Top Ten (Still) Wines Of The Year

I guess I am a bit late getting around to listing what I feel were the top wines we consumed over the course of 2015, but I have been busy. In addition to surviving a trip back to the midwest with my two boys (but without the assistance of my lovely wife), I was also playing catch-up with a whole host of posts that I wanted to publish before the end of the year.

In fact, I posted a 29 times last month (which was clearly a record for the now four years that I have been blogging), so I don’t feel too bad getting this post out now (though obviously there is some angst–I just wrote close to 75 words explaining the situation even though you likely could not care any less about it).

The criteria this year are the same as the last two years: in order to make it onto the list of the Top Ten Wines of the Year, the wine would first have to have been selected as a Wine of the Week. This year, however, I decided to make two lists: one for still wines and one for sparkling wines. Why? Well, because I can.

Honestly though, I drink a ton of champagne and sparkling wine and those would havc dominated the top Ten, so I decided to split them up this year.

I hope you don’t mind….

#10. 1985 Inglenook Reunion: Retail ???. A tiny bit of Napa history in a bottle–Inglenook had been widely considered the best wine in Napa from Prohibition to the mid-1960’s when the winery was sold and then started producing jug wine, at which point overall quality suffered across the board. There was a bit of a revival in the mid-80’s with a return to better winemaking–and this wine certainly shows it. Whoa. On the nose, I have to say that this was not all that appealing–it was a bit acrid and certainly gamey. On the palate? Whoa. A different ballgame. The fruit was at best “present” and at worst “reserved” but this was close to ethereal–a 30-year-old wine that was Outstanding alone, but likely even better with food. 92-94 Points. (5/4)

IMG_4212#9. 1988 Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Bella Oaks: Retail $80. Well, it seems as though the extra age has helped this wine (because there is no such thing as bottle variation, right?). Green pepper and cassis on the nose that morphed into black pepper and then back. Ten minutes later intense vanilla. And back to green pepper. Whoa. I don’t think I’ve seen so many transformations in such a short period. I thought it was dying but it is clawing back to relevance. We all reminisced about 1988, which underscored how special this is. Whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points. (8/31)

#8. 2004 Argyle Pinot Noir Nuthouse Reserve Series: Retail $60. I am in trouble. Big trouble. My wife left with one of the boys today to visit her parents and we are going to join them soon. Alone, watching March Madness, I ached for a Pinot. I decided to grab this one since it was past the Cellar Tracker drinking window (2013) and the last bottle was, well, ho-hum. This one wasn’t. By a long shot. Great from nose (blackberry and cassis), through the mid-palate (rich, deep, and profound), and on to the finish (Whoa), this was by far the best of the half-case I bought back in 2007. Whoa. And one more Whoa. Outstanding. Plus. 93-95 Points. (4/6)

IMG_3639#7. 2004 Ojai Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard: Retail $60. Surprisingly dark and a bit brooding. On the nose dark berry fruit with a bit of eucalyptus and some pine needle. On the palate. Whoa. Deep and rich. Even some mocha? This is Outstanding. Maybe more. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. That makes four full Whoas. 93-95 Points. (2/16)

#6. 1988 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve: Retail $125? Red berry and a bit stewed but I could tell this was going to get a whoa. I was wrong. This gets multiple whoas. Maybe three. Not drinking too soon (as the tannins are completely integrated) but man this is good. Outstanding. 93-95 Points. (8/13)

#5. 2003 Ojai Syrah Stolpman Vineyard: Retail $55. Whoa. Whoa. The nose was a bit nondescript but there was certainly some dark berry fruit. On the palate rich fruit. That gets a whoa. Depth all the way through. Another Whoa. Finish? Whoa. One of the best Syrahs I have had. Outstanding plus. 94-96 Points. (5/25)

#4. 2005 Cosentino Winery The Poet: Retail $65. Bordeaux Blend. I picked these up a few years ago for a whopping $20/bottle. At the time, I was a poor grad student, so the six bottles I bought put a serious dent in the monthly budget. Tasting this now? Blackberry, blueberry pie. That means vanilla and even a bit of crème de cassis. I have waxed endlessly about how Cosentino was my gateway into the world of California wine so I won’t get into that again, but this wine really takes me back. The wine is likely at it peak as the tannins are nearly fully integrated. I should have doubled down on the ramen noodles and gone all in with this wine, buying all I could find. Outstanding. 92-94 Points. (11/30)

IMG_4129#3. 2008 Amelle Zinfandel Buck Hill Sonoma County: Retail $24. Continues to be not just my favorite Zinfandel, but maybe my favorite wine. A cool climate Zin–a real Pinot lover’s kind of wine. Great fruit, balance, and finish. This is just a magnificent wine. Outstanding. 92-94 Points. (2/2)

#2. 1998 Jean-Claude Belland Corton-Grand Cru Clos de la Vigne au Saint: Retail $100. This was another of the “I am worried all of my Burgundies Suck” dinner. This one didn’t. At all. Raspberry coulis and red earth here that I could sniff for most of the rest of my middle age years. Whoa. Gorgeous reserved red fruit, great acidity and an incredible finish. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa–goosebumps kinda whoa. Outstanding. 94-96 Points. (6/22)

IMG_4340#1. 1995 Château d’Yquem: Retail $250/375ml. How do you describe an Yquem? This is the fourth Yquem that a dear friend has brought by, but the first note I have written. I dare not describe the wine for I am simply not worthy. Let me just say that I could sniff an ounce of this wine for the rest of my life. It is like seeing the Tour de France in person for the first time: You can try to describe it but your efforts are futile–the only way to understand is by going there yourself. Tasting it? I imagine it must be like racing in the Tour de France. But I have no idea. I’ve never raced in the Tour.  One of the Best Wines I’ve Ever Had. 96-98 Points. (9/14)






About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Meritage, Pinot Noir, Sauternes, Syrah, Wine, Zinfandel. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Top Ten (Still) Wines Of The Year

  1. And I am surprised you took the time to count the nearly 75 words that you thought we wouldn’t care about. 😉 This is a good list to have for when buying wine as a gift, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Now the real question is how many can be found in PA now? My bet is zero.


  3. Gotta say that 03 Runrig we shared was tops for me. Probably tops in a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. For now I can only dream of being in the same room as an Yquem, let alone actually sniffing it… lucky you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Miia says:

    Happy new year from Paris 🙂 What did you have with Château d’Yquem? Lucky you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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