These are my top ten most memorable and enjoyable wines from the past year. The only common thread in this eclectic group is that most would be good stumpers in a blind tasting. In no apparent order:
Valdespino Coliseo Amontillado VORS Sherry
I’ve heard that this wine can split the room in a group of sherry aficionados in fits of impassioned argument. I’m not sure about splitting the room but I know that its ultra concentrated and powerful aroma can actually fill a decent sized room. Perhaps this is why chaos ensues – babies crying, strong men fighting, etc – it’s simply impossible to escape when poured. And it doesn’t finish (my note:∞ - I can still taste it) It’s been both kicked up a notch BAM!
and goes to 11
. It's extreme but also extremely delicious Amontillado in all its oxidized nutty gloriousness. Impossibly, it retains its lightness and elegance. It’s not like an Oloroso, people! (calm down Steve) No! All of the disbelievers out of the room! My only complaint is that it makes classics like Gonzales Byass Del Duque seem dilute in comparison. I could see easily see bricking up Fortunado
for a cask of it. Amontillado! Amontillado!
2005 Gamay Sans Tra-la-la Domaine de la Garrelière
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like a lot of Tra-la-la in my Gamay. Kind of like Pete Rose used to be with his Aqua Velva
. Good Beaujolais (Cru or not) would be my choice if I had to drink the same wine every day for the rest of my life. Why? Because it’s like good bread: delicious, comfortable and reassuringly wonderful. Funny enough this Touraine Gamay was nothing like that. And being from a biodynamic producer, it wasn’t a banana bubble-gum Beaujolais Nouveau either. Instead, it was unusually spicy, robustly cedary and gushing with red fruits, expertly made in perfect balance. Wow! Garrelière
is my current favorite producer – their Touraine Chenin and Sauv. Blanc are equally amazing. François and Pascale Plouzeau of Chinon fame run this unique vineyard.
2003 Oremus Mandolas Furmint
More than other dry Hungarian Furmints, Mandolas actually tastes like a dry version of Tokaji Aszu (zero puttonyos?). My friend Michael doesn’t get Tokaji Aszu and gets the predicable response “maybe you haven’t had enough puttonyos!” Perhaps he’s had too many and needs to try this puttonyo-free Tokaji. It reminds me a little of a good Savienneres in its structure, spice and deep golden color but is more antiqued, exotic, coconut and dried apricots. Excellent, unusual and very good with baked Halibut.
2004 Mercurey, Vieilles Vignes, Francois Raquillet
2004 was a mixed year in Burgundy and there are plenty of weedy disappointments around but this was not one of them. It’s almost New World in weight but clearly Burgundian in character. Very juicy red fruits – cranberry, red currant – but also earthy with a huge dollop of horseradish mixed in the fall leaves. Neville Sparks at his excellent shop, Wine Etcetera in Midhurst suggested this wine my mother in law’s 70th birthday bash. It was amazing with the roast pheasant and a great deal at £14.95 = $28.00. For what it's worth, it was also one of the wines blind tasted in last year's Master of Wine examination. I don’t know of a New World Pinot that could touch it at that price – I would like to think that Oregon (my home state) could but sadly no.
2005 La Spinetta Bricco Quaglia Moscato d’Asti
I defy you to find anyone – from non-wine drinker to expert sommelier – that doesn’t like Moscato d’Asti. It’s the kind of wine guaranteed to put a smile on your face. But since its secondary fermentation (where the bubbles come from) occurs in large tanks and not individual bottles like Champagne it probably will never be taken seriously. Still there is something seriously elegant about the Bricco Quaglia. Perhaps because it has finer bubbles and is a little drier than most that reveals its more complex character. It’s definitely more Bill Murray than Adam Sandler.
2006 Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc
was a big surprise. It’s by the most famous and acclaimed South African wine producer but must be produced by the boatload since you’ll find it pretty much everywhere in the UK – every supermarket, everywhere. That’s not usually a recipe for success – think Mouton Cadet – and probably why I was reluctant to try it. But this is an excellent wine. Think New Zealand Sauv. Blanc but with basketload of delicious perfectly ripe fresh figs. People who don’t like the asparagus flavors often in NZ Sauv. Blanc will be happy to find them here replaced by figs. It also has 10% Semillon added ala Bordeaux Blanc. Delicious and an excellent stumper for a "where is this from?" blind tasting.
NV Gilles Azzoni Le Raisin et l’Ange Homage a Robert Vin de Table
A truly surprising wine that could make anyone a convert to natural winemaking. We had this wine this fall at the Autour d’un Verre
in Paris. It’s an unusual blend of Grenache and Merlot that pretty much goes against everything you were every taught about wine. It’s cloudy (but beautifully garnet in color) and has a slight spritz of carbonation - it’s as if it could go off at any minute but spicy, soft, earthy and delicious.
1990 Drouhin Mazi-Chambertin GC
Tasted at last year’s Wine Century Club annual meeting, this was an excellent wine in an excellent year perfectly aged. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a bunch of 1990 Burgundy in my cellar so it was a real treat. In the immortal words of Jeff Grossman: “ gorgeous, red fruit and velvet, the components of the wine are all in balance, an example of why folks buy Burgundy, have I said “gorgeous” yet? …Excellent, Excellent, Excellent
2005 Bentalda Bizkaiko Txakolina “Gorrondona“
Another superb wine served at the Century club meeting by Chris “King of the Veeks” Wilford. The only other red Txakoi (the tx is pronounced “ch”) I’ve ever had was on a trip to Basque country but wasn’t memorable like this one. Dr. Pepper was my (and Elvis’) favorite soft drink as a kid and a very similar set of flavors run through this wine. Yes, it must be the singularly most elegant expression of Dr. Pepper in the world. Grossman again: spicy, herbal nose, lightweight and silky, like a good franc …Excellent
2001 Alois Kracher Scheurebe TBA
Wine Century buddy Maj Capps generously shared this amazing dessert wine with me and fellow Centurions Henry Richardson and Tom Finigan last fall in DC. He got it at the vineyard from the great man himself who sadly died on December 4th. The acidity might have been just a little too zippy given the fact that we all had very little food that evening but the tangerine peel, candied lemon and Earl grey tea flavors in this beautiful golden wine were breathtaking. How do you say Scherebe
I look forward to another interesting year of drinking and hope you enjoy the same.
Can I add the my most memorable white of 2007? > Domaine Leflaive 1996 Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes > Intensity, complexity, length and above all else balance. A luxurious but deft wine that is drinking beautifully in its middle age.
Runners up > Beaucastel 1997 CDP Blanc, Suavia 2004 Saove Monte Carbonare (introduced to me by Donato Scotti, chef/owner La Strada, Palo Alto).