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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!

Month in Wines: October 2014

November 9, 2014 1 comment

Ahh, the ever accelerating pace of the days, weeks and months flying by like a runaway train, as we are getting closer to the holidays… Another month becomes a history, and as usual, it is the time to summarize the wine experiences. Typically, this is not a very difficult task with may be 12 -15 wines which would be typically mentioned in this “month in wines” posts. It seems to be a challenging undertaking for October 2014, as it included a trip to Washington with 7 excellent wineries and lots of great wines. Well, I will do my best to control of size of this post and not to inundate my readers with repetitious details. Quick reminder: only the wines rated 8- or higher are included into this post (yes, with possible exceptions).

Let’s go:

2013 Mark Ryan Viognier Columbia Valley – Perfumy, bright, with crisp acidity and medium body. Delicious overall. 8

2012 Sparkman Cellars Enlightenment Chardonnay French Creek Vineyard Yakima ValleyElegant, with a touch of the Chablis-like gunflint on the nose, and enough of butter, vanilla and substance to make it a soulful wine. 8

NV Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur (12% ABV) – One of my all time favorite Champagnes. A full package – yeasty nose, freshly baked bread, toasted apple, perfect mid-palate weight. One of the best QPR for Champagne that I know of. 8

2013 L’Ecole No 41 Chenin Blanc Old Vines Columbia Valley (13.5% ABV) – I read it many times that acidity is often brought up as a primary characteristic of Chenin Blanc – but my experience doesn’t support it. This wine,. similar to some of the best Vouvray wines I ever had, was showing a bright white fruit, medium to full body, ripe apples and balancing acidity. 8

2011 Tikveš Barovo Red Wine, Macedonia (14.5% ABV, 65% Kratosija, 35% Vranec) – we can call this wine the “dark power”. Almost black in the appearance, with tar and espresso at its core, ripe blackberries and soft tannins. Vranec is considered one of the most heart-friendly grapes. And Kratosija adds one more grape to the collection. 8-

2011 Field Recordings Petite Sirah Edna Valley (15% ABV, 100% Petite Sirah, Crocket Hill Vineyard) – ripe blueberries, packaged into the soft frame, with bright nose saying “drink me” and blueberries all the way on the palate. Round, smooth, elegant – a “dangerous wine” – it is gone before you notice. 8-

2008 Henri Cruchon Gamaret Morges AOC (13% ABV) – Restrained, delicious old world wine. Earthiness and minerality, somewhat muted on the nose. Touch of blackberries and smoke on the palate, more earthiness, soft tannins and excellent balance. 8-

2009 Chateau Greysac Médoc AOC, France (14% ABV) – Chateau Greysac is one of the Bordeaux staples – always reasonably priced, and very consistent, year after year. Good dark fruit on the nose with a touch of earthiness, blackberries. More blackberries on the palate with a touch of cassis, refreshing acidity, well integrated tannins and medium to long finish. 8-

2012 Laplace Madiran AOP, France (14% ABV) – a rare breed – Tannat from its place of origin, France. Dark, dense, concentrated, with tar and ink on the palate, but showing fresh fruit surprisingly well. Full bodied wines, very dense and present. 8-

2006 Trapiche Broquel Malbec Mendoza, Argentina (14% ABV) – no sign of age – fresh, approachable, touch of sweet oak, dark fruit, well noticeable tannins and perfect balancing acidity. Delicious. 8

2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County (13.1% ABV) – classic, classic, classic – dark smokey fruit on the nose, same on the palate – cherries, hint of mushrooms and forest floor, vibrant acidity, more smoke on the palate. 8

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And here are the [red wine] highlights of the Woodinville trip (lots of them) – for the tasting notes, please click on the wine name:

2010 Elevation Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley – 8
2011 Elevation Cellars Jammin’ Red Blend Red Mountain and Columbia Valley – 8-
2010 Elevation Cellars Merlot Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley – 8-
2009 Elevation Cellars Monolith Bordeaux Blend Hedges Vineyard Red Mountain – 8+
2011 Pondera Entwined Columbia Valley – 8-
2011 Pondera SVS Number One Columbia Valley – 8-
2011 Pondera Malbec Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley – 8+
2009 Pondera Prima Donna Columbia Valley  – 8
2010 Des Voigne Cellars Montreux Syrah Columbia Valley  – 8-
2010 Des Voigne Cellars “Untitled” Columbia Valley – 8-
2011 Des Voigne Cellars The Composer Wahluke Slope – 8-
2012 Sparkman Cellars Ruckus Syrah Red Mountain – 8
2011 Sparkman Cellars Rainmaker Cabernet Sauvignon Yakima Valley – 8+
2011 Guardian Cellars Gun Metal Columbia Valley – 8
2011 Guardian Cellars The Informant Syrah Wahluke Slope – 8
2011 Guardian Cellars The Rookie Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain – 8
2011 Fidelitas Boushey Vineyard Red Wine Yakima Valley – 8-
2012 Mark Ryan NumbSkull GSM Walla Walla – 8
2012 Mark Ryan The Dissident Columbia Valley – 9-
2012 Mark Ryan Long Haul Red Mountain – 8+
2012 Mark Ryan Dead Horse Red Mountain – 9-
2011 Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley – 8-
2011 Leonetti Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley – 8+

And we are done here. So, what were your wine discoveries for the past month? Cheers!

Month in Wines (and Whiskys) – December 2013

January 3, 2014 2 comments

At first I wanted to preface this post with the notion of December being somewhat uneventful in terms of great wine experiences, but as I was thinking about it, I realized that this would be a mistake to put it like that. So yes, December brought quite a few of the great discoveries.

Here we go:

NV Ayala Brut Majeur Ay Champagne, France (12% ABV, 45% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier ) – one of the very best non-vintage champagne I ever tasted – perfectly complex, yeasty, showing aromas of the fresh bread and apples, all in a very bright and energetic package. Considering the price ($26.99 on special) is simply unbeatable (people, stop buying the yellow label, get the real thing and save some money!). 8

2011 Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc North Canterbury, New Zealand (14% ABV) – nice, restrained – recognizably New Zealand, but more in the Sancerre style, with grass and lemon prevailing over the grapefruit. Well balanced and very refreshing.  8-

2012 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir North Canterbury, New Zealand (13.5% ABV) – clean. delicate. perfectly balanced. perfectly delicious. Saying that Mt Beautiful Pinot Noir is beautiful sounds somewhat broken, but there is nothing I can do here – definitely an outstanding Pinot Noir of a rare precision. 8+

2010 Hooker Breakaway Chardonnay Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley (13.3% ABV) – Perfectly classic – vanilla, apple, butter and toasted oak, all elegantly connected, round and supple, perfectly balanced and supported by acidity. A pleasure. 8-

2011 Bogle Petite Sirah California (13.5% ABV) – probably one of the very best value wines in existence – I have to yet to taste a bad Bogle Petite Sirah. Amazingly consistent from vintage to a vintage – dark fruit on the nose and the palate, blackberries and raspberries, firm structure, powerful but elegant tannins, very good balance. 8-

2007 Talullah Syrah Bald Mountain Napa Valley (14.8% ABV) – inky black color in the glass, very restrained on the nose, nice dark fruit on the palate with the spicy notes. Definitely needs time to evolve. 8-

2004 Chateau Puy Arnaud Maureze Côtes de Castillon AOC (13.5% ABV) – very nice, rich, open and classic Bordeaux – hint of cassis, touch of bell peppers, well structured with firm tannins, good overall balance. 8-

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2008 Gorys Crespiello Cariñena DO (14% ABV, 100% Old Vine Vidadillo) – outstanding. Very restrained, with nice dark fruit on the nose, on the palate shows raspberries and elegant sweet oak undertones, nice earthiness. Well balanced and intriguing, a thought provoking wine. Medium to long, mellow finish. This is the wine to be enjoyed slowly, preferably with the book or by the fire. Highly, highly recommended. Ahh, and on top of everything – a new grape. 8

1998 La Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain (12.5% ABV) – dialed back and elegant, needs time to open up. Nice fruit, cedar notes, well present tannins, good overall balance. Needs time. 8-

2010 Quota 31 Primitivo Menhir Salento, Salento IGT (14% ABV) – playful and elegant. Dark, dense fruit, raspberries and blackberries profile, round tannins, good balance. Very enjoyable. 8-

And here are few of the whisky discoveries:

Blue Ridge Distilling Defiant Whisky, North Carolina (41% ABV, 100% Malted Barley) – North Carolina, really? Well, I’m kidding, I’m not that surprised at all – after tasting great drams from Oregon, Utah, Texas and New York, I believe that great whisky can be made anywhere, as long as you apply enough passion. This whisky was unique and different, as it was the most scotch-like compare to all other US whiskeys I tasted. Very well balanced with nice viscosity, some caramel undertones, herbs and acidity.

The Lost Distillery Company Auchnagie Blended Malt Whisky (46% ABV) – one of the very best whiskys I ever tasted – touch of smoke, perfectly clean and balanced. It is also a very unique product – you can read my original post for more details about it.

Gordon & MacPhail Highland Park 8 yo (40% ABV) – I know that many people will just turn their nose away from this scotch simply based on the “low age” of 8 years. To me, this was absolutely delicious – excellent peatiness (I love peat in my scotch, if you don’t – this will not be your drink), clean, balanced – an excellent dram.

That’s all I have to report for December. Cheers!

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