Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2010: Top Ten Wines Over $15

What were some of my favorite wines of the past year?

Welcome to my second Top Ten Wine List. Yesterday, I posted my Top Ten Wines Under $15, which I hope you enjoyed and found useful, and now it is time for my Top Ten Wines Over $15.  But, these wines also cost less than $50. 

Like the prior list, it includes wines that during the past year I have enjoyed very much and which I also found to be particularly compelling for various reasons. They might be especially delicious, something more unique or just excellent values for the price. They all stand out for some particular reason above the other wines I tasted this past year. I highly recommend all of these wines, and believe many wine lovers will also enjoy these wines.

The wines are not listed in any particular order and all are definitely worth your consideration. Each of the choices is linked to my more detailed prior review. Please also note that the actual price of the wine may vary in your area. 

1. 2008 Spice Route Chakalaka, South Africa (about $18.99)
With a fun name, which refers to a spicy South African relish, this wine is like a ramped up Rhone wine, with an air of the exotic.  An intriguing blend of seven grapes, it has a nice lushness with a balanced flavors and a lengthy finish. It really pleased and intrigued my palate, and was one of my favorite wines of the Boston Wine Expo, as well as another reason why I enjoy South African wines.  

2. 2009 Villicana Vin Rosé, Paso Robles, California ($18)
Yes, I love Rosé and this wine rocked, being one of my favorite wines during my visit to Paso Robles. It reminded me of an Old World Rosé, dry with restrained red fruit flavors. It had nice acidity, was quite refreshing and paired very well with food.  It is not your typical California Rosé and helps to show the potential of the Paso Robles region. 

3. 2006 Anglim Winery Cameo, Paso Robles, California ($22)
Paso Robles does a great job with Rhone grapes, and this white blend of Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier thoroughly impressed me.  Such an alluring aroma led to nuanced and complex flavors, including fruit, floral and mineral.  It was simply an amazing wine and also reflects the great potential of this region.  The winery had other very good wines too, but this stood out to me as especially compelling.

4. 2006 Bodegas Paso Robles Graciano and 2006 Bodegas Paso Robles Pimenteiro, Paso Robles, California (both at $36)
Yes, more wines from Paso Robles and I couldn't choose just one.  This winery is owned by a very passionate woman who makes wines from only Spanish and Portuguese varietals. And she is making plenty of superb and interesting wines, including these two examples.  Both are intriguing and absolutely delicious wines. They are not what you expect from California and will surely please even the most discerning wine lover.  Broaden your palate and be rewarded.

5. 2005 Graham Beck Brut Blanc de Blanc, South Africa ($22)
If you blind tasted this wine, you would probably think it was a Champagne. I found it to be dry and crisp with a complex taste of green apple, pear and hints of cream.  An excellent value at this price, it shows why countries beside France dominate the sparkling wine market at this price point. And it is more proof of the good things being done by South Africa.

6. 2007 Heart and Hands Barrel Reserve Pinot Noir, Finger Lakes, NY ($39.99)
As I mentioned yesterday, the Finger Lake are best known for their whites, but this wine is another that shows they can make world class reds too, even Pinot Noir.  This was a stunning wine, for which superlatives just don't do it justice.  The passionate owners have handcrafted an amazing Pinot, and I cannot recommend it enough.  If you love Pinot, especially those in the Burgundian style, you really need to find this wine. I probably should have bought even more while I was at the winery.

7. 2009 Georges Dubouef Moulin-à-Vent, Domaine de la Tour du Bief, France ($16.99)
2009 was a top vintage for Beaujolais, and the wines certainly show far more depth than usual. Out of a couple dozen that I have tasted, this wine stood above the others, reminding me of a fine Burgundy. It had intriguing and complex flavors, from ripe plum to subtle earthy notes. It was smooth, delicious and had a lengthy and interesting finish. And at this price, it is a steal.

8. 1997 Coturri Assemblage, California ($29.99)
Tony Coturri makes natural wines, with no added sulfites, and some believe such wines lack an aging potential.  But, this 13 year old wine disproves that, showing plenty of life and potential for even greater aging.  It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, reminding me of a smooth and complex Bordeaux.  This is also a value wine at this price so be sure to scoop up a few bottles, if you can find them, as it is a low production wine. 

9. Quady Deviation, California ($25/375ml)
This was one of the most unique dessert wines I have tasted in quite some time. Upfront, you'll find some mild sweetness and citrus flavors but the finish is dry and herbal, not what you expect. Plenty of complexity, a lengthy finish, and a sheer pleasure in your mouth.  An excellent choice for a jaded palate.

10. Sutton Cellars Brown Label Dry Vermouth, California ($18-$20)
Yes, if you were not aware, Vermouth is actually a wine, which is fortified and aromatized.  This is a dry artisan Vermouth, made from white wine and seventeen other ingredients, including various herbs, barks and roots.  It has a clean, light herbal taste and I prefer to drink it on ice with some club soda.  A great summer drink, or something to warm you on a cold, snowy day.  Forget the mass produced Vermouths, and seek this inexpensive artisan one.

This was a very tough list to compile because there were plenty of other great choices which I could have added. So I had to ponder long over which wines would actually make the list. The final list even surprised me when I examined it in retrospect.   

California clearly dominated the list, occupying six spaces with seven wines, and Paso Robles took three of those places. I visited Paso Robles in the spring and was very impressed with their wines. Interestingly, two of the three spots were of Paso Robles wineries that I visited on my own, and which were not part of my scheduled itinerary.  Last year, my list had only a single California wine so this year was a major change.  But, many of the California wines I chose are clearly more European in style, and not the usual California style.  The other four spots were taken by South Africa (which had two spots), France and the Finger Lakes of New York. 

The list is diverse, with Sparkling Wine, Rosé, White, Red, Fortified and Dessert Wines. There are intriguing and delicious wines being produced in all varieties and styles. I have plenty of other recommendations for wines at this price point on my blog. There are top notch wines from countries all over the world, made from an incredibly diverse selection of grapes and you can still find plenty of values too.

My advice is that you seek out wines outside of your comfort zone. Explore the multitude of diversity in the wonderful world of wine. Taste and try anything new, unique or potentially interesting.  I am sure your search will lead to new favorites.

If you have some of your own recommendations for wines that are over $15 but under $50, please add them to the comments.


Susan Higgins said...

Thanks Richard for the inclusion of our 2007 Heart & Hands Barrel Reserve Pinot Noir! The remaining wine from this vintage has been locked away in the winery's library for later release, but some may remain at Century in Rochester....

Also, the 2008 vintage was just released, and is now available at the winery!

Susan Higgins

Nancy said...

You know what more Americans are finding out every year...........South African wines are the great unsung vino value. Graham Beck has a range of sparklings under $20, and they always rank high on my list for entertaining. Thanks for spreading the word.