Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Top Wines of 2009

After reading Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast Top 100 list (did Wine Enthusiast really pick Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 as wine of the year – I’m still thinking this is a misprint), I find that I sometimes agree with them but just as often wonder what the heck they are thinking. In the spirit of year end lists, here’s a stab at my top 10 wines of the year as well as my top 5 value wines.

The criteria for my list is pretty simple. For the top 10 wines, it is simply the 10 wines that I drank this year that I feel are the best values in any price category except for the $15 and under range. For the top 5 value wines, I am limiting it to wines that retail for $15 and under. In both cases, I am only including wines that I enjoyed at least a full glass of with food. I am excluding a number of outstanding wines that I only tried at various tasting events where I had small samples in rapid fire succession with many other wines. Although I’m confident some of these would have made my list, I need to draw the line somewhere on my criteria, and I’m a firm believer that wine is best enjoyed with food. So here goes...let me know if you agree or if you think I’m just plain crazy with any of these picks. All of these wines except for the Catena Alta Malbec also have full reviews on A Couple of Wines.

A Couple of Wines Top 10 Wines of the Year:

10. Domaine Michel & Joanna Ecard Savigny-Les-Beaune Premier Cru "Les Gravains" 2006

This is a bit of a sleeper pick, but I find this Burgundy to be delicious – one of my favorite Pinot Noirs.

9. Johnson Family Chardonnay 2008 Sonoma Coast

This very nice Chardonnay almost qualifies for my Top 5 Value wines since it retails for just a tiny bit over the $15 threshold.

8. Girard Artistry 2006 Napa Valley

Simply put this is an excellent Napa Cab/Bordeaux Style blend that retails for under $40. ‘Nuff said.

7. Vincent Dureuil-Janthial Rully “La Martelle” 2007

A great White Burgundy that retails in the low $20s, this wine’s long, outstanding finish sets it apart from any other Chardonnay I’ve tasted in this price range.

6. Castello del Terriccio Tassinaia 2005 IGT Toscana

I first tried this wine at a tasting where it was sandwiched between a Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova Brunello di Montalcino 2004 and a Sassicaia 2006, and it very much held its own. For a fifth of the price of the Sassicaia, it is a steal. When I opened a bottle with some lamb chops it was even better.

5. Chateau de St. Cosme Gigondas 2006

An absolutely delicious and powerful Southern Rhone that is just going to better in the coming years.

4. Catena Alta Malbec 2005

I never thought that Malbec could get this good. This wine is ripe and opulent without going over the edge into raisin territory. This is the only wine on my list that doesn’t have a full review associated with it, but I’ve got a bottle in my cellar that I’ll be pulling out sometime soon. Stay tuned.

3. Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino 2004

Wow – what a finish! This wine just keep giving. Everything before the incredibly long and delicious finish is also just about perfect. I have a few more bottles in the cellar, and it’s going to be hard to let this age as long as I should.

2. Domaine de Ferrand Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007

If I could fast forward time, this would probably be #1 on my list, but it definitely needs at least a year in the cellar, preferably more. The Domaine de Ferrand 2007 is a stunning example of classic Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

1. Etude Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Napa Valley

Etude has got it all. Big Napa fruit, silky tannins, and perfect French oak treatment are all in wonderful balance. In a list that is dominated by imports, Etude is a reminder of just how great Napa Cabernets can be.

Top 5 Value Wines of the Year:

5. Catena Chardonnay 2007

It seems crazy that my standout value from Argentina is anything other than a Malbec, but there are so many good Malbec values out there, that it was hard to pick one out for inclusion on the list. This Chardonnay from Catena is well balanced and food friendly for a great price.

4. Camille Cayran Gemellus Rasteau 2006

My cellar is quickly filling up with great Southern Rhone wines, but this Rasteau really stand out in the $15 and under category from the Rhone Valley. Great berry flavors with nice balance.

3. Chateua d’Oupia Minervois 2007

France has so many famous wine regions that we tend to forget about all the other. This red from Minervois in the Langeudoc has a dark, brooding flavor profile and I love it.

2. Mas Donis Barrica Cellar de Capcanes Old Vines Montsant 2005

I am constantly amazed at the quality of Spanish Garnacha in this price range, and at $11.99 a bottle, you can’t beat the quality you get with the 2005 Mas Donis. An outstanding wine for the price!

1. Bodegas Real Sabor Toro 2006

Is this really under $10? I know it is, and I still keep asking myself if something this good can be this inexpensive. It needs a lot of time to decant, but when it starts to open up, nothing in the under $10 category even comes close to the quality and complexity you get in this great Spanish Toro.

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