I have resisted doing one of these ‘year-in-review’ posts since it seems like everyone does them and I was a little worried that if I looked back at my consumption over the year, I would be frightened by the volume and the expense. This week, however, I have been knocked down rather hard by the flu and there was not much wine consumption at all this week (although last night we did have a really nice wine…), so I thought I might as well join the crowd and review some of this year’s gems. These are my reviews of the top wines that we consumed over the course of the last year, taken directly from Cellar Tracker. I thought about choosing a wine of the year, but given that these were tasted so far apart, it would be really tough to opt for one that stood above the rest (but if I did choose, it would be the Perrier-Jouet Fleur Magnum–I was shocked at how good that was [and how little I paid for it]–but I said I would not choose–how’s that for hedging?).
2006 32 Winds Pinot Noir: What a difference a couple of years make! Popped and poured. A very interesting nose of eucalyptus, cinnamon, and root beer of all things. On the palate, it was close to life changing–black and dark red fruit with incredible balance and just the right amount of velvety feel. Incredibly long finish. On the verge of extraordinary. This is why I love Pinot. Incredible. 94-96 Points.
2006 32 Winds Cabernet Sauvignon: I bought these several years ago based on one simple fact: the wine maker was Ehren Jordan, who is the winemaker for Helen Turley as well as his own Failla wines. I have been a huge fan of Failla for a while now, and I always suggest a stop there when in Napa (call ahead, appointment required). This was at the end of going through a few bottles with a couple of other winos, and to me, this one really stood out. It had plenty of fruit and some mocha, but it was nicely balanced with a bit of tannin on the back end. The finish never seemed to stop. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
1980 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon: I have been sitting on this bottle for a while, and it alone was why I proposed the OTBN dinner. Trying to open it, the cork was stubborn, to say the least. Eventually, the cork broke (crap). Getting the rest of the cork out was a bit of a problem, but it eventually came out using an Ah-So cork puller. There was a slight sigh when I finally got the Ah-So in, meaning there were at least a couple bubbles left. Poured into a regular wine glass (not a flute) and the color was quite dark. On the nose, caramel dominated, clear signs of oxidation, but also some citrus, vanilla, and baked bread (since ‘brioche’ seems to raise the hackles of some readers here). On the palate, the oxidation was far less prominent, and the citrus more vibrant, along with yeastiness and caramel. Very long finish. Outstanding. A great older champagne that my other wino friends may not have appreciated, so this was certainly the right crowd. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
1985 Perrier-Jouët Champagne Cuvée Fleur de Champagne: From a magnum. A golden color, more reminiscent of a pilsner than a champagne. A compelling nose of caramel, brioche, and lemon peel. On the palate, lively effervescence that delivered the same flavors along with some green apple, pear, and peach. An incredible dry finish finish seemed to linger for minutes. This champagne and it’s well developed flavors are right in my wheelhouse. Incredible. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
NV Cattier Brut 1er Cru 96/95/93 Clos du Moulin: I had a bottle of this a couple of years ago and I also rated it a 93, but these were completely different from a flavor profile. The color was still on the darker side, but this wine did not possess any of the sherry-like flavors of the last bottle (or of many older champagnes). Bright citrus and hints of vanilla wafer were dominant. This is one of the better champagnes I have had this year. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2000 Foreau Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Sec: More than any other wine for the night, I was looking forward to this puppy. I bought it back in back in 2004 and was waiting to share it with my wine mentor, Nico. Seeing that I have no idea when he might be back in the U.S. and I have plenty of wine waiting for him, I decided this cork needed a good pull. I was not disappointed. Wine of the night for me. Darkish hue in the glass, wonderful nose of honey, fuji apple, and a bit of lemon curd. All this was backed up by an incredible minerality. On the palate, it had the same unctuous feel as the Sparr Riesling, but the finish here was incredible. 30-45 seconds at least. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2001 Van Der Heyden Syrah Estate Bottled: I decided to open this on a whim–usually I spend an inordinate amount of time on CT trying to determine what wine I ‘need’ to drink based largely on what we are eating. Certainly a complex algorithm . I just grabbed this for some reason. Popped and poured. Wow. The fruit was leaping out of the glass with only the slightest of agitation: blackberry with some white pepper, anise, and a slight hint of mocha. On the palate, the fruit was impressive for an 11 1/2 year old wine with some cassis poking its way in. Not much in the tannin department and this is perhaps why the wine faded some with the lamb stew. Overall, outstanding. Sadly, my last non-dessert Van der Heyden. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2008 Amelle Zinfandel Buck Hill Sonoma County: Eric Buffington is the winemaker at Freeman Winery (yes, I know that Ed Kurtzman is listed as the winemaker at Freeman, but Eric is the guy who should really get the credit). Well, Eric makes a bit of wine for his own label and that is what we got in this week. I knew I should let it sit for a bit after the long trip from Sonoma, but I could not wait to get my hands (or I guess lips) on it so we cracked a bottle of his 2008 Amelle Buck Hill Zinfandel. Retail $24. Something rare happened that night–we did not finish the bottle! Wait just a second–it was not because of the wine–it was fruity yet restrained, beautifully made with an exceptionally long finish. Outstanding and 90-92 Points. The reason we did not finish? Well, it was late by the time we pulled the cork and we were both exhausted (I had just returned from my Spinning class and my wife had been helping ‘control’ about 50 kids at the school for an event). The next day, I went after the other half of the bottle during the Buckeye game and it had evolved considerably–the fruit really came out even more: blackberry and plum with vanilla, spice and earth. This is simply one of the best Zins I have ever had. Outstanding 92-94 Points.
2007 Siduri Pinot Noir Amber Ridge: Popped and poured. We picked these up from the winery a few years ago. A really great nose of cherry and spice, on the palate, the fruit was incredible, but not overblown by any means. Once again, Adam Lee does a superb job of balance–the fruit is there, but so is the right amount of acid and tannin. Really spectacular. Outstanding 92-94 Points.