Against my better judgment (which is usually bad, thus here I go), here are the top sparkling, rosé, and dessert 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 come 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).
NV Martini & Rossi Asti Sweet Collezione Speciale, Asti DOCG: Retail $25. 100% Moscato Bianco. Another in the Collezione Speciale collection from Martini & Rossi, where the long-time producers are looking to achieve the highest levels of quality, and here they have. Fruity and tropical, yet refined. The Muscato is really at its best here with intense floral notes (yellow rose and elderflower). The palate is sweet, but far, far, from unctuous with great fruit and very nice acidity. This might be the best Asti I’ve had. Excellent. 92-94 Points.
2012 Moët & Chandon Champagne Grand Vintage: Retail $75. 41% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir, 26% Pinot Meunier, Dossage 5 g/l. This is the current and 74th vintage release from the venerable house, which produced its first vintage wine in 1842. A brilliant light straw in the glass with mostly tree fruit (green apple, pear, peach) coming through. There is also a nuttiness, not as yeasty as I usually expect from a vintage, leading to a quite tart palate. As with most young vintage wines, I feel this is a bit nervous now and could use a bit more time in the bottle to settle down. If you are to drink it now, serve it at more of a cellar temperature (10-13°C or 50-55°F), that is where more aromas and flavors come out. And when they do, almost a whoa. Now? Excellent. 91-93 Points. Give it 5+ years (I would hold it for ten easy)? Outstanding potential. 93-95 Points.
The following wines all were a part of my annual Sparkling Wine tasting…
NV Gruet Winery Brut Blanc de Noirs, New Mexico: Retail $17. 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. More golden here. With minerality and flint. Yum. Another winner. Close to a whoa. Tart and lovely. Excellent. 92-94 Points.
2015 Stoller Pinot Noir Legacy LaRue’s Brut Rose, Dundee Hills, OR: Retail $65. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. A bit oxidized and golden. Caramel and oxidized on the palate. An older champagne style. Excellent. 92-94 Points.
NV Cast Wines Blanc de Noirs, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $34. 45% Pinot Noir, 42% Chardonnay, 13% Pinot Meunier. Either this is a really light rosé or a bit dark brut. Flinty and a bit of red fruit. Really nice on the palate with delicate green apple and yeast. Whoa. Yum yum yum. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2018 Gassier Côtes de Provence Esprit Gassier Night Edition, France: Retail $25. 55% Grenache, 25% Cinsault, 20% Syrah. Although the labels, bottles, and color of the two wines are similar (even indiscernible), this wine is richer and, dare I say, “darker” on the nose than the “Day” version: dark berry fruit (boysenberry, wild strawberry), and it is not as floral, either, but I picked up some red rose petals on the back end. The two wines do share near impeccable balance, with a tartness that really holds both wines together. Originally, I thought I liked the “Day” version better, but as this warmed a few degrees, it became more complex, particularly on the finish. This gets a Whoa. Excellent. 92-94 Points.
The following wines all were a part of my annual American True Rosé tasting…
2018 Pedroncelli Rosé Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $17. 100% Zinfandel. Bright pink, with a fruity, sweet nose, Really nice on the palate, fantastic fruit, great acidity, wonderful. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2017 Kokomo Grenache Rosé North Coast, CA: Retail $20. 100% Grenache. Pale orange. Nice fruit on the nose, strawberry, peach. Nice and tart on the palate, luscious. Delicious. Whoa. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2014 Castel Sallegg Moscato Rosa, Sudtirol – Alto Adige, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy: Retail $40 (375 ml). 100% Moscato Rosa. Since I started writing my blog over seven years ago, I had three rules that I don’t think I have violated: publish at least three times a week (but only if it is quality work), don’t use overly colorful language, and if someone sends a bottle of wine, taste it in a timely manner. Well, unless 20 months is “timely” it seems as though I may have slipped up on that last edict. I don’t drink a ton of dessert wine (or really any at all), but that is no excuse. I mean I have had this so long even the communications group that sent me the wine is no longer in business. As for the wine, I am pretty sure this is my first Moscato Rosa, and that is too bad since this is delicious. It is decidedly not pink, and not even a light red–it’s fairly dark but still translucent with a floral, juicy, and sweet nose. Sweet, but not cloying at all, with fantastic fruit and wonderful acidity. the finish lingers and entices. This is wonderful, and at only 11%, not a night ender. Excellent. 92-94 Points.
2000 Osborne Porto Vintage, Portugal: Retail $75. Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca. I don’t have a ton of experience with Port, particularly vintage, but this is certainly solid. The nose of dark berries (blackberry, cassis), anise, and floral notes. This is certainly a pleasant quaff but by no means retrospective or deep. Solid for a Thursday night. 88 Points. I had only had a sip of this wine upon opening and literally put a cork in it. Three weeks later, I decided to have another go. Whoa. Blackberry pie baked over an open fire, with a bit of heat on the nose, but the palate? Whoa. Rich, lush, sweet (but not unctuous), complex, and that is all before the finish. Whoa. I do not drink a ton of port, but this is near the top of those that I have tried. Excellent to Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
My “Other” Wine of the Year
As I said these past two weeks, 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. In this “other” category, there were several stellar wines and it is difficult to compare across wine “types”, but one wine clearly stood out….
2015 Donnafugata Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryé, Sicily, Italy: Retail $35 (375 ml). 100% Zibibbo (Muscat of Alexandria). Bias. In just about every arena that requires judgment, there is bias. And I have a ton of it here. Donnafugata has been very kind to me and my blog, and I even had the chance to visit there last year. Part of the visit included a trip to the island of Pantelleria, where Donnafugata grows the Zibbibo (what a fun word to say) for this wine. The island? Holy cow. Wow. Bucket list. The island is astounding. But get this: the wine might be better (OK, not really, but I needed a segue). Incredible apricot dominates the nose to the point that one might think this is actually an apricot wine. The palate? Whoa. Certainly sweet, but oh my goodness: rich, tart, unctuous, this might verge on life-changing. Outstanding to Outstanding Plus. 95-97 Points.