Monday, December 10, 2012

2012: 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 Friday, 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.

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 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) 2010 Tikal Natural Malbec ($20)
Produced by Ernesto Catena in Argentina, this wine is made from 100% Malbec, certified organic grapes, and the vineyard is moving toward becoming Biodynamic. The wine spent about a year in oak, mostly second-use French oak, with a small portion of American oak. With a dark purple color, the flavors of the wine burst into your mouth, a pleasant blend of ripe plum, dark cherry, intense spice and bits of mocha. The tannins are moderate, there is good acidity, and the finish is long and satisfying. A hearty fine that will pair well with hearty food, from Bolognese to short ribs.

2) 2006 Eder Raubern Single Vineyard Grüner Veltliner ($17-$20)
The Eder winery, in Austria, is small, possessing about 12 hectares of vineyards and produces only about 20,000 bottles annually. The Raubern is a single vineyard wine that thoroughly impressed me. The melange of flavors fascinated me with their complexity, with plenty of spice and floral notes, yet still with noticeable stone fruit components. Despite its age, this seemed still very fresh and it was a clear winner, sure to please any wine lover. An excellent value at this price point.

3) 2009 Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir ($43.99)
In general, I enjoy Oregon Pinot Noirs and some are superb. This wine was a stunner, subtle and seductive as well as elegant and complex. The melange of flavors ranged from bright cherry to ripe plum, from cinnamon to black pepper. You need to slowly sip and savor this wine, to perceive all of the diverse flavors within. Well balanced, this wine provides an alluring finish that seems to caress your palate with silk, lingering long within your mouth. A killer wine, I highly recommend this one.

4) 2011 Prieure de Montezargues Tavel Rosé ($20)
This is one of my favorite French Rosé wines, and the 2011 is equally as good as the previous year. The Rosé is a blend of 8 grapes, including 55% Grenache (red & white), 30% Cinsault, 13% Clairette, and 2% Others (Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan & Bourboulanc). It is produced through pressing and underwent stainless steel fermentation and then a short term of aging on the lees. It was a pale pink color, crisp, dry and elegant. Delicious and complex tastes of cherry, strawberry, and grapefruit with a mineral backbone. You should drink this Rosé year round.

5) 2008 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia ($35-$45)
One of my favorite wines from my Chianti Classico trip, the Rancia is made from 100% Sangiovese, all from a single vineyard named Rancia. That vineyard derives its name from a historic farm that once was a Benedictine monastery. The wine was barrel aged for 16-18 months in new and one year old 225-liter oak barrels and then spent an additional 6-8 months aging in the bottle. The Rancia possessed an alluring smell, a melange of wonderful aromas that beckoned to me like a siren. It was a traditional style, with a delightful earthy component, and a compelling taste of black cherry, blueberry, violets, spice, and hints of leather. It was elegant and intriguing, with a lengthy, satisfying finish. Just a superb wine.

6) 2011 Halter Ranch Cotes de Paso Blanc ($24)
Paso Robles seems to be a great region for  Rhône grapes and this Halter Ranch wine is an enticing Southern Rhône blend of 33% Grenache, 26% Roussanne, 20% Picpoul Blanc, 12% Marsanne, and 9% Viognier. It was fermented in French oak, stirred twice a week to mix in the lees, and doesn't undergo malolactic fermentation. The aroma was spectacular, a complex and harmonious melange of floral, fruit and herb notes, all of which also came out on the palate. Peaches, lemons, melons, white flowers, minerality and so much more. Well balanced, complex, a lengthy and satisfying finish, and excellent acidity. A highly recommended wine.

7) 2004 Rodano Viacosta Chianti Classico Riserva ($30)
This is another winner from Chianti Classico. The winery produces traditional style Chianti Classico and I was impressed with all of their wines I tasted. The Viacosta was a stand out, made from 100% Sangiovese that was aged for about 24 months, 60% in French oak and 20% of that is new. It had an alluring aroma and on the palate it was stunning. Complex, elegant, rustic, spicy, and with a lengthy and pleasing finish. A great food wine, this should be in your wine cellar.

8) 2011 Blomidon Estate Winery Rosé ($15.99)
Several years ago, I toured some of the wineries of Nova Scotia but plenty more have sprung up since that time. One of those new ones is Blomidon Estate Winery, which is committed to producing wines using only Nova Scotia grown grapes. Their 2011 Rosé is a blend of three hybrids: New York Muscat, L’Acadie Blanc and Baco Noir. It was crisp, dry, and clean with subtle strawberry and watermelon flavors and hints of floral notes. It was far more Provence style than California, and paired very well with a variety of foods. You never would have known this was made from hybrids. In a blind tasting, you might assume this was a French Rosé.

9) 2010 Planeta Carricante ($36)
Sicily possesses a number of indigenous grapes including Carricante, a white grape thought to extend back to the 9th century and is primarily found in the Etna region. It is a late maturing grape, thrives in high altitudes and has a high acidity which allows it to age well. This wine was made from 100% Carricante and remains on the lees until the February after harvest when it is then bottled. It had a light gold color with an exciting aroma of apples and floral notes. On the palate, it was crisp, clean and complex with a dominant steely minerality and subtle fruit flavors, including pear and green apple. A lengthy and satisfying finish, this would be an excellent seafood wine and it should age very well too. I heartily recommend it.

10) 2010 Joel Gott Alakai ($24)
This California red wine blend is comprised of 77% Grenache, 17% Syrah, 4% Mourvedre, and 2% Petite Sirah. It had an alluring nose, great fruit and hints of spice and was compelling on the palate. Complex, with a delicious melange of reds fruits and spice, with hints of earthiness. It was more on the lighter side with smooth tannins and a lengthy, pleasing finish. An excellent food wine, or something you can savor on its own. Just plain delicious

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 add to this list. Like my previous list, no single country dominated though Italy once again occupied three spots, due to my trip to Chianti Classico. California took two spots while Argentina, Austria, Oregon, France, and Nova Scotia each took one spot. The list is also broken down into 2 Rosé, 3 Whites and 5 Red wines. Half of the wines on the list also cost less than $25.

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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