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Top Dozen Wines of 2010

December 29, 2010 20 comments

One more year is passing by, becoming memories. As the closing bell nears, we often like to count good things which happened during that year. After reading the post by Joe Roberts, where he talks about his ten most interesting wines of the year, the idea for this post was born.

Here we go – a dozen of wines which made special memories throughout the 2010. Are these the best ever wines I had? No. Are these the best wines of 2010? Not necessarily. Why is there a dozen? After going through my records, I simply counted 12 wines I want to reflect upon. A lot of these wines were covered in the prior posts – I will give you links and prices if I have them. And I will explain why I felt so special about these wines. And – I will make an effort to sort the list. Prioritizing memories and experiences is hard, but I will do it nevertheless – may be just to get a good chuckle later on. And now, without further delay…

12. Haut Charmes Sauternes 2007 ($17). One of the best Sauternes I ever had – clean, balanced, with white peaches and honeysuckle on the palate. Few reasons to be in the “Top Dozens” – legend has it is declassified Chateau D’Yquem, plus great QPR for the Sauternes.

11. Cambria Bench Break Chardonnay 2006, Santa Maria ($25). For the first time in a long while, California Chardonnay tasted like California Chardonnay – lots of vanilla, butter and toasted oak on the palate, extremely balanced at the same time. Real Chardonnay as opposed to wimpy white wine without identity.

10. Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008, South Africa ($40). Totally unexpected – amazing Pinot Noir from South Africa (!). Profoundly Burgundian style, with tremendous finesse and balance. Great QPR. Worth seeking – if you like Pinot, you will enjoy it immensely.

9. Flora Springs Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($18). Literally the best California Sauvignon Blanc I ever had. In general, I love French, New Zealand and Chilean versions, and ignore California Sauvignon Blancs. However, this wine you can not ignore – beautiful combination of traditional grassiness with fruit forward and finesse. Outstanding!

8. Visp Chantone Eyholzer Roter 2008 ($26). Swiss wines are great – it is unfortunate that they literally can’t be found in US. I’m lucky to be able to experience the Swiss wines – and this particular red is probably the best Swiss wine I ever had. Playful, balanced, easy to drink and thought provoking – good till the last drop.

7. Domaine de Granajolo Corse Porto-Vecchio 2009 (€12). Best Rose wine I had in 2010. Nuf said.

6. Domaine de Torraccia Niellucciu 2009,  Corse Porto-Vecchio (€11). Accidental find in the wine shop in Paris (while hunting for the new grapes) – amazing. Playful, balanced and inviting – pure pleasure in the glass.

5. Chateau Hosanna 2003, Pomerol ($100). One of the best Bordeaux wines ever. Very approachable now, and will be amazing in another 20 years.

4. Jamesport Petit Verdot 2006, Long Island ($100). One of the biggest surprises of the year – having only bad experience with 100% Petit Verdot wines from Australia, this wine was absolutely pleasantly unexpected. Luscious , silky smooth, concentrated wine – no edges or rough corners. Lots of pleasure.

3. Satrapezo Saperavi 2006, Georgia ($28). This wine completely changed my perception of Georgian wines. Georgia was a birthplace of winemaking, but tasting Georgian wines until recent was saying that the art is lost. This wine changed that. Perfectly balanced and restrained, with earthiness, fruit, acidity and tannins coming to play as a team. Great wine, and great value.

2. Rozes Over 40 Years Old Port ($90). My best port ever. I can close eyes and imagine the smell and taste of this wine – multiple layers, tremendous complexity and great opportunity to reflect on life when the finish lasts for 15 minutes. Find this wine and experience for yourself.

1. Mara Laughlin Road Ranch Pinot Noir 2007, Russian River Valley ($45). Incredibly balanced, silky smooth wine, very powerful and round. Alcohol content is 15.6%, and it can’t be noticed unless you read the label. Great wine now, will improve with some cellar time. Find it if you can.

There were many other wines worth mentioning, and I did my best throughout the year to cover them. The wines in this group delivered special experiences – that’s why they listed here. That’s all, folks – for this post. I will be glad to hear, however, about YOUR special wines and wine experiences from 2010. Speak up – now is the time!

Treble Journey: Sciccarellu, Barbarossa and Niellucciu, #274 – #276

October 30, 2010 4 comments

So, you can not pronounce the name of the first grape? Google doesn’t help? Don’t feel bad. The owner of the wine store in Paris, where I bough these two wines, had troubles with pronouncing “Sciccarellu”. I guess another way to write the name of the same grape is Sciacarello, or at least this is the closest on Wikipedia, but it doesn’t make it better known grape, at least for me.

As with any journey, there are ups and downs. Once you get off the well known path, you are in for the surprises, good and bad (luckily, it is wine, so the worst surprise is “here is something I don’t ever want to taste again”).  When you open a wine made from obscure, maybe almost extinct grape, you really don’t know what to expect. There are cases where you really wish you never tasted that wine (did you have lately any Retsina wines from Greece?). Then there are those when you say “ok, doesn’t taste like anything, really”. Good surprises don’t come as often as one might wish. But – here we go. Two wines from Corsica, 3 new grapes for the Treble Journey, great experience and lots of pleasure – to give you a short summary.

To start with Rose, behind hardly pronounceable grape names hides an excellent wine. Domaine de Granajolo Corse Porto-Vecchio 2009 is a blend of Sciccarellu, Barbarossa and Syrah. Now, I have to tell you something very honestly. Despite the fact that I’m “practicing” an art of describing the wine taste for more than 7 years now, I still have a very difficult time to provide description in terms of individual components, and often I have equally hard time to find such detailed descriptions useful. What you taste depends on your mood, state of your mind, state of your palate and many other things, it is really personal – but this should be a subject of another post. So I prefer to talk in the terms of “full package” about this particular Rose – it has a lightness of a crispy white wine, but the substance, structure, body and weight of an elegant red wine (nice Burgundy or Pinot Noir from Central Otago comes to mind). And it definitely gives you pleasure. To me, this is perfect everyday wine, no matter if it is hot or cold outside. In the Drinkability terms this is 9- wine.

And if the Rose was great, Niellucciu 2009 from Domaine de Torraccia, also from Corse Porto-Vecchio was even better. The very first sip immediately solicited “Wow”. Earthiness and smokiness of the elegant Burgundy, spices, leather and tobacco of the classic Chateauneuf du Pape all complemented by the depth and structure of the great Barolo (after it is well decanted). Am I exaggerating? Always possible – but I’m honestly just trying to convey my personal perception. If your palate is aligned with mine (I know that is true for some of my friends), I’m sure you will also enjoy this wine immensely. In the Drinkability terms it is definitely a 9.

Now, with all this excitement, comes a sobering thought – I don’t think this wines are available in US… And if someone can prove me wrong – I will be really really really thankful…

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