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The 1WineDude.com Top Ten Most Interesting Wines of 2010

Vinted on December 16, 2010 binned in best of, Most Interesting Wines of the Year, wine review

Here we go again!  It’s time for the 1WineDude.com Top Ten Most Interesting Wines of the Year.

As in previous years, the “competition” (such as it is) was fierce, in terms of both the volume of wine I tasted (now over a thousand, I think, based on some very crude estimation on my part) and the overall quality of those wines (many of you will undoubtedly have noticed the plethora of ‘B’ range ratings this year, which I think is no accident considering how many very good wines are being made).  Interestingly, the average price tag of the wines in this year’s list is pretty high (above $50), which I believe is a function of the very high quality level across the ‘playing field’ of wine globally, and therefore the essential Je ne sais pas needed for a wine to stand out and emblazon itself in a person’s memory banks (mine included).

And for all of my previous winging on the amount of California releases that made the list of 200+ “finalists” from which I chose the top ten wines, only two CA wines made the final cut.

For those of you who are new to this list and are wondering what the hell I’m on about:

  • I put this list together every year. It is NOT intended to be a “best of” of “highest rating” list (though that’s pretty much how the PR folks treat it).
  • It is intended to be a list of arbitrarily-chosen wines that stood out, to me, as being particularly interesting for a variety of reasons, not least of which are quality and complexity; the list is ultimately meant not to reward my most highly-rated wines (though many of them did get high marks from me), but to call attention to those wines that I found most compelling in 2010 – wines that gave me goosebumps, or that reminded me why I still love all things vino.
  • These are not wines released in 2010 (though I try to favor recent releases so that you have a chance of actually trying the wines in this list), they are wines that I tasted in 2010.  Not all the wines I tasted in 2010 qualified – the wines have to be at least somewhat available, which means that some downright legendary items that I had the good fortune of trying this year (but are only available for small fortunes) did not make the cut (wines from the exclusive Premiere Napa Valley tasting, for example, since most of us can’t actually buy those – however, in the case of the wines from Premiere that may change next year as the Napa Valley Vintners are making it easier for consumers to get access to those, though the prices will likely be pretty high).
  • Also, the list of finalists included some wines tasted in late December 2009 (since this list is compiled in its final form in mid-December each year).

Analyzing the results is always fun for me, and what really jumps out at me this year is that only two of the wines in the Top Ten are in similar geographical areas (Napa) – the rest span the charted globe, including three distinct areas of France, Portugal, Greece, Northern Italy, the U.S. East Coast (once again representin‘, baby!), and a fairly large spot “down undah.”

As always, there are some surprises in this list and I am quite sure that some of you will think me insane for including / excluding certain releases – that’s part of the fun of this list, and I invite you to react, comment, and have fun with it, and treat it for what it really is: a celebration of wine’s subjectivity.

Enjoy!…

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Postcard from Porto (Legends Edition)

Vinted on December 10, 2010 binned in on the road, wine review

Greetings from Porto, where I’m a guest of the Wines of Portugal international Conference 2010 speaking later today on the topic of the importance of the Internet in the promotion and future of Portuguese wines.

I’m quite happy to be here, and staying at what must be on the world’s most gorgeous hotels (The Yeatman – see inset slightly-blurry-low-light-morning-panoramic pics of the view from my room’s balcony) – which I’ll argue was at least somewhat deserved after the 24+ hour travel day I experienced to get here, in which a 90-minute-connection in Frankfurt turned into a near seven-hour-endurance-test-layover (apparently Germany – a northerly country that experiences frigid Winters – was unprepared for snow… in December…).  But the views (as you can see) are making up for it!

Highlights so far, aside from the mere act of successfully arriving, include meeting Jancis Robinson and watching her tweet during dinner, catching up with old friends, and sampling a bevy of the now-legendary 1994 vintage Ports, three of which were awarded 100-point scores from Wine Spectator (I know… but when a heavy-hitting pub awards heavy-hitting scores, it does merit some attention) – the real focus of the “legends” of this post’s title and one in which I found myself surprisingly in the minority…

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Volta Wine Discount (Comeback Kid Edition)!

Vinted on December 3, 2010 binned in California wine, kick-ass wines, wine review

“Literally all my savings all went into the winery to keep it afloat… it was the most challenging time of my life.”

Winemaking, especially in these troubled economic times, is not for anyone whose skins might be thinner than your average Cabernet grape’s. Case in point: Volta Wines.

Longtime 1WineDude.com readers will no doubt recognize the name Volta – it’s one of the wines that more-or-less put me on the wine-reviewin’ map. I was the first person to ever critically review Volta’s inaugural Cabernet release publicly, and though the review predates my grading system for wine reviews, the rough equivalent I keep coming back to when I consider the balance of power, focus and suppleness in their first release is “A-” – in other words, an excellent wine and getting that right that early is a stellar achievement for a producer’s first try.

Lucky for me, my impression of the Volta 2005 Cab was by-and-large validated by others in the established wine media at the time, including my bro’ Gary Vaynerchuk – that’s the “puttin’ me on the map” part –  and over the successive months I found myself often wondering  How’s it going with the Volta guys? and Is Volta ever gonna release an `06?

The answers to those questions turned out to be “Not well” and “No,” respectively – a 2006 release never materialized because the entire Volta outfit almost tanked under the weight of the imploding economy.

Yikes.  Turns out the blow wasn’t quite fatal, however.

It’s with great pleasure that I tell you that Volta is still alive and kicking – I am very pleased today to present not only the first critical review of Volta’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon release (is it appropriate to call this a “comeback” release already?), but also a limited-time discount on Volta wines for 1WineDude.com readers!

First, let’s talk about the 2007 release, and the journey it took to get there… then we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of the discount after the jump…

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Wine Review Four-Pack (And Thoughts on 2010’s Most Interesting Wines)

Four badges to hand out from the latest in the flow of near-never-ending samples coming to my door, so let’s get to it!

[ By the way, the reference to the never-ending sample stream is, quite honestly, not meant as a vehicle of self-aggrandizement in any way, but is in fact more a lament of both how woefully (and unprofessionally) behind I am in my tastings, and in the volume of technically-correct-but-fairly-uninspiring wines of which that stream is comprised! ]

2009 Paso a Paso Tempranillo (La Mancha): Plumy, floral & spicy proof that La Mancha is getting its fine wine shiz together. A bargain. $11 B

It’s such a pleasure to enjoy a bold, uncomplicated and fun wine like this, one that seems tailor-made for a plateful of hearty paella or chorizo.  Spain’s La Mancha region is mostly known for two famously insipid characters: 1) Don Quixote, and 2) the innocuous wines made from the Airén grape variety (though to be fair, not all of them suck). La Mancha’s reputation for cheap Airén can mean big bargains for the better wines made in the region, and Paso a Paso is a great example.

2004 Azul Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec (Mendoza): A tad heavy-handed but U might like that from someone this complex, dark & sexy. $32 B+

During an on-line / twitter tasting hosted by Vines of Mendoza, the word “sexy” appeared in description of this wine about ten million times (give or take a few million). At least, it seemed that way to me. Heed these words: when enough women say that a wine is sexy, then the only logical conclusion is that it is, in fact, sexy.

2009 Toquade Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley): NZ passion fruit comes to Napa, with a French twist of lemon & herbs. In a word: Fantastic. $20 B+

Last year, Opus One winemaker Mike Silacci dared me to try Toquade after I went on a tirade about how too much Napa Sauv Blanc tastes like Chardonnay on a diet.  I’m grateful to Mike for that introduction, and I’m happy to report that Toquade winemaker Christine Barbe is still on top of her game – in fact, the 2009 might be better than her `08 and I’m looking forward to seeing what she does with the insane 2010 vintage.

2006 Hesperian Harry’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Go west young man, & find tannin chains long as the Alaskan pipeline. $60 A-

Christine sent along some of Hesperian’s wines to me, and I suppose I’m now also grateful to her for this introduction. It’s not that smoothness is the only thing going for Hesperian’s Coombsville Cab – far from it; it’s packed with currants and aromatic, woody spiciness. It’s just that the smoothness is the thing that will stick with you the most, the silkiness of it – it’s simply drinking beautifully right now.

Speaking of CA wines, if you feel that CA is getting a lot of positive coverage here, it’s probably not your imagination…

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