Even though many people have tried, I firmly believe that quantifying wine quality is not scientific at all. Yes, I do attach a numerical range to the wines that I taste (and have received a fair amount of criticism for that), but I do that to serve merely as a reference point. And let me be clear: it is my reference point and should not be mistaken for what I think other people should think about the wine.
There are times, though, when tasting a wine that I am compelled to utter the word “Whoa.” I can not describe the exact characteristics of a “Whoa Wine” but I know it as soon as I taste it. All the elements that I think are necessary to be considered an outstanding wine are there: fruit, structure, depth, balance. All of which come together beautifully. Whoa.
Yesterday, I reviewed my top Reds of the Year. Today, it’s the Whites and Sparklers.
N.V. Duval-Leroy Rosé Prestige Premier Cru Champagne: Retail $85. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay. A slight pinkish orange in the glass, with a steady stream of delicate boules. This wine is more brioche dominated up front with plenty of rhubarb thrown in. On the palate, this gets a Whoa. A bit slow on the onset, this really picks up steam on the mid-palate, with rich red fruit, and oodles of baked French goodness. Whoa. While #3 might be the most sophisticated, this is the tastiest. Whoa. 93-95 Points. This is the house on the list with which I have the least familiarity, but I have had this rosé now several times and it is nothing short of stellar. I also have a few bottles of vintage D-L in the cellar, on which I am patiently waiting. Outstanding.
2006 Piper-Heidsieck Vintage Brut Champagne: Retail$80. 51% Chardonnay, 49% Pinot Noir. Yellow and gold meld together here with a fine, active, but slightly sparse bead. Richest nose thus far: baked apple pie, caramel, brioche. The nose itself might warrant this one a Whoa. On the palate, this is a full-blown Whoa: croissant with hints of apple fruit dominate initially and through the mid-palate and it finishes with caramel that is right at the point just before it starts to burn. Delicious. 93-95 Points. As I mentioned above, I am a huge fan of this house and this wine really stood out for all the right reasons. Vintage bubbles are a bit of a special treat (less than 20% of all champagnes produced is vintage) that warrants the additional cost. The difference between vintage and non-vintage is clear, particularly when tried side by side. Outstanding.
2008 Nino Franco Grave di Stecca: Retail $45. 100% Glera. A few shades darker than any Prosecco I have tried. Very complex and expressive nose of caramel, almost a Werther’s candy, or even butterscotch. Same flavors on the palate with even some coconut. I defy anyone to identify this wine blind. Gorgeous. Outstanding+. 93-95 Points.
2013 Roco Winery RMS Sparkling Wine Willamette Valley, Oregon: Retail $65. 67% Pinot, 33% Chardonnay. 520 cases. Crazy fruit with mango notes. Wonderful balance and a hint of creaminess. Rich and full. Whoa. One of the best domestic sparklers I have tried. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
1997 Rotari Classico: 100% Chardonnay. Disgorged à la volée by winemaker Lucio Matricardi. Apricot, marzipan, plenty of yeastiness. On the palate, truly remarkable a touch of spice (saffron), baked apple, white peach, creamy, plenty of acidity. The finish lasts for minutes with a cashew nuttiness. Whoa. An incredible experience. Outstanding. Easily the best Italian sparkling wine I have ever tried. 97-99 Points.
2015 Attune Chardonnay Station Ranch, Carneros, Sonoma County: Retail $36. 175 Cases. I have to admit that I was not familiar with Attune Wines or the Station Ranch Vineyard until I was contacted by the winery to sample their current releases. I wish I had heard of them sooner. Pale yellow with a slight but brilliant green tinge, this is delicate on both the nose and the palate. Green apple, slightly buttered fresh-baked bread, and crushed wet rock lead to a tart, mineral, yet creamy wine with oodles of acidity and even more flavor. Even though this spent 15 months in oak, only 30% was new and this has to be a Chardonnay for everyone. Tasty, verve, depth. Just short of a Whoa. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2015 Brooks Ara Riesling Willamette Valley: Retail $28. Brooks has perhaps a unique relationship with Riesling in the U.S. since founder Jimi Brooks was passionate about the variety and played a significant role in assuring its place in Oregon wine. No, it has not equaled the prominence of Pinot Noir in the state (at least not yet), but wines like this prove it soon might: Racy and rich, with peach, tangerine, some white pepper, and petrol. On the palate, wow, this is one of the best domestic Rieslings I have had in a while–laser-like acidity, great fruit, plenty of attitude. Fantastic. OK. Whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2015 Onward Wines Malvasia Bianca Skin Fermented: Retail $28. Not an “orange wine” as winemaker Faith Armstrong tries to keep all oxygen out (as opposed to an orange wine which does). Golden yellow. Wow. Incredible mouthfeel and flavors. Ok whoa. This might be a mind-blower. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.