Tuesday, January 5, 2021

2020: My Favorite Wines

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

As 2021 has arrived, it's time to reflect upon the past year, to remember and savor pleasant memories. I've already posted a couple of my annual Favorite Lists, My Favorite Restaurants and My Favorite Food-Related Items, and it's time now to cover my Favorite Wines. As I said before, these Favorite Lists will be different, and smaller, from prior years due to the pandemic. However, there are still items deserving of being highlighted, and I will endeavor to showcase them. 

Usually, I have three lists of my Favorite Wines, divided by price point. This year, I will only have a single list, including wines at all price points. This list includes wines that not only I enjoyed, 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 that I've 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 strongly recommend and which I believe many other wine lovers would 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 region, though you might be able to order them from the winery or an online store, dependent on your state's shipping laws.

Wines Under $20

1) 2016 K7 Plavac Mali ($19)
This wine was a joint effort from 7 wineries in the Komarna region of Croatia. Made from 100% Plavac Mali, it's certified organic, has a 14.5% ABV, and was aged for 24 months in a combination of Croatian, American and French oak barrels. It possessed a medium-red color, slightly translucent, and the initial aromas included black fruit and subtle spice. This wine presented an interesting complex melange of flavors, including blackberry, plum, blueberry, black pepper, hints of vanilla, and a touch of chocolate. It also possessed a lengthy, satisfying finish, pure deliciousness. The tannins were moderate, and it was a wine that's probably best accompanied with food, something hearty, a juicy steak or even just a burger. This wine was a very good value and an excellent introduction to Croatian wines and the Plavac Mali grape. 

2) 2018 Yamhill Valley Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir ($16-$18) 
This Oregon wine was fermented in stainless steel, and then aged for three months, 95% in stainless steel and 5% in neutral oak. With a 13.8% ABV, this wine had a rich pink color and a pleasing nose of red fruits. On the palate, it was dry and crisp, with delicious and complex strawberry, watermelon, cherry and mild citrus flavors, and a hint of herbal notes. It was fresh and clean, with a satisfying finish, and would be excellent on its own or paired with food. This would be great with seafood, pizza or even hamburgers. 

3) 2016 Karabunar "Bulgarian Heritage" Dimyat ($12-$15)
An intriguing Bulgarian wine, made with 100% Dimyat, an indigenous grape, and with a 13% ABV. On the nose, there were intriguing spice notes that reminded me a little of Gewurtztraminer. There were also some notes of pear and citrus. On the palate, I was again reminded in part of a Gewurtztraminer, with a nice spice element, along with tasty notes of pear, citrus and toasted nuts. Very crisp and with a moderate richness, it was a pleasant and refreshing wine. At this price, it's an excellent value, over-delivering for this price point.

4) NV Keush Origins Brut ($19.99)
An Armenian Sparkling wine made from two indigenous grapes, 60% Voskehat and 40% Khatouni. It was produced by the Méthode Traditionelle, aged for at least 22 months on the lees, and had a 12% ABV. When you taste this bubbly, it will remind you of Champagne. This was a serious sparkling wine. It was dry, fresh and crisp, with a complex melange of flavors, including peach, pear, citrus, white flowers and a touch of brioche. It had a creamy and rich texture, pure pleasure on the palate. It had a lingering and clean finish and over delivered at this price point.

5) 2019 Oenops Apla Dry Rosé ($14.99)
From Greece, this Rosé is a blend of indigenous grapes, 50% Xinomavro, 30% Limniona, and 20% Mavroudi, all from sustainable vineyards which are 15-45 years old. The grapes were fermented in concrete tanks and the wine wass aged on the lees for about four months before bottling. This Rosé was easy drinking, though it was far from simple, being fairly complex, especially at its low price point. With a 12.8% ABV, this Rosé had a rich pink color and an appealing nose of red fruits and citrus, and a savory hint. On the palate, it was crisp and dry, with delicious flavors of strawberry, cherry and hints of savory, almost a touch of tomato. The finish pleasantly lingered and it was a nicely balanced wine. 

Wines From $20 to $50

1) 2018 Amity Vineyards White Pinot Noir
Another Oregon wine, this Pinot Noir was lightly pressed, fermented in stainless steel and then aged sur lie for a time. At 13.9% ABV, this wine had a light pink color, almost like a Rosé, and on the nose, there was a blend of white fruit flavors, including tropical notes. Take a sip and you'd be impressed with its complex melange of rich fruit flavors, including melon, pear, pineapple and a hint of cherry. There was so much happening in your glass. Everything was well balanced and it was pure delicious, definitely excellent on its own though it would pair well with food too. Good acidity, a lengthy, pleasing finish, and you'll crave a second, and third, glass. 

2) 2017 Hyland Estates Old Vine Pinot Noir ($45)
Also from Oregon, this Pinot Noir, with a 13.3% ABV, spent about 9 months in French oak. With a medium red color, it possessed an appealing aroma of red fruits and subtle spice notes. On the palate, it was compelling and elegant, complex and silky, with delicious flavors of cherry and raspberry, with a mild spiciness, balanced acidity, well integrated tannins, and a touch of earthiness. The lengthy finish was satisfying and alluring, and beckoned for you to take another sip. 

3) 2018 Wine & Soul Guru Branco (about $35)
From the Douro region of Portugal, this compelling white wine was produced from a field blend, from a 60 year old vineyard, which is approximately 25% Viosinho, 25% Rabigato, 25% Codega do Larinho and 25% Gouveio. The wine was fermented and aged in French barriques for about seven months. With a 12.5% ABV, this wine was fresh, crisp and delicious, with a complex blend of flavors, including peach, grapefruit, mineral notes, and a touch of oak. Medium-bodied, it possessed a pleasing finish and a nice elegance. Would love to pair this wine with seafood, from oysters to cod.

4) 2014 Yamhill Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve ($40) 
Once again, an Oregon wine hits this list. This Pinot was a select barrel blend, aged for sixteen months in French oak, about 20% new. With a 14.3% ABV, it had a light ruby red color, with an alluring aroma of red fruits and subtle spices. On the palate, it presented a complex melange of flavors, bright cherry, a touch of vanilla, a mild, spicy backbone, and a hint of clove. The finish was lengthy and pleasing, with a bit more spice. Medium-bodied, interesting and delicious. 

5) 2018 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir ($42)
South Africa can produce excellent Pinot too. The wine was aged for about ten months, in a variety of French oak barrels, and was a pleasant red wine to drink and you can easily have a second, or even third glass over the course of an evening. With a dark red hue, though still partially opaque, the wine had an alluring nose of red fruits and spice, a mild floral note and a hint of earth. On the palate, it was smooth and silky, with an intriguing complex melange of flavors, including strawberry, cherry and plum, mild spice notes (including a peppery aspect), and a subtle, underlying earthiness. Nice acidity, a clean taste, and a lengthy, satisfying finish. Simply delicious.

6) 2019 Greek Wine Cellars Flowers Assyrtiko (about $25)
A Greek white wine, it had a 13% ABV with a pleasing aroma of citrus. From your first sip, you would be entranced by its freshness, crisp acidity, lemon and apple notes, and its mineral backbone. There was an interesting complexity to the wine as well, elevating it above some of the simple Assyrtiko you might find. All of its elements worked harmoniously together and it was simply delicious and refreshing, a great choice for seafood or other light fare. 

7) 2018 Éric Teixer Chat Fou Côtes du Rhône (about $23)
This French Rhône wine was a blend of 85% Grenache and 15% white grapes, including Clairette, Viognier, and Chasselas. The grapes were fermented with native yeasts in concrete tanks, and it then was aged for a year in concrete. The wine was certified organic, unfiltered, unfined, and had a 13% ABV.  The wine was intended to be fresh and light, and it certainly accomplished that objective. It had an alluring fruity nose, with hints of spice. If you took a few moments to ponder over the wine, you would realize it offered some intriguing complexity. It was an easy drinking wine but it was far from simple. Besides the delicious red fruit flavors, cherry and raspberry, there were spice notes as well as a subtle minerality. It was a well balanced wine with a very pleasing finish, excellent acidity.

Wines Over $50

1) 2017 Wine & Soul Pintas (about $90)
The grapes for this Portuguese wine were foot-trodden, and the wine aged for 22 months in French barriques. With a 13.7% ABV, this wine first evidenced a seductive aroma, subtle and complex, drawing you into its beauty. On the palate, there was an intriguing and absolutely delicious melange of complex flavors, such as ripe plum, blackberry, blueberry, mild spice notes, a few floral hints, and a touch of earthiness. Full-bodied and bold, yet elegant, with well-integrated tannins and a delightfully lengthy finish. Well-balanced and compelling, this was a superb wine, certainly evidence that Portugal can make world-class wines. It was an amazing pairing with lamb. This is also a wine that should age well for many years to come, something definitely you should add to your wine cellar. It earns my highest recommendation.

2) 2017 Wine & Soul 10 Year Old Tawny Port ($55)
Also from Wine & Soul, this Port was aged closer to 15 years, spending time in 50+ year old, 630 liter, chestnut barrels. At 19.5% ABV, its nose was compelling, with a subtle sense of sweetness amidst dried fruit and nut notes. On the palate, the Port was more dry, with only a hint of sweetness, and possessed a complex and beguiling flavor profile, with elements of dried fruit, cherry, salted nuts, honey, caramel, earthiness, and more. It drank more like a 20 year-old Port, being well balanced and well integrated, and I could have sat there all evening just sipping this Port. I can easily understand how this Port could convince more people to drink it, especially as it was more dry than sweet. This Port also earns my highest recommendation. 

3) 2014 Dominio Fournier Reserva ($50)
This Spanish wine, made from 100% Tinta del Pais, was fermented in stainless steel and wooden vats, and aged in French oak barrels for at least 18 months. With a 15% ABV, this wine had a dark red, nearly black, color with an intriguing aroma of black fruit, intense spice, and a touch of smokiness. On the palate, it was a powerful wine, yet with restraint, as the tannins weren't overpowering and it possessed a complex and concentrated melange of flavors, including plum, black berry, dark spices, a little earthiness, and more. Well-balanced, a lengthy, satisfying finish, and nice acidity. This was a wine best paired with a juicy steak, or similar hearty dish. 


Nine countries/regions made the list this year, and Oregon took the lead with four spots with Portugal a close second with three spots. Greece came in third with two spots, while Croatia, Bulgaria, Armenia, South Africa, France, and Spain all had a single spot. As for wine types, the list is also broken down into two Rosé, four Whites, seven Reds, one Sparkling, and one Fortified. I have other wine recommendations on my blog and you just have to search for them. 

If you have some of your own recommendations for excellent wines you've enjoyed, please add them to the comments.

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