Column for Jan 11th.
Each year, every wine magazine, wine blog, and wine writer on the planet lists their top 10 wines for the past year. Not wanting to be left out of any pointless trend, I herewith list the top 10 wines I've drunk in the past twelve months. Of course, I can't really imagine why anyone would care about my favorite wines of the year, but nevertheless, here goes.
10. Allegrini 2000 Palazzo Della Torre
I managed to score the last two bottles of this vintage that CostPlus had, and then repeated the same trick at Creekside Cellars. The 2001, which is still on store shelves is a much less impressive wine in my opinion. This is a wonderful Italian wine, big, dense and earthy, but not so overpowering that it can only be drunk with food. A fantastic deal for about $20 - if you can find it. 4.25 stars.
9. La Crema 2005 Sonoma County Pinot Noir
This may not be the best Pinot in the world, but the problem with Pinot is finding something halfway decent under $20. A solid Pinot is going to set you back $40-60. Well, for about $17, this wine delivers. Wonderful hints of Pinot funk on the nose, matched with a delicate finesse on the palate. For the price, this wine is a deal and well worth seeking out. 4.25 stars.
8. Jackson-Triggs 2004 Vidal Ice Wine VQA
Ice wines are made by leaving the grapes on the vine all the way into winter and until they freeze hard as rocks. In the process, a lot of water is removed from the grapes, leaving behind an almost pure syrup. A beautifully clear golden yellow color, this has clear notes of honey, apricot and peach. I love this stuff. Not cheap, though. A 187ml bottle (a quarter of a regular wine bottle) runs about $20. 4.5 stars.
7. Windwalker 2002 Lady in Red
Windwalker is probably the best winery in the Fair Play region of Eldorado County, and Lady in Red (a classic Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec) easily the most complex and developed wine they produce. Easy to mistake for a Napa Valley Cab. An incredible wine. 4.5 stars.
6. Cloud 9 Composition
I had a glass of this at Monks, so I don't know the vintage, but this was a fine, fine wine, and tasted like a classic Napa Valley Cabernet, with massive dark fruit backed by great depth and complexity. A strange cross-regional blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Verdot, and Barbera. Big, smooth and classy. 4.5 stars.
5. Alvear Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927
This stuff is the nectar of the gods, a fantastically dense and sweet Montilla sherry, with a flavor like honeyed raisins. If you like great port, you might just love this. Is this wine really from 1927? Well, a few drops of it are. A solera is a way of blending wine, where a bit of this year's wine is blended with last years, a bit of that is mixed with the wine from the year before that... and so on. The last barrel in the chain contains a little bit from every vintage since they started making the wine - in this case, 1927. 4.5 stars.
4. Terre Rouge 2000 Sierra Foothills Syrah
Terre Rouge is hands down the best winery in the Shenandoah Valley of Amador County, consistently producing the most refined and complex Rhone-style wines of any winery in the region. And even though this isn't their top-of-the-line Syrah, it's my clear favorite. Wonderfully earthy flavors, layered with well-developed dark fruit flavors and a mellow complexity. Fantastic. 4.75 stars.
3. Napa Redwoods Estate 2002 Alden Perry Reserve
This is a truly fantastic wine - deep, dark and complex, with ripe black fruit flavors, hints of chocolate and mocha, and well structured tannins. Wonderfully dense and concentrated. Made from 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Merlot, this is what a Napa Meritage should taste like. For about $50 a bottle, this isn't a cheap wine, but it certainly demonstrates the level of quality you can get from Napa Valley at that price. 4.75 stars.
2. Guigal 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape
This is one of my favorite wines of all time. Amazingly complex and floral, this wine just keeps developing aromas and flavors the longer it's open. Simply stunning, and a treat every time I've had it. Made of 80% old Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 5% Mourvèdre and other grapes, this wine demonstrates the incredible finesse that Grenache-based wines can have. I think Creekside Cellars still has a bottle or two of this wine. Not cheap at $42, but worth the experience at least once. 5.0 stars.
1. Rodney Strong 2001 Symmetry
An absolutely stunning effort. This wine took me completely by surprise. I was expecting something good, but not this good. Amazingly rich black berry, black cherry and roasted mocha flavors, with incredible structure and a silky smooth finish. In a league of its own. A Meritage blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, this is top shelf stuff. Of course, at $55 a bottle, you damn well better get wine of this quality. Mind blowing. 5.0 stars.