Well, we’ve just about survived 2018 and as usual it’s been a year of ups and downs, wonderment and heartbreak, opportunities and adversity. But through it all, I remain grateful. My heart aches and beams for Thing 2 all at the same time as I watch him struggle yet overcome each day. Thing 1 continues to make me proud of her for her grace, kindness, and humility (sometimes – she’s a pre-teen after all!). And Mr. Corkscrew continues to be my biggest fan and tolerates my crazy, sometimes insane,1 wine hobby. But beginning in January all the way to now, I’ve had the opportunity to taste some fantastic wines. So without further ado, here are my most memorable (I didn’t say best)2 10 +2 (it’s hard to narrow down) wines of 2018.
2015 Paul Achs Altenberg Blaufrankisch, Burgenland, Austria ($45)
I first tasted this on a trip to Burgenland3 and, just wow! I very much came to appreciate Blaufrankisch during this trip and this one was certainly one of the best. The Altenberg Vineyard is regarded as one of the premier sites in the region. This wine is only made in top vintages and I can attest to the greatness of it. Crafted from 25 year old vines in a combination of gravel and Muschelkalk limestone soil, the wine is fermented in stainless steel and spends about 18 months in a combination of new and used barriques. Lovely elegance along with great structure and complexity. It seriously made me swoon! Ripe fruit on the nose followed by spice, mineral, dark fruit and rich, great acid, integrated tannins. A nice lingering finish. Wow.
2016 Cantina di Solopaca Terre di Surrupaca Cortenuda Falanghina, Campania, Italy ($12)
Until January 2018, I’d never heard of, tasted, or even knew that Falanghina existed. That’s the thing about Italy – all those darn grapes and not enough time (and liver capacity) to try them all. Falanghina is an ancient white variety from Italy’s Campania region and it is delish! This Falanghina from Cantina de Solopaca was wonderful. Citrus, pear, and tropical and floral notes. Great acidity balanced by an almost creaminess that made it go down way too easy. I could totally see myself sipping this in the pool. But it also paired so nicely with cured ahi tuna and eggplant. I’m told that this style of Falanghina is a more modern style and the traditional wines are typically more acidic with less of the roundness that this one had. Either way, I can’t wait to try more!
2004 Gaja Costa Russi Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy (~$400)
I popped this beauty in the woes of #LawyerLife. I was not happy at the state of things at the office and quite frankly just wanted to open something that reminded me of some of the benefits of lawyering.4 OK, I just needed motivation to not quit and go out and collect cans. #KeepinItReal. Opulent and restrained, fruit forward yet earthy, this one covers to whole spectrum. Blackberry, black plum, violets, spice, mocha, mineral, and so much more, the complexity was just off the charts. I may have even gone to work happy after this one! An ethereal sip. Find out more on this beauty and how to pair.
2014 Parducci True Grit Reserve Petite Sirah, Mendocino, CA ($18)
I loved this wine. I mean like really loved it. Apparently the folks at Parducci have been making great Petite Sirah for like decades. Where have I been? Seems like folks at Wine Enthusiast knew because they scored it at 91 points. OK, so better late than never. Intense inky burgundy in the glass. Bold, lush, and full-bodied, it offers up juicy dark blackberry, plum, mocha and svelte tannins that coat the tongue like velvet. Great QPR on this one at $18 that could go toe to toe with wines double the price. And apparently this one will get better in the bottle. Must get more.
2015 George Wine Company ‘Sonoma Coma’ Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California ($50)
As Pinot Noir is my first wine love and is the wine that got me into this crazy hobby, I’m always thrilled to find a new one that knocks my socks off. This may very well be my new Pinot Noir obsession! How had I not ever heard of the George Wine Company?! Well better late than never! Spice, smoke, black cherry, with a tinge of minerality. Tannins are both bold and silky and the finish goes on and on. Had this with duck confit as was all in my happy place! Serious Pinot here.
2009 Scarecrow M. Étain Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley, California ($~200)
So I’ve always wanted to try the Scarecrow wine and this one got me a little bit closer. The M. Étain is the second wine of Scarecrow and is a thing of beauty. Decadent, sultry, and sexy as hell. Ripe, fruit forward, complex and constantly evolving in the glass. Yes it’s big and bold and heavily extracted but man is it good. And at the rate that big brother Scarecrow is selling, this may be the only one I get to try. And that’s OK too. I can live with this ‘second wine’ all day. This is Cabernet Elevated. OK, and I’m a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz, so there is that.
2015 Maya Pedro Ximenez, Elqui Valley, Chile ($14)
I first tried this at a wine tasting at the urging of one of the reps and I have been suggesting it to people ever since! Pedro Ximenez has long been used in the production of Sherry and Brandy but it is increasingly being used to make some nice still wines. Given that the grape is low acid, it takes a place like Chile, with the high altitude of the Andes to create one with a good amount of acid. This one is harvested from one of the highest altitude vineyards in Chile and it is oh so delicious. Racy acidity, ripe green fruit, minerality, and floral notes all for $12. It reminds me of a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. And yes, it’s fabulous with BBQ chips.
2005 M. Chapoutier L’Ermite Ermitage, Hermitage, Rhône Valley, France (~$250)
There’s no disputing that Chapoutier is king of the Rhône with his uncompromising, high, exacting standards. This wine is pure silk elegance. Structured and concentrated, I just couldn’t get enough of this one. I mean, I seriously thought about this wine days after having it. Quite aromatic with dark fruit and floral aromas. Voluptuous stewed dark plum, elegant spice, along with medium plus acidity and fine grained tannins on the palate. Just a fine example of #WinePorn.
2016 William Chris Mourvèdre, La Pradera Vineyards, Texas High Plains ($35)
I had both the 2016 La Pradera Mourvedre and the 2016 Lost Draw Mourvedre from William Chris and it’s seriously a coin toss as to which was more memorable as they are both excellent wines that truly showcase what Texas terroir can do. Who knew humble old Mourvèdre could do this?! While Tempranillo has been embraced by many in the state, there are some that believe that Mourvèdre is poised to become Texas’ signature red. And it must be true because the William Chris Mourvèdre wines are always quite the hot item and sell out quickly. If you see one, grab it and hold on tight. Rich and smooth with ripe, fleshy red fruits and a touch of velvety mocha, this is the real deal.
2015 & 2016 Château La Nerthe Les Clavelles Châteauneuf-du-Pape, RhôneValley, France (>$200)
Yes, I know I’m cheating by including two wines into one. But hey, it’s my blog. I’m so fortunate to attend lots of wine tastings, and this one was certainly one of the most memorable. Check the recap of their entire lineup here. Crafted of 100% Grenache using whole bunch fermentation, these wines were simply stunning. What began as an experiment for La Nerthe has turned into a stroke of genius. The wines come from their Les Clavelles plot which has soil comprised of a mixture of sand, red clay, and pebble stones. And while the vintages differed with 2015 being more approachable and 2016 a bit more structured and wound a bit more tightly, both of these will only get better with time. These wines just pulled you in with heady perfumed floral and fruit aromas as well elegant, finessed tannins. If I had the choose a “best of the year,” this may be it.
2011 Bodegas Ysios Rioja Reserva, Spain (~$30)
Ysios, which is named after an Egyptian goddess of magic who had oversight of winemaking, is a boutique winery that is part of the Campo Viejo family of wines. Made in a more modern style, this Rioja wine by Bodegas Ysios is crafted of 100% Tempranillo and sourced from vineyards that average 35 years. Deep red with tinges of purple in the glass despite having a little age. Ripe blackberries and raspberry on the nose. But this is no fruit bomb. After all, this is Rioja. Nice juicy palate of fresh dark fruit, vanilla, spice, and cedar. It was both intense and powerful as well as elegant. Smooth and round with well integrated tannins. Just a very nice wine all around. It’s had a few years in the bottle and seems close to hitting to its prime but can go a few more years. Production is quite small so if you see one, snag it (and then send it to me!).
2017 Acquiesce Grenache Rosé, Lodi, California ($25)
So I wanted to cheat again and combine multiple wines into one but I restrained myself. I had some seriously good Rosé this year. And while admittedly we are getting to the point where there is too much out there and the market seems to be getting saturated, there are definitely some that rise above the fray. I had four Rosés on my most memorable list that I had to cut down to one. I’d seen many folks on social media talk about the Acquiesce wines and for some reason the wines just stuck in my mind so I finally decided to get some. This truly outstanding wine oozes sweet strawberry fruit (NOT a sweet wine) and lush watermelon along with a touch of herbaceousness. I mean I know it’s a Rosé, but wow, what an enjoyable wine. And now I know why they always sell out. This one is crafted of Grenache Noir and while I want to say it’s Provençal in style, it’s bit richer than than. I hope my friends at Topochines.com keep this one in their inventory.
Cheers to more great wine in 2019!
- How much wine did I purchase this year?! I’ll never tell!
- Wines are so different so I can never say one is the best. But I can recall the ones that are implanted in my brain for one reason or another.
- Check back next month for all the details.
- I also am able to provide my kids with a wonderful life, fund their college accounts, pay for the best specialists I can find for Thing 2, and help many charitable causes that are near and dear to my heart.