Coming to you just a bit earlier this year, I wanted to put this out today of all days, for no other reason than “it’s my blog and I’ll post if I want to.”  Seriously, I have spent weeks putting this list together, although there are a few wines that were last minute adds.  I have really hemmed and hawed about this list, because I taste a lot of great wines, and picking and choosing which ones are better than others is really not altogether fair in the grand scheme of things.  Yet, I’ll do it anyway, I guess to show that despite all the self-deprecation going on around here at UTGT, I can still flash a bit of arrogance once in awhile just to keep everyone on their toes.

Bear in mind these are simply MY OWN OPINIONS, and aren’t meant to be anything more than a list of favorites.  No different than me pointing out my favorite songs or my favorite cities.  It’s all subject to subjectivity.  And just to switch things up from last year, instead of last to first… well, you get the idea…

[For a downloadable copy, click here.]

  1. DeLille Cellars Grand Ciel 2006. Grade=Amazing+++. As a treat, our hostess poured a sample of their big boy, the Grand Ciel, which earns this person a place in my will to be sure. If nothing else, on my deathbed, I will bequeath her my palate’s undying gratitude for one of the most incredible tasting experiences of my entire life. This Olympian feat in a glass is like watching a sunrise from the highest mountain, or staring at the bluest ocean waters. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon in all its majesty, with opulently rich and powerful blackberries and black currants, creamy vanillin oak, smoky cedar, tobacco and pepper underpinnings.
  2. J. Bookwalter Chapter 3 Columbia Valley 2007. Grade=Amazing+++. Predominantly Cab, this could be Helen of Troy in a glass (or Adonis for all you manfans). It oozes sex appeal, dripping with decadent notes of blackberries, black currants, mocha, espresso, baking spices, vanillin oak, cedar smoke, cigar box and dried mint leaves, all conjoining to create a dreamlike presence on the palate.
  3.  Loma Larga Syrah Casablanca Valley 2006. Grade=Amazing. Holy Crap! This is a dark mutha, juicy, dense, thick red and blue fruits in there with gorgeous creamy berries, garrigue, peppercorns, duxelle, mineral and dusty earth. Gorgeous!
  4.  Vilmart & Cie Brut Grand Cellier NV.  Grade=Amazing+. It is predominantly Chardonnay, and aged in oak barrels. It reveals notes of apple tarts fresh from the oven, poached pears, nutmeg, allspice, a bit of frangipane, fresh baked Madeline cookies, and undertones of orange marmalade and lemon chiffon. Customers wanting the best Champagne for the money would get this recommended to them first and foremost by me – without reservation.
  5. Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru “Les Clos” 2008. Grade=Amazing+. Absolutely gorgeous Chardonnay, with clean, nuanced mineral characters, lemon and lime, white flowers, and fascinating depth and complexity. Quite ageworthy.
  6. Elyse Cabernet Sauvignon Morisoli Vineyard Napa Valley 2007. Grade=Amazing³. For what seems an eternity in my head, all I can come up with is, “Damn!” One of those wines that sort of blocks out the surrounding world, I was instantly dumbstruck by its graceful yet powerful display of balance. All that time aging (Michele said some 30+ months overall in new and used oak) pays off gloriously with all its characteristics of blackberry, cassis, black currant, dark plum, charcoal, cedar, mint, sage, chocolate, espresso, and creamy oak, it sends grandiose rivulets of awe through every fiber of your being. Just superb.
  7. Casa Lapostolle Borobo 2006. Grade=Amazing+. A crazy blend of Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Pinot Noir that has so many different layers to it; each one shows itself throughout each sip. The power of a Bordeaux, the intrigue of a Rhone and the elegance of a Burgundy, this rich, complex red is a one-of-a-kind experience not to be missed.
  8. Giornata Vermentino Paso Robles 2010. Grade=Amazing. I never thought I’d ever taste a Vermentino from California! This stunningly pretty white wine displays lychee nut, starfruit, lime and slight passionfruit notes. Really nice.
  9. Allegrini/Renacer Enamore Red Mendoza 2009. Grade=Amazing. This 50/50 partnership between Veneto’s Allegrini and Argentina’s Renacer highlights Italian commonality with this Amarone style Malbec blend (with Cab Franc, Syrah, Bonarda and Cab Sauvignon rounding out the mix). Gorgeous sweet black and blue fruits explode in the glass, with velvety tannins, sweet chocolates, espresso and sweet spices.
  10. Col Solare Red Columbia Valley 2006.  Grade=Amazing.  Still kicking myself not having gone to the winery in Washington State, this incredible red is always one of the Evergreen State’s most impressive wines.
  11. Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2008.  Grade=Amazing.  Simply an impressive Oregon Pinot Noir.
  12. Fisher Vineyards Unity Cabernet Sauvignon Napa/Sonoma 2008. Grade=Amazing. Blended with Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, this big, sexy red is dense, rich and seriously complex with its notes of black fruits, brown spices, cedar, tobacco, mint and chocolate. Seriously decadent stuff.
  13. Dusted Valley BFM Wahluke Slope 2008. Grade=Amazing. This powerful Bordeaux-styled red, mostly Merlot is quite impressive. Big F-n Merlot indeed. Rich, dark chunks of plums, blackberries and blueberries, coupling with smoky cedar, mint, pepper and graphite undertones to resemble a Pomerol on steroids.
  14. Chateau Montelena Chardonnay Napa Valley 2008. Grade=Amazing. Consider this the anti-Rombauer, in that Rombauer Chard is the big, oaky butterbomb, and Montelena’s Chard is more Burgundian, with its neutral oak/stainless steel aging, its apparent love affair with minerality and its nuanced apple frangipane, poached pear and tropical fruit notes. It is everything a well-made Chardonnay should be.
  15. Casa Lapostolle Syrah Cuvee Alexandre 2007.  Grade=Amazing+.  Just a mindblowing single vineyard Syrah from Chile.  One of several from this producer found its way into this Top 50 list.
  16. El Nido Clio 2008.  Grade=Amazing+.  In a flight of Clio from 2005-2008, it was hard to pick one over the others, but this one stood out, simply as the punctuation mark to a phenomenal night with friends.
  17. Ponzi Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2008.  Grade=Amazing.  One of my favorite Willamette Pinot Noirs for the year.
  18. Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot Ethos Reserve 2007. Grade=Amazing. The girl at the tasting bar slid this into the lineup as they had a ridiculous sale going on. A proud, majestic Merlot – this is what all California Merlot wishes it could grow up to be. Plush dark plums, blackberries, cedar smoke and graphite coexist with baking spices and toasty oak. Just beautiful.
  19. J.J. Christoffel Riesling Spatlese Urziger Wurzgarten 2010.  Grade=Amazing.  One of my favorite vineyards in all of Germany, and one of my most favored producers, it is a wine that too me, just
    can’t lose.
  20. Roy Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2007.  Grade=Amazing+.  A ridiculous effort, from a producer I won’t soon forget.
  21. Schlossgut Diel Riesling Kabinett Nahe 2009. Grade=Amazing. Key lime pie, root beer float, creamsicle and other youthful confections that cry out childlike exuberance, this candied white still shows off some well-balanced acidity, finishing with dried apricot, dusty minerals and orange blossom. I would say this was my favorite of the table and possible the day.
  22. CatenaMalbec Nicasia Vineyard Mendoza 2007. Grade=Amazing+. Plush and positively sexy with its big-pimpin’ blackberry, blueberry and black cherry fruit aromas and flavors, creamy vanilla, toasted oak, charcoal smoke, Chinese Five Spice, dried mint, freshly-tilled earth and mineral notes, silky tannins and an incredible finish.
  23. Blue Rock Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2007.  Grade=Amazing.  Remarkable new discovery.  This is one you just have to get out and find.
  24. Cadence Ciel du Cheval Red 2005.  Grade=Amazing.  Truth is that this wine is quite a magical wine, in that I shared in meeting new friends, and settling into a wonderful meal in my favorite city, Seattle.  Having been a huge fan of both the producer and the vineyard, made it all the more resonant.
  25. Merus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2007. Grade=Amazing+. Slightly timid out of the bottle, it slowly reveals itself to be a dark and mysterious temptress, strutting her stuff within a construct of velvety rich black currants, blackberries, loganberries and dark chocolate, with subtle nuances of black coffee, mint, charcoal, brown spices, more chocolate, blackberry pie, cedar, hickory and tobacco smoke. This wine will scar your palate like a jilting lover scars the heart.
  26. Vinyes’den Gabriel L’Heravi Crianza Montsant 2008. Grade=Amazing. Even lusher than its younger sibling, this oak-aged temptress reveals blackberry, roasted herbs, dark chocolate, mocha, espresso beans, tobacco smoke and mineral.
  27. Terrazas Malbec Afincado 2006. Grade=Amazing. Ridiculously good, this brooding red is a single-vineyard Malbec, resonating its sense of place with layered minerality, baked earth, rich black and blue fruits, spices and hickory smoke.
  28. Piña Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain Buckeye Vineyard 2007.  Grade=Amazing.  A truly remarkable wine that has taken me over a year to get into the state of Kentucky.  Well worth the wait.
  29. Hiedler Gruner Veltliner Gruner Veltliner Kittmannsberg “November” 2009. Grade=Amazing. My all-time favorite Gruner, this seductively spicy white wine shows off a lot of underlying hints of sandstone, crisp lettuce, allspice, star anise, white pepper and white tea leaves. Has a smoky rich presence across the palate and finishes with a wonderfully sublime acidity and notes of apple and quince.
  30. La Spinetta Barbaresco Bordini DOCG 2006. Grade=Amazing. Rivetti is the king of Barbaresco. This single-vineyard beauty is elegant in its aromas of red and purple flowers, black cherries, raspberries, mint and dried herbs. Firm tannins have given up a velvety, silken mouthfeel and an incredible fruit-driven finish.
  31. Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon Pelkan Ranch Knights Valley 2007.  Grade=Amazing.  I was really blown away by the complexity of this wine.  I’ve been finding a lot more from Knights Valley since then.  Just kicks ass.
  32. Krupp Brothers Black Bart Syrah Napa Valley 2007. Grade=Amazing. Godzilla on steroids, draped in velvet, this gargantuan red is brimming with blueberry jam, red currant, olive tapenade and baking spices, finishing up with boysenberry pie overtones.
  33. Genium Priorat 2005. Grade=Amazing. Bolder and richer than the Vega Escal, this is an amazing blend of Garnacha, Carinena, Merlot and Syrah. Aged in new and old French oak, and showing magnificent nuances of black cherry, blackberry, dark plum, vanilla, cinnamon and espresso.
  34. Creekbend Vineyard Chambourcin 2009.  Grade=Amazing.   I have to say has to be the best Chambourcin I have ever had. Reminiscent of a red Burgundy, or perhaps a Dolcetto d’Alba, there was not one trace of the typical “foxy” elements this grape can possess. It was plush, with spicy red fruits, medium-bodied tannins, hints of pepper and cinnamon, a touch of baker’s chocolate, and slight cedar smoke undertones.
  35. Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Santa Cruz Mountains 2008. Grade=Amazing. Simply gorgeous, with red and black fruits, brown spices, cigar box, mocha, graphite, tar, leather and black pepper notes. Full-bodied. Demonstrates both power and grace. More people should discover the Cabs of Santa Cruz Mountains – they seldom disappoint.
  36. Pehu-Simmonet Brut Selection NV. Grade=Amazing+.  Fresh baked sourdough, shaved ginger, golden plums, underpinnings of golden raspberries, lemon zest, lime mousse and touches of Rainer cherries. The finish was like the first peak of the sun on a gorgeous Spring morning.  
  37. Cinnabar Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains 2007.  Grade=Amazing.  Always enamored with the wines of Santa Cruz Mountains, this Pinot Noir is phenomenal.  Just an incredible effort!
  38. Prospect Red de Wet Meritage 2007.  Grade=Amazing.  This ridiculously well-made red from South Africa is bold, lush and full-bodied, with flavors of black fruits that echo infinitely across the palate.  Not much of this beauty to be had, so go getcha some right now!
  39. The Four Graces Pinot Noir Reserve Dundee Hills 2008. Grade=Amazing. Lush, soulful and inspiring with its rich, multilayered display of red flowers, spices, vanilla, chocolate and red berry fruits. Soft and supple tannins captivate from start to finish.
  40. Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon Pedregal Vineyard Oakville 2008. Grade=Amazing. With 16% Petit Verdot, this unbelievable Cabernet is powerful, graceful and towering above its peers. Robust with blackberries, dark plums, blueberry pie, dried herbs, and toasted oak, this Cab is one exceptional effort.
  41. Biohof Pratsch Riesling Lange Ried 2009. Grade=Amazing. This delicious, dry Riesling showed off stunning acidity, lively white peach, ginger, star fruit and a hint of pepino melon. Wet stones, brushes of anise and daikon add to its crazy complexity.
  42. La Massa “Giorgio Primo” Rosso Toscano IGT 2008. Grade=Amazing. Certainly plays amongst the big boys with itscomplex, concentrated expressions of blackberries, black currants, mint, graphite, hickory, mocha, and fennel. Just stunning!
  43. Talbott Chardonnay Sleepy Hollow Vineyard 2008. Grade=Amazing. 100% barrel fermentation gives this layers of rich, creamy stone and tropical fruits, baking spices, fresh-baked brioche and roasted hazelnuts. It is dense and complex with a long, generous finish.
  44. Longboard Syrah Russian River Valley 2007.  Grade=Amazing.  I still plan on interviewing winemaker Oded Shakked, but in the meantime, this Syrah just kills it!  This is how Syrah should be, sexy, smoldering red fruits, hinting at its savory side while showing off sweet berry fruits.  Mahalo indeed.
  45. Crumbled Rock Pinot Noir Julliard Vineyard 2008. Grade=Amazing. Jeff told me the owners of this wine come from Yellow Springs, Ohio (one of my favorite places on Earth), and after selling off their juice to the big boys of Oregon, decided it was time to make their own. Stunning in its rich textures, ethereal notes of cherry pie, fresh earth and mineral, roasted herbs, toasted nuts and raspberry tart, sprinklings of brown spice give it even more multilayered presence. Ridiculously good!
  46. Ben Marco Expresivo Mendoza 2007. Grade=Amazing. This blend of Malbec, Syrah, Bonarda, Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon is impressive, with layered notes of chocolate, blackberries, currants, plums, baking spices, baked earth, toasted oak, dried herbs, espresso beans, black teas, white pepper, and on and on and on.
  47. Domaine Serene Pinot Noir “Evenstad” 2007. Grade=Amazing+. A spectacular PN full of bright minerality, dark red berries, cola, hazelnut, cinnamon, white pepper, earth and even a spot of saffron. Layer after layer, it just reveals itself anew with each sip. Beautifully done.
  48. Hirsch Gruner Veltliner Lamm 2003. Grade=Amazing+. Demonstrating what an older Gruner Veltliner can be, this rich, opulent white has a honeyed apple aroma and flavor, with slight traces of oak, white cinnamon, mineral, and heather.
  49. Brassfield Eruption Red High Valley 2009. Grade=Amazing. Malbec and several Rhone varietals make this a medium-to-full-bodied jammy, black-fruited number, with touches of raspberry, root beer, blueberry pie and red currant compote.
  50. Waterbrook Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2008. Grade=Amazing. Really incredible for clocking in at $20 (or any price point for that matter). Dense, concentrated black berry fruits, velvety tannins, full-body and notes of blackberry, tobacco, cedar and chocolate.

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