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Saturday, December 14, 2013

2013: Le Crème de la Crème

This year’s best-of-the-best is filled with many wines that I have known in previous vintages, but there are also several that I’ve never tried, along with some that I never knew existed.  The wines, ranging from $25 - $150,  represent four continents.  While I have had many wines this year that cost >$500, they don’t appear because the value for me just wasn’t there---and, to be honest, the $30 Chilean wine of Altair may have beat many of them in a blind-tasting.  I have included only wines that are available in the US.   (While I tasted many over-the-top wines around the globe, regrettably, several are not exported to the US and thus were not included.) 

The list appears in alpha order by country.  All wines represent significant value considering their quality.


·        Stonestreet Terrace Ridge 2011.  A blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, this 
     classical white Bordeaux pairing had me at “hello.”  I believe it’s the first time the 
     winery has produced it, but I do hope it’s not the last.  Thank you to our 
     neighbors, Lynne and John (both of whom are in the wine business), for 
     introducing us to this beautifully crafted wine. ($35)

·        Paloma Merlot 2008.   I had never heard of this Napa Valley winery, but  a
     friend of mine in-the-know had.  Since I’ve had it, other savvy wine folks have              sung the wine’s praises which makes me think, “Is San Diego that far from Napa          that I could have missed this gem?”  Thank you, Fred, for popping the cork on              this one!  ($65)


·        Altair Sideral 2009.   Altair produces only 2 wines, both of which are red Bordeaux blends.  Grown on the foothills of the Andes by a well-known French wine family, these wines are stunning.  For the ’09 vintage, Sideral (their less costly one), stole the show.  In fact, I thought my glasses had been switched but the winemaker confirmed that the less expensive wine was my favorite for the first time in the last 9 years!  A real steal.  ($30)

·        Maquis Franco 2010.  Maquis produces stellar, high value wines.  This one is 100% Cabernet Franc (thus, it’s name).  The vines were planted >80 years ago by the winemaker’s grandfather who always thought that his land was perfect for the varietal.  Lafite-Rothchild’s just-retired winemaker was the consultant on the first vintage of Franco…and he agreed!  In fact, Lafite’s former winemaker recommended that it be bottled as a single vineyard wine. ($75)

  •  Ployez Jacquemart d’Harbonville 1998.  Maybe it was the pairing with the scallops in a lobster sauce?   Maybe it was the private cande-lit dinner held for Wine-Knows in the home of the Champagne house’s owner?   I think I would have been just as ecstatic drinking it with tortilla chips in Mexico.  One of my fave producers, this was the best I’ve tasted from them.  ($150)

  •   Chateau Le Nerthe White 2011.  Yeah, yeah, I know Chateauneuf de Pape is famous for its reds.   Listen to this red wine lover when I tell you that this one surpassed the tasting lineup of eight of the chateau’s best reds…which is saying something as the reds were fab. ($45)

  • Domaine des Bosquets Gigondas Le Lieu Dit 2010.  For those of you who don’t know the southern Rhone’s Gigondas wines, you should.  Located near Chateauneuf de Pape, this producer had several stunning wines …this one, however, really grabbed me.  ($50)

New Zealand
  •   Valli Dolce Vita Late Harvest Riesling 2011.  Not a Riesling fan?  Not a late harvest fan?  Doesn’t matter as this one is the bomb.  Our last night on this year’s reconnaissance trip to New Zealand we chose the restaurant based on if they carried this wine.  Need I say more?  ($50---available in 375 ml bottles)

  •  Unison Pinot Gris 2011.  For those of you turning up your nose at a Pinot Gris because you’re thinking of some insipid Pinot Grigio from Italy, well…un-turn it!  This grape does wonders in New Zealand, and this winery’s rendition was dazzling.  ($25)

  • Trinity Hill Tempranillo 2008.  We returned to the winery three times during our visit to New Zealand to buy another bottle of this one.  Crafted by one of the best winemakers in the country, it’s no wonder why this wine has won just about every Kiwi award there is.  ($30)

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