I finally had a chance to review my notes from the past year and figure out what wines delivered the best experiences. Some of these wines are absolutely the best wines I tasted in 2007 and others are wines that were pleasant surprises or just perfect for the occasion. While I had the opportunity to taste some noteworthy wines such as first growth Bordeax and aged Barolos, these generally did not make the list. If we're honest with ourselves, these wines don't always stack up because we have such high and unrealistic expectations of them. And remember, the more monumental the wine, the more variation there is from year to year and the more bottle variation there is even within the same vintage. With that said, here is my list of best wines (really, the wines that delivered the best experiences):
10. Barone Ricasoli Casalferro Toscana 1999
Dug out of the bottom of a clearance bin (an unbelievable find and a badly misplaced treasure), this wine is big, bold, and rich. The fruit and spices explode from the glass and the texture is rich on the palate. I paid an outrageous bargain price of $17 for this $45 treasure- and it confirmed my love of superTuscans!
9. Dr. Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett 1997
Here is a wine that aged beautifully and much better than the reviews back in 1999 would have suggested. It shows layers of fruit and a long, silky finish. I grabbed the last of three magnums stashed away in the back of a local wine shop's climate controlled room. After consulting the general manager, I found out the other two bottles had been purchased by employees of the store. What a deal at $50!
8. Cornish Point Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir 2004
Don't miss the opportunity to try a Pinot Noir from New Zealand, especially from the Central Otago region. Good luck finding one, though. Even extensive wine selections often only include one or two choices. If you happen upon this one, you'll be treated to a big bouquet of roses, mulberries, and spices with a lively core of fruit and real purity of flavors on the elegant finish. Amazing food wine, for sure! Expect to spend about $30.
7. Chateau Langoa Barton 1998
This wine has Bordeaux written all over it. It couldn't be a better example. With a smokey nose of tobacco and black cherry, the texture is smooth and the finish shows leather and earth. Overlooked by collectors, it's drinking beautifully as it approaches ten years old. Priced perfectly for me at $32!
6. Pride Napa-Sonoma Counties Merlot 2000
One sip of this wine made my heart skip a beat- it's that good! If all Merlot tasted like this, no one would ever question the varietal. Incredible depth and layers of ripe fruit, all well structured and stretched out into an endless finish. For $55 or so, this wine is a benchmark. Also, it could age for a lot longer than I allowed it to.
5. Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2001
Carmenere in Chile can do extraordinary things! This wine is so dark purple and fragrant, it had me wondering how I could refinance my house and buy more. Incredible depth, richness, and layers of dark fruit that have no beginning or end. If you have some don't drink it yet. Let it continue to rest in your cellar (provided you have proper storage conditions). I paid about $60 for this bottle.
4. Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2005
Buy every bottle of 2005 Chateauneuf you can afford. Something special is happening in this region of the Southern Rhone. The past few years have been terrific and the 2005's are top of the class. This wine is just great- with a rich nose of fruit and spice followed by plush texture and a long finish. It tastes great now and should continue to be delicious for several decades. I paid $55 a bottle for this wine, and it's well worth it!
3. Querciabella Batar 2000
One of the most fragrant white wines I've ever had, this was the biggest surprise of the year. I didn't know what to expect due to a lack of information about this wine, but it is beautiful. I wish I had several cases. And believe it or not, I bought a bottle for just $22 (the reference price is $70). What a delicious white wine from a Tuscan producer whose reds I really enjoy!
2. Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Dare I say it- this wine is even better than the Special Selection 2004. Why? It's big and bold, but also classy, elegant, and well-layered. In other words, it's really well put together and tastes great now. Who knows how they will stack up in ten years, but if you reach for an amazing Napa Cab today you'll do well with this one. And by the way, you'll pay $65 for this versus $135 for Special Selection.
1. Castle Los Carneros Pinot Noir 2001
This wine brought a tear to my eye! I couldn't believe what I was tasting. My wife bought it for me for about $30 on a trip to California more than two years ago because she felt it was a wine I probably wouldn't see for sale on the East coast. I let it linger in the cellar for the past two years and finally decided to pop the cork. I was amazed! Maybe it was just the right amount of bottle aging or some other stars lining up, but this wine blew me away. It has terrific layers and is seemlessly integrated. The texture is silky and the finish is relaxed. I am far from being on the Pinot Noir bandwagon, but I know I tasted something special here. I sipped slowly on the wine for hours and thought about the meaning of life. And that's what great wine can do. Raise a glass!