Tuesday, December 6, 2011

2011: Top Ten Wines Over $15

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

Welcome to my second Top Ten Wine List. Last week, 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, though 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.

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 value 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.

For the second year in a row, this winery has a wine on this list. Owner and winemaker Dorothy Schuler is working wonders with Spanish and Portuguese grapes in California. This wine, a blend of 50% Tempranillo and 50% Mourvedre, is impressive, with a complex melange of appealing flavors and its lushness provides hedonistic pleasures. If you have not tried any of Dorothy's wines, I strongly encourage you to seek them out.

2)  2008 Francis Tannahill Dragonfly Gewürztraminer ($20-$25)
Though this is an Oregon winery, the grapes are from a select organic vineyard in Washington. The vineyard may have the oldest Gewürztraminer in the Northwest region and the wine is a superb example of this grape. Strongly aromatic with exotic spices and tropical fruits, this is a very appealing wine. One of the best Gewürztraminer I have tasted in some time.

3)  2009 Ayres Pinot Noir, Lewis Rodgers Lane ($35)
Also from Oregon, this wine is a blend of five Pinot Noir clones, and the winery itself is one of the relative newcomers to that region. But it is already producing excellent wines and this wine is beautiful, complex and possessed of an elegant melange of black and blue fruits with dark spice and earthiness. This is a winery to keep an eye on for the future.

4)  NV Horton Vineyards Sparkling Viognier ($25)
I didn't get to taste anywhere near as many Virginia wines as I wanted to at the Wine Blogger's Conference, but of those that I did, this was a standout. It was crisp, clean and dry with flavors of peach, citrus and white flowers. It was a very appealing sparkling wine which should please many people.

5)  2008 Marani Mukuzani (about $17)
This year, I got some exposure to the wines of the country of Georgia, an area which is becoming hot in the wine world. There are over 500 indigenous grapes in Georgia though only about 38 are currently used for wine production.This wine is made from 100% Saperavi, offering enticing black cherry and plum aroma with a taste of those same fruits, meshed with vanilla, spice and a tinge of chocolate. Yet there was also a unique exotic taste to this complexity which eluded definition. An excellent value at this price.

6)  2007 Bagrationi 1882 Reserve Brut ($19.99)
Georgia also produces some intriguing sparkling wines, like this one which is a blend of Chinebuli, Mtsvane, and Tsitska, three grapes you have probably never heard of before. It was produced by the Methode Champenoise and possesses a strong minerality, almost a steely nature. The fruit flavors, some peach and melon, were subdued but noticeable. Clean, refreshing and with good acidity. A wine of character at a very reasonable price.

7)  Bodegas Renacer Enamore ($30)
An Amarone style wine from Argentina? It is not as crazy as it sounds, especially considering how many Italians immigrated to Argentina. This wine is a blend of 62% Malbec, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 9% Bonarda, and 4% Syrah. All of the grapes were dried out for about three weeks. The result is a seductive and silky wine that is sure to tantalize your senses. This is a wine to share with someone you love.

8)  2009 Alma Negra Misterio ($40-$45)
As the name indicates, this wine is a bit of a mystery and the actual blend is secret, though it may contain Malbec, Petite Verdot, Merlot, Bonarda and/or Cabernet Sauvignon. Complex, smooth and well structured, it is a wine to slowly savor. It has more elegance than power, and it would be fine on its own, or paired with a hearty dish.

9)  1999 L D'or de Luneau-Papin 'Cuvee Medaillee' Muscadet Sevre et Maine ($25)
This may be one of the best bargains on the list, a 12 year old Muscadet. Complex and intriguing flavors with dried fruits, apricot, honey, minerality, and even some herbal notes. There was still plenty of life in this wine, and I would easily have bought a case at this low price. A wine of this quality rarely is priced this low.

10)  2008 Quinta dos Murças Reserva Red ($45)
Portugal impressed at the value wines, and now they represent on this list as well. This is a fascinating wine, a field blend of old vines, maybe 25 grapes or so. Only about five of the grapes in the blend are identifiable, making this a vinous mystery. It has an enticing and exotic nose, with an earthy and spicy smell mixed in with blackfruit, while its taste is a complex melange of earth, spice, vanilla, blackfruit and even mild hints of herbality. A superb wine which should impress most wine lovers and is an example of the best of Portugal.

This is always my toughest list to compile because there are numerous other excellent wines which I could have added. So I had to ponder long over which wines to actually add to this list. Last year, California dominated this list, occupying six spots but this year only a single California wine made the list. But three other U.S. wines did make the list, from Oregon, Washington and Virginia.  Georgia (the country) and Argentina both occupy two spots on the list while France and Portugal each occupy one spot.

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.


KovasP said...

Good to see the NV Horton Vineyards Sparkling Viognier on the list - I tried their 2009 Norton this fall and really enjoyed it.

dfredman said...

Oddly enough, the Luneau-Papin Muscadet seems to make my favorites list every year. It's a tremendous value and as you noted, ages gracefully for a long time (the 1989 is still drinking beautifully).


Thanks for sharing the list. I have tried Bagrationi. It was awesome. I have a membership of Celebration wine club in CA. it is a good club & I am quite happy with them. If anyone wants to know about them, Click Here- California Wine clubs