Against my better judgment (which is usually bad, thus here I go), here are the top red wines that I tasted this year. In order to be considered, the wine had to be received as a sample, rated well into the “Outstanding” category, and earned a “Whoa” (or at least came really close). No attention was paid to price, region, or whether it had a ridiculously heavy bottle (although those B.A.B. might be excluded in the future).
2015 Quinta do Vallado Touriga Nacional Douro: Retail $60. 100% Touriga Nacional. Rather dark in the glass with dark fruit (cassis, blackberry, plum) and spice (anise, black pepper). The palate is remarkable: good fruit, tartness, spice, earth, all in balance. I do not have a ton of experience with Touriga as a dry varietal wine, but this is particularly compelling. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2012 Simonsig Redhill Pinotage, Stellenbosch, South Africa: Retail $35. Johan Malan of Simonsig claimed that: “Good Pinotage from a good vintage can last forever.” Who am I to argue? Quite aromatic with vanilla and sweetness with vanilla and blackberry on the nose. Full of fruit and silky smooth with no real funk. This is Pinotage?! Fantastic. Intense. Refined. And Whoa. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2015 Troon Vineyard Tannat Kubli Bench Applegate Valley, Oregon: Retail $40. Before my buddy Craig Camp moved up to Oregon to manage Troon, I am pretty sure that my Tannat consumption was limited to a few wines from the Madiran region of Southern France. Those wines are typically big, dark, and chewy, usually requiring a decade in the cellar before they can approach being drinkable. That is not the case with this lovely wine from Southern Oregon. Yes, it is inky dark in the glass with dark berry fruit, a touch of black licorice, and clove. The palate is fruity and silky, with earth and just the slightest hint of tannin on the finish. This is both an easy-drinking wine as well as a wonderful pairing with any various types of animal flesh. I do not say this casually, but the winemakers in Madiran would be wise to take a trip to the Applegate Valley and take a few notes at Troon. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2016 Westwood Pinot Noir Estate Grown Clone 37 Annadel Gap Vineyard, Sonoma County: Retail $74. Simple: this is a fantastic Sonoma Pinot Noir. If you are looking for an Old World style wine, reminiscent of Nuits-St.-Georges or Corton, this is not the bottle for you. Similarly, if you are looking for an overly decadent fruit bomb, keep on moving, nothing to see here. But. If you desire a rich, red-fruit dominant, yet still earthy Pinot that remains true to the variety (at least in the New World definition), then this is your wine. Whoa. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
The following wines all were a part of my annual Pinot Noir tasting…
2016 Apolloni Pinot Noir Estate Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $40. Good dark cherry fruit on the nose, with some earth and hints of spice. Right off the bat on Day 2, this is phenomenal. Great fruit, balance, acidity, lengthy finish. Whoa. Excellent to Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2016 Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir Machado Sta. Rita Hills, CA: Retail $80. Rich and loaded with fruit. Strawberry and eucalyptus. Fantastic wine. Whoa. Outstanding. 94-96 Points.
2015 Brittan Vineyards Pinot Noir Cygnus Block Brittan Vineyards Willamette Valley, McMinnville, OR: Retail $65. Stewed and certainly seems “old” the palate is fantastic. This is right up my alley. Certainly a whoa. Think “Corton with even better fruit.” Outstanding. 94-96 Points.
2016 Cambria Pinot Noir Clone 667 Barbara’s Santa Maria Valley, CA: Retail $80. A lovely nose of black cherry pie with a sliver of vanilla ice cream on the side. Wonderful balance, with luscious fruit, nice level of tartness, slight tannins, lovely finish. Whoa. Excellent to Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2017 Etude Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills, CA: Retail $50. More menthol and eucalyptus here (Sta Rita?). good fruit on the palate, but in a subdued way. This is particularly good. Whoa. Excellent to Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2017 Failla Pinot Noir Bjornson Vineyard Eola – Amity Hills, OR: Retail $45. Lovely nose, clove, cherry. Whoa. This is another winner in my book: fruit, depth, acid, Whoa. Outstanding. 94-96 Points.
2017 Kendall-Jackson Pinot Noir Vintner’s Reserve California, CA: Retail $20. Rich and lovely both on the nose and the palate this is another winner. Whoa. Excellent. 93-95 Points.
2017 Maggy Hawk Pinot Noir Jolie Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $66. Great dark, cherry, a touch of vanilla, and a hint of pine. On the palate, this is a legitimate whoa: fruit? Check. Depth? Intrigue? Check. Check. Whoa. Outstanding. 94-96 Points.
2016 Saffron Fields Vineyard Pinot Noir Dijon Clones Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton, OR: Retail $60. A bit dirtier, with minerality at the forefront on the nose along with some funk. Lovely fruit, nice acidity on the backend, good tannins. Lovely. Excellent to Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2017 Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Gap’s Crown Petaluma Gap, CA: Retail $70. Lovely nose of fresh cherry and just a hint of earth. Whoa on the nose. Fruity and tasty on the palate—particularly lovely. Excellent. 93-95 Points.
2017 Siduri Pinot Noir Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $35. A tad meaty with dark fruit and a bit of earth. Another lovely wine: great fruit, balance, spice. Yum. Excellent to Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2016 Stoller Pinot Noir Helen’s Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills, OR: Retail $75. Darker fruit, a bit of funk, some red fruit. Really tasty, plenty of yum. Excellent to Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
My Red Wine of the Year
As I said last week, this is the first time, I believe, that I have singled out one wine as a “Wine of the Year” but this year it seemed appropriate. There were three real contenders for this “honor.” The Simonsig Redhill Pinotage (I never thought I could love a Pinotage), the Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Noir (the suggested retail is 20 bucks, but it is under $12 at my local grocery store), and the ultimate “winner.”
2013 Herdade do Mouchão Tinto Alentejo: Retail $60. 100% Alicante Bouschet. It has been a couple of years since I visited Mouchão, which was one of the more impressive wineries on my journey through Alentejo. The wines were fantastic and the ruggedly handsome owner, Iain Reynolds Richardson, was gracious and giving. Alicante Bouschet is practically synonymous with Mouchão, and this is a wonderful expression. It took a while to open (as in about 20 hours), but once it did. Whoa. I could not help but feeling as I was committing infanticide on this already six-year-old wine, wondering what this will be like in another decade (or more). Now? Inky-dark, juicy, luscious, this is a big boy, with plenty of power. But there is a flood of finesse behind that heft. This is perhaps the magic of Mouchão as it provides oodles of interest for those searching either intense fruit or depth. Or both. Whoa. Outstanding. 94-96 Points.