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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…

Month in Wines – June 2014

July 3, 2014 5 comments

Quite expectedly, with the arrival of the consistently warm weather, June saw an increase in the Rosé wine appearances – luckily, those were good Rosé. There were also a number of great Cabernet Sauvignon wines worth mentioning, including some candidates for the Top Dozen list of 2014. And some Syrah – rather magnificent. And other great wines. Anyway, for what it worth, the list is below. As usual, most of the wines were rated at 8- or higher, with some exceptions (and explanations) for the lower ratings.

Here we go:

2013 Rocher de La Garde Cinsault Vin de France (12.5% ABV, $9.99) – beautiful light pink color, inviting nose of fresh strawberries, more strawberries on the palate. Well balanced with nice acidity, refreshing, easy to drink and very pleasant. A perfect summer day quaff. 8

2013 Temperamento Bobal Rosé Utiel-Requena DOP (12% ABV) – Beautiful in and out. Perfectly pink in the glass. Strawberries on the nose, ripe strawberries on the palate. Round, balanced, together, very good overall. 8-

2012 Albero Bobal Rosé Utiel-Requena DOP (12.5% ABV, $5.99 at Trader Joe’s) – simple and delicious. Beautiful pink color, refreshing, good acidity, strawberries profile. Unbeatable QPR. 8-

2013 14-18h Dry Rosé Wine Agiorgitico, Peloponnisos PGI, Greece (13% ABV) – beautiful intense pink color. Delicious, concentrated, cranberry laden wine. My perennial favorite for the past 7 -8 years. Never disappoints. 8

2013 La Gordonne Billette Bouquet de Provence Cuvée Tradition, Côtes de Provence (13.5% ABV) – it’s no wonder this wine is one of the best selling Rosé in France – light, clean, refreshing, each sip having enough substance to hold on to, and perfectly balanced at the same time. 8

2013 Les Lauzeraies Tavel, France (13.5% ABV) – I love Tavel wines any time of year – but they feel especially appropriate during summer. Beautiful, concentrated pink color. Nose of cranberries and rose petals. Cranberries and herbs on the palate, medium bodyu, concentrated, excellent balance. 8-

2006 Selbach-Oster Schmitt Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Auslese Mosel Saar Ruwer QmP, Germany (8.5% ABV) – Delicious. Slightly viscous, layers of sweet fruit (apricots, peaches), honeysuckle. Perfect acidity. 8-

2013 Bodegas Shaya “Shaya” Old Vines Verdejo, Rueda, Spain – one of my all times favorite white wines. Delicious complexity in the plump, mouth-coating, round package – this wine can rival any Chardonnay any day. If you never had it, make it your next wine. 8+

2011 Org de Rac Cuvée La Verne Blanc de Blancs Brut, Swartland, South Africa (12.5% ABV) – classic and delicious. Hint of yeast and bread on the nose, fine mousse on the palate, clean and crisp acidity, perfect body weight mid-palate. Excellent sparkling wine overall. 8-

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2010 St. Clement Oroppas Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (14.6% ABV)  – amazing Cabernet Sauvignon, from nose to the palate. On the nose, the wine showed cassis, a hint of blueberries and a touch of espresso. On the palate, this wine was powerful and dense. Dark fruit, perfectly restrained, thick, practically chewy mouthfeel, perfectly structured and dry, layered and silky smooth at the same time.  9-

2003 Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon Neyers Ranch Conn Valley,  Napa Valley (14.5% ABV) –  Sheer exuberance. On the nose, beautiful dark fruit, fresh berries and the touch of barnyard. The palate was even better than the nose – lots of stuff happening, eucalyptus, herbs, sage, bell peppers, cassis, blueberries, truffles, dark chocolate, espresso – just beautiful, beautiful wine.  9

2011 Michel Chapoutier Marius Red, France IGP (13.5% ABV) – Touch of barnyard on the nose. Nicely restrained on the palate. Touch of spiciness, black pepper, dark fruit, good balance. Very pleasant overall. 8-

2008 Alban Vineyards Patrina Estate Syrah Edna Valley (14.7% ABV) – My first taste of Alban wines, a cult Rhone-style wine producer in California. Beautiful dark fruit, dense, earthy, plums, velvety texture, perfect balance. Every sip was a pleasure. 9-

2011 Abacela Fiesta Tempranillo Umpqua Valley, Oregon (13.6% ABV) – very respectful rendition of Tempranillo – savory, well structured, with good amount of power typical for Ribero del Duero wines. 8-

2009 Bodegas Ochoa Finca Santa Cruz Tempranillo Crianza Limited Edition, Navarra, Spain (13.5% ABV) – another excellent Tempranillo, this time from Spain – round, ripe, deliciously layered with incredible textural complexity, tobacco, smoke, perfect balance. 8

NV Molo 8 Lambrusco Mantovano DOC (8.5% ABV) – simple and delicious! Perfectly in check, balanced, good acidity, fresh red fruit on the palate, pleasant fizz. 8-

2007 Burgess Cellars Merlot, Napa Valley – dark fruit on the nose and the palate, hint of dark chocolate, cassis, raspberry and sweet blueberry undertones on the palate, good balance. 8-

2004 Club de Sommeliers Chateauneauf-du-Pape Red, Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC , France (14.5% ABV) – a very solid effort for the France supermarket wine – it aged nicely, good open red fruit, touch of spices, good balance. 7+

2010 Celler de Capcanes Costers del Gravet Red Wine, Montsant DO (14.5% ABV, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Garnacha, 20% Samso) – dark power, focused, concentrated, starts from the classic Cabernet profile with layered and open support from Grenache. Full body, yet perfectly balanced between fruit, tannins and acidity. Delicious wine. 8+

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That completes the report on the June wine highlights. Did you have any of these wines? What were your best wine discoveries of the last month? Cheers!

Magnificent Views and Delicious Food – The Mountain House in Woodside, California

June 10, 2014 10 comments

DSC_0433When it comes to selecting the restaurant for a dinner, especially if you have a time to plan it, the overall location and “the view” are important in that process. Thinking about my own experiences, most of my “views” had been of the water – sea, bay, lake, river – some type of water was involved most often. Dining out looking at the sea is definitely magnificent and memorable, but that shouldn’t limit your choices.

I remember about 5 years ago stumbling upon a restaurant in the San Francisco area, up on the mountain drive. We were just passing by, enjoying the beautiful drive through the redwoods park, but then we thought – hmmm, might be a good place for a dinner. The experience was wonderful (I didn’t have a blog at that time though 🙂 ), so I always wanted to come back and experience the place again. Finally, the opportunity presented itself during my very recent trip to San Francisco, and making reservation at The Mountain House was one of my top priorities of the trip.

In essence, your restaurant experience starts from the moment you enter the Redwoods park – well, mine did for sure. I don’t know about you, but when I look at the redwoods, straight as an arrow, and almost having no start and no finish, just going up into the sky, I almost feel an awe, a reverence. A slow drive while surrounded by those magnificent trees (the road has enough of the very tight curves and turns to ensure your ride will be slow), creates a certain atmosphere, it puts you in the very special mood. Once you arrive, if you are a few minutes early, you can fully admire those amazing trees. And if you want to feel it for the fullest, arrive really early with some spare shoes, drive about a mile past the restaurant and spend time on one of the hiking trails – the silence which you can experience while standing among those trees, is something which is only possible to feel in a very few places on Earth, especially for those of us who lives in the cities and towns.

Finally, you are in the restaurant and ready for the dinner. The best place to seat ( assuming you are there during the warmer times) is outside on the terrace. The terrace is completely screened, but you can see an open sky and the magnificent trees right above you, which greatly enhances your dining experience. Before we talk about food and wine, I would like to mention that the restaurant has a long history. It had been around since 1920s, and through all these years had only three owners. The present owners had been at helm for about 27 years – all of this history commands great respect in my book.

Okay, food time. Err, no. Let’s select the wine first. The wine list at The Mountain House is expectedly California-based, which doesn’t come as a surprise. Two things make me very happy with that list. First, the selection is very good, with enough variety, but not overwhelming. Second, a lot of wines are offered at a very reasonable prices, often at around double retail or even better. I couldn’t make up my mind between 2010 BV Rutherford (retail about $25, restaurant – $63), 2008 Ridge Zinfandel Lytton Springs (retail – about $40, restaurant – $72) and 2010 St. Clement Oroppas (retail – about $45, restaurant: $70), until Irene, Matr’D, confidently said – try Oroppas, you will not regret it.

St. Clement Oroppas

I had St. Clement wines before, and have a lot of respect for them. 2010 St. Clement Oroppas Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (14.6% ABV) had beautiful dark garnet color in the glass. On the nose, the wine showed cassis, a hint of blueberries and a touch of espresso. And the palate… Boy, it is so hard to describe what was going on on the palate. On the palate, this wine was powerful and dense. Dark fruit, perfectly restrained, thick, practically chewy mouthfeel, perfectly structured and dry, and layered and silky smooth at the same time. The wine was at the level when you want to follow every sip with the words “mmm, this is good”. Drinkability: 9-

And finally, it is the time to talk about food! We started with Ahi Tartare Tacos (cucumber, avocado, tahini – miso vinaigrette with jicama slaw), which had very interesting Mediterranean flavor profile, I guess due to the tahini, and nice texture, based on large chunks of tuna and avocvado. We also had a simple Kale Salad (shredded brussells sprouts, marcona almonds, pecorino romano, lemon vinaigrette), which was very refreshing.

The Mountain House’s specialty is game, so it was easy for us to decide on the entreé. In a word, Tea Smoked Pheasant Breast (Apricot-Sherry wine Sauce and Mediterranean couscous) was outstanding – moist, delicious, with incredible flavor profile, very very tasty. And then the special of New Zealand Elk Medallions, prepared with cherry port reduction sauce and served with steamed vegetables, was simply spectacular – the meat was melting in the mouth, the sauce was perfectly complementing the meat, and the wine fully matching both the sauce and the meat – definitely one of the very best pairings I ever experienced. I also want to add that the wine was working very well with the first entreé, complementing the gaminess of the dish.

 

Despite the fact that we didn’t leave the morsel on the plate, we still decided to try the dessert, just to see if it would be on par with the delicious meal. Strawberry-Rhubarb crisp (vanilla ice cream) and Butterscotch Pot de Creme (creme fraiche, caramel and sea salt)  were both very tasty, with me having a small preference towards Pot de Cream – salt and caramel are always good together. However I have to mention that this Por de Cream dessert was a bit too rich, so we couldn’t finish it.

Service was great, timely and attentive.

That concludes my report about The Mountain House. If you are in the area, you definitely don’t want to miss this restaurant – I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I did. Cheers!

The Mountain House
13808 Skyline Boulevard
Woodside, CA 94062
(650) 851-8541
http://www.themountainhouse.com/

Mountain House on Urbanspoon

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