Top Ten Wines of 2011
It's one thing to publish a Top 10 or Top 100 list of your favorite individual wines of the year. My hat is off to those who can determine such detailed conclusions. It's another thing to list one's Top 10 Wine Types of the year. This is merely a matter of determining what category of wines most pleased during the year. I prefer this later approach as it relieves me from having to mention individual wines and it's a far easier thing to do. And I'm a fan of things that are legtimately easy to do.
With that…My Favorite Wine (types) of the Year
10. California Rhone Varietal-Based Rose
These young CA rose wines made from Grenache, Syrah and other Rhone varieties always seem to please me more and are often made in that lighter style that comes with a citrus influence. The 2010s I tasted this year pleased me to no end.
9. Canadian Ice Wine
Even the mediocre Canadian Ice Wines I've had this year stuck with me, a tribute no doubt to my demanding sweet tooth. Yet the really concentrated, intense bottlings….They stopped me in my tracks.
The best Proseccos I had this year rank as truly amazing values. And more of them have found their way into my eye shot this year too. That light, citrusy fizz is the perfect drink for summer.
7. Austrian Gruner
I've been having a love affair with Austrian Gruner Veltliner since the folks at Wine Monger took responsibility for picking a few and sending them to me at my request: "Here's my CC…bill me $300 and send me a nice selection!" Love this wine with salads and grilled fish!!
6. Old Vine (true old vine) Zinfandel
Had another chance in 2011 to delve into a variety of true "Old Vine" Zins from CA. This is the one wine that gives me pleasure not only for how it tastes, but for what it represents. Sonoma still rules the roost in this category. But be sure you aren't drinking Zin from simple, 20 years old vines that someone decided were "Old Vine".
5. West Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
I had a chance to taste countless renditions of Pinot from the far coastal region of Sonoma Coast (that deserves its own series of real, honest appellations) and it's clear to me this is the most dynamic Pinot Noir producing region in CA. The wines tend to be a-formulaic and have hints of green and meat along with their cherry character. LOVE THAT. This region/varietal is on a strong roll.
4. Australian Rutherglen Stickies (Muscat, Tokay)
The lower end version of these dessert wines from the Rutherglen come in around $20 a bottle and represent, in my mind, the best value in the world of wine (but you have to like sweet stuff. I've been drinking the Tokay and Muscat from the Rutherglen for many years and they never fail to impress. This year I got nearly teary-eyed over a few.
That's right. Over ice the better, artisan vermouths are simply beautiful drinks and put down my fair share this year. Mark my word, more and more artisan vermouths will be getting more attention in the coming years. In the mean time, I'm keeping a supply on hand.
2. Santa Cruz Mt. Cabernet Sauvignon
The most underrated red wine in California. And it has been for a long time. My re-indoctrination into the Cabs from this appellation's west side stunned me. Balance is what these wines are all about. They tend to deliver girth without too much overpowering powerful power. Seek them out. Plus, with about 10 years of aging they are in great shape.
1. West Sonoma Coast Syrah
A few intrepid winemakers are growing Syrah far out on the coast of Sonoma where ripening is sometimes a dicey proposition. But the results are absolutely spectacular. Meaty and savory with dark blue fruit flavors and good structure. The best of this category are absolutely spectacular.