So here we are at the beginning of a new year. And a new decade depending on which team you’re on. I’m team “there was no year 0 so the new decade starts in 2021” but whatever. But I get that we refer to decades as the 80s, 90s, 2010s, etc. I get it. All in all, 2019 was a great year for The Corkscrew Concierge and a year of reflection and introspection for Kat the lawyer.
The Corkscrew Concierge was invited to her first international press trip by the folks at Wines of Austria (blog posts coming soon!) and was also able to tell her personal wine story in a local publication. How cool is that?! Kat the lawyer had a tremendous year of growth and faced things she had avoided for far too long. Why the hell am I referring to myself in 3rd person?
Anxiety?! Yep, that’s me, been me for DECADES! But so grateful that someone took the time to point it out to me. Now I better understand the insomnia, irritability, the sheer inability to shut my brain down, and a few other things that come with the territory. 2019 was also a year of change for the kiddos. It’s scary how quickly Thing 1 is growing up! Where did the 12 years go?! I love watching her growth, but sometimes I just want to bottle her up and preserve her as she is. Thing 2 has made amazing strides despite all of the challenges he had to face. But as always, the universe kept me in check by throwing more diagnoses at me just when I thought we’d made progress somewhere else. Despite our two steps forward and one step back, we are still solidly going forward. And I’m truly grateful for that.
But OK, to the wine. 2019 was a year of some great wines. I even got to kick a few off my personal bucket list (Sassicaia, Kongsgaard, Colgin, and a couple of others). And I definitely saw some trends this year – lots of Chardonnay, California Central Coast, and Rioja to name a few. So without further ado, here are my ten most memorable (not best) wines of 2019.
2014 Limerick Lane Zinfandel, Russian River Valley ($40)
Memorable because I’m not a big Zinfandel fan (many are just high alcohol fruit bombs) but oh this! With a tolerable 14.8% alcohol that still tasted like it was less, this was balanced and so damn good. Those historic Russian River old vines create some good juice.
2009 Chateau Figeac Premier Grand Cru Classé, St. Èmilion ($330)
If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I’m a Right Bank fan girl. My ultimate planned retirement wine (looking at you Petrus) is from there. But of course, I’ve had so many affordable wines from there as well. Not that this one is all that affordable. Figeac is a very ancient property dating all the way back to the 2nd century and is the largest estate of Saint-Emilion. From one of the best vintages in recent history, this 2009 was ripe, sexy and lush. Crafted of roughly equal parts Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon it shows elegance, length, and seamless tannins. Just a beauty!
2013 Hundred Acre Kayli Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, CA ($500)
One of those bucket list wines, we had this one for Father’s Day. “Stand amongst the very best or not at all” says owner and winemaker Jayson Woodbridge. Known for his meticulous and quite hands on approach to winemaking (harvesting and sorting fruit grape by grape rather than by the bunch), it’s safe to say that he crafts some of the best. Rich, opulent, dense, velvety with mocha, blackberry, spice. Its unapologetically big and bold and was quite the enjoyable sip. I loved every sip.
2016 DeLille Cellars Chaleur Blanc, Columbia Valley, WA ($35)
When I tasted this wine in July, I knew it was my favorite white wines to date and that it would probably end up on this list. I remember several years ago when I visited DeLille Cellars in WA and literally bought every single wine I tasted and even one I didn’t taste. I just loved all of their wines. Back in the day, crafting a white Bordeaux-style blend was unheard of in Washington. But DeLille changed that when they created their first Chaleur Blanc back in 1995. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc (68%) & Sémillon(32%), the wine is aged sur lie in French oak barrels. It’s even been served at the White House over three administrations. And while it’s a “Bordeaux-style” blend, its has its own American identity. Vanilla creme, tropical fruit, minerality and amazing med+ acidity.
2015 Sea Smoke Ten Estate Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, CA ($100)
What seems like a wine unicorn at times, I was thrilled to be able to finally purchase this bottle at our local Houston winery, the Nice Winery. They not only sell their own wines, but also those of producers they love. And let me tell you, I drank (and enjoyed) the damn thing! The 2015 Sea Smoke Ten is like liquid velvet. With fruit farmed from their organic and biodynamic certified estate in the western part of Santa Rita Hills, it comes from the perfect microclimate to produce world class Pinot Noir. Ten different Pinot Noir clones are found in the wine, hence the name. Smooth with ripe black plum, floral, and herbaceous undertones. A splurge, but so worth it.
2012 Clendenen Family Vineyards Le Bon Climat Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley ($60)
2019 definitely turned about to be a year of Chardonnay for me. I had so much darn great Chardonnay and it seemed to come out of nowhere! What usually occupied a handful of bottles in my cellar is now seriously taking up meaningful space. I took a trip to California’s Central Coast (another blog post coming soon!) and one of my first stops was Au Bon Climat. And right out of the gate I had a damn near ethereal Chardonnay! I’d had lots of Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir in the past, but had no idea that the Chardonnay was up to this level. A beautiful wine that walked a tightrope of opulence and richness balanced by tingly acidity. I was all in after this one.
2016 Markus Altenburger Ried Ladisberg Grüner Veltliner, Leithaberg, Austria ($32)
The wine that almost wasn’t. That’s how I refer to Weingut Markus Altenburger. It was a last minute addition to my Burgenland trip and thank goodness it was! Otherwise, I would have missed out on this deliciousness. I also would have missed out on tasting with Markus Altenburger, who was an absolute joy to taste with. Cerebral, heady stuff that just keeps on providing nuanced aromas and flavors. This is Gruner Veltliner for sure, but with its Leithaberg DAC pedigree (lots of slate and limestone soils) and Markus’ natural approach to winemaking, this was just an amazing wine all the way down to the last drop! Zippy acidity, salinity, tangy citrus, a hint of pepper, honey, and more. Beautiful golden color with a bit more weight than some GV. I had to keep it simple with fish and chips so I could just appreciate what Markus had created.
2017 Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio ($18) & 2016 Peter Zemmer “Giatl” Pinot Grigio Riserva ($38), Alto Adige, Italy
OK, I’m cheating a bit and combining two wines into one. But I loved both of these wines from Peter Zemmer. Not to mention, I’ve seriously had a come to Jesus moment with Pinot Grigio. What I once regarded as a bland, neutral tasting wine that was better left in the store has gotten much more love from me. I’ve had such a turnaround that I even include it in some of my tasting classes. Like any other variety, where it grows can be everything. Alto Adige gets it right and brings out the best in this fickle grape. These wines are full of juicy tropical fruit and citrus along with fresh acidity and minerality. Who knew Pinot Grigio?!
2013 Kongsgaard Chardonnay, Napa, CA (~$100)
And there was even more Chardonnay. For years, I’d been wanting to try a Kongsgaard wine. Any Kongsgaard. I always assumed it would be their Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon, but when I saw the Chardonnay as I was eating at a restaurant, I thought, let’s give it a whirl. OMG! This was the shizzz! With an intense nose along with minerality, tropical fruit, and créme brûlée on the palate, I seriously swooned.
2015 Scarpa Tettineive Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy ($100)
I’m ever grateful to Jeremy Parzen of Do Bianchi fame, for really introducing me to Italian wine. He’s our very own walking encyclopedia of all things Italy right in Houston. And it was because of a tasting that Jeremy invited me to, that I was able to taste (and buy!) this beauty. Founded in 1854, Scarpa is one of the pioneers of Piemonte and put the region on the map. In fact, Scarpa was among the first to bottle and label Barolo and they were among the founders of the Barolo and Barbaresco Consorzio. I loved so many of the wines from the Scarpa portfolio, but the one that really made me swoon was this Barbaresco. So smooth with dried cherries, herbs, and leather and great acidity. So fortunate I was able to buy some to share with others.
Honorable Mentions – cause it’s hard to narrow a year’s worth of wine down to 10!
2016 Weingut Müller Ried Leiden Riesling, Kremstal, Austria ($14)
2015 Evening Land Anden Seven Springs Estate Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon ($100)
2016 Edi Kante Vitovska, Carso, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy ($26)
2011 Muga Seleccion Especial Rioja, Spain ($40)
2016 Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet Embazées Premier Cru, Burgundy ($120)
2017 Big Table Farm Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($45)
Well that’s my recap from 2019. Can’t wait to see what fabulous wines are in store for me in 2020.