Sunday, January 09, 2011

(PB's) Top Ten Wines of 2010!

My top ten picks for 2010 are not necessarily the "best" wines I have had this year. Some of the wines we review are either not readily available or are out of what I would consider a price range that most normal people would pay for a bottle of fermented grape juice. So the wines below are wines that clearly stood out to me, and are wines of which I have consumed several bottles and then looked for more. You will see they are within the price range of most everyone's budget.

I should mention lastly, that with the exception of the #1 wine of the year--a clear winner--the number rankings of the subsequent wines get very loose. All this means that every wine on this list is worth looking for and buying a bottle or three, so happy hunting and here is to raising a glass to the next top ten of 2011!

#1 Marchesi Frescobaldi Tenuta Di Castiglioni (Toscana) 2007
Here is my entry from when I tasted this wine: "This 'Super Tuscan' is the leading contender for my "wine of the year" recognition and I doubt it will be displaced." Indeed, it was not unseated and easily takes top honors for this year’s wine of the year!

It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sangiovese and it is positively awesome! On the pour it is heavily pigmented leaving color on the crystal glass. The bouquet is full of intense aromas of spicy fruit, nice cherry, sweet tobacco aromas and a touch of earthiness that tends to typify Tuscan wines.

Palate--Almost thick and textured with plush tannins and rich cherry-berry flavors, espresso, deep dark baker's chocolate, and then more dark fruit with dried cherry hints. It is all harmonious with a layer of bright fresh cherries. Wine Spectator gave this wine 93 points and earns every point of that! For such a young wine it is drinking wowingly!

Here's the best part, this wine can be found for under $20 but even at $30 it would be a bargain. Raise a glass to sensational Super Tuscans!
(As a side note, I had this wine again last evening with a juicy grilled chuck Eye steak as we were being buried in snow. I decanted it and let it breathe for 4 hours. This is a MUST if you are going to appreciate the complexity and changing layers of this wonderful wine!)

This next wine shares the # 1 wine of the year but in a category all its own. It is a wine that is not available and a normal person probably could not afford to obtain it. This wine came from the basement of my mother-in-law who bought it on release after she and my late father-in-law made a trip to Germany. But it was so distinctive and awesome, that I had to give it a place of honor in this years top wines. The wine is:

#1* Runschbacher Konigsgarten Beerenauslese Eiswein 1976
This German gem from the Rheinpfalz was shipped by Rudi Kiefer. The color on the anxious pour of this aged wine was a remarkable amber hue that looked like it was fitting for a gem stone set as a pendant.

The bouquet was honeyed caramel with stewed apricots and dill with orange rind aromas notes that were amazing.

Palate--Elegant, rich, velvety thick and marvelous. Flavors of peach nectar with caramel hints on a foundation that is perfectly balanced between luscious sweetness and solid acid.

No label was available on line that I could find nor could I find a reference a price but a wine like this is priceless. Suffice it to say, this is a wine I will always remember!

#2 Quarles Harris Vintage Port 2007
This "Vintage" Oporto is deeply pigmented with beautiful floral violet fragrances with green tree subtleties.

Palate: Thick and creamy, rich, plush, sensual with big dark berry fruit; I am nearly struck dumb at how utterly amazing this vintage port is, yet so young. This is a love affair in a bottle, absolutely wowing. I reluctantly paid $38 for a bottle of this at a Trader Joe’s in Boston. I have since had my Los Angeles daughter find me a couple more bottles and bring them to Maine.

Note well--there are many "port" wines on the shelf, some which contain the word "vintage" in the title especially "Late Bottled Vintage Port." These are NOT the same as "Vintage" port and normally the price is telling. This is why I was so skeptical of this true Vintage Port being drinkable at this young age as well as the fact that 2007 is one of the best vintages for Port in a lifetime. But this is the real deal and a ridiculous value at this price. Considering Vintage Port is meant to age for a long time I cannot even imagine what this wine will be like with some years on it. Raise a glass and say WOW!

#3 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 2007
Young purple hue with a sweet, berry laden bouquet and a nose of light black licorice/anise and evergreen;

Palate--rich and relaxed with young tannins that will turn to velvet in a couple years. Ample berry and black cherry with a touch of cola nuances and light cinnamon notes; should continue to evolve in the glass as it warms up. After an hour and a warm up this is a superior Cab and at the price of $12 (it runs around $18 most places) it is a super value wine that is delicious and a fine example of how good Cabernet can be. Raise a glass of this VERY nice wine!

#4 Sean Minor 4Bears Central Coast Chardonnay 2008
This wine was sent to us by the folks at Sean Minor wines. Hang onto your palates and get ready to run to find this wine!

It presents with a light golden hue and a flowery, sweet, candied bouquet enticing my nose while sitting on the table in front of me. Really lovely!

Bouquet: Magical, powdery, tropical fruit aromas with glorious banana highlights in a floral package. Wow...

Palate–there is a fleeting but definite caramel front with solid structure that is integrated with pineapple and citrus on a buttery texture all of which finishes elegantly with long, sweet cream and light tropical fruit.

THIS is what wine should be. When you consider it runs about $13 but is made like and tastes like a Chard costing 3 times as much, it is a worthy pick for my top ten of 2010.

This Central coast Chard is a superior wine and a SUPER value so raise several glasses!

#5 L'Ecole No 41 "Walla Voila" Chenin Blanc 2009
This also happened to be a wine that was sent to us for review. It presents with a nice, medium golden hue with mouth watering pear and green apple perfume scents accompanied by sweet, powdery tropical fruits. Wow!

Palate–It has a velvety texture with great structure, and juicy core delivering flavors of spicy sweet yellow and white fruits. I am in love with this wine...
This is one of the best Chenins I have ever had. I paired it with sushi (which means the challenge of wasabi and ginger) and it was simply wonderful. At $15 this is a grab me and raise a glass wine!

#6 Trimbach Gewurztraminer (Alsace) 2006
A gentle golden hue with an awesome bouquet of spicy fruit with touches of citrus, light pineapple and a powdery, sweet fragrance. Fantastic!

Palate--Minerals abound as you would expect from an Alsatian white, on an off-dry foundation of yellow citrus with an almost Sauvignon Blanc-like grassy note. There is a slight touch of green apple that is delightfully balanced on a solid acid base to make this a wonderful wine and a super value at this price (*$10) so raise glass after glass!

*A grocery chain in our area was running some close out sales on numerous wines and this was one that was one of those "finds" you celebrate. Trimbach is a big-name Alsatian producer and Gewurztraminer is the signature grape of Alsace. If you follow this blog, you know that Gewurztraminer--pronounced ga-Vurts-tra--MEE-ner--is my favorite white grape and my perennial spring/summer wine for celebrating, warm sunshine, spicy foods, the sun rising, and the moon rising.

Trimbach does Gewurz well and this wine typically runs $22-$28.

#7 Fetzer "Valley Oaks" California Chardonnay 2008
Light golden straw hue with ample bouquet of tropical fruit with melon, powdery vanilla and cream notes.

Palate--Racy acidity, with solid structure and loads of citrusy, tropical fruit compote all wrapped into one big fruity, value Chard. It even has a finish that lets you know what you've been drinking after the fact.

Remember the axiom, "You get what you pay for when buying wine?" That's actually a pretty good rule to a certain extent. One Exception are "value wines" which are wines that trump the wisdom of the rule. There can be numerous reasons why a wine is inexpensive with respect to the quality you get. One is production quantities.

Fetzer kicked out nearly 630,000 cases of this wine. That is a HUGE production which yields an economy of scale. This wine is typically found for $10 but Trader Joe's sells it for $7. At either price, it is a value wine and one that should be easy to find so raise a glass!

#8 Bechtheimer Stein Gewurztraminer "Spatlese" 2006
G & M Wachner produces this wonderful Gewurz for a mere $12 from the German region of the Rheinhessen.

It has a lightly golden hue and sweet pie spice with loads of tropical fruit in the bouquet which is outstanding presenting a little caramel note as well. I LOVE this grape!

Palate–There is a tropical fruit blast on the front palate with delicious sweet, mango and papaya on a structure that is up to the task. Wow! Chill this down for a real treat. It is great as an aperitif or with those difficult Asian dishes that tend to stump people when pairing. What a nice wine at $12 and a gorgeous label to boot! Raise a glass!

#9 Archeo Nero D'Avola Ruggero di Tasso Sicilia 2007

Trader Joe's is always good to shop for some super wine values and this was another one I grabbed a half case of when in Boston. It has a garnet hue with some depth and bouquet of distinction with earthy fruit along with touches of raspberry, cranberry, and pomegranate.

Palate--Tasty and juicy with black pepper on opening with loads of minerals and cherry fruit. With some air, a nice thick layer of milk chocolate rises into the air and an integrated palate of dried cherries, and bread with chocolate carry through to the foundation.

This is a lot of wine for the $6 price tag which explains why I bought a half case and will buy more if I get down there in the near future. Raise a glass to another TJ ultra-value .

#10 Monkey Bay Rose 2007
Pretty presentation with crystal, watermelon juice hue.

It has a solid bouquet of really gorgeous, sweet fruity aromas of fragrant strawberry and vanilla.

Palate--Juicy, straight forward strawberry fruit on a well made structure that makes it “real” wine! Chilled down it is a great summer quaffer for the porch or picnic. Raise a glass to the emerging roses that are often overlooked!

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