It’s that time again. 2014 is coming to a close, and the holidays are in full swing. I’m sorting through recipes for Christmas Eve, Christmas parties and New Year’s bashes. However, before I get too deep into things, I love to look back over the past year and my 500+ tasting notes for my top wines of the year. This isn’t a list that’s built through politicking or overthinking the subject. Instead, these are my favorite wines of the year in four categories: mid-priced gems, top-shelf wines, vintage wines and eye-opening experiences. You may notice that I don’t have a value wine section, but that’s because my article “Give the gift of wine for Christmas” spells out many of the best value wines I’ve had this year.
Looking over this list, I’m not surprised to see such a large representation of Riesling, as this year my eyes were truly opened to the heights of which they are capable. If you happen to be looking for a vinous New Year’s resolution—I would highly recommend exploring this amazing variety.
Italian wine continues to amaze me for both quality and value. Nowhere else can such world-class wine be had for the relative value Italian wines represent. However, I’m also very happy to see wines from Burgundy (a region I’m only now beginning to truly understand), Austria and California. I’ve tried to include links wherever possible, but unfortunately, the greatest winemakers of the world don’t always have the best websites.
All kidding aside, there’s something for everyone here. This is truly my “best of the best” list. I would love to put any of these wines in my cellar.
Top Mid-priced Wines
Each of these bottles deliver the goods in spades, and if you compared how good they are against how much they cost, then you’d see that each of them is a serious relative value. This is the sweet spot where I find my most enjoyable drinking, because they perform beautifully but won’t break the bank. Give one of these to your boss for Christmas or New Year’s, and there would be no shame.
2010 Montepeloso Eneo Toscana IGT – This showed a dark and inviting nose of medicinal black cherry, blackberry, leather, animal musk, pipe smoke and a savory, buttery earthiness-like rich winter cuisine. On the palate, it was focused, yet plush and with a perfect balance of acidity. Red and black fruits, black licorice and notes of mineral stone saturated the senses and seemed to stick to every corner of the palate. It finished with dry, dark fruit extract penetrating the senses while its structural elements flexed their muscles and tugged at my gums. This was an impressive wine with a beautiful future ahead of it. (95 Points)
2009 Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico – The nose was exuberant with medicinal cherry, crushed raspberry, dark chocolate, floral undergrowth and a hint of volatile acidity. On the palate, it was velvety-smooth with intense, bright cherry which remained fresh yet dense, with herbs, black licorice and spice. A slight bitter note lasted into the finish with spiced cherry and dark chocolate. It’s a beautiful wine! (95 Points)
2012 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Trocken – The bouquet on the Emrich-Schönleber was drop-dead gorgeous, starting with intense wet slate and minerals, then opening up to reveal peach, apricot, smoke and a hint of undergrowth. On the palate, it was rich yet focused with pulsing acidity giving way to green apple, minerals and lime. So youthful and tightly coiled yet wanting to burst from its seams with a tense, structured finish. This wine was stone, fruit, and earth personified. (94 Points) (Morrell)
Sometimes the occasion calls for the best wines, and the ones listed below are sure to please. These are wines that some may refer to as “collectible.” However, I prefer to call them highly drinkable. These are bottles that will blow away the competition and leave no survivors. They may cost a pretty penny, but they’re worth every red cent.
2008 Tenuta di Biserno Maremma Toscana Lodovico – The Lodovico was stunning and a true classic in the making. The nose was dark yet elegant, with wild herbs and minerals up front, yet quickly opened in the glass to reveal red berries, dried flowers, charred meat, and the slightest hint of oak. On the palate, it was rich yet youthfully firm, with one of the most enjoyable velvety textures which enveloped the experience from start to finish. Dark red fruits, hints of sage and dark chocolate saturated the senses yet were balanced by lively acidity. The finish seemed to clench the palate with noble tannin, slightly drying the fruit yet providing much pleasure. This was a drop-dead gorgeous wine. (96 Points) (Morrell)
2005 Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques Vieille Vigne -A model of poise and balance, as the nose showed dark red fruits, contrasted by soil tones and moist clay with a lifting hint of mint and herbs. On the palate, it was delicate, supple and finessed with focused red fruits, blackberry, dry spices and earthy soil tones. Remarkably long and fresh on the finish with dried red fruit and herbal hints lingering long. It’s a beautifully-balanced wine in its early maturity yet has decades ahead of it. (96 Points) (Morrell)
2009 Château Pape Clément – Classy and elegant with a gorgeous nose which will make the Bordeaux lover swoon. The 2009 Pape Clement opens up with a balanced and utterly gorgeous nose of ripe, dark red fruits, dusty floral tones, minerals and undergrowth. On the palate, it’s youthful with decades of development in store, yet still shows elegance with a delightful display of dark red fruits, plum, espresso and earth tones. It clenches the palate on the finish, showing off its formidable structure, yet this is a joy to drink. (95 Points) (Morrell)
Top Vintage Wines
If you’re anything like me, then it’s the older vintage wines that truly make cellaring wine worthwhile. Don’t get me wrong; I love young wines, but if I had a choice, I’d grab a 20+ year-old Barolo any day. These are all wines older than ten years that truly made me stop and take notice in 2014.
1989 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia – The nose was deep, rooted in the earth with iron and minerals, yet dark and imposing as rich black cherry, licorice and dried roses gave contrast to rock dust and black soil tones. You could sense that as much as this wine was willing to give, there was still so much more being held in reserve. On the palate, balsamic notes gave way to dark fruit and inner floral perfumes, yet the wine’s muscle and girth seemed to be working hard (yet in a futile manner) to try and keep it all concealed. The finish was filled with strawberry, tar and tobacco notes in a long, youthful expression. This is a wine that anyone who considers themselves a fan of Barolo must taste at one point in their lives. (97 Points)
1998 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico – It is always a treat to taste Quinartelli Amarone. The nose showed dusty dried flowers and powdered cocoa, eucalyptus and preserved cherries with a slightly smoky hint to it, along with spice box and molasses. It was finessed, yet intense on the palate with a smooth consistency and weight, as notes of candied cherry, rum raisin and cardamom coated the senses. The finish stayed for over a minute with notes of cherry, fig and spice. (96 Points)
2001 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape – The 2001 Clos des Papes was a showstopper with a rich nose which seemed to traverse from sweet to savory with each tilt of the glass. Aromas of rich blackberry and cherry were offset by dark soil, charred meat, brown sugar and garigue. On the palate, it was soft and seductive, yet fortified with balanced acidity, showing flavors of dark fruits, cherry, grilled herbs, fresh-turned earth and with a lingering note of spiced plum and dried flowers on the finish. (95 Points)
This is a new category this year, and I felt it’s a necessary addition. The fact is that I’ve had some truly eye-opening bottles of wine placed in front of me this year. These are the wines that convinced me to dig deeper, and I hope they’ll do the same for you.
2010 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling ‘Rotlay’ – The nose was insanely beautiful, showing sweet spices and floral notes, lemon curd, and ripe peach with hints orange and green grass. On the palate, it was all about perfectly balanced intensity. The weight and sweetness of this wine is at first perceptible but then is swept away by a burst of green apple acidity, leaving a slightly oily texture with tropical fruit and citrus notes which seem to last for over a minute throughout the finish. This is a sweet wine, balancing its girth as if on the point of a needle, swinging this way and that–yet never tipping over. Love it. (94 Points)
2005 Carlisle Zinfandel Carlisle Vineyard -The nose was intense and constantly evolving with ripe yet fresh fruits, showing stemmed strawberry and cherry, sweet floral tones, exotic spice and minerals. On the palate, it was fresh yet expanded to cover all the senses in spirited ripe cherry, plum and dark chocolate. Juicy, ripe, spiced red fruits lingered on the finish. This wine was incredible and a new experience in Zinfandel for me. (94 Points)
2010 F.X. Pichler Sauvignon Blanc Grande Réserve – The nose of the Pichler Sauvignon Blanc was all about intensity and form. Ripe peach, lemon curd and sweet cream were offset by notes of wild herbs and hints of forest funk. On the palate, it was weighty with a hint of sweetness, yet balanced perfectly by brisk acidity, showing young peach and herbal notes. The finish was long and rich, showing palate-saturating lemon and lime along with inner floral tones and a mouthwatering quality which seemed to accentuate the entire experience. (94 points) (Morrell)
If you’ve gotten this far, then you are truly committed, and for that I thank you. 2014 was a year of remarkable experiences, for which I consider myself very lucky to have been a part of. As I look forward to 2015, my spirits are high. Happy Holidays to you and Drink Well!
Thank You, Eric Guido
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido