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Top 12 of ’13

December 29, 2013 18 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer

Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer

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

DSC_0414 Casa Burmester

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

Frédéric Gueguen Chablis

Frédéric Gueguen Chablis

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

1970 White Port

1970 White Port

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

Top Wines of 2013 – Second Dozen

December 22, 2013 9 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

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