Thursday, December 12, 2013

2013: 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 eleven wines, pairing a couple together from the same producer.

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) 2011 Westport Rivers Cinco Cães ($18)
For me, this doesn't get more local as it is a wine from Massachusetts, a unique white blend of Rkatsiteli, Pinot Gris, Gruner Veltliner, Muscat and Chardonnay. Cinco Cães, a Portuguese phrase that means "five dogs," is named for five dogs they owned, four Labrador retrievers and an Azorean cattle dog. Though an easy drinking wine, you might at first overlook its complexity. A fascinating blend of aromatics with tastes of green apple, pear, citrus, and herbal notes. It is crisp and delicious, with a lengthy finish and after having a glass, you are going to crave another and then another.

2) 2007 Marcel Deiss Engelgarten ($40)
Another compelling Alsatian wine, "Engelgarten" means "Angel's Garden" and is a field blend of Muscat, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. The winery is Biodynamic and this wine has an alcohol content of 12%. This was a stunning and complex wine, with great tropical fruit flavors, crisp acidity, a strong minerality backbone and hints of spice. A wine to savor either with or without food. Well worth the price and highly recommended.

3) 2009 Castello di Selvole Chianti Classico Riserva (about $30)
This Italian Chianti Classico is made from 100% Sangiovese, aged for 18 months in French barrique and 6 months in the bottle. This wine is just starting to be imported into the U.S. so it does not have a price yet though likely will be around $30 or so. This possesses everything that their basic Chianti Classico possesses, but with greater depth and complexity as well as a lengthier finish. An excellent example of the best of Chianti Classico.

4) 2009 Bodegas Paso Robles "Dona Blanca" ($18)
From one of my favorite Paso Robles producers comes this Grenache Blanc/Malvasia Bianca blend. I previously tasted the 2008 vintage and the 2009 was equally as compelling, with lots of complexity, great flavors and a satisfying finish. Everyone who drank this wine with me enjoyed it very much. And at this price, it is an excellent value, over delivering at its price point. I recommend all of the wines from Bodegas Paso Robles.

5) 2009 Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($38)
This California wine is a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 6% other Bordeaux varieties. The wine spent about 20 months in 45% new American oak barrel and has an alcohol content of 14.2%. This dark purple colored wine possesses an alluring aroma of subtle black fruit and spice, and on the palate it presents as silky and elegant, with delicious flavors of black cherry, ripe plum, subtle spice, vanilla and hints of leather. A well balanced wine, the smooth tannins lead to a lengthy and satisfying finish. Paired with the steak, it is a worthy companion.

6) 2010 L'Orpailleur Cuvee Natashquan ($25)
From Quebec,Canada, this interesting wine is made from 100% Seyval Blanc. It spends a year in French oak, 30% which are new, and it possessed an intriguing complexity, as well as a rich, savory mouth feel and nice citrus tastes. Each sip impressed and I seemed to find something else within it to enjoy. This may be made from a hybrid, but you wouldn't know it from the taste. You would just find a delicious and compelling wine.

7) 2007 Villa Franciacorta Brut ($35)
I've acquired a passion for Italian Franciacorta and this vintage example is also an excellent value. This sparkling wine is a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, which was fermented in stainless steel and then aged in barriques. It was aged sur lie for at least 60 months, and is only produced in excellent vintages. This elegant wine is silky smooth, incredibly complex and possesses such a wonderful melange of flavors including apples, pears, toast, and spice. Well balanced, there are depths of flavor and a lengthy finish that you don't want to ever end. A "Wow" wine.

8) 2010 Beronia Rioja Vinas Viejas ($20-$30)
A stunner from Spain, this is 100% Tempranillo, from 40 year old vines, and is matured for ten months in mixed oak. It was elegant and balanced, smooth and delicious, with a nice melange of fruit and spice. It was deceptively easy to drink, though possessed of intriguing complexity which would make you want to slowly savor a glass. It mesmerized me from the first taste and is an excellent food wine, especially with Spanish tapas.

9) 2011 Elyse L’Ingenue ($28) and 2008 Elyse Le Corbeau ($37)
With roots in Boston, Elyse Winery, which is located in California, works wonders with Rhone varietals. The L’Ingenue is a blend of 2% Roussanne, 32% Marsanne, 11% Viognier and 5% Grenache Blanc. The wine is aged for about 16 months, sur lie, in used French oak, has an alcohol content of 14.6%. The aromas pleasantly caressed my nose, subtle fruits and flowers, while its full-bodied mouthfeel caressed my palate. Crisp and fresh, the fruit predominated, lush peach, pear and citrus, while there were mild floral elements. Complex and delicious, it possessed a satisfying and lengthy finish. The Corbeau is a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah. The wine is aged for about 22 months in 20% new French oak, has an alcohol content of 14.4%. This compelling wine is almost purple and opaque, with dark spices and black fruits on the aroma. On the palate, it is a dark and brooding wine, with ripe plum, blackberry, vanilla and dark spices, especially on the finish. There is a strong earthy streak and plenty of complexity to intrigue you. Well balanced, the finish is lengthy and alluring.

10) Atsby Armadillo Cake Vermouth ($47)
Vermouth? Yes, as it is still wine, simply a fortified and aromatized wine. Made in New York, this vermouth takes its name from a groom's cake, shaped like an armadillo, that is usually a red velvet cake. This vermouth uses 32 botanicals, and most are different from those used for their other vermouth, the Amberthorn. To sweeten it, they use a caramel that was made from dark Indian Muscovado sugar. This complex and impressive Vermouth is more powerful than the Amberthorn, but still with plenty of restraint and balance. There is an enticing umami taste, with a great depth of flavor, and unknown tastes which intrigue the brain. It is time to reconsider Vermouth.

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, meaning that I had to eliminate other worthy wines. This year though, I am adding an Honorable Mention list, to reference some of those other wines which nearly made my Top Ten list.

Honorable Mention
2012 Gustave Lorentz Rosé of Pinot Noir ($18.99)
2008 Matetic EQ Syrah ($40)
2010 Kriselle Cellars Di'Tani ($25)
2012 Folin Cellars Grenache Rose ($20)
2012 Del Rio Pinot Gris ($16)
2011 Gioia Rosato di Sangiovese ($24)
Les Ruchers du Troubador Sparkling Honey Wine ($25)
Berlucchi Franciacorta '61 Rose ($30-$35)
2011 Jaxon Grenache ($36)
2011 Johan Vineyards Blaufrankisch ($36)

California occupies the most spots on my Top Ten list, with four wines. Italy, with two spots, is the only other region which occupied multiple spots. The other regions represented include Massachusetts, New York, Canada, France and Spain. The list is also broken down into 1 Sparkling Wine, 5 Whites, 4 Reds and 1 Fortified Wine. If you look at the Honorable Mentions, you'll find plenty of Oregon wines, and a few other more unique wines.

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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