April 16, 2013
Last November, I had the chance to visit the Vietti winery in Castiglione Falletto Italy. A trip to Piedmont had been in the works for a while, and I was happy to connect with Luca Currado through Twitter during the Wine Blogger’s Conference.
While I have had great experiences with Italian wine in the past, my knowledge is still very limited. I don’t know many producers, and if I don’t know specific bottles, I have very little confidence in my ability to pick something I like off of a shelf. Vietti has been my one of my go-to producers for the past few years. The beautiful labels make them easy to remember, and even if I’m not familiar with the vineyards or vintages, I know I can count on high quality. I was very excited for the opportunity to visit their facility and to taste a line up of their wines side by side.
After driving through the dramatic landscape of Piedmont and winding up the hills to village of Castiglione Falletto, I was greeted at the gate by Elena Currado, Luca’s wife, who would be guiding the tour and tasting. A few other tourists had also arrived, and we all talked a bit while enjoying the broad view from the courtyard.
After an introduction, and a discussion of the surrounding landscape, it was time to visit the winery. We walked straight down some stairs set in the middle of the courtyard and discovered that the bulk of the winery was right below us!
This area looked quite modern with many barrels, hoses, and fermentation tanks set upon spotless floors and surrounded by walls that appeared to be made of modern material. A short walk led us to a different area, where Elena pointed out an old beam from the 1500’s. She remarked that they tried to preserve as much of the original structure as possible.
It was great to see this in action as we continued the tour. We saw a number of rooms in the old castle that were now used to age wine in barrels large and small.
We were also shown to a tunnel with a tiny entry, gravel floors, and a variety of things growing on the ceiling. It was peaceful, cool, and quiet in there, as well as quite old. It was definitely made for people smaller than me.
It was impressive to see the size of the building, and how much of the original structure they have put to use for making wine.
We were then shown to the tasting room, where Elena poured us a number of current releases. It was great to see my respect for Vietti re-enforced, and to get a little more insight into the complex world of Nebbiolo. It was fascinating to learn more about the character of the tannins in Nebbiolo, and to see flavors underneath them that were very sublte now, but gave me exciting clues about what they could reveal in the future.
We were then shown to the tasting room, where Elena poured us a number of current releases. It was great to see my respect for Vietti re-enforced, and to get a little more insight into the complex world of Nebbiolo. It was fascinating to learn more about the character of the tannins in Nebbiolo, and to see flavors underneath them that were very sublte now, but gave me exciting clues about what they could reveal in the future.
- 2011 Vietti Dolcetto d’Alba Tre Vigne – Italy, Piedmont, Alba, Dolcetto d’Alba
This was a “pop and pour”. Cranberries, plum skins, and woody stem scents all blend together on the nose. Ripe strawberries start things out on the palate, and a touch of darkness appears shortly afterward. Dark cherries with a touch of stem character show on the mid palate. Crisp acidity is strong on the finish, and the tannins are full but not overwhelming. (89 points)
- 2010 Vietti Barbera d’Alba Tre Vigne – Italy, Piedmont, Alba, Barbera d’Alba
This bottle had been open for a while before it was poured for us. Fantastic strawberry scents show in the glass accompanied by cherries, a touch of candy, and stones resting in dark earth. The wine is gentle and floral on contact with the palate. The tannins quickly exhibit a wonderful round texture. The strawberries from the nose deliver on the palate, and they are as good as the scents suggested. A touch of candy transitions into cherry liqueur toward the finish and some very nice mineral sensations are firm on the mid palate. Wonderful fruit sits high in the experience, and it lingers long on the finish. 91+ (91 points)
- 2010 Vietti Barbera d’Alba Scarrone – Italy, Piedmont, Alba, Barbera d’Alba
The nose shows lots of complex spice with raisins and dark cherries working together with cinnamon and hints of vanilla. When tasted, the wine is immediately juicy, full, and showing plenty of strawberry fruit. The strawberries have a touch of sweet candy to them that lingers above the other flavors as the wine evolves. Even acidity keeps everything bright and a touch of minerality gives a sense of purity to the mid palate. The tannins are slow to evolve, and they settle into the molars to provide structure without disrupting the rest of the wine. (91 points)
- 2009 Vietti Barbera d’Alba Vigna Vecchia Scarrone – Italy, Piedmont, Alba, Barbera d’Alba
This has a dark and spicy bouquet that stands out in contrast to the earlier Barbera wines. The main fruit component seems to be blood oranges wrapped in the spice of molasses, nutmeg, and a touch of smoke as well as a bit of toasty pie crust. It’s very smooth across the palate. Crisp cherries lead the way and great acidity shows itself fully in the middle. The acidity persists as a touch of sweetness appears on the cherries. This tart sweetness evolves suddenly, giving a celebratory feeling to the mid palate. The smoke from the nose is realized toward the finish and lingers long. (92 points)
- 2009 Vietti Barbera d’Asti La Crena – Italy, Piedmont, Asti, Barbera d’Asti
The nose suggests dried wood sitting in black earth with lighter scents of tobacco and cherries showing as well. It’s immediately friendly on the palate. Light but delicious fruit and lovely acid show themselves right away. The fruit starts out with raspberry flavors and evolves toward richer strawberries and cherries. Gentle acidity hangs with the fruit on the long finish. There is a great sense of purity and delicacy here. The wine delivers fantastic length on the finish as all of the components continue to dance together. This is an eye opening Barbera! (94 points)
- 2009 Vietti Langhe Nebbiolo Perbacco – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Langhe DOC
The nose is very spicy, showing notes of cloves, black pepper, and orange peel atop a dried out forest floor. Cloves show right away on the palate too, along with dark cherry flavors. The cherries go through a slow and enjoyable evolution on the mid palate. Ripe cherries linger on the finish as well as firm but approachable spice. The tannins take on a bit of dust character very late in the experience. 89 (89 points)
- 2008 Vietti Barolo Castiglione – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
Dark strawberry and maple syrup scents settle above spicy notes of grapefruit and cinnamon. When tasted, there’s a great burst of dark strawberry flavor on the mid palate. The length on the finish is impressive. Big acidity and vanilla stick around for the full experience. It runs across the palate in three layers, with the nice strawberry flavors sitting upon a structured center of firm tannins and underlined by some vanilla from the oak. Small sips in quick succession make the tannins grip too tightly for my taste, but slow sipping allows everything to work pretty well together. I think this will be very significantly improved with a bit of age as the tannins back off a bit. That said, the complexity and fruit flavors are still quite enjoyable now. (92 points)
- 2008 Vietti Barolo Rocche – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
When smelled, the wine has a musky character with roasted nuts and toast in the forefront and some cherry scents underneath. Cherries and strawberries make up the fruity core on the palate. Lemony acidity supports the fruit well. Everything is surrounded by huge structure that delivers a fully drying grip on the finish. It’s like a ball of dry vines surrounding the cherries and strawberries. This is a powerful beast right now. 90, and improvement seems inevitable with a little more age. (90 points)
- 2012 Vietti Moscato d’Asti Cascinetta Vietti – Italy, Piedmont, Asti, Moscato d’Asti
When poured, our hostess remarked that this is “wine for our babies”. With the low alcohol and enjoyable sweetness, I can see that making sense. Bright scents of honeydew melon, floral scents, and lemons rise from the glass. When tasted, lime flavored acidity delivers a bright and sunny mouth feel. Honey flavors linger, and they only provide a little weight on the palate. Juicy apples show with good orange flavors and sweetness on the mid palate. It lingers well on the finish too. (90 points)
The Barbera d’Asti really knocked my socks off, and I’m very happy that she chose to share that wine with us. The Barolo wines got me thinking about the layers in Nebbiolo, and the hints of what the wine can become in time. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and tasting, and would highly recommend a visit if you take a trip to Piedmont.
Notes by Dan from Wine Is Serious Business
Posted from CellarTracker
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
August 30, 2012
The 1992 Ürziger Würzgarten Auslese from Jos. Christoffel Jr. captured my heart before I planned my visit to Germany. High quality Riesling, and a reputation for holding wines in the winery cellar to release later made this one of the wineries I most hoped to visit. A local importer and friend, Ewald Moseler, was able to set me up with an appointment. My original date had to be modified because David Schildknecht of the Wine Advocate was going to be tasting there that week as well! This turned out very nicely for me, as there would be wines open from his visit that I’d get to taste!
Thankfully, Ürzig was within walking distance of my hotel in Rachtig. More thankfully, some fellow Americans, Barnaby and Olga Tuttle from the Teutonic Wine Company, had tasted there recently, and they drove me by the door in advance to help me find the place. With modesty that seemed characteristic of the Middle Mosel, the winery was indicated only by a tiny sign near the doorbell.
I left very early, to be sure I was on time, and to give me a chance to walk through the vineyards on the way. Leaving the highway on the river bank, I hiked up a road into the vineyards, gaining elevation and strolling past rows upon rows of Riesling vines.
A bit of hail damage was visible here and there, but for the most part, the vines looked healthy. The grapes were nearly ripe, and it was an enjoyable sight to see so many of them growing from the rocky soil.
The roads through the vineyards however, are designed for agricultural access, not wandering tourists. At a fork in the road, the “obvious” branch back toward the town of Ürzig was clearly signed as a dead end. I was early, but not early enough to spend an hour lost in the vineyards. It was also a long way to backtrack down the road I came up. The obvious solution was to cut through the vineyards to get back down to the road along the river. I managed to stay upright, but I gained further appreciation for how steep these vineyards are. My boots dug into the rocky soil, step by step, until I finally made it to the road near the preserved ruins of a Roman wine press.
Looking at red stones that were placed 2000 years ago really forced me to contemplate the history of these vineyards. Thankfully, my misguided scenic tour didn’t set me back enough to miss my appointment. I arrived in Ürzig just in time.
KaJo Christoffel is the owner and wine maker here, and he seated me at a large table in a beautiful gathering room. Everything was decorated precisely, and there was a sense of class that would have been intimidating if not for the warm hospitality and cheerful nature of my host.
Miscellaneous Current Releases
I was quickly given a handful of open bottles, and a glass. KaJo asked if he could take care of other things around the house while I tasted. I quickly agreed. Of course, it was the polite thing to do, but it also allowed me to really dive into the wines and focus on putting my impressions into words. We had some grins over my poor German, and he asked me which of his wines was my favorite. I told him that I was most fond of the 92 Ürziger Würzgarten Auslese. He nodded, and left the room while I started tasting.
- 2010 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
The nose on this wine is lovely and immediately striking. Floral scents mingle with complex apricots that have been dried a little bit. Apricot juice shows itself on the palate while lime flavors appear on the sides of the mouth. The flavors are lovely! Soft fruit fills the mouth, and great clean acidity lingers through the entire experience. Some light honey flavors appear on the finish while the apricots linger long. The balance is excellent, the finish is clean, and I feel like I could drink glass after glass of this all day. 93+ (93 points)
- 2010 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Earthy scents show in the glass backed by dried red apples. It’s clean and lovely as it touches down on the palate, with light apple juice flavors starting out the experience. Full flavor intensifies late on the mid palate and into the finish. The acidity is slow to evolve, but it’s really beautiful when it comes into its own. The overall experience is full and complex. It has gorgeous flavor and complexity with a polite sense of elegance. The flavors are wonderful! (94 points)
- 2010 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
The nose is very light, showing a touch of dried red apples. Honey and red apple flavors are light on contact. The acid is crystalline with a firm edge on the finish. This firm touch works well with the sweetness. It’s a little disjointed on the transition into the finish, but I expect that will even out with time. (90 points)
- 1999 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Aromas of apricot candy are backed by plenty of petrol and wet, stony earth. It’s light and clean on contact, with the petrol flavors settling in the center of the palate. The acidity is slow to build and it brings a feeling of dryness along the sides of the mouth. Light richness lingers in the center of the palate. (89 points)
Ürziger Würzgarten Spatlese
After a few minutes, he returned, with another handful of bottles, all Ürziger Würzgarten. Now this was exciting! I began to set them in order, and he again excused himself. Spatlese and Auslese were mixed in here, but I’ve separated the notes for clarity.
- 2001 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Pure apples with a sweet touch of honey show on the nose along with an interesting cream note. It’s clean all across the palate. Apples with peels intact show themselves early. On the mid palate, the apples taste as if they had been dried out a bit. The acid shows a lovely evolution, growing slowly from the mid palate to dry fully. The full acid settles deep into the corners of the mouth as excellent apricot and rhubarb flavors sparkle on the finish. (93 points)
- 2004 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
It’s a bit faint, but the scent of dried apples with peels intact shows lightly. Acid and fruit pop right onto the palate. The apples are crispy and tart, and a touch of lemon flavor appears with full dryness late. Acidity runs out to be quite large later giving the wine a very full feeling. (89 points)
- 2009 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
The aromas on this wine are killer! Great honey scents blend with fresh decadent apricots. Notes of mineral back things up, making it even more interesting. It’s bright and clean on the palate delivering flavors that suggest alfalfa touched by the summer sun. Limes, red apples, and minerals roll across the tongue like a trickling stream. Later, honey flavors balanced wonderfully by acidity linger evenly on the palate. (94 points)
- 2009 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese feinherb – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
I don’t have notes on the palate. I think I was caught up in conversation. Some age shows on the nose, with wet cellar stones backing the fruit.
Ürziger Würzgarten Auslese
To my great surprise, this exchange repeated itself a few times, and the wine continued to pile up on the table. He would regularly ask how I was doing on the lineup. Consistently, he would seem surprised at my slow progress, but happy that I was taking my time to write notes and enjoy the wine. Like nearly every producer I’ve encountered, he was happy to see someone enjoying and contemplating the wines he shared.
As I got well into this flight, I realized that I was in rare territory. I’ve had a few tasting experiences that will remain remarkable no matter what else I taste in my life, and this is one of them. Not only is it incredible to taste this many vintages vertically, but the quality of some of these was spectacular. I’m certain that many of these picks were intentional, and I’m humbled every time I think about it. I’m not an importer, I’m not a famous critic, I’m just a traveling American who loves Riesling, and KaJo chose to share some incredible examples from his cellar. As I write this, I’m sure that there’s nowhere else in my notes that you can find a cluster of wines scored this high. I’m suspicious that it will remain that way for a long time. These wines were magnificent, and across the board they show a deft expression of acidity that lingers on the palate like a ringing bell lingers in your ears.
- 1992 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
The nose is full and lovely showing great dried apple and mineral scents backed by a touch of rose petals. It’s delicate and elegant on contact, with a faint touch of red apples. The apples slowly intensify as the acidity sets in with lime flavor. Fruit grows in roundness and intensity as the acidity dries more and more fully through the mid palate. Peaches decorate the apples a bit on the mid palate. As well. Very late, the full and rich apple flavors have wings of pure and vibrant acidity. The acidity makes the mouth water on the finish, and the experience seems to last forever. (95 points)
- 1996 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese *** – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Age shows with elegance on the nose. Scents of red apples with peel show hints of being dried, and something that reminds me of dry earth in the summer appears as well. The apples show cleanly on the palate. They’re red at first, and they evolve toward younger apples as the wine progresses. This goes so far as to deliver green apple flavors later on the palate. This is like an animation showing the full spectrum of apple flavors available in wine! The acidity is clean, delivering a touch of lime to go with the green apples. (94 points)
- 1995 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese *** – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Red apples and golden raisins show on the nose. The fruit is very pleasant, and it gives the wine a friendly introduction. The acidity quickly settles into the center of the palate while fruit flavors work their way around and above it. Gentle red apples transition toward green apples as the flavors settle into the sides of the mouth. A deep and rich texture sits above the acidity in the center of the palate. The acidity in the green apples dry things out on the sides, and the drying sensation slowly works it’s way across the whole tongue. Peaches and limes show very nicely on the finish. I love the juxtaposition of the richness and acidity through the entire experience of this wine. This is truly exceptional! (97 points)
- 2002 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese *** – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Apple and mineral scents show lightly on the nose. The wine is lovely and clean on the palate, with ripe red apples and a touch of spice showing immediately . The apple flavors fill out on the mid palate becoming fully delicious. The acidity hits the sides and makes my mouth water as the apple flavors continue to linger. A hint of honey on the mid palate adds a touch of richness. 92+ (92 points)
- 1997 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese *** – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
The nose is complex, showing pineapple and pepper scents on top of some apples. The spice is full here, making it interesting. It’s lovely on contact with the palate showing full rhubarb flanked by ripe and juicy red apples. The apple flavors remain excellent through the experience while the rhubarb flavors and acidity run strongly down the center of the palate. (93 points)
- 1998 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese *** – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Scents of leather, stones in a stream, and dried apples show in the glass, leaving an impression of complexity rather than obvious fruit. On the palate though, clean and lively apple flavors come into play right away. They stick around, continuing to contribute well, and evolving to deliver good intensity on the mid palate. Limes appear on the mid palate too, and their acidity gently dries the sides of the mouth. Pure apple flavors linger long. The wine feels very clean and full. (93 points)
- 2008 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese ** – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
The nose has a fairly dark character to it, showing the red earth of the vineyard along with overripe apples and some floral notes. The floral suggestion is fulfilled on the palate coupled with good apple flavors. Lime flavors settle into the sides of the palate. The dark heavy note from the nose lingers underneath the fruit all the way across. The floral note is interesting because it seems to come and go on the palate, moving around the apple flavors. (88 points)
- 2009 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese *** – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
The nose is entirely decadent showing rich elderflower scents as well as tempting peaches. Suggestions of minerality add some backbone to the rich nose. Lovely acidity leaps onto the palate right away, but remains polite. Young, crisp peaches work with red apples and some great minerality on the palate. The acidity is soft and refined, but it’s just strong enough to keep the experience clean. The flavors become more delicate toward the finish making the lighter acidity a great compliment. (93 points)
- 2006 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese *** – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
AP #3: The nose delivers scents of spicy apples and rhubarb crisp. On the palate, I taste juicy apples sweetened with a touch of honey and balanced by lovely lime flavors. The wine has a great feeling of richness cut by clear and vibrant acidity. A floral flavor appears along the sides of the mouth, and a bit of pie crust shows on the finish. The acid dries politely on the finish. (93 points)
- 2010 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese *** – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
AP #4: The nose is deep and full. Complex apples are in the forefront, showing characteristics of both fresh and baked fruit. Lime scents work their way in with the apples, and a suggestion of minerality is in the background. The lime flavored acidity is bright enough to deliver a spritzy feeling on entry. Apples flavors roll in quickly, becoming bright as they blend with the limes. Minerality shows fully on the mid palate as the acid grows and grows. It’s fully dry on the finish, and the apple flavors linter long on the sides and back of the tongue. Way out on the finish, the fruit continues to evolve with excellent depth. I get a bit of pie crust very late. Lovely length and complexity! 94+ (94 points)
- 2010 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese *** Goldkapsel – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
AP #5: The wine shows good complexity on the nose, with flowers and minerals showing alongside baked oatmeal and light nectarine scents. On the palate, it’s clean, pure, and expressive. Apples, nectarines, and light oranges show, and the texture is rich and delicate at the same time. The acidity is full, with a friendly touch on the sides and back of the palate. There’s a lovely interplay between the apples and oranges while the acidity blooms to provide backbone. The finish delivers full strength and slowly fades at great length into lovely echoes of fruit and acidity. This wine is wonderful and contemplative. 94+ (94 points)
Erdener Prälat Auslese
Within the treasures above, a few Erdener Prälat Rieslings were shared as well. They were mixed in, but again, I’ve separated out the notes to make it easier to read. Considering their quality, I’m pretty sure that they were included to show some high points from this vineyard.
- 2004 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Erdener Prälat Riesling Auslese *** – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Baked apple scents appear on the nose, backed by rhubarb. Light and delicious peaches start things out on the palate. They develop to deliver great complexity on the mid palate. The peach flavors are incredible, and some bananas appear in the background. A faint richness works its way alongside the fruit reminding me of vanilla. Beautiful acid lingers with wonderful purity. The balance between the acid and fruit is wonderful! (94 points)
- 2010 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Erdener Prälat Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel *** – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
AP #7: Fresh and dried apple scents show in the glass. Scents of full limes, with the peel intact are there too, along with a touch of minerality. The wine is soft and elegant on contact with the palate. After entry, it launches into a slow and graceful evolution that goes on and on! Red apples start things out, and oranges and green apples pop on the mid palate to add complexity. The intensity of the fruit and the acid grows and grows until the acid becomes strong enough to deliver rhubarb flavors toward the finish. Golden apples and gentle limes persist above the tart rhubarb on the finish. Everything sloooowly falls off leaving apple flavors resting on the center of the palate for well over a minute. This is spectacular. (97 points)
Included in the wines above were a few 375mL bottles with tape on them. He explained that these were dessert wines and when I read the tape, I couldn’t believe my eyes. This is stuff is rare, and quite expensive. Very little, if any of this makes it into the American market. Every time I look at these notes, I’m still in awe of the opportunity, and grateful for his generosity.
- 2003 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Aromas of deep apricots and honey rise from the glass. Smelling deeply delivers spice and mineral notes as well. Lovely richness washes over the palate when the wine is tasted. Apple flavors and acidity retain high textural notes while apricot flavors sink into the sweet richness and drag out forever on the finish. The acid shows great refinement and balance, showing some green apple flavors on the finish. This is decadent, full, lovely, and long lasting. A real treat.
- 2006 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Beerenauslese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
The nose is primarily showing sugar cookies and flowers with light apricot scents in the background. This delivers a wonderfully delicate texture on the palate for a BA. Light apple flavors start things out, and they evolve into peaches backed by fantastic acidity. A touch of cream and a bit of pie crust both appear towards the finish. It’s like a complete dessert of prepared and baked fruit! The mouth feel, structure, flavors, and evolution on this wine are all spectacular! (97 points)
- 1976 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Beerenauslese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
The nose is deep and enthralling in the glass. Scents of honey, apricot, ginger, and cinnamon work wonderfully together to draw you in. On the palate, it shows lovely fruit. Apples and apricots show quickly with a pure mineral core in the background. The acidity is gentle, but it works well with nutmeg flavors on the mid palate to slowly dry the palate. Mineral notes become more full as the wine evolves, and rich apricots and great spicy notes persist. The light acidity remains lively long into the finish, making the mouth water while rich apricot flavors go on and on! Contemplative and delicious! (97 points)
- 1989 Jos. Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prüm) Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Beerenauslese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
The nose reminds me of apricots baked into a pastry with a dusting of nutmeg. When tasted, it’s gentle on contact with acid and fruit rolling in shortly. The pastry on the nose reminds me of a croissant on the palate. Apricots with spice show firmly on the mid palate, and they linger long. The evolution of acidity from beginning to end is marvelous. As it continues through the finish, lime and green apple flavors lighten the sweet apricot flavors. All the while, the croissant crust lingers in the background providing a gentle frame to the lovely fruit. This is spectacular, with many things going on all at once. What a treat! (98 points)
I was left with an incredible sense of gratitude, along with awe of his skill. He’s been working with the Ürziger Würzgarten for many years, and it shows. Some brilliance jumps out of the glass and shakes your palate, while other bits of genius are ethereal. The ethereal elements tease your brain as well as your palate. It’s shocking to realize that these qualities aren’t in your imagination, or generated by your excitement, but that they’re a part of the wine. They’re a part of many of these wines. In this context, it’s evident that these ethereal qualities are intentional, and tied into the vineyards themselves. KaJo knows that he’s working with wonderful grapes, and these wines are creations of love and joy that reflect decades of experience. Jos. Christoffel Jr. Riesling is some of the best wine being made in the world today, and priced accessibly to almost everybody. His cellars offer the retail market an opportunity to taste aged wine in a way that very few modern producers can.
Posted from CellarTracker
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.