perfect California Chardonnay score. It is similar to Domaine Anderson with maybe a bit more power, but still perfectly balanced and fresh. Pure pleasure.

7. 2016 Pedro Cancela Selecção do Enólogo Dão Portugal ($10) – I discovered this wine during the Dão wine dinner at the beginning of the year. Portuguese wines are famously inexpensive, but QPR on this wine is just mind-boggling. This wine is hard to find in the US, but if you will be able to find it, I guarantee you an incredible amount of pleasure per dollar.

6. 2019 Mythic Mountain Malbec Rosé Mendoza Argentina ($11.99) – another delicious discovery of this year. Fragrant, effervescent, end elegant, this Malbec Rosé definitely exceeded my expectations. Outstanding QPR, and yes, I’m repeating myself – pure pleasure.

5. 2018 Ritual Sauvignon Blanc Chile ($19.99) – Some years ago I discovered Italian Sauvignon Blanc wines from Gaja and Ornellaia, which were superb, rather unexpectedly. This Ritual Sauvignon Blanc carries a similar level of surprise. It doesn’t have any of the grapefruit or sweet lemon notes but offers instead a touch of butter, and crisp, mineral elegance. If Italian Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t work for you, think Cloudy Bay from New Zealand. Yep, that good and that different.

4. 2016 Louis M Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($40) – a California in the bottle. Imagine a powerful, fruit-forward Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, loaded with cassis, eucalyptus, mint, layered, silky smooth, and incredibly seductive, not leaving you a chance to resist its charm. Got the image? Now imagine that this California Cab is just freshly released. What are your chances of enjoying it as soon as you will open the bottle? Quite low, right? It is rather expected that after the first sip you will put it aside with the words “it needs to breath”, or you might reach out for a decanter. Now, imagine the perfectly seductive California Cab without the need to wait even a moment, just sip and enjoy. Yep, that would be this bottling of Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon. Perfect from the get-go.

3. 2008 Cantine Lonardo Coste Taurasi DOCG ($NA) – If the previous wine was quintessentially California, this wine was quintessentially Italian. I have no idea how I came in possession of this bottle, so I had no expectations when I brought this bottle to Cape Cod during summer to enjoy with the family during the visit. Wow. “Mind-blowing” doesn’t even describe it. the combination of fresh cherries, tobacco, leather, cherry pit, supremely balanced – everything you might want in Italian wine was present in this bottle. An absolute wow.

2. 2011 Cayuse Syrah En Cerise Vineyard Walla Walla Valley ($130) – Power. Raw power. Granite. I imagine this is how liquified granite tastes. The wine of impeccable finesse and pleasure, but also an incredible power. This wine is a beast, but it is a well-tamed beast. Did you see the movie “Venom”? Yep, that type of beast.

1. 1999 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ($NA) – And then there are wines which can make the whole room go quiet. Meditazione. Yes, it is an Italian word, same as the wine, but I’m sure you don’t need a translation. Once we were done sniffing this wine, which took good five minutes, everyone got quiet and lost in thoughts. A meditation wine. Wine of next level. The wine that instantly becomes an experience. Forever. There is no way I can describe it. As we are about to celebrate the New Year, I can only wish that you will be able able to experience it.

And we are done here – the presentation of the Top 20 of 2020 is now finished. What were your top highlights of the year?

Top Wines of 2019

December 31, 2019 2 comments

And now, it is the time for the Talk-a-Vino Top Wines of 2019. In a bit of broken logic, most of the explanations to the Top Wines list can be found in the 2019 Second Dozen post – here we are continuing where we stopped before – from the wine #12 all the way to the wine #1 – or, maybe, it is wines?

12. 2015 Field Recordings Foeder Old Portero Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley ($32) – we started the second dozen with the Field Recordings Cabernet Sauvignon (in the can). By the pure accident (feel free not to believe me, but I just realized what happened as I started to write this post), we open the Top list with another wine from the Field Recordings. This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 35% Zinfandel, and 15% Mourvèvedre. In the best traditions of the Field Recordings wines, the aromatics of this wine are simply stunning – luscious, dense and layered liquid can make one salivate just at a thought of it.

11. Channing Daughters “Orange” style wines Long Island, New York ($25 – $42) – here comes trouble – it is not one wine, it is actually 5 of them. We visited Channing Daughters Winery on the South Fork of Long Island in October, and our host, Steve, was kind enough to run our group through the most of the Channing Daughters’ portfolio. The winery makes 5 “orange” wines – Ramato, Ribolla Gialla, Research Bianco, Meditazione and The Envelope – each wine is stunning in its own right. These wines might not be crowd-pleasers, but if you are seriously into the wines, or identify as a wine geek, these are the wines to seek.

10. 2017 Knudsen Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve Dundee Hills Willamette Valley ($70) – Knudsen Vineyards is one of my most favorite producers in Oregon. I had the pleasure of tasting Knudsen wines from the last three vintages, and outside of the fact that these are textbook Oregon Pinot Noir, dark, powerful, and concentrated, I love to see the progression. As the vines are aging, the wine gains a bit more complexity, year after year. These are the wines to watch, for sure.

9. 2005 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatory Metodo Classico Trento ($140) – One of the very best sparkling wine producers in the world, Champagne included. Giulio Ferrari is just a perfection of the vintage sparkling wines – beautifully complex and perfectly fresh and bright at the same time. No, this is not the wine for everyday consumption (unless you have an expense account and then I beg your pardon), but next time you want to celebrate something in your life, maybe skip the obvious (move over, Dom Perignon) and try to find this bottle.

8. 1995 Navarro Correas Coleccion Privada Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($15) – a total surprise of the tasting  – an unknown (to me, at least) 24 years old red wine, showing no age and perfectly presenting itself as a varietally correct Cabernet Sauvignon. It definitely makes me want to try a current vintage.

7. 2018 Tenuta Ammiraglia Alìe Rosé Toscana IGT ($20) – delicious wine, presented in a beautiful setting (check the link). Rosé is made everywhere, but this wine definitely stands apart is perfectly memorable. Special bottle and special glass make the wine ever more enjoyable, but then the wine itself has a perfect combination of beauty and presence, and easily get stuck in your head.

6. 2006 Jermann Vintage Tunina Venezia Giulia IGT ($60) – Not all white wines can age with grace. This wine was a perfect example of white wine that can age. It only gained complexity, this bouquet of apricot, apricot pit, vanilla, and spices, all wrapped in a tight and almost a full-bodied package. I can close my eyes and imagine the taste of this wine in my mouth – not a simple fit.

5. 2015 Bodegas LAN Xtrème Ecológico Crianza Rioja DOC ($15) – I love Rioja. At the same time, I’m very particular about the Rioja and what I like and what I don’t like – the word “Rioja” on the label doesn’t mean anything to me unless I know the producer – or I’m willing to give a new wine a try. While I know of Bodegas LAN, I never heard of Xtrème, and I never tasted before Rioja made with organic grapes. This wine was almost a revelation, it had everything I like about Rioja, with the lip-smacking acidity, fresh cherries, and cigar box, but it also had layers and layers of delight. Great wine, and at a price you will be really challenged to find something which would taste better.

4. 2018 Regueirón Éntoma Godello Valdeorras DO ($50+) – lately, I find myself using the expression “beyond categories” more often. I can’t find a better way to present this wine, as it is truly in a league of its own. This is one of the single-vineyard wines from the new project of Victor Urrutia of CVNE fame. This tiny production Godello presents itself as a grand cru Chablis, with the gunflint, minerality and all of the classic Chardonnay characteristics – but it also has an energy of the tightly wound spring, ready to jump out of your hand. It will not be easy to find this wine, but boy, if you will, you are into lots of pleasure.

3. “This line was intentionally left void” – keep reading, you will see why.

2. “This line was intentionally left void” – see below:

This year I have a problem [again]. I can’t decide on wine #1. Below are my three top wines – interestingly enough, even those three had a “sibling” contender which could literally take their spot. At the rate the wine is evolving around the world, it might be even more difficult to decide on the top wine in the coming years. But you know what? I will gladly accept the challenge. For now – here are the three top wines of 2019:

1. 2013 Smith-Madrone Cook’s Flat Reserve Spring Mountain ($225) – this might be how you spell “phenomenal”. This wine was a pure pleasure. Pure, hedonistic, unadulterated pleasure. This is the wine at the level of magic – you take a sip, you whisper “wow”, you quietly reflect on what is happening, immersing into the moment. Then you take another sip and repeat. Yes, magic.

1. 2016 Tara Red Wine 2 Syrah Atacama Chile ($40) – this wine should be experienced to believe it. This is the wine from the place where the vine is not supposed to grow. Atacama desert. Nevermind the desert. But the salinity of the soil is such that nothing should be growing there. But these vines do. And these 6 years old vines (vineyard planted in 2010) produce the wines of complexity which requires no oak (the wine was not aged in oak) to stop you in your tracks after the first sip. A textbook (ohh, sorry, I like this word a little too much, I know… but still) Syrah – pepper, dark fruit medley, lavender. Seriously, this is one incredible wine.

1. 2017 Peju Province Winery The Experiment Napa Valley ($100) – talk about mindblowing. There is something in the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I already talked about magic in this post, and maybe it simply appears so for my palate – but the perfection of this wine is nothing short of “wow”. Again “textbook”? Yes, you can say so. Black currant, licorice, a touch of mint. The fruit is succulent, and it appears in full harmony with tannins and acidity. Balance, balance, balance. This wine is truly unique as it is 2 years old, aged in the new oak – and nevertheless, is perfectly drinkable from the get-go. Did I say “wow” already?

Here you are – the presentation of the Talk-a-Vino Top Wines of 2019 is now complete.

What were your most memorable wines of 2019? Embrace the power of happy thoughts… Cheers!

 

Top Wines of 2019 – Second Dozen

December 28, 2019 6 comments

Ahh, the end of the year. Quiet time (I wish). Time to reflect on the year which is about to become history. Particularly, it is the time for the Top Wines of the year 2019 to be re-lived, re-enjoyed, and shared.

This is the 10th annual Talk-a-Vino Top Wines list, and I have to say that the selection process is not getting any easier – if anything, it is getting more and more difficult to decide on the top wine (hence I had two #1 wines last year).

I never attempt to count how many wines I taste throughout the year. My rough estimate is between 500 and 700 wines, considering all the wines I drink at home, all the samples, and all the tastings I manage to attend during the year. The top list represents the wines which are easily come to mind with the help of notes, label journals or just stuck in the memory as an unforgettable experience. Yes, I’m sure amazing wines will be left outside of this list, but I really have no way of helping it.

For most of the Top lists, I’m not even trying to stick with just a dozen wines – that would be mission impossible. This is the reason behind the second dozen and top dozen posts. Also, while I always say that the order of the top wines is not important, it is not exactly true, for sure in the top wines selection. I’m always happy to include a variety of wines in the Top list, in terms of countries, wine types, prices, styles and so on, but all of these come secondary to the main criteria – the wine must be memorable. And maybe even bring a smile to my face as I get to re-live the happy moment.

Okay, I’m done with all the explanations. Without further ado, let’s get to it. The second dozen of Top Wines 2019:

24. 2018 Field Recordings Cabernet Sauvignon Special Release Santa Ynez ($12, 375 ml can) – yes, you are correct – it is the wine in the can. Feel free to stop reading and pledge not to open any of my posts in the future. No, this wine is not included here to be fashionable and appeal to the can-boasting Millenials. This is simply a good wine. What makes it memorable? This wine is made using beer stout starter yeast, and as Field Recordings’ winemaker Andrew Jones explains, the wine shows “crazy good chocolate character wrapped around dark cherries and blackberries” – and I have to agree. Delicious.

23. 2011 Michel Chapoutier Tournon Mathilda Shiraz Victoria, Australia ($14.99) – the pepper is back! I fell in love with this wine after tasting beautifully clean black pepper and spices, back in 2014 (it was wine #4 on my 2014 Top Dozen list). Then pepper mysteriously disappeared, and the wine became blah. It was a joyous moment finding that pepper returned on my last bottle. I share my frustration in the post which is available via the link, but in any case – this was a perfect sip.

22. 2015 Leone de Castris 50° Vendemmia Salice Salentino Riserva DOC ($12) – Generocity of this $12 wine is beyond categories – layers and layers of silky, velvety fruit, weaved on the structure of power. While Californian wine would have a different flavor profile, the wine of the same richness and power will set you back probably ten-fold if not more. Incredible value.

21. 2015 Alfredo Dried Grape Shiraz Nugan Estate South Australia (€20) – Bring on the dried grapes! First I saw the description of this Amarone-like Shiraz, and as I love Amarone as well as any other appassimento-style wines, I had to try it – and the wine didn’t disappoint. Elegant, concentrated Syrah flavor with an additional hint of dried fruit – what’s not to like?

20. Salem Oak Vineyards Brandon Jae New Jersey ($20, Cabernet Franc) – This wine was a star of a delicious, albeit spontaneous tasting at the Salem Oak winery in New Jersey. I was looking for a simple checkmark that I visited a winery in yet another one of 50 winemaking states int he USA. What I found was humble and delicious, world-class, personable wines – at Salem Oak, every wine label tells a story. This Cabernet Franc was a pure, varietally-correct, stand out – the wine to remember.

19. 2015 Mosmieri Saperavi Kakheti Georgia ($16) – Georgian Saperavi is one of my pet peeves and all-time favorites. However, Mosmieri pushed the bar a notch above – with Rhone-like, spicy, earthy and dense rendition. Are you seeking Georgian wines yet?

18. 2017 Le Cadeau Diversité Estate Pinot Noir Willamette Valley ($50) – Pinot Noir supreme. Oregon Pinot Noir is in the class of its own, and Le Cadeau is clearly in front of this class. A beautiful rendition of the grape which Oregon made its star.

17. 2017 Oceano Chardonnay Spanish Springs Vineyard San Luis Obispo County ($38) – in a word, perfect. I smile just at a thought of this Chardonnay. Even the bottle itself is a pleasure to hold. An elegant and powerful rendition of the Chardonnay which doesn’t want to be shy – yes, I’m Chardonnay, I’m beautiful, and I know it. Vanilla, butter, acidity – a full, delicious package.

16. 1990 Dom Ruinart Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Champagne (~$300) – age is just a number. Don’t take my word for it – well, I can’t suggest that you should find a bottle of this Champagne, that would be rather cruel – so unless you have one in your cellar, my word would be it. But, in a word, this was superb vintage Champagne – still fresh, elegant, beautifully balanced, fine fizz. Age is just a number, when the wine is made well.

15. 1995 Estancia Meritage Alexander Valley ($35) – another perfect example of age just being a number – a supremely delicious Bordeaux blend, showing literally no age. Sadly, this wine no longer produced (Estancia still makes Meritage, but from Paso Robles and not from Sonoma)  so you need to check the sites such as Benchmark Wine Company if you would like to experience the beauty of this California made Bordeaux-style blend.

14. 2011/2015 Smith-Madrone Riesling Spring Mountain District Napa Valley ($32) – unlike wine number 16, these wines are freely available (at least the current vintage, 2016), so if you want to try the best Riesling made in the USA, go get it. Does this sound like a bold claim? Maybe it does, but if your hallmark of Riesling excellence is Grosset Polish Hill Clare Valley in Australia, then you will easily understand me. If you like Riesling, this is the wine you need to ask for by name. Yes, now.

13. 2011 L’Ecole no 41 Estate Ferguson Vineyard Walla Walla Valley ($65, 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc) – Ferguson is the newest region in the Walla Walla, producing powerful and concentrated wines, and I was unable to understand the appeal of this region until I tried this 2011 Bordeaux blend – it was layered, it was structured, and it was ready to drink. A stunning example of the power of terroir.

This now concludes the presentation of the second dozen of the Talk-a-Vino Top Wines of 2019. The first dozen post will follow shortly. Cheers!

 

The Curse and Mystery Of The Top 100 Wine Lists

December 5, 2019 4 comments

Lists and numbers – who doesn’t like that? We, humans, are all about lists, we like to sort things out – to-do lists, shopping lists, “best” lists, “best of the best ” lists, Top 10 lists, Top 100 lists. No area of people’s interest is immune to the lists – and of course, the world of wine is no exception – come to the end of the year, and you are guaranteed to see lists and lists of the lists, ranking wines, wineries, regions, winemakers, what have you.

I don’t know how much attention you are paying to the top wine lists. Talking about myself, I like to ponder at the Top 100 lists, especially the one produced by Wine Spectator – not because it is any better or different than the others, but simply because I had been a subscriber for a long time, and it formed more into a habit. My main interest is to see what wines can I recognize, and then to play with the data a bit – countries, prices, grapes. I’m a number junkie. It is always fun to organize numbers in a few different ways, no matter if it means anything or not, and so the Top 100 lists present a good opportunity to conduct such a “research”.

Before we delve into the numbers, let’s talk about the Mystery. What is mysterious about the top 100 wine lists? I would say most everything? How the wines are chosen? How wine #1  is decided? According to the information on the James Suckling web site, they select the top 100 wines out of the 25,000 wines tasted throughout the year. How do decide on 100 out of 25,000? Do you run a separate list of potential candidates throughout the year, or do you sit down at the end of the year and try honestly recall the most memorable wines of the year? What role the ratings play?

Here is what Wine Spectator says on the subject: “Each year, Wine Spectator editors survey the wines reviewed over the previous 12 months and select our Top 100, based on quality, value, availability and excitement”. I like the “excitement” part, this is how I decide on my top dozen wine of the year. The other two publications I studied with Top 100 lists don’t talk about their methodology, they just talk about the content of their lists.

So here are some stats we can gain from looking into the details of the Top 100 lists.

Wine Spectator:

Wine Spectator offers two lists – the regular Top 100 Wine and Top 100 Value Wines, which includes wines priced under $25 (you can find all the lists here). I didn’t spend time with the top value list, so all the numbers below are related to the Top 100 list:

  • Distribution by country: France – 23, California – 22, Italy – 21, Spain – 7, Australia and Oregon – 5 each, Chile and Portugal – 3 each, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, and Washington – 2each, Argentina, Israel, and South Africa – 1 each
  • Distribution by the wine type – 74 reds, 21 whites, 1 Rosé, and 4 Sparkling.
  • Prices – most expensive – $197, least expensive – $13. 14 wines are priced above $100, 13 wines are in the $75 – $99 range, 11 wines are in the $50 to $74 range, 27 wines are priced in the $25 – $49 range, and 35 wines are in the $13 – $25 range.
  • Ratings: the top score is 98, the lowest is 90. There is only one wine on the list with a rating of 98, 6 wines have a rating of 97. The ratings of 96, 95 and 94 are assigned to 14 wines each. 11 wines have a rating of 93, 10 wines each have ratings of 92 and 91, and 20 wines have a rating of 90.
  • Wine Spectator’s top wine of the year 2019 was 2016 Château Léoville Barton St.-Julien with a rating of 97 and priced at $98.

Wine Enthusiast:

Wine Enthusiast produces not one, but 3 Top Wine lists – Top 100 Wines, Top 100 Best Buys, and Top 100 Cellar Selections – these links will allow you to retrieve PDFs for each list. General notes on Wine Enthusiast site say that more than 24,000 wines are tasted during the year and afterwards condensed into the 3 Top Wine lists. Note that Wine Enthusiast Best Buys list covers only wines under $15. Focusing on the Top 100, I did a limited analysis, using the data already provided in the PDF file:

  • Distribution by country: California – 18, Italy – 17, France – 16, Australia, Oregon and Spain – 5 each, Argentina, Chile, Portugal and Washington – 4 each, Austria and Germany – 3 each, NY State and South Africa – 2 each, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Uruguay and Virginia – 1 each
  • Prices – most expensive – $114, least expensive – $16. Only one wine is priced above $100, the majority of the wines are less than $50 with an average price of $33.
  • Ratings: the top score is 99, the lowest is 90. There is only one wine on the list with a rating of 99, 3 wines are rated at 98, 5 wines have a rating of 97, 8 wines are rated at 96. Most of the rated wines fall in the 91-93 range (55 wines)
  • Wine Enthusiast top wine of the year 2019 was NV Nino Franco Rustico Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore with a rating of 94 and priced at $20.

James Suckling:

This one is the most exclusive Top 100 club in a number of ways. First, you need to be a subscriber to see any wine details. Second, all the wines on the Top 100 list are rated 98-100 points. This is the only stats available from the James Suckling Top 100 Wines website: “We have 41 100-point wines in the list and another 35 with 99 points. The rest of the wines scored 98 points. All the wines were produced in quantities of 300 cases or more.”

Let’s leave James Suckling Top 100 list aside and talk about Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast lists. The makeup of both lists is quite similar when it comes to the countries – California, France, and Italy represent at least half of the Top 100 wines (2/3 in case of Wine Spectator list). Where the list differ quite a bit is in the pricing – 14 $100+ wines on the Wine Spectator list versus only 1 on the Wine Enthusiast. But the biggest difference to me is the Wine #1 – Grand Cru Classé versus Prosecco. Okay, call me a snob or whatever you want, but I’m really missing the point of the Wine Enthusiast choice. To my defense, I can only say one thing – I tasted this wine. Nino Franco Rustico is a nice Prosecco, and but it is really, really far away from the memorable, exciting wine. Here you go – another case of the wine list mystery.

I also wanted to talk about the “curse” of the Top 100 wine list, for sure when it comes to the one from the Wine Spectator. As soon as the wine makes it on that list, it instantly becomes unavailable. Adding to the mystery side, it is a mystery to me why an average wine consumer puts such a value on the Top 100 list nomination. But talking about availability, are we looking at the scalping phenomenon in the works? Buy bulk and resell for a quick buck? This is annoying, and it is a real problem for the wine retailers who can’t find enough of those top wines to offer them to consumers. It also gets worse every year – a friend of mine, who has a wine store in Stamford, was able to assemble about 40 Top 100 wines to offer to his customers last year – this year he will barely make it to 20.

There you have it my friends – a deeper look into the mystery (and curse) of the Top 100 wine lists. Do you pay attention to those? What do you think of this year’s top wines? Do you see any trends? Cheers!

Top Wines of 2017

January 5, 2018 1 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 2 comments

? 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 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!

 

Month(s) in Wines – July and August 2013

September 10, 2013 9 comments

Don’t know if you noticed, but one of the pages in this blog is designated to my Top Rated Wines – and it is actually one of my pain points, as I fail to properly maintain it. The idea behind that page was that every month I would add there best wines tasted during the month. I rate the wines on the 10 point scale, also using + and – with the numbers (so 7, 7-, 7+ are all possible). The hallmark of this rating system is 7 – wine rated 7 means “it is an okay wine, I can drink it again, but will not proactively seek it”. The wines I want to drink again start at 8-. As we drink the wine every day, I only wanted to include monthly highlights into that page, which would mean the wines rated 8- and higher.

The “table” format I have chosen for this page is missing even basic descriptions and proven to be hard to maintain (at least in the realm of WordPress.com), so I’m changing my approach. Once a month, I’m going to publish a post with the wine highlights of the past month, and link to the post from the Top Ratings page. As I’m trying to catch up here, today’s post includes best wines of July and August 2013, and I hope to maintain the regular schedule from here on.

One last thing – if you had any of the wines below, I’m curious to know what do you think.

In no particular order, here we go:

2006 Vitkin Cabernet Franc, Israel – pure Cab Franc expression, luscious wine. 8+

1996 Burgess Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Library Release Nape Valley – Claret style Cab, still going strong but starts sun-setting. 8-

2005 Henry’s Drive Dead Letter Office Shiraz, Australia – spectacular – young, fresh and velvety. 9-

2011 Rio Madre Rioja DOC – 100% Graciano, soft, open and balanced. 8-

2009 Odisea Veritable Quandary, California – touch of barnyard, spices and herbs – very balanced. 8

2009 Odisea Devil’s Share, California – round and [too] easy to drink. 8

2011 Shatter Grenache Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes, France – perfectly balanced despite 15.9% ABV. Great power. 8

2008 Seresin Chardonnay Reserve Marlboro New Zealand – outstanding classical version, with vanilla and apples and perfect balance. 8+

2005 Frédéric Gueguen Chablis Les Grandes Vignes – spectacular nose, perfectly clean and balanced on the palate. 8+

2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County – classic example of California Pinot Noir, clean and round. 8-

2008 Carmel Road Pinot Noir Monterey – raspberries, cranberries, cherries and a little smoke. Perfect balance. 8+

2010 Field Recordings Three Creek Vineyard Cabernet Franc Santa Barbara – spectacular bright fruit and balance. 9

2010 Villa Pillo Syrah Toscana IGT – dark fruit, pepper and tobacco notes, very elegant. 8

NV Mionetto Il Ugo Prosecco Blend – incredible aromatics, very playful and refreshing. 8-

2008 Paritua Riesling Central Otago New Zealand – clean, refreshing, perfect balance of acidity and sweetness, plus a hint of petrol. 8

2005 Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Riesling Spatlese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer – clean balance and perfection. 8+

1999 Kurt Rasmussen Late Harvest Riesling Dry Creek Valley – spectacular. Honeyd apricot, perfectly clean and fresh acidity. 9

2002 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Herrenweg de Turckheim Gewurztraminer Alsace – candied apricot, honey and balancing acidity. wow. 9

2012 Williams Selyem Vin Gris of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley –  strawberries, cranberries and perfect acidity. 8-

2010 Ramon Bilbao Crianza Rioja – luscious dark fruit, eucalyptus, balance. 8

2008 Cruz de Alba Crianza Ribera del Duero – power, cherries and structure. 8

NV Result Of A Crush Red Table Wine – bright, sexy, uplifting, cherries and cranberries. 8-

2007 Magnet Pinot Noir Sonoma County – dark, concentrated, smoky. 8-

2003 Swanson La Ti Da Estate Red Wine, Oakville, Napa – mature wine with still enough of fruit and acidity. 8

2010 Anakena Indo Sauvignon Blanc D.O. San Antonio Valley – grapefruit, lemon zest, bright acidity. 8

2007 Thelema Chardonnay South Africa – vanilla, white apples, touch of butter, perfect balance. 8-

2004 Coume Del Mas Quintessence Banyuls Red Dessert Wine – perfect balance of dark fruit and sweetness, soft tannins, very unique experience. 8+

2011 Tenute Loacker Valdifalco Vermentino Maremma Toscana – bright white fruit, medium to full body, hint of sweetness. 8-

2004 Viña Mayor Ribera Del Duero – dark, dense, concentrated, lots of cherries plus some dark chocolate. Soft tannins. 8-

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