It’s that time of year again for the highly anticipated ‘best of wine’ lists from around the web. At least, I anticipate them. I love reading what people enjoyed throughout the year. Regionally, we each have different wines available to us and over time we align ourselves with the palates and preferences of people we read and friends we interact with.
In 2010 I had the privilege of tasting over 500 different wines and reviewing 168 on this blog. 2011 was a bit more challenging from the writing standpoint but I still managed to taste over 300 wines and review 70 (some of which never made the virtual pages of this site).
See last year’s lists:
- Top 10 Value Wines of 2010
- Top 10 Wines of 2010
- Best of the Wine Web 2010
- For a fun look at the 5 Best Wines You’ll Ever Have – VISIT HERE
2008 Wawawai Canyon Ittero ali Rosse (Washington)
This proprietary blend contains fruit from the three growing regions that Wawawai Canyon uses in their wine. The blend is 62% Syrah, 25% Carmenere, and 13% Petit Verdot. In the glass the wine is very dark and has shimmering jewel tones on the outer rim. Immediately aromas of cedar, campfire smoke, dark raspberries and licorice jump out of the glass. This is one of those wines where the aroma is as intoxicating as the drink. In the mouth the wine is very elegant and thick. I get immediate flavors of dark chocolate covered raspberry fruit, hints of smoke, a black licorice and anise spice as well. The finish is smooth and lingers for several seconds. At $29, the Ittero ali Rosse is a beautiful blend that delivers on all levels. Once the bottle was empty, I found myself wishing I lived among the wheat fields of the Palouse. 4/5
2002 Breaux Vineyards Merlot (Virginia)
Okay, I have to admit. I drank way too much of this wine. Most of you know I’m a Merlot lover, when done right – and this one is done right. It is most likely the age of the wine (going on 10 years) but this was without a doubt the BEST Merlot I had the entire visit to the commonwealth. The wine showed a typical browning from the age and was moderately translucent. LOVED the deep, slightly burnt cherries and dark chocolate that emanated from the glass. For a wine of such age the tannins were still relatively thick and the finish showed a strong amount of fruit and almonds. This is a library wine, so getting it might be a challenge. 4/5
Virginia wine ranks high on my overall experiences of the year. The quality and beauty of the area make it a must tour region of the US. Look for spectacular things from this up and coming wine producing state in the next 10 years.
Chile’s flagship grape, previously mistaken for Merlot, shines bright in this wine. The 12 months in French oak are not overpowering and offer the perfect balance of fruit and thickness. After a brief decanting the wine loses the notable burnt rubber aroma and gives way to a beautiful minty blackberry aroma. Smelling this wine was almost as enjoyable as drinking it. The wine is dark and intense in the glass. A slight herbaciousness on the nose gives way to a very complex flavor of red fruit, baking spice and thick plum. A light tannin joins the medium finish on the back end. I often describe wine as being ‘one note wonders’ or just offering ‘two dimensions.’ This Carmenere is the full package of aroma and complex flavor. Again, under $20, scores a strong 4/5.
07 Trapiche Icons Malbec (Argentina)
Taken from a March Madness style wine competition…
The Icons came out ready to dominate. With a bottle twice the weight of the Falling Star it seemed as if the wine didn’t even matter. The 07 Trapiche showed its power with 18 months of aging in new French Oak and amazing aromas of perfume, espresso, and spice. The wine was thick in the mouth without being overbearing. “Oh my god, this is good,” was the comment of the night. 4/5
Various Wines from Nectar Tasting Room (Washington)
I made a commitment early on to not post my reviews and scores on the wines at Nectar Tasting Room. I don’t want to show favoritism and I am more interested in YOU discovering what you like about the wines when you come in. Over the year, however, there have been wines that stood tall for my preference. Below is a list (one from each winery) – stop by and try them for yourself.
- 08 Anelare Syrah ($39) – Columbia Valley Syrah was my wine of the year at Nectar – best described as an elegant lady full of lush fruit and a hint of sassy spice.
- 08 Hard Row to Hoe Primitivo ($30) – A big full body of jammy strawberry and spice.
- 01 Northwest Cellars Brut ($31) – An amazing dry brut sparkling wine that stands up against bubbly twice the price.
- 07 Skylite Cellars Reserve Malbec ($49) – An intense mouthful of flavor including blueberry, dark fruits and tobacco.
- 07 Terra Blanca Onyx ($52) – Big traditional Bordeaux style blend from Red Mountain. Loads of fruit and structure sure to cellar well for 20+ years.
08 Mer Soleil Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (California)
I say Chardonnay, you say _______? This statement often polarizes wine drinkers. Many have a hate for the grape and others drink ONLY oaked Chardonnay (ala Kendall Jackson). The Mer Soleil Barrel Fermented Chardonnay provides a very good balance with the oak seeming very light handed. Definitely a thicker viscosity in the mouth feel with great aroma of banana peel, pencil lead, popcorn. Rarely would I spend $32 on a Chardonnay but this is one of the few that has enough variety in the flavor profile that would cause me to part with my cash. 4/5
06 Benessere Phenomenon (California)
With vines planted in 1923 from Collins Vineyards this Zinfandel lives up to what California Zin is known for. The grapes undergo an 23 day extended maceration to slowly extract the flavor before lumbering for 15 months in French and American oak barrels. With a deep color and flecks of jewel toned purple at the rim, the Zin is moderately robust with aromas of blackberry and earth along with tobacco. The palate reminds Ben of cherry Shesha and me of flowers and strawberry jam. If you like fruit forward Zinfandel then this is a wine you will definitely enjoy. The modest price point of $32 makes this an attainable treat too. 4/5
08 Owen Roe DuBrul Vineyards Cabernet (Washington)
This wine was tasted during the 2011 Cabernet Day festivities among several great wines. Produced in Oregon from single vineyard Washington fruit, the Cabernet was extremely dark, extracted and fruit forward. A complexity arose out of the fruit that demonstrated great characteristics of dried plum, tobacco, and a lingering cherry fruit intermixed with the right touch of oak and cedar. At $70+ this is a big boy wine that delivers on all fronts. Drink now and be impressed, be patient for 10 years and be wowed. 4+/5
07 Col Solare Blend (Washington)
Col Solare is one of Chateau St. Michelle Wine Estates premium brands. The winery and vineyard is on the high point of Red Mountain AVA just outside of Kennewick, WA. Col Solare is a partnership of CSMWE and Tuscany’s Marchesi Anteroni. I visited this facility in December and was blown away at the beauty and quality of their Cabernet based blends. The wine is dark and brooding and offers up aromas of dark cocoa, coffee, dark cherry and hints of black tea. The mouth feel is strong and intense with layers of complexity. This is easily one of the better Washington Cabernet based blends on the market that showcase the perfection of the 2007 growing season. 75% Cab, 20% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc; $75, 4+/5
08 Cayuse God Only Knows (Washington)
The “God Only Knows” wine is 90% estate Grenache and 10% ‘god only knows’ according to the web site. The color is a light ruby rust color that is about 60% transparent. The sniff reveals aromas of violets and other floral fragrance. When the wine was first opened, there was a hotness to the nose along with an odd steely aroma. After about 30-40 minutes that fragrance was gone and additional aromas of cranberry and raspberry jumped out of the glass. Hints of clove were also present.
The first sip left me pretty disappointed. The flavor structure was disjointed and the finish left something to be desired. We poured the wine into a decanter and let it sit for about 30 minutes while we chatted about the upcoming holiday. A second effort started to reveal the true magic of this wine. An elegant layer of fruit lays across your tongue like a blanket of velvet that gives way to a rustic earthiness and lingering finish that includes raw meat (trust me it’s good), and silky cherries. In short, God Only Knows is a phenomenal wine…now, I know. This wine is deserving of a very rare 5/5 score.
Tags: Top picks