Friday, July 29, 2011

10 Pleasant Wine Surprises Year to Date

I haven't been blogging much about wine lately and when I do, it's usually critical of people not branching out. We try our fair share of different wines here and I thought I would share a few that I've been happier with this year than I would have expected. So, in no particular order, here it goes.

  1. 2008 Juan Gil Jumilla. This is a $10-$15 bottle of wine depending on where and how much you buy. It's made primarily of Monastrell, the same grape that most of the world calls Mourvedre and some of the Aussies call Mataro. It drinks now and is a very flexible food wine. I give it about 90 points.
  2. 2008 Achaval Ferrer Finca Bella Vista Perdriel Malbec. If I hadn't had it at a tasting, I wouldn't be able to comment on it. This wine from grapes grown at about 3,000 feet in Argentina, may be the new standard for Malbec. It has all the characteristic malbec flavors -- violet, tobacco, garlic, raisin. The finish goes on forever, with layer upon layer and each flavor and aroma blending effortlessly into the next. Drink now through 2030, at least. Pricey in the vicinity of $100, but the 99 points that I give it may justify it.
  3. 2010 Barnett Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. At $25, this is not an inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc, but the reasons it is here are these: first, I think of Barnett as a Cabernet vineyard, not a place for white wines. Second, it's flavors were fairly unique and well-defined. The wine is clean and crisp, and only slightly citrusy on the nose. When it hits the palate, you immediately detect some ripe, juicy honeydew melon, followed by kiwi and some hints of thyme. Drink with brie or other similar cheeses, or get my wife's recipe for cold cilantro cucumber soup. 91 points.
  4. 2008 Tait The Ball Buster. I saw the name and had to own a bottle or two, especially at $15. Then, we opened a bottle on a night when we weren't expecting anything much. Wow, were we surprised. Characteristic flavors of Aussie Shiraz, but a bit less jammy. Quite chewy (stay away from it if you don't like mouth feel, but if you do, look out) and another long, layered finish. Would be great with lamb chops. 92 points. Drink now through 2019.
  5. 2009 Page Springs Cellars Vino de Familia Arizona Table Wine. Yes, Arizona. Grown on the estate in Page Springs, Arizona (near Sedona), this is a blend of grapes of many styles. There are Bordeaux grapes, Rhone grapes and Arizona grapes. It drinks young, but at $10 or so, what would you expect. It's light, fruity and very pleasant. 87 points and good memories.
  6. 2008 Andrew Will Meadow. This is a Washington winery, but I'm not sure if the grapes in this case are Washington or Oregon. In any event, it's a Pinot Blanc, fresh, fruity, crisp, and not oaky. It's in the $14 range, and is great for a summer wine, with some soft cheese. Do you have some friends who are not wine drinkers, but you want to introduce them? Well, this is a great starter wine, but it's a very good serious wine drinker wine as well. 88 points.
  7. 2006 Sawyer Petit Verdot. OK, I cheated. I had this wine at the winery well before 2011. But, this year we opened a bottle. Most people don't think of Petit Verdot as a single varietal, but more of a grape to add structure to a Meritage or other Bordeaux-style blend. I believe this wine is in the $40-$50 range. It's not cheap, but it's character is very unique. Are you a hunter? Then, kill your dinner and when you have something gamey, drink this one now, or for the next 15 years or so. 92 points.
  8. 2007 Van Duzer Pinot Noir. I had never heard of this wine. My wife liked the label. We tasted it. We liked it. We liked the price, too, at $19.99. Nicely crafted with wonderful floral and spice notes. Refined enough to drink with baked chicken or trout with lemon and butter, but powerful enough to handle beef. It's ready to drink now, and we have chosen to drink a lot of it. 89 points and a great label.
  9. 2009 Avanti Mencia. What is Mencia? I thought Avanti Mencia was a long lost car, cousin to the Studebaker Avanti. How wrong I was! So, what is it? It's dark, it's peppery. It's loaded with anise, mint, rosemary, thyme, black cherry. That's a lot for a $9 wine. To the mouth, it actually tastes like it will age, but at that price, we are not going to find out. Buy a case (<$100 with case discount) and get about 1056 points. That's 88 points per bottle.
  10. 2004 Armida Poizin Reserve Zinfandel. The bottle will frighten you. The bottom of the bottle is quite narrow and as it flares upward, you see the red skull and crossbones glazed deeply in the black bottle. Working your way up, you see that the bottle is tightly sealed in what appears to dripping blood (actually, it's bright red wax, I think). Open the bottle if you can. The aromas explode. It's plum, cherry, peppercorn, cranberry, and high-end brandy. Pour some. Chocaholic? Right up front you'll be satisfied. Like freshly picked strawberries. It won't take long till you get them. How about rhubarb pie? It will finish and finish and finish and finish. At $80, this wine is not cheap. Why is it here? It's simply the best zinfandel I have ever had. 98 points, but perhaps more as the years go by.

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