So not to delude myself into believing that my Top 50 will in any way rival the pomp and circumstance of Wine Spectator’s soon-to-be-revealed Top 100, coming out Monday, November 22nd, but my list isn’t a big bunch of politics, it’s merely a list of the wines that kicked my ass the most over the past year. And it has grown from 40 to 50 this year due mainly to the increase in the amount of wines I kept track of over the past 12 months.
This year has been the first I have really compiled tasting notes, and my best guess is that I’ve come close to around one thousand wine reviews, so in some ways, I can really understand how difficult it was for Spectator to put their Top 100 together; they review thousands upon thousands of wines each year.
Exactly how did I arrive at my Top 50, then? I chiefly used the rank of “Amazing” to start the list, and in just a matter of simple subjectivity, I ranked them into this set of my (heavy emphasis on the word “my”) best 50 wines of 2010. It was really, really hard, because there were many, many wines that impressed me – many of which I could only place in the context of the voluptuous Christina Hendricks (forgive my weak moment of female objectifying). And in looking at the final 50, I was a bit shocked to find that there were NO Australian wines, and only 2 French. I don’t really know why. I did try some amazing wines from Chris Ringland and Hewitson, as well as one of my favorite Bordeaux producers Chateau St.-Georges. And the weirdest things were all the Napa Cabs that landed in here – I have not been known to be big on Napa reds. Yet when it all shook out, this is the way it played out (in descending order):
50. Hacienda Araucano Clos de Lolol 2008. One of three wines I tasted during the last Wines of Chile Blogger event back in October, this amazing red blend from the Colchagua Valley in Chile is incredible. Syrah, Cab, Carmenere and Cab Franc. I only wish this was available to us.
49. Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville 2006. Never let it be said that I can’t find something cool from a winery that has unfortunately become synonymous with grocery store wines. This stunning Cab was a remarkable find, brought in courtesy of our good friend Dr. Gonzo. It sold out as fast as it came in.
48. Domaine Bachelet-Monnot Maranges Rouge La Fussiere 2007. Our friends at Vanguard out of Columbus are bringing this beauty into the area, a remarkable single-vineyard red Burgundy that doesn’t break the bank.
47. Marques de Murrieta Rioja Reserva Ygay 2005. Sheena, Queen of the Covington jungle, brought this in with the rep from MMD. A very impressive Rioja, I hadn’t had this one in quite some time (I think Murrieta was still with Wm. Grant then).
46. Emiliana Coyam 2007. The 2nd wine from the Wines of Chile Blogger tasting, this blend of Syrah, Cab, Carmenere, Petite Verdot, Merlot and Mourvedre really set me for a loop. Emiliana is one of the biggest organic producers in Chile, and this powerful red is definitely a jewel in their biodynamic crown.
45. Bodegas Benegas Lynch Meritage 2005. An absolutely amazing Bordeaux blend from winemaker Federico Benegas Lynch and enologist Michel Rolland, I would have to say this is one of the biggest surprises I’ve stumbled upon this year. Brought to us by local distributor Martin Rezejl of Martin & Co.
44. Glenelly Grand Vin de Glenelly Stellenbosch 2007. Our local Cape Classics rep Zingo brought this in, a brand new winery represented by the preeminent importer of South African wines. Shiraz, Cab, Merlot and Petite Verdot come together for a seriously kick ass red blend. One of the best values on this list!
43. Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay Mount Carmel 2008. I find it unbelievably hard to like Chardonnay, much less love one, mainly because it seems that every winemaker makes a Chardonnay and most of them are relatively the same style – flabby, oaky, and boring. Greg Brewer dropped in to show off his wines, and this one was very fruit-forward, with subtle minerality and amazing balance.
42. St. Supery Cabernet Sauvignon Dollarhide Vineyard 2005. The irony here is that I am still a bit peeved at St. Supery for dropping the ball on October’s Twitter Tasting with our store, that doesn’t stop me from including this extraordinary single vineyard Cabernet into the mix. It just showed remarkably well when our friend and RNDC/Cumberland rep Jen brought it by.
41. Burly Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006. I am a huge fan of the Burly Cab, and the 2006 vintage continues to win my support. I tasted this at the Cincinnati International Wine Show, and was as impressed with this vintage as with the 2005.
40. Waters Interlude Columbia Valley 2008. New pal Jaime from the Sorting Table introduced us to this amazing blend from, you guessed it, Washington State. The honeymoon is definitely not over, as I was once again impressed by this blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot.
39. Pagos del Moncayo Garnacha Campo de Borja 2008. So the Grenaches of the Campo de Borja region in Spain continue to rock, with this first of two from my good friends at Axial Wines and Kevin and Kyle and all at San Francisco Wine Exchange. Rich, dense and multifaceted. A beautiful wine!
38. Seghesio Zinfandel Rockpile 2008. Seghesio is tough to beat when it comes to Zinfandel, and this stunning example from the venerable Rockpile Vineyard.
37. Honig Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2007. Michael Honig has been a friend for a long time, and I have always been a fan of his wares. This particular vintage of his Napa Cab though, was just an out-of-the-park home run.
36. Farina Amarone della Valpolicella 2005. I renewed my long love affair with Italian wines this year, for no other reason than that is the way the pendulum swings in my cranium. At RNDC’s Trade Show, I tried this awesome Amarone at the Banville & Jones table. One of the best I’ve had in a long time.
35. San Patrignano Montepirolo IGT 2005. On the recent road trip to DC with Dr. Gonzo, we met Simona Rossi from San Patrignano, and tried the Montepirolo – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy. This Bordeaux blend, tasted blind, would be on par with Chateau Lynch Bages or Chateau Leoville-Barton.
34. Airfield Estates Bombshell Red Yakima Valley 2008. The wines of Airfield were my first big get from my trip to Washington last year, and this dynamic red blend is a real standout, both for its value and for its contents. It is just a very impressive red for under $20.
33. Melville Pinot Noir Small Lots “Terraces” 2008. Winemaker Greg Brewer’s other winery, this Melville bottling is one of the best Pinot Noirs I have had this year. I was just blown away by this wine.
32. Pacific Rim Riesling Oregon Dauerhauer Vineyard 2007. I had this side-by-side with their Wallula Vineyard from Washington State, and while I initially felt partial toward it, the Dauerhauer pulled me toward it later on, and I found it reminding me of a Trocken style Kabinett from the Mosel. Very impressive, drier style.
31. Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Clos Pepe 2008. I found a lot of great Pinot Noir from California, with the LWC Clos Pepe arriving here in NKY at long last. A big, powerful Pinot Noir, this one reminded me a lot of the Papapietro Perry PNs we’ve been big fans of at DEP’s (unfortunately we cannot get them anymore around here).
30. Flowers Pinot Noir Andreen-Gale 2006. I haven’t dealt with Flowers since working at the late Chateau Pomije in Cincinnati some 9 years ago and I was ecstatic when SWS picked these up. The Flowers Andreen-Gale is in league with Loring and some of the other more difficult-to-come-by PNs from California.
29. Soter Brut Rose Oregon 2005. Tony Soter rocks, pure and simple! This gorgeous sparkling rose is just a real sexy beast.
28. Niepoort 10 Year Tawny Port NV. I am a sucker for port and I don’t think there is anyone house better than Niepoort. This 10 Year Tawny is just liquid sex, and after a glass of this, I just want a nap.
27. JRE Zinfandel St. Helena 2006. When we were introduced to winemaker John Eppler of JRE a while back by friend and customer Larry Hermes, we were very excited to bring his wines back into the market. Granted, the wines are hard to sell because they have been passed back-and-forth between so many distributors in recent years, and they just don’t get much in the way of critical attention. Nevertheless, this Zinfandel is full-bodied, concentrated and complex for an amazing glass of wine.
26. Roccalini Barbera d’Alba Superiore 2007. This brand new Piedmonte producer comes to us from good friend/social media sardonist Terry “Strappo” Hughes of Domenico Selections. This is one of the most phenomenal Barberas I have come across since my first introduction to La Spinetta years ago. Winemaker Paolo Veglio is one to watch in the years to come, mark my words.
25. Pfaffl Gruner Veltliner Weiviertal 2008. Strangely enough, I didn’t give as much love to the white wines as I did to the reds this year, yet this single-vineyard bottling from Austria’s Pfaffl family is a stunning GruVe, a true testament to the amazing wines coming out of this oft-overlooked European region.
24. Graham’s 20 Year Tawny Port NV. Did I say how much I love port? This was just sex heaped on top of sex in the glass. A temptress, a seductress, a chanteuse – just intoxicating in more ways than one.
23. HDV Belle Cousine Red Los Carneros-Napa Valley 2006. This Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend, again brought in by good friend Jaime from the Sorting Table, is powerful, luxurious and incredibly concentrated. You don’t often think of HDV as being a Bordeaux-style winemaker, yet they really turn in an All-Star effort here.
22. Otto Bestue Santa Sabina Somontano 2008. A remarkable blend of Cab and Tempranillo, this superstar from importer Axial Wines is bold, dense and rich, a terrific, full-bodied Spanish red. You should see this wine in our stores very soon.
21. Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon Cold Creek Vineyard 2006. It’s a single vineyard Washington State red wine, what more do you want me to say? I love this wine!
20. Duval-Leroy Le Femme Tete de Cuvee 1995. This is truly one magnificent example of how Champagne should be. Creamy, layered, exorbitantly sexy sparkler.
19. Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2007. What is up with all these Napa Cabs? Although really not where I find my palate playing around in, this ethereally dense and concentrated Cab is heavy on sex appeal and even more on power and grace. An absolute treat!
18. Casas del Bosque Gran Estate Selection Private Reserva 2007. The third in the triumvirate of amazing wines I tried during the last Wines of Chile event, this brawny red blend of Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Noir (WTF?) that was shockingly great. Its presence on the palate was remarkable and its finish unreal. If only I could figure out how to get this wine in the NKY area.
17. Longboard Cabernet Sauvignon Rochioli Vineyard 2005. This is a bit of cheating really. I tried this under-the-table bottle at the Tramonte & Sons Trade show, a wine that Longboard no longer makes (due to no longer working with the Rochioli Vineyard), yet this super-treat was extraordinary. Still showing amazing depth and complexity, this is one I will remember for a long time to come.
16. Mauro Veglio Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 2005. Funny the amount of Italians on this list this year, until I stop to think about how it was Italian wines that drove me head-first into this career path. This astonishing 2005 Barolo from standout producer Mauro Veglio is probably one of the best of the 05’s I was able to try this year. Just unrelenting depth and concentration.
15. Tenuta de Trinoro Le Cupole IGT 2006. This unreal “Super-Tuscan” blend from one of the most interesting winemakers in Italy right now – Andrea Franchetti – is pure Bordeaux, primarily Cab Franc, making this a Tuscan Chateau Cheval Blanc. Just amazing juice.
14. Arizona Stronghold Mangus Cochise County 2008. This is a pretty ballsy statement here for this wine, coming from Arizona and all, but my rock ‘n’ roll hero, Maynard James Keenan and his winemaking mentor Eric Glomski, turn out a “Super-Tuscan” styled blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that is very impressive. Take note, Arizona is making serious wine and I am not laughing as I say this. I am dead friggin’ serious. This wine kicks ass!
13. Columbia Crest Red Private Reserve Walter Clore 2005. Yes, more Washington wine. Yes, this is from Ste. Michelle & Estates. And yes, this wine is friggin’ awesome. A marvelous Bordeaux-styled blend.
12. Rudi Schultz Shiraz Stellenbosch 2006. All I can still say is “Damn, that’s good!” This powerful Shiraz takes back ownership of the name co-opt by Australia for their Syrah and gives it rightfully back to the Cape. Out of this world good.
11. Alto Moncayo Alto Moncayo Campo de Borja 2007. Another amazing Grenache from Spain’s Campo de Borja region. Phenomenal! I revisited this wine recently while breaking bread with the winemaker, Pedro Llanas, ad our good friends at Cutting Edge Selections.
10. Tolaini Picconero IGT 2006. This delicious Super-Tuscan red yet another project for enologist/wine whore Michel Rolland (he gets around as much as a well-employed porn star). All Bordeaux varietals – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc – come together to just kick ass and take names.
9. Mazzoni Rosso Toscano IGT 2006. Yet another Super Tuscan for the list – this Sangiovese/Merlot blend was introduced to me at the RNDC Trade Show earlier in the Fall of this year. Voluptuous black fruited deliciousness.
8. Cruz de Piedra Capricho Calatayud 2007. More Grenache! This was my favorite out of all the wines presented to me by Axial Wines – big shout out to Louis Geirhaerdt! – and it has finally landed in our stores. Plush, luxurious presence on the palate, spicy notes and lots of sexy fruit from beginning to end.
7. K Vintners Syrah The Deal Columbia Valley 2007. One of my souvenirs from my trip to Washington state last year, I pulled this one out for a dinner date with my lovely wife of 10 years, Jenifer. It was big, enrapturing and full of concentrated, multilayered fruit – it just kept going and going, long after dinner. Stunning!
6. Palazzo Cabernet Franc Napa Valley 2006. Scott Palazzo came by our store back in the Spring with his two amazing wines, and of course, he had me at Cabernet Franc. First created for rock star chef Thomas Keller as a house red, the overwhelming success of this wine allowed a putz like me to carry in our humble little stores. To quote our main man Alfonse, it’s a friggin’ rock star!
5. Tarrica Wine Cellars KODA Dessert Wine NV. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, because this is Mad Max Beyond Pleasuredome in a glass. Chocolate-infused wine is like lying naked on the beach in Santorini in a throe of passion with your lover, where the minutes and hours and days lose all meaning. You don’t make love to this wine, it makes love to you.
4. Chalk Hill Red Wine Estate 2007. $&%@! Damn this wine is amazing! Just rolling, thunderous processions of black fruits, chocolate and spice, in a never-ending parade of palate satisfaction. When our good friend and RNDC/Barkley rep Lou brought this in, we damn near mugged him to keep the bottle for ourselves. It was friggin’ phenomenal.
3. Selene Chesler Red Napa Valley 2005. As most of you have heard before, Mia Klein is my Eric Clapton, and with this dazzling Bordeaux blend, I continue to be in awe of her and her kick ass assistant Tracy Hall! The fact that Cab Franc plays dominant here is all the more a winning point with me.
2. Bookwalter Conflict Conner-Lee Vineyard 2007. John Bookwalter sent us a bottle of this first effort and we all couldn’t wait to open it up. It was like friggin’ Christmas in the Lightning Closet as we poured this predominantly Merlot into our glasses. Holy Shit! was one of the first exclamations to be heard. This wine was out-of-this-world good! And the critics soon followed suit, finding this amazing red blend one of the finest of the 2007 vintage.
1. Terre Nere Etna Rosso Guardiola 2008. I am going all obscure on all your asses here with this extraordinary red wine from legendary Italian importer turned vintner Marc de Grazia. This wine is 100% Nerello Mascalese, a grape native to the Italian island of Sicily, where at the footsteps of the still-active volcano Mount Etna, grows some of the most incredible red wine you could ever imagine. Like a cross between Grand Cru Burgundy and Barolo, this red shows power and grace, depth and class. Simply the most incredible wine I had all year – and there were 3 other single vineyard Etna Rosso reds I tasted alongside this that were just as good.
So there you have it. My Top 50. You may or may not agree with some or any of them, but as I said before, these are MY CHOICES. There are MY OPINIONS. Nothing more. Thanks to everyone and all the wines, wineries, sales reps, importers and brokers who graced the barrel top in 2010. Looking forward to more fun in 2011.