This time of year, there are all kinds of lists put together to wrap-up the year. Last year I resisted, but around the third week of January, I relented and made a list of my top wines of the year. I figured this year I would skip the pretense and go ahead and put out this list when it seemed most appropriate—when everyone else was doing it.
In compiling this list, I went back over my weekly “What We Have Been Drinking” posts to select the top wines. That means that all of the wines on the list we either purchased by me, or given to me as a gift—there are no samples on the list (if there were, surely the Gary Farrell Maffei Vineyard Zinfandel would have been on it—I still have dreams about that wine). I also only selected wines that were Wines of the Week (WOTW), and all the wines scored in the 92+ points range (I got a little heat from 1WineDude the other day for using points to rate wines, but I think he was just hurting from his Steelers missing the playoffs).
Perhaps my criteria are too limiting, but I am supposed to be “watching” the kids as I am writing this, so time is an issue.
My goal was to pare this list down to a top ten and from that list of ten, choose a wine of the year. The first pass resulted in 37 wines, which I then whittled down to 22. After some deliberation, I got the list down to 20, and I figured that was close enough—eliminating any more would be an exercise in futility and I try to avoid futility as a rule.
Thus, my top 20 in alphabetical order:
2008 Amelle Zinfandel Buck Hill Sonoma County: Retail $24. Yes, another Amelle wine made the top 20. Likely, you have never heard of Amelle—it is a very small production wine made by the former winemaker at Freeman in Sebastopol. He (Eric Buffington) has now moved on to another winery (in order to be closer to home), but he is still making his Amelle wines. Eric described this as a “cool climate zin” and to me it is very Pinot-esque—certainly a reason we love it.
2002 Argyle Pinot Noir Spirithouse Reserve Series: Retail $75+. I bought a few of these in an online auction and they were superb. I have been drinking Argyle for quite a while now and even though the winery is a bit commercial by Willamette Valley standards, it remains one of my favorites.
2004 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir: Retail $50. Initially, I had a few Clos Pepes on the list, but the Chardonnay and the 2005 Pinot were edited out. Still, a list of mine would not be complete without at least one of Wes Hagen’s wines.
2005 Cosentino CE2V Meritage: Retail $100? A buddy from the PA Vine Co. brought this over to the house since he knew I was a big Mitch Cosentino fan. I never had many of the CE2V line since they were out of my price range, but this was easily my best meritage of the year.
2001 Cosentino The Poet Meritage: Retail $65. My real first introduction to American wine was the 1996 Cosentino Poet—I bought several bottles while I was a struggling teacher and coveted those like no other. A few years ago, the winery changed hands and has moved in another direction, but this 2001 was made by Mitch and it took me back to those earlier years (and wines).
NV Delamotte Champagne Brut Rosé: Retail $80. This was a wine that really surprised me this year—I was expecting a nice wine, but this was much more than that. Depth of flavor and a wonderful finish. I took this wine to a party and immediately regretted bringing it after the first sip. By the time I went back for a second glass it was long gone.
2006 Dolce Winery Late Harvest: Retail $75 (375 ml). Another wine brought over by friends, this was easily the finest dessert wine we had all year. Sure, the price is steep, but well worth it in my book (especially when I was not the one paying).
1991 Elyse Zinfandel Morisoli Vineyard: Retail: ??? I picked this up in an online auction almost as an after thought, but I love older Zins, so I thought it was a safe bet. Understatement of the year.
2005 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard: Retail $45. I did not have a ton of experience with Farrell wines before he sold the brand (in 2004), but the wines being produced now are certainly top notch. The “new” Cosentino could certainly learn a lesson or two from the “new” Gary Farrell.
1986 Jaffelin Clos Vougeot: Retail $80? An older Grand Cru Burgundy. If I have to say more, you really have not been paying attention….
NV Krug Champagne Grande Cuvée Brut: Retail $125. Any list of my top wines without “Krug” on it is simply a forgery (or counterfeit—not sure what the correct term is for a fake on the internet…)
2006 Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard: Retail $50. Another wine from that American Grand Cru vineyard, Clos Pepe. I have never met Brian Loring, and his wines are usually meant to be consumed in the short term (kind of my antithesis), but it seems clear to me that he is one of the nicest guys around, and that means a lot in my book (it also helps that his wines are fantastic).
1999 Perrier-Jouët Champagne Cuvée Fleur de Champagne: Retail ~$120. The third champagne on the list and the one that I would have thought would not make it (Perrier-Jouët is a more delicate champagne, a style that usually does not tickle my fancy), but this wine had a bit of age on it, and I almost always find that fanciful.
2008 Skewis Pinot Noir Peters Vineyard: Retail $50. Perhaps the biggest surprise on the list, at least based on its initial impressions. Upon opening, rather listless and frankly boring, the next day it was completely transformed and more than worthy to be on this list.
1994 Domaine Tollot-Beaut Corton: Retail $65? An aged Grand Cru Burgundy. Really, you need to start paying attention….
2001 Domaine Georges Vernay Côte-Rôtie Maison Rouge: Retail $50? Another bit of a surprise here since I really do not have many Rhône wines, and the last time we had this wine it was not nearly this good. I am not one for making resolutions, but drinking more Syrah might have to be one of them.
1976 Deinhard Winkeler Hasensprung Riesling Auslese: Retail ??? A nearly 40 year old white that was not only drinkable, but fantastic. Yup, that has to be on the list.
WINES OF THE YEAR
It was surprisingly easy to pick the wines of the year—two were Wine of the Week twice and one was simply phenomenal. Certainly, there were others on this list (namely the Amelle Zin) that could/should have been WOTW more than once, and therefore also a WOTY. But I think having one white, one red, and a dessert wine as wines of the year provides some symmetry (it would have been nice having a sparkling wine as well, but life is not perfect). Interestingly (and coincidentally) all of the wines are biodynamic.
2006 Nicolas Joly Clos de la Coulée de Serrant: Retail $100? This is a wine that causes more than its fair share of controversy. It has less to do with Nicolas Joly’s evangelical stance on biodynamics than it does with his practice of pre-oxidating the wines. This vintage was poorly received by some, but I found it magical. If you are into wine, you really need to try some Clos de la Coulée de Serrant. You may not like it, but it will certainly leave a lasting impression.
2004 Littorai Pinot Noir The Haven: Retail ~$70. Ted Lemon of Littorai is another of the rather short list of wine makers that I would like to meet some day. His wines, more than any other that I have tried, come the closest in this country to emulating Burgundy. That is not to say that they remind me of great Burgundian wines but rather they trap a sense of place with great style and finesse and are an integral part of a fantastic meal.
1998 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Séléction de Grains Nobles: Retail $125? After a wonderful meal with friends, our hosts pulled out this bottle and it immediately grabbed my attention–the SGNs from Olivier Humbrecht are close to legendary, and this wine lived up to it. A richness and depth on the nose that required extended moments of contemplation, once in the mouth, it was painful to have to swallow and let it go. One of those rare wines that are impossible to describe that I get to drink far too infrequently.
Do you have a Wine of the Year?