January 13, 2013
Chas’s Top 10 of 2012
2012 was a moderate, but good year for me in relation to wine. I had so many new experiences and found so many new things to love in wine that I wasn’t aware of, or previously had different feelings about. First is Syrah, which became a favorite grape of mine this year. Early on when I grew to love wine, I quickly grew tired of big, weighty, black-hole style new world Syrah wines. I had pretty much written them off. I got introduced to some wonderful Syrah this year from California, Oregon and Washington (Fausse Piste and Rasa Vineyards get an honorable mention) and I am now excited to find and drink these wines year after year. Second to make a big impression was Oregon Chardonnay. Wow. I know Cameron has been doing it for a while, but I seriously had no idea how impressive these wines were. Along with Cameron, producers like Crowley, Johan, Eyrie, and Domaine Drouhin are pushing this and making some absolutely wonderful Chardonnay in this state. And lastly, thanks to everyone for watching the show and for all of your comments this year. Dan has been good about staying on top of replies, I read a good majority of them and these comments and the kind words we get from time to time help us keep the show going. It’s been a long run, I look forward to a great 2013 and I hope you all have a great year as well, in both life and wine. Cheers! –Chas
1. 2010 Cameron ‘Clos Electrique’ Chardonnay
Rarely you drink a wine and instantly know it’s the best wine you have tasted all year. For me, this was that wine. It’s like everything on this wine was turned up full volume yet was somehow balanced. Amazing purity, delicious fruit, complexity, and laser-like acidity that while incredibly powerful made no missteps even for my sensitive palate. A joy to drink now, but I can see why some say this wine has a long life ahead of it… I would venture to say this is the best Chardonnay I have had in my life. Keep in mind this is my first experience with the Clos Electrique bottling, this might be par for the course, so I need to seek out some other vintages. I consider this wine a value at it’s near $60 price point. 95+ points
2. 2009 Matello ‘Fool’s Journey’ Deux Vert vineyard Syrah/Viognier
“Syrah from the Willamette Valley? That’s crazy talk!” is exactly what I was thinking when I tried this for the first time. It is somewhat common for some Willamette Valley producers make Syrah using grapes from Southern Oregon or from the Columbia Valley. Growing Syrah in the Willamette Valley is semi-rare, and the last time I had WV Syrah I was impressed but it didn’t leave the impression this wine did. Marcus said he was aiming at an old-world style with this, and I think he nailed it. This had all of the prettiness and grace of a high-end WV Pinot Noir, but with the black fruit, blood and pepper of Syrah and an amazingly well-built structure. The reason this one hits so highly on my top 10 this year is that, just like the wine below this on my list, it was an eye-opener for me as to what is possible with Syrah. I’m finding I like the grape far more than I originally thought. This is also great considering the price point is sub-$30. 93 points
3. 2008 Terry Hoage Vineyards ‘The Hedge’ Syrah
We filmed a show with our friends Kevin and Rick who were excited to share some wines they were familiar with from their time living and visiting Northern California. Perhaps it was the low expectations, but this wine forced me to re-evaluate my feelings on new world Syrah, which I gave little attention before this wine. My note copied from Cellartracker:
“The initial nose here tells nothing of what this wine is once in the mouth, gentle dark black and blue berry notes, some savory notes, dark earth, pretty gentle overall. In the mouth, wow. This weighted and feels like fine silk on the palate. Starts off very full and coating yet somehow keeps a feeling of grace. The flavors here provide a bouquet of red, blue and dark fruits with some minor earth notes in the background and the structure is perfectly integrated, the acids keep things fresh and provide lift to the flavors while gentle tannins only provide light grip and fall right in line. Ridiculously long finish. You could easily call this entirely hedonistic but this isn’t entirely that, this girl has a good head on her shoulders as well. I didn’t fancy myself that into Syrah before this but man, this was a beauty.” 95 points
4. 2010 Crowley ‘Four Winds’ Chardonnay
Oregon has really been turning out some amazing Chardonnay recently. Perhaps it was the vintage, but the 2010’s were all amazing this year. This one in particular was one of my favorites because of its balance of grace and power. This was another Chardonnay that showed an amazing balancing act of fresh fruit, perfect use of oak, and wonderful acidity that makes the mouth water and begs to be sipped again. The medium-light body of this wine makes the wine dance on the palate, and it’s paired perfectly with the minerality and flavor intensity of the wine. I really, really liked this style, and while his Maresh bottling is also amazing, this was my favorite of the two. 93 points
5. N.V. Ulysses Collin ‘Les Perrieres’ Champagne ‘Blanc de Blanc’
(2008 base wine) This is exactly what I like in Champagne, in a nutshell. After having this wine, I came to the realization that there is no reason for me to buy Champagne from any other producer. I enjoyed this wine on New Year’s eve with a close friend and was absolutely smitten with it’s elegant texture, wonderful brioche and fruit flavors, absolutely PERFECT acidity levels and long finish. I really like most Champagne, but this is it for me. It’s classy but at the same time entirely decadent, which is what I think Champagne should be. Seek this producer out if you have not tried his wines. 95 points
6. 2010 Jos. Christoffel Jr. Urzinger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese
Riesling and Champagne have the ability to bring an instant smile to my face when I taste them and this one was high on that list of wines that brought on an instant ear-to-ear grin. Despite its youth this wine is already in harmony and balance. High intensity, wonderfully ripe delicious fruit flavors give way to wonderfully balanced acidity and sweetness and a tremendous finish that allows you time to meditate on the experience. I poured some for my girlfriend who is not a wine lover. After tasting this for the first time she said, “This tastes like angels singing.” I was compelled to agree. Dan continues to share these wines with me and this producer continues to impress me. 93 points
7. 2009 Teutonic Wine Company ‘Alsea Vineyard’ Pinot Noir
Dan and I were lucky enough to get to spend some time with Barnaby and Olga and to film a show with them earlier this year. On that occasion we got to taste the 2008, 2009 and 2010 Alsea Vineyard Pinot Noir wines side-by-side. This was my standout favorite. In the mouth, this had a delicate weight but wonderfully intense flavors of fresh cherry, sweet red berry and savory umami along with mushroom and earth. This wine dances on the tongue, the balanced gentle acidity and rounded tannin adding to the complexity of the wine. I love this low alcohol, light-bodied, delicate style that lets the nuance of the wine really come out, all flavors in harmony. 92+ points
8. 1994 Eyrie Vineyards ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay
I’ve had the privilege to enjoy some older Eyrie wines this year and this one was on my list of eye-opening wines of the year. I was quite surprised at how capable Oregon Chardonnay is of aging, and how much additional character and nuance the wine can develop in doing so. Despite the age this still carried wonderful acidity, weight and balance. It’s quite expensive, but I think this would be a fun wine to stick into a blind white Burgundy tasting as a ringer. Keep in mind you can buy this and other library wines directly from Eyrie at the winery. 92+ points
9. 2011 Cameron Ramato ‘Abbey Ridge Vineyard’ Pinot Gris
I am already in love with this style of skin-contact Pinot Gris that Willamette Valley producers have recently started making, and this one was my favorite this year. Amazing freshness and tastes just like summer: Fresh peaches, watermelon, strawberry and citrus flavors with wonderfully crisp acidity. There is a great texture here that is unlike a white wine, it almost has a little grip like a red wine, which is something I like about this style. This is wonderful stuff at the price. When it was released I was finding it at a very decent price on restaurant lists as well. Off of the list or out of a store, it’s an amazing value for the wine you are getting. 92 points
10. 2011 Brooks ‘Bois Joli’ Vineyard Riesling
This was one of the best Oregon Rieslings I enjoyed last year. Amazing freshness and great pure apple and green melon fruits give way to a touch of honey in the finish. Very well balanced acidity and sweetness makes this a joy to drink, and the beautiful sweet and sour flavors that combine in the finish keep me coming back for more sips with great freshness. I liked this because it’s easy to understand but has complexity and depth. Really, it’s got a little something for everyone. It also comes in right around $20, it’s great wine for the money. 90+ points.
Dan’s Top 10 of 2012
The majority of my top 10 wines from 2012 are wines that opened my eyes to new possibilities. A handful of QPR standouts appear as well. I’m happy to see that many of them are from the current or previous vintage. That means that you should still be able to find a few of them around, and I think they’re all worth checking out. You’ll also find CellarTracker links to only a few of my picks this year. I’ve been really bad about posting written notes in 2012, but I’m happy to be able to say that we didn’t miss a single week of videos. Instead of written notes, you’ll find links to episodes for most of the wines.
I’m thrilled with the excitement that wine continues to bring. I’ve continued to enjoy WISB, and I’m excited to see more viewer interaction year after year. I’m grateful to all of the friends and members of the local wine community that have introduced me to great wines, and I look forward to new experiences next year! – Dan
1. 1983 Clair-Daü Musigny:
This wine had it all, complexity, balance, wonderful flavors and incredible length. Every sip was captivating, and the evolution on the palate was magnificent. It delivered full and interesting flavor while staying lively and light. I’m reluctant to be so definitive, but I’m pretty sure that this is the best red Burgundy that I’ve ever tasted. Thanks to Mitch and Mike for the aged Pinot Noir tasting at Renaissance Wines that gave me a chance to try this gem. Unfortunately, I didn’t do a proper write up, so there is no link for this wine.
While I have enjoyed Barbera in the past, this brought it to a new level. The flavors were delicious, balanced, and long lasting. Every moment of the experience was engaging, and I look forward to discovering more Barberas with this level of quality. Additionally, since it’s not as famous as Nebbiolo, the price is very reasonable. It appears to be available in the USA for around $40, and it delivers value at that price point. This was tasted at the winery in November, and I’d like to thank Elena for introducing me to this lovely wine. 94 points
While I have had plenty of enjoyable experiences with Barbaresco and a few wines from Barolo that worked for me, I have had a hard time with Langhe Nebbiolo in the past. This was something I hoped to learn more about on my trip to Italy this fall, and this bottle made a great impression. The flavors were compelling and the tannins, which can cause a lot of trouble for me when tasting Nebbiolo, complemented the flavors very well. Add to this the fact that it’s showing up at US retailers for prices around $20. Not only is it great to have the experience of delicious Nebbiolo at this price point, I now look forward to putting some in my cellar, and to exploring Langhe Nebbiolo further. Thanks to Sergio for pouring this in the tasting room. 92 points
4. 2008 Matello Carey Creek Riesling
Until now, I had only tasted Riesling from Matello in blends, but the sense of vigor and flavor in these wines made the idea of Riesling in this style very appealing. I had heard that Matello produced small quantities of Riesling, but I had never had the chance to taste it until this year. I’d like to give a big thanks to Matello and the restaurant Ned Ludd for making this available as a glass pour. I didn’t publish notes for this, but limes, red apples, minerality, and great acidity were all over this wine. It was a wonderful experience. It shows Matello’s skill with white wines, and it delivers a great example of some age on an Oregon Riesling.
We tasted this in Episode 140 shortly before release. Both Chas and I are big fans of Johan Vineyards, and this wine is a great example of their willingness to experiment. Grüner Veltliner is not a very common grape in Oregon, and it’s exciting to see someone experimenting and working hard to see what else we can do well here. What really seals it’s place on the list though, is its quality. It’s amazing that the first vintage of an unusual grape could be this delicious. The flavors and structural balance are wonderful, and a wine that is often produced for simple sipping provides an experience with depth and character.
Episode 134 really opened our eyes to the quality of wines from the Central Coast of California. We had heard a lot about them, but we hadn’t had any really memorable experiences until we did this show. The wines were plenty powerful, as expected, but there was wonderful complexity and enough bright acidity to keep things lively. This Syrah was hedonistic and wonderful, and I’d like to thank Rick and Kevin for sharing it with us. I’m now much more interested in trying other wines from that region. 93+ points
This is amongst the best QPR’s I’ve ever tasted from Germany. I’ve opened a few of these now, and every one is thoroughly enjoyable. It’s got fantastic flavor, feel, and balance. I think it would easily compete with wines costing twice as much. Additionally, Weingut Herbert Pazen is a family winery run out of a home in the village of Rachtig. They’re wonderful people that have made a commitment to carrying on the family winemaking tradition and vineyards. This is the best wine I’ve tasted from them, and it’s been a hit every time I’ve shared it. Thanks to Ewald Moseler for importing the wine, and sharing it with us during an interview. 93 points
8. 1989 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris
This wine makes the list for giving me the experience of aged Oregon Pinot Gris. I never would have guessed that something that old would be viable at all. But, if anyone around here is going to prove Oregon wine’s ability to age, it’s going to be Eyrie. While this wasn’t stunning in terms of flavor or excitement, it made up for it by being interesting. It certainly doesn’t have the bright and fresh flavors of new Pinot Gris, but fruit flavors are still there. They have evolved to blend with earthy and stony flavors, and the structure still sits fully on the palate. I don’t have notes for this, but I won’t be forgetting it any time soon. Thanks to Eyrie Vineyards for having this eye opening wine available in the tasting room.
While I was tasting in Northern Virginia in early 2012, I had a good number of enjoyable wines. This one, however, really got me excited. The combination of delicious fruit and structural balance made me excited for each sip. It also made me excited about continuing to explore wines from this region. If they can produce a wine like this, I’m sure there are more great things for me to discover. Thanks to Tarara for pouring this in the tasting room. 90 points
Cameron delivered another fantastic value with this wine. The acidity is electrifying, and the flavor shows fantastic depth. This is interesting, and easy to drink, and a steal for ~ $20. This could easily hold its own with more expensive wines, and it’s a great chance to see what 2010 has to offer. I had a few bottles of this over the year as well, and I thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. 91 points