What We Have Been Drinking—2021 in Review, My Top Ten Red Wines from the Cellar

Last week, I gave my top ten Red, White, and Sparkling Wines of the year out of all the samples that I reviewed during the 2021 calendar year. This week, I turn my focus on those memorable wines that I pulled from my cellar over the past 12 months. These are wines that were not sent as samples—in most cases, I actually paid for these wines (although a few have been given as gifts). Yesterday, I presented my top whites, today, here are the reds.

2007 1789 Wines Pinot Noir Single Vineyard, Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $60. Under cork. My wife wanted Pinot. I knew what she meant–she wanted an American wine, on the young side (read: no older than 2019), and something with a bit of gravitas. Well, with this wine I got at least two out of three. Sure, it is a bit “older” but by most accounts from those in the know, 2007 was a “classic” Willamette Valley Pinot, a bit light in color, slightly reserved, but still fantastic fruit–more dark than red–and my wife nailed it: clove. Spicy, fruity, complex, this is winemaker Isabelle Dutartre at her best as this wine, 14 years out, is absolutely amazing. Outstanding. 95 Points.

2011 Amelle Zinfandel Mori Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $25. 100% Zinfandel. Well, I can’t believe that it has been the better part of two years since I have had a bottle of this wine. Wait, yes I can: my wife pooh-poohs just about any wine that I grab from the cellar that has more than 36 days of age on it. We had friends over, however, and I pulled this out for two reasons. First, it challenges the conception of “Zinfandel” as, given this was grown in a cool climate, more closely resembles a Pinot Noir than its jammy, big cousins from other regions. Second, this continues to age beautifully. There is virtually no sediment and no noticeable tannins, but the brilliant acidity is still alive and kicking, protecting all that lovely red berry fruit, spice, and considerable verve. Three bottles to go. How long should I wait? This is off the charts delicious and might be still improving. Whoa and Yowza. Outstanding. 95 Points.

2009 Argyle Pinot Noir Cowhouse, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $65. Under screw cap. Another year and (almost) a half since I have last tried this wine, and it is doing magnificently, thank you very much. Light crimson in the glass with some orangish bricking at the rim, this wine is still singing nearly a dozen year past its vintage. An alluring nose of vanilla cola, sarsaparilla, and even ginger. Whoa. The palate is loaded with dark cherry even though the nose was utterly lacking in fruit, but there is also an intense tartness, some leathery characteristics, and a finish that lasts for several minutes. Either my earlier notes missed the boat, the previous wines had not had this magic, or I am going (at least slightly) insane. I guess I will opt for door #2? Whoa. And whoa again. Outstanding. 95 Points.

2008 Brick House Pinot Noir Boulder Block, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $50. I bought a couple of bottles of this wine way back in 2010 when I was out in the Willamette Valley for the first time for the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration. I rented a car and did a mini-Miles recreation, visiting some of the pillars of the Willamette wine scene: Penner-Ash, Patricia Greene, Bergström, Adelsheim, I could go on… One of the best, though, was a tiny outpost in Newberg that sourced from all over the Valley, Brick House. I doubt that the winery is at the top of many a weekend aficionado’s list of “must-sees” but for those “in-the-know” (I stumbled upon the winery almost coincidentally), Brick House is a (the?) mover and shaker in the Valley. Thus, I bought a few bottles and forgot about them…until now. I guess this is on the dark side of Pinot in the glass, if only slightly so. Whoa. Just taking in the aromas that waft beyond the glass is worthy of a whoa or seven. Holy cow. Blackberry, black cherry, plum, violet, yowza. The palate is a deviation from the nose in the sense that it exceeds the close to the euphoric nose if that is even possible. Subtle, but nuanced fruit, with multiple layers of expression. Whoa. This wine celebrates the Burgundian heritage of the variety while embracing the New World (i.e., Oregonian) capabilities of the grape. Whoa. Again. I realize that few can experience a 12-year-old Oregonian wine, but when it is made this well? It encourages all to at least try. Outstanding. 95 Points.

2009 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, CA: Retail $50. Well, after a good six years on the shelf between the previous two bottles of this wine that I tasted, I only waited another 13 months to open the next. Whoa. While I thought the bottle I tasted in 2020 was beyond stellar, this bottle, believe it or not, was even better. Still incredibly fruity with tart cherry, bright raspberry, and even some hints of cassis on the nose. The palate is nothing short of magical. Whoa. Rich fruit, incredible balance from a zingy tartness, an earth soul, and a lengthy finish. Yowza. With every bottle of Clos Pepe I open, I experience such joy but also incredible sorrow. I know both Wes Hagen, the winemaker, and the vineyard have moved on, but I have a few dozen bottles of magic left. Outstanding. 95 Points.

2014 Goodkin Vineyards Merlot Estate Reserve, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail?? 100% Dry Creek Merlot. It has been a minute since I have cracked a bottle of this wine and it was a bit of a sad moment. This was a wine made by the vineyard owner, but only meant for personal consumption. Since I “helped” with the bottling, I was gifted a case and this is already the ninth bottle I’ve popped (why this is only the third note I’ve written is a very good question). I have recounted dozens of times my ambivalence towards Merlot (it’s not as bold as Cab but not as complex as Pinot). But. This. Merlot. I’ve driven, ridden, walked the ten acres of this vineyard countless times and while I’d stop short of saying “I *know* this vineyard” we are at least familiar faces. Fruity and surprisingly spicy on the nose with verve and gravitas, yowza. The palate is both fruity and elegant with blue and black fruit (plum, blackberry) predominant, an intense tartness on the mid-palate, and a finish that encourages me to hold onto the remaining three bottles for quite some time. Whoa. 94. Outstanding. 94 Points.

2016 Larsen Projekt Grenache, North Coast, CA: Retail $30. Under screwcap. I bought six bottles of this wine over two years ago from the proprietor, whom I would consider a buddy of mine, and this is the fourth bottle we have cracked, nearly a year after the previous, but much of the same. In. A. Very. Good. Way. Big dark fruit. Many berries. Whoa. Yes, this seems to be better since the last opening, and while it was great then…now? Yowza. Great fruit, spice, a bit of earth, this wine is really fantastic. Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.

2007 Littorai Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $65. Way back in 2010, on a visit to the winery (well before I started my blog), we visited Littorai as it was one of my bucket list Pinot producers. While I did not meet Ted Lemon, we did hear the story of biodynamics and sustainability that were relatively new concepts at the time. We also tasted through a slew of wines and settled on this Hirsch Vineyard Pinot to bring home. David Hirsch was another bucket-list kind of guy and it seemed like a convergence of man-crushes in one bottle (it helped that the wine was incredible). Now, more than a decade later, it is still absolutely singing. Fairly light in color, but rich in aromas: Bing cherry, dark earth, a bit of spice. Whoa. The palate is rich, but in a decidedly reserved (yes, Ted Lemon kinda) way. The fruit, acidity, depth, all come together rather seamlessly into one harmonious whole. Yowza. The kind folk here on CT say this wine should have been consumed by 2018. Um, no. Still going strong, thank you very much. Outstanding. 95 Points.

2008 Vineyard of Pasterick Syrah, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $50. Big Ass Bottle. As I was perusing my cellar this particularly chilly February evening, I noticed this Pasterick Syrah and its rather striking “drink by” status here on Cellar Tracker (2019, for those following along at home). Upon opening, however, I knew I was in for a treat. Dark and brooding in the glass with sexy and spicy dark berry fruit (blackberry, cassis, black cherry), oodles of spice (clove, cardamom, black pepper), and a touch of anise, this is straight up gangbusters. The palate is more of the same, only ratcheted up to eleven: fruit, spice, layers of depth, weight, Yowza and Whoa. I would like to characterize Gerry Pasterick as a friend but tasting this wine? I am fairly certain that I am not worthy.  Outstanding. 95 Points.

2007 Skewis Pinot Noir Reserve, Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $48. My son was having his friends over for a poker tournament for his 18th birthday and I was in need of something good (those of you who have had eight teenagers screaming in your kitchen know what I mean). This was the call. Whoa Nellie. I last had this wine in 2015 and based on the comments and suggested consumption date, I should have had this second bottle (and the third that is still in my cellar) shortly after the first. Um no. There is no doubt that this wine is drinking better than that first bottle a handful of years ago. Rich black cherry on the nose with earth, leather, spice (cinnamon?), and a whole lot of Whoa. The palate, as hard as it is to believe, is even better. Fruity? Yes, but also quite layered and a little bit rustic–what always identifies Hank and Maggie’s wines for me. Holy cow, this has really improved and has convinced me to hang on to the last bottle for a spell (although a ton of convincing was not required–I have known for some time that Skewis wines can age for just about as long as you want). Outstanding. 95 Points.

My Red Wine of the Year

Yesterday, I wrote that it was really difficult to chose a white wine of the year, but that was a piece of cake compared to this choice. In the end, I opted for this beautiful wine made by Georges Dubœuf in Beaujolais. It has been two years to the day that he died, and I felt that there was some serendipity there.

2014 Château des Capitans Juliénas, Beaujolais, France: Retail $25. 100% Gamay. I was in Austin with the family at a restaurant downtown. I ordered a bottle of Jermann Where Dreams Chardonnay from the Venezia-Giulia region in Italy, and the server, who was the only one working with about 50 diners in the place, was overwhelmed. I saw her scurrying around the restaurant, looking for our wine, which was fruitless. I offered to step in. She acquiesced. I scoured the place but never found the great white whale, er Chard. I did find this bottle of Juliénas, however. The aforementioned waitron told me that the wine was not in the system and asked me how much the wine cost retail–she would then just add 40% as our cost (that’s $35 for the math-challenged). Holy cow. Owned and produced by Georges DuBœuf, this wine is consistently my favorite Juliénas if not my favorite wine from the entire region of Beaujolais. While 2014 was no 2015 (often called the “vintage of the century”), this was still stellar. Rich dark red fruit (slightly stewed, but ever-so-slightly), black pepper, and just a hint of green pepper. Whoa. The palate is just gorgeous. Rich fruit, great acidity, plenty of verve. Lovely. Outstanding. 94 Points.



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 Beaujolais, Gamay, Grenache, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Wine, Zinfandel. Bookmark the permalink.

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