Tuesday, December 9, 2014

2014: 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. Now it is time for my Top Ten Wines Over $15, though these wines also cost less than $50. In actuality, I have listed twelve wines, pairing three similar ones together from the same importer.

Like the prior list, this list includes wines that not only did I enjoy, but 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 at this price point that I have tasted this past year.

This is a purely subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" wines out there. It is primarily the wines which spoke to me the loudest, even when they were subtle wines. These are all wines that I highly recommend and which I believe many other wine lovers will also enjoy.

The wines are not listed in any particular order and each choice is linked to my more detailed prior review. All of these wines are worth your consideration but please also note that the prices are approximations and the actual price may vary in your area. In addition, some of the wines might not be available in your local area, though you might be able to order them from the winery or an online store, dependent on your state's shipping laws.

1)  NV Vermut LaCuesta ($20)
At the Mohegan Sun WineFest, one of my favorite wines of the entire event was this impressive Spanish Vermouth. Tempranillo is the base of this fortified wine, and it presented with an intriguing herbal taste with only mild bitter elements and hints of sweetness. I tasted some of it on its own, as well as in a glass with ice, and in both instances, it was impressive. It is well balanced, and would be delicious on its own or in a cocktail. Highly recommended.

2) 2010 Inspiracion Valdemar Tempranillo Blanco ($30)
Made from 100% Tempranillo Blanco, a mutation of Tempranillo and only discovered relatively recently, this Spanish wine was aged on the lees in first year French oak. With a dark gold color, this wine had aromas and flavors of tropical fruits, accompanied by hints of honey, herbs and a touch of citrus. It possessed a very intriguing taste, good acidity and a long,pleasing finish. It is a wine to slowly sip and savor, though it pairs well with food too. A stunner of a wine.

3) Alexander Jules Sherries ($45)
Alexander Jules, kind of a negociant company, seeks out special Spanish sherry barrels, creating fascinating blends. I tasted their first three sherries, the Fino 22/85, Manzanilla 17/71, and Amontillado 6/26. All three were stunning examples, presenting plenty of complex and delicious flavors. These are Sherries to slowly enjoy each delectable taste, relishing the wonders found within each glass. I placed these three together because they are all special, share similar characteristics, and showcase the palate of the company's owner, Alexander Russan. These are the best sherries I have tasted all year.

4) Quinta de Santa Eufemia 10 Year Old White Port ($30)
A blend of Malvasia Fina, Gouveio, Moscatel Galego, and Rabigato, this aged White Port, a rare category, has a beautiful amber color. It possesses an alluring nose of floral and herbal notes, and on the palate the taste is complex and intriguing, a bit of an oxidative style. It has a tough of honeyed sweetness though it finishes dry, and the finish lingers long in your mouth. It is surely a Port to slowly savor, enjoying the multitude of flavors that pass over your palate.

5) 2008 José Maria da Fonseca Domini Plus ($40)
A blend of 65% Touriga Franca, 20% Tinta Roriz, & 15% Touriga Nacional, this Portuguese red wine spends about 12 months in new French oak. It possesses plenty of complexity and flavor, creating an elegant and enticing wine, that is still powerful yet restrained. This is a perfectly balanced wine, one to slowly sip and savor, thinking on everything to be found within your glass. It is an amazing wine, well worth the price, and which might cost twice as much in any other wine region.

6) 2011 Moric Blaufränkisch Reserve ($45)
This is am Austrian wine which stunned me with its complex pleasures. Each sip seemed to bring out different elements, from its blend of red and black fruits, to its strong minerality. There are intriguing notes of spice, herbs and even chocolate. The tannins are moderate but not overwhelming, and the wine lingers for quite a long time on your palate. One glass won't be enough for you, and this is a wine to impress your friends. Highly recommended.

7) Dopff et Irion NV Crémant D'Alsace Brut Rosé ($17)
This Alsatian Brut Rosé is made from 100% Pinot Noir and I likened it to a dish of strawberries and cream. Though dry and crisp, there was a rich creaminess to the wine, with plenty of delicious red fruit flavors, including plenty of strawberry. Complex and with a lingering finish, I found this to be a compelling wine, as well as an excellent value for the price.

8) 2012 Vina Koyle Gran Reserva Carmenere ($16.99)
This Chilean wine is a blend of 86.5% Carmenere, 8% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2.5% Petite Verdot. With a nose of black fruit and spice, I found this to be an elegant wine, with a delicious melange of black fruit, spice, minerality and hints of tobacco. It was silky smooth, with a long, satisfying finish. At this price, it is a good value for its complexity and quality.

9) 2013 Hudson-Chatham Baco Noir Old Vines ($18.95)
Made from 60 year old vines, this wine is made in Hudson Valley, New York, and was complex and intriguing, presenting a delicious melange of flavors, including ripe plum, blueberry, black cherry, vanilla and baking spices. It possessed a silky feel, was well balanced and had a lingering and pleasing finish. It may be a hybrid grape, but that shouldn't deter you from enjoying the high quality of this compelling wine.

10) 2012 Fausse Piste "Garde Manger" Syrah ($25)
A blend of Syrah from five vineyards in the Columbia Valley, there might be a tiny percentage of Viognier too. From your first sniff of the aromas of this wine, you'll probably be hooked. It possesses an alluring nose, a complex blend of appealing aromas, including lush fruit and a prominent earthiness. It brought to my mind wines from the Rhône. The taste of this wine lived up to the promise of its nose, and initially you'll be impressed by the depth of flavor within this wine, the complex melange of flavors that will flood your mouth, seducing your palate. Black fruit, spice, earthiness, minerality, and even more can be found within each sip. Silky tannins lead to a lengthy and satisfying finish. Everything is in balance in this wine, and it is absolutely compelling.

This is always my toughest list to compile because there are numerous other excellent wines which I could have added. I had to ponder long over which wines to actually select for the main list, meaning that I had to eliminate other worthy wines. To give some credit to those other worthy wines, for the second year in a row, I am adding an Honorable Mention list, to reference those other wines which nearly made my Top Ten list.

Honorable Mention
2011 Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria Dorilli DOCG ($32.99)
2009 Cedro Do Noval ($22)
2013 Prieuré de Montézargues Tavel Rosé ($20)
NV Willm Cremant d'Alsace Blanc de Noirs Brut ($16)
Spain occupies the most spots on my Top Ten list, with three spots and five wines. Potugal, with two spots, is the only other region which occupied multiple spots. The other regions represented include Austria, Alsace, Chile, California and New York. The list is also broken down into 1 Sparkling Wine, 1 White, 5 Reds and 5 Fortified Wines. If you look at the Honorable Mentions, you'll find wines from Italy, Portugal, France, Alsace, New York, Uruguay, and Spain.

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.

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