As the year comes to a close, I am thinking about the wines that have had a lasting impression, those wines truly wowed me. Between the numerous tastings I have gone to in the last year here is my list of exceptional wines and wineries I discovered throughout the year. There is no particular order to this list and many of my discoveries from all over the world will be featured in 2015.
Here are the wines that stood out as very memorable for 2014:
Kessler-Haak: The 2012 Kessler-Haak Estate Grown Sparkling Brut captured my fancy. It is a very sophisticated yet subtle sparkling wine with the most gorgeous pearl color. You almost feel like you were looking at a liquid form of opal. The wine is crisp with flavors of pear and almond. The wine is made up of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay. It is by far my favorite Sparkling wine of the entire year.
Alma Sol: The winery’s emphasis is on showing that Paso Robles can make a truly spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon and this they do. My favorite is the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – Paso Robles. This wine is full of cherries, currants, vanilla and cocoa flavors plus a little hint of spice.
Domaine Porto Carras: My favorite wine from this winery was the 2011 Limnio. This is what I would describe as a very subtle medium bodied wine that is aged twelve months in French Oak. The flavors were that of cherries with hints of white pepper and allspice. Limnio might be called the Greek Pinot Noir. The texture is very similar to Pinot yet there is some aspects of the wine that are reminiscent of Syrah. Limnio is the oldest varietal and is thought to be the varietal of Plato according to the writings of Aristotle. The Limnio grape comes from the Greek island of Lemnos.
Peter Michael Winery: There are three wines I liked from this winery. The first is the 2012 L’Aprés-Midi one of the best Sauvignon Blancs I have ever tasted. There is a smooth richness to this wine that is not typical to this varietal. The wine is balanced with dominant flavors of stone fruit and honeysuckle. There is an elegance not often found in most Sauvignon Blancs. The 2012 Les Pavots Single Vineyard Estate Cabernet Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot is another wine worth exploring. With its deep almost black ruby color, black currant, cocoa and cloves are most apparent in the wine’s flavoring. Both wines are from the slopes of Mount St. Helena in Knights Valley. Finally there is the 2011 Ma Danseuse. This is a single Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir. Ma Danseuse is French for My Dancer and this wine elegantly dances with style and flavor. It is a fragrant wine that opened up beautifully as it sits over time. The Pinot Noir presents itself with a deep color and flavors of small berries.
Crawford Family Wines: I have to say any wine created by Mark and Wendy Horvath is outstanding but here are some of my favorites is the 2012 Pinot Noir 22, Sta. Rita Hills. The Pinot grapes clone 828 from block 22 of Bentrock Vineyards. This wine is characterized by rich black cherry aromas and flavors with a bit of spice on the finish. The wine is a big bold full-bodied Pinot Noir with depth and power. The 2012 Walk Slow, a blend of 50% Babcock and 50% Bentrock is a very complex and rich Pinot Noir. The wine is a fine example of the outstanding quality of wine that one can discover in the Sta. Rita Hills.
Ampelos Cellars: The 2013 Rose of Syrah –Upsilon: the charged is a favorite. It is refreshing with flavors of strawberry, watermelon and hints of spice on the finish. The wine is made up of Syrah, Grenache and a very small amount of Riesling. I think the Riesling enhances the spices that one perceives on the finish. Perhaps as Peter describes, “Upsilon is an electric charge – the Rose is charged with a lot of different flavors!” To me it is charged with the enhancement of the Riesling.
Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard: I have to say my favorites wines from this winery are the Rosé and Malbec. Buttonwood’s Syrah Rosé is one of my all time favorites as it is refreshing with flavors of watermelon and strawberries. The Rosé, made from Syrah that is grown specifically for this purpose, ripening earlier with a lower amount of sugar. The grapes are picked early and the wine is created in the Methode Provencal Style. The Malbec is a medium-bodied silky wine displaying flavors of cherries and cocoa. What I like about this Malbec is it is not as heavy many of the Malbecs produced. It is one that will complement almost any cuisine.
Lava Cap: The wines I have experienced from Lava Cap display an intensity and complexity that in part is due to the vineyards elevation and terrior in the Sierra Foothills. The 2011 Barbera was one of the best I have ever tasted. Its depth and richness was different from any other Barbera I have ever sampled. This wine is full-bodied, intense and velvety with an earthy quality. With its deep color, there were hints of blueberries, cocoa as well as smoky flavors.
Narrow Gate Vineyards: The 2012 Dunamis Roussane is a rich golden colored wine that has aromas of pineapples and grapefruit. The wine has a wonderfully thick texture and the flavors are very tropical with notes of pineapples and mango. The 2009 Dunamis GSM is a complex full-bodied wine with a deep black cherry color. The bouquet is that of cherries and the flavors are dark Bing cherries, cocoa, currants and mocha. There is a creaminess to this wine that makes it heavier than most GSMs yet at the same time wonderfully appealing.
Enriquez Estate Wines: The 2010 Tempranillo really enthralled me. With aromas of licorice and anise there is an earthy quality to this wine. The alcohol is on the lower side making for a very balanced and smooth wine that displays flavors of Bing cherry, licorice currents and a hint of vanilla. The color is a red purple and the wine is medium bodied.
J Vineyards & Winery: The 2012 J Vineyards Misterra Pinot Noir Russian River Valley was outstanding. The wine is medium bodied and complex. The aromas are that of cherries. You sense dark fruit immediately. The finish is vanilla. The wine was smooth and silky with it blueberry flavors. Its non-traditional blend of 94% Pinot Noir, 6% Pinotage and 4% Pinot Meunier makes the wine unique, complex and approachable.
Piccini Wines: The 2009 Villa Al Cortile Brunello di Montalcino is a medium bodied wine that should be allowed to sit for an hour before serving. The nose is earthy with tobacco and cherry aromas. One immediately senses flavors of plums, allspice, stewed fruit and tobacco. There were hints of nutmeg on the finish. The earthy qualities give way to a very bright wine, which is very sophisticated and complex.
L’ Aventure: The 2012 Optimus, a blend of 53% Syrah, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Petite Verdot is a big fragrant wine with a deep purple color. The wine has complexity yet is approachable, smooth and velvety on the finish. The flavors are blueberries. The 2013 Estate Rosé, a blend of 39% Syrah, 27% Grenache, 26% Mourvédre and 8 % Petite Verdot has a soft quality that I thought of peach sorbet with hints of spices on the finish. A refreshing summer wine you definitely savor the stone fruit as well as some citrus flavors too.
Wofford Acres Vineyards: The Dulcinea Gewürztraminer was different than any I have ever tasted. Composed of 83% Gewürztraminer and 17% Viognier the wine is befitting to its Dulcinea name. Dulcinea means sweet and although this is not a sweet wine it is a sweeter Gewürztraminer. It is the Viognier that adds that sweetness. The texture is and you really taste the honeysuckle that is so prevalent in Viognier. The nose is citrus and I could taste tangerine and apples. The wine is very floral with a mild hint of spice on the finish.
Andrew Murray Vineyards: Espérance Rosé. This Rosé is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. It was a wonderfully refreshing Rhone blended Rosé. The sweet peach flavors augmented with strawberry made the wine marvelous.
Bodegas Trivento: The 2012 Amado Sur, is a blend of 70% Malbec, 18% Bonarda and 12% Syrah. The thick consistency shows off the structure of this big bold wine. The nose is fragrant with aromas of cherry and currant. This is a balanced wine, with a peppery finish and flavors of currant and black fruit.
Jodar Vineyards & Winery: The 2009 Jodar Zinfandel is very balanced and smooth full-bodied wine. There are wet earthy aromas as well as those of blueberry and cloves. The flavors were those of blueberries, currants and cloves. The texture was rich and velvety giving way to a long rounded finish.
Kaiken Wines: The 2012 Malbec from the Terroir Series from the Vista Flores Vineyard in the Uco Valley has an intense dark purple color and flavors of dark fruit such as blue berries This Malbec has a silky velvety quality with hints of spice and a soft rounded finish.
Halter Ranch: The 2013 Rosé is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre and Picpoul Blanc. All grapes are grown specifically for this Rosé. Winemaker Kevin Sass makes this Rosé different through the addition of Picpoul. The Rosé is crisp and refreshing with a nice acidity and minerality. The 2012 Ancestor is a very floral blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The wine with its flavors of black fruit and violets has a wonderfully balanced, smooth and velvety structure.
Madroña Vineyards: The 2010 Cabernet Franc is a big, rich and velvety wine. The wonderful fragrant violet aromas give way to flavors of black fruit, primarily blackberry, plums and/or prunes with some elements of stewed fruits. There were hints of white pepper, nutmeg and vanilla. At the same time there was some earthy elements of tobacco and leather but on the whole it is the fruit character that separate this Cabernet Franc from others. The wine was smoothly balanced with a very round finish.
Gamble Family Wine: The 2010 Family Home Cabernet Sauvignon with its floral aromas gave way to the wonderful balanced cherry flavors and hints of spice.
Rutini Wines Trumpeter: Perhaps one of my favorite Cabernet Sauvignon’s from Argentina, this full-bodied wine was very smooth and balanced with the silky and velvety textures that the Uco Valley is known for. This Cabernet had berry aromas and flavors of dark fruits. There was a sweet quality to the wine that can be attributed to the oak making it a very drinkable wine.
Artesa Vineyards & Winery: I have to say Artesa’s 2011 Tempranillo Alexander Valley is the best California produced Tempranillo I have tasted. It was a marvelous elegant wine with aromas of raisins and brown sugar. The flavors were cherry, vanilla, prune and brown sugar. The stewed fruit quality gave way to a port like finish. I loved the sweetness that permeates the wine. The wine is treated as if it is Cabernet Sauvignon
Skinner Winery: The 2012 Grenache is an intense medium bodied elegant, smooth and balanced wine with flavors of blueberry and boysenberry. The 2011 Mourvédre with its floral aromas of violets and blueberry flavors is also an elegantly smooth and balanced wine.
Erzetic: The 2009 Amfora Cabernet Sauvignon is a lighter yet very balanced and smooth with a spicy finish. What is unique about this wine is that after aging 18 months in barrels the wine ages a year in amphora clay pots. This gives the wine its complexity. This Cabernet Sauvignon earned a well-deserved gold medal at the Sunset International Wine Competition this year. Those looking for something different and like the European style of Cabernet Sauvignon will definitely enjoy this wine.
I am looking forward to exploring new wines and wineries in 2015, discovering the new gems of the wine industry.
Happy New Year!
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