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
January 19, 2012
Dan’s Top 10 of 2011
Wrapping up 2011 with 10 wines was a real challenge. Between the full rush of 2008 Oregon Pinot Noir, the Eyrie South Block Vertical, and my trips to the Mosel and Navarra, I could probably knock out a top 50 without too much difficulty. Paring it down to 10 is tough. The result shows this, as a few different criteria proved to be sufficient for inclusion. It would not be interesting for me to use the same method to evaluate the top 10, because the result would almost certainly have been completely dominated by one of the events named above. I didn’t really want to do this, because I wanted to capture the variety of wines that meant something to me in 2011. So, explanations will come with the individual wines. Some are winners for QPR and reliability, some represent rare and lofty peaks among their peers, and some solidified my feelings for particular attributes of the wine at hand. The order in which they are presented does represent relative rank. Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially on any of these wines that you tasted this year!
1: 1998 Eyrie Vineyards South Block Reserve
Despite my adventures, the #1 slot this year goes to a hometown favorite. The South Block Vertical tasting held this summer was a true once in a lifetime event. I don’t imagine we’ll ever see anything like it ever again. For me, it cemented a profound respect for long term aging of Oregon Pinot Noir, and for The Eyrie Vineyards. I have enjoyed their wines in the past, but to see such quality so consistently across the entire vertical was just jaw dropping. I’ve really enjoyed some wines from 1998 before, and this bottle was spectacular at the tasting. It solidified my love for the vintage as well. 97pts.
2: 1999 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese
I struggled a lot with this one, as it could easily be considered cliché for me to pick the most expensive wine I tasted this year. This was the final wine at the VDP auction in Trier, Germany this year. It makes the cut because I had heard a lot about the quality of Egon Müller‘s wines, but I hadn’t had remarkable experiences until I tasted this. It truly is among the top few wines I’ve ever tasted. Every time I second guessed myself, trying to fight off the inevitable influence of suggestion associated with such a lauded wine, the flavors kept rolling around on my palate, asserting that I wasn’t imagining this amazing experience. In the end, I can’t deny that I did fall in love with it. 99pts
3: 1995 Jos. Christoffel Jr. Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Auslese ***
I was fortunate enough to taste through a huge lineup at the winery this summer, which came to include a sizable selection of Urziger Wurzgarten Auslese after the winemaker, KaJo, discovered how fond I was of the ’92. It blew my mind that both the ’92 and ’95 were such amazing wines. I haven’t had anything else like it from Urziger Wurzgarten, and these experiences captured my attention for anything coming out of the Jos. Christoffel Jr. winery. There is real variation from vintage to vintage, and having the wines age in the winery guarantees perfect storage condition to let the years work their magic on the Riesling. Add to it that this would probably be around $30 in the US market, and you’ve really got something to grab your attention. Beyond liking the wines, I now consider this winery to be among the best in the Mosel. That’s serious praise coming from me, and I mean it. If you like Mosel Riesling, you owe it to yourself to seek out and explore a few of these wines. 97pts
4: 2005 Laderas de Inurrieta
As difficult as it was to pick 10 wines for this list, this is one was sure to be on it from the beginning. My visit to Navarra really turned me on to the quality of wines being produced there. Unique to the experience was the Graciano grape. I had never heard of this grape before, and a couple of Graciano wines really captured a unique and delicious expression of the region. The Bodega Inurrieta Laderas was foremost among them, cementing my interest in the grape. It demonstrated that Navarra not only produces great examples of more commonly known varieties, but produces fantastic wines from lesser known varieties that deliver unique experiences that wine nerds crave. 92pts
5: 2008 Johan Vineyards Nils Reserve
Here’s one that probably comes as a bit of a surprise. We gave a lot of love to the 2008 Johan Vineyards Three Barrel in our Christmas episode, and I’ll even concede that I think the Three Barrel is a better wine. However, the Nils Reserve makes the list because of consistency, availability, and the fact that I had more experience with it this year. It made an impression on a number of other people as well. It’s a wonderful expression of the unique vineyard site that Johan Vineyards is working with, and it does a great job of showing dark fruit flavors without being a heavy wine. So, the greater breadth of experience with this wine, and the fact that it showed well consistently, and it’s overall quality despite being the little brother to the Three Barrel, gets it on the list for 2011. I don’t have a published score for this, but we did review it in episode 66. You can skip to part 3 to get straight to the remarks about the Nils Reserve.
6: 2010 Weingut Ackermann Zeltinger Scholossberg Spätlese
This wine’s place on the list is tied to the vineyard it comes from. As I began to learn about Mosel vineyards, I was very quickly struck by the quality of the Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard. For whatever reason, this was an easier name to remember than some of the others, and I stuck to it. This created an early bias for the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr. I mean, it shares a word with one I already like, right? While this certainly did lead me to some good wines, it also led me to short change the Zeltinger Schlossberg vineyard. The time spent with Harald and Anne Junglen of Weingut Ackermann this summer helped me to see that Zeltinger Schlossberg is truly among the top handful of Mosel vineyards. The slopes produce wonderful wines for many well regarded producers, and there is a lovely tangy zip to the acidity that I absolutely love. The Weingut Ackermann’s Spätlese delivers the excellent character of this vineyard at an amazing price point. I’m not sure what it would translate to in the US, but my guess would be somewhere around $20. It’s great to find compelling wine at this price point, and it’s really special when it carries with it a memorable impression of where it comes from.
7: 2010 Vollenweider Wolfer Goldgrube GK Auslese
Another German producer makes the list for cementing my opinion of him, and one of his main vineyards. Wolfer Goldgrube is a vineyard I haven’t heard much about. Indeed, the only wines I’ve tasted from Wolfer Goldgrube have come from Vollenweider. I had enjoyed enough of the bottles in the past to inspire me to make an appointment during my visit. The wines were wonderful, with the wines from Wolfer Goldgrube showing fantastic character across the board. It’s truly magnificent wine, and the excellent character of the vineyard is evident in the less expensive 2010 bottles as well. This bottle was my favorite of the stop, and one of the best wines of my visit to Germany as a whole. 98pts
8: 2009 Rasa Composer Riesling
American Riesling makes the list in 2011! This time, a wine from Rasa in Washington set a new bar for me. I’ve enjoyed Riesling from Washington before, but this was interesting and downright delicious. It’s the best Washington Riesling I’ve tasted yet, and it suggests fantastic potential as the region continues to develop Riesling as a serious wine, not just a low priced quaffer. It delivered an expression of Riesling that struck me as different from what I see in Oregon and New York, and that’s exciting as well. 90pts
9: 2010 De Ponte Cellars DFB Estate Melon
This wine has been a stand-by for a number of vintages. Isabelle Dutartre always makes excellent wine, and the Melon from De Ponte Cellars is always a unique, interesting, and refreshing Oregon white wine. What really caught my attention is that this wine seems to be getting better and better with every vintage. I asked Isabelle about this, and she replied that the vines are really becoming mature now, and that it’s no surprise that the flavors are becoming more interesting. To see the improvement year over year makes me so excited about the future of this wine. Combining that with the excellent quality of the 2010 release, this bottle makes my list for 2011. 90pts.
10: 2009 Cameron Dundee Hills Chardonnay
This wine is so approachable, and so good. It’s exceptional quality didn’t really settle into my mind until later in the year, and I regret that fact. In the show linked below, you can see that we both enjoyed it quite a bit. I should’ve picked up more on the spot. I tasted another bottle later, in a very social setting. Despite my lack of focus, the quality of the wine came rolling out of the glass displaying fantastic complexity and balance. This Cameron wine was retailing for under $20, and it was delivering like a $50 bottle. To experience that quality twice, under different circumstances suggests that this experience is reliable. I love to see Chardonnay’s potential in Oregon expressed, and to see it at a price point that lots of people can indulge in is even more endearing. It also highlights the fact that the prime sites are capable of great things! This is such a lovable Chardonnay that I really wanted to give credit to this overachiever in this year’s top 10. 90pts
Chas’s Top 10 of 2011
1. 1990 Elk Cove Vineyards ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir – 95 points
Shortly before my birthday in July I learned of an event put together by users of the Wine Berserkers forum that was to focus on aged Oregon Pinot Noir. I was lucky enough to be able to take part in the event, and there was no shortage of amazing, old Oregon Pinot Noir at the tasting. This wine stole the show for me, and it along with a 1985 Elk Cove ‘Wind Hills’ Pinot Noir really showed off what is possible when Oregon Pinot is aged. The 1990 Reserve showed amazing secondary nuance from age but at the same time still seemed so youthful. This was drinking very well, and was on par with some of the best experiences I have had with Oregon Pinot Noir in my entire life.
2. 2008 Johan Vineyards ‘Three Barrel’ Pinot Noir – 94+ points
This is my first time ever scoring a Pinot Noir from Oregon that was this young this highly. That said, it is probably the best young Pinot Noir I have ever tasted out of Oregon. Already, the Johan Vineyards Three Barrel was showing amazing complexity and depth. Aromas of dark red fruit and cooking spices jump out of the glass. On the palate this is already integrated and showing delicious flavor and depth with everything in balance. A wine that will obviously be enjoyed now but I am sure has a great number of years ahead of it.
3. 2009 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese - 94+ points
This particular vineyard, produced by Dönnhoff has been responsible for some of the best experiences I have ever had with Riesling. A couple of years ago, it was a bottle of the Auslese that put me over the moon. This wine is absolutely amazing with it’s rich but seemingly weightless fruit flavors. What is great about a wine like this is that it is so easy to understand, so much so that non-wine drinkers WILL find this delicious. That said, it has enough just underneath the surface to keep the serious wine-o interested and coming back for more.
4. 2008 Rasa Vineyards ‘Creative Impulse’ DuBrul Vineyard – 94 points
This is the best red blend I have ever had out of Washington. This wine pulled off an amazing balancing act of intense flavor, seemless integration, and silk-like feel and weight. Combine that with flavor evolution, complexity and both mid-palate length and finish length that was hard to believe, you have a truly amazing wine. This is already drinking amazingly, who knows what the future holds? Who cares! I say smoke em’ if you got em’. Thanks again to Scott for lining up the Rasa samples for us to taste.
5. 2009 Ayoub Pinot Noir ‘Brittan Vineyard’ - 93 points
What a beast of a Pinot Noir! This is a high intensity wine through and through, the flavors here are very forward. That said, there is a remarkable amount of complexity and the way this wine is able to carry it’s weight was impressive. Wrapped up in all of that intensity was a fantastic structural backbone and distinct minerality. The Ayoub also marked a turning point for me. I was in a phase where I was more interested in low alcohol, low intensity wines. This wine shook me up and made me realize that just because a wine is big, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. Within each variety there are distinct styles, and what makes a wine is acceptable is whether or not you like it for what it is, not what someone else says something should be. Thanks Ayoub for giving me the kick in the teeth I needed.
6. 2010 Teutonic Wine Company Pinot Noir Oregon ‘Laurel Vineyard’ – 89 points
Coming from the Ayoub, Teutonic Wine Company wine is the polar opposite. When I first saw the label I was in disbelief. 11% ABV? I’ve had low alcohol whites, but I can’t think of a red wine I’ve had under 12%. The reason I find this wine interesting is that it is something completely different from the norm. While some oak can be immediately detected on the nose, it blows off to reveal some earthy Oregon funk and ripe, low-intensity fresh red fruit. The palate is similar, red fruit, mineral, stems, and bright acidity that all carry a balanced, low intensity. If you could describe normal Pinot Noir as being played on a home stereo at about half-volume, this wine would be as if you turned it down to around 30-percent. That said, the music coming through the speakers here is still very engaging, beautiful and fun to listen too. Another reason I like this wine, it’s just so damn easy to drink. After I first tried it I deemed it “breakfast Pinot Noir” because with the low ABV-percentage, it has the feel of juice.
7. 2009 Cameron Chardonnay Dundee Hills - 90 points
For last year this was my QPR winner for white wines, bar-none. At 17-ish dollars this wine gives many more expensive Oregon Chardonnays a run for their money. Fresh fruit flavors pair with perfect oak usage which adds a warmth and roundness to the wine. Bright acids show throughout and keep the mouth watering. Last year it was the Evesham Wood ‘Le Puits Sec’ Chardonnay that wowwed us. While not entirely on that level the Cameron is nearly as good at a cheaper price. This is a wine I would enjoy drinking every day. Well done, Cameron.
8. 2009 Johan Vineyards Pinot Gris Drueskall – 93 points
Johan makes my list again with this skin-macerated Pinot Gris. Both the color and flavor of this wine are unlike anything I have tasted, and I really like it. The color is a beautiful deep amber. The few times I have enjoyed a bottle this year I get something different each time, sometimes it reminds me of a Rose’ Champagne with briocche, whipped cream and berries. Other times it reminds me of autumn leaves and orange zest. Each time though, this wine shows off a level of complexity I haven’t seen in any other white wine in Oregon and it pulls it off with complete elegance. I’ve shared this wine with some people who have loved it as much as I have, and some others who don’t necessarily agree with my feelings on the wine. So, I think you should taste it before you go buying multiple bottles. Either way, it’s a wine to watch out for and try whenever you can, because its very different and interesting in a very good way.
9. 2005 Hewitt Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – 93 points
For what it was this was a brilliant bottle of wine that absolutely stood up to the price point it’s set at. I don’t buy much in the way of California Cabernet, and picked this up on a whim on my first trip to Napa Valley. It tasted good 2 years ago and was an absolute knock-out the night I opened it with family. Complex, rich and savory flavors of dark fruit, leather, earth, cocoa and toffee intermingle in this wine with enough structure to keep everything in check. The long finish with fantastic acidity evolved once the wine was swallowed. The Hewitt is big wine, but complex and absolutely delicious. I paired this with a steak dinner and it was one of those perfect moments where you can easily justify your decision to buy and collect fine wine.
10. 2008 De Ponte Cellars Dundee Hills Pinot Noir - 93 points
De Ponte Cellars is one of my favorite producers in the top vintage of the last 10+ years. The 2006 vintage of this wine was one of the first wines that really got me caught up in the hobby. The delicious fruit and elegant structure always get me, and the quality of the vintage is really starting to show through in this wine.