With 2009 now in the history books I thought I would take a moment to reflect on my personal wine triumphs and upsets.
Top 5 Wines of the Year:
In scanning my memories and tasting notes for my top wines of the year one thought comes to the fore-front…my life is awesome. I had a hell of a time narrowing the list down to 5, but in no particular order these are my most memorable wines of 2009.
- Ridge Monte Bello – Most of my colleagues know that Ridge Winery, perched high atop the Santa Cruz Mountain district of California is one of my favourite producers in the world. 2009 brought my first chance to taste their top wine, the Monte Bello Bordeaux Blend, not once but on four separate occasions (did I mention the awesome nature of my existence?). I was able to taste the 2005 Monte Bello at the winery during my trip to California in June and was blown away by the purity, elegance and structure of the wine. The 1996 Monte Bello was a knockout during my Bordeaux Battle Tasting and left the group speechless with its beautiful aromatics and impeccable balance. One of the highlights of my young wine drinking career came on my birthday when I opened my coveted magnum (1.5L) of 1987 Monte Bello, which was drinking near perfection with notes of fresh earth, mineral, moist tobacco and black cherry. A stunning wine and although not inexpensive ($150.00 per bottle) this is an excellent value compared to the top wines of Bordeaux.
- 2004 Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc – You can not believe the shock and awe that arose when our friend Andre showed up to last years Bin 905 staff Christmas party with two bottles of this legendary and exceedingly rare white Bordeaux. Despite the huge volume of wine flowing that night I managed to keep my small sample of this set aside so that I could continue to revisit it throughout the evening. This was my first chance to experience the legendary “waxy” texture of great white Bordeaux. The wine was a powerhouse, with notes of lemon meringue pie, honey, key lime, grapefruit, fresh flowers and more. The depth of this legendary wine was unbelievable and it’s seemingly endless layers will haunt my memory for years to come.
- 2007 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Auslese – There is perhaps no other wine in the world that can bring a smile to my face more readily than a great German Riesling. 2009 brought my introduction to the wines of Egon Muller, one of the greatest producers in the famed Mosel region of Germany. One of the things I love most about Riesling is the excellent value it usually delivers. That being said there was more than a little sticker shock when I saw the shelf price of these wines, with a full bottle of the Auslese coming in at $310.00 on the shelf. So it was with great anticipation that I lifted the glass containing my first taste of this Rolls Royce of Riesling to my lips . This is one of those wines you experience rather than taste. If the Haut-Brion Blanc hit like a hammer, this hit like a feather. It was like the voice of god whispering in your ear, like a perfect snowflake gently landing and melting on your tongue, like your first kiss with a new flame…an experience that transcends words. Well this may be the most expensive Riesling I have ever tasted, the wines of Egon Muller truly are on their own level in terms of quality. This will easily age for 20 years and likely much more.
- 2004 Le Macchiole Messorio – undoubtedly one of the best tastings I hosted in 2009 was the Iconic Italian Merlot tasting. Out of the outstanding line-up of 7 wines (check out my previous blog post on the tasting here http://vinearts.wordpress.com/2009/11/10/paying-the-cost-to-be-the-boss/), there was one wine that in my mind was the clear favourite…the 2004 Messorio. Messorio is a wine that collectors scramble to get their hands on and a perfect 100 point score from Wine Spectator Magazine made this wine even more sought after. Now as much as I sometimes love to hate these kinds of “cult” wines I would have to agree with Wine Spectator in this instance as this truly was close to perfection. This wine jumped out of the glass with aroma’s of dark fruit, spice, freshly ground espresso, vanilla, cedar, earth and more. On the palate this was pure sex, with silky tannins and a long finish displaying more blueberry, cinnamon and cigar box. For anyone lucky enough to have this in their cellar do yourself a favour and give it another 3-5 years to come around and your patience will be greatly rewarded.
- 1999 Bruno Giacosa Barolo “le Rocche De Falleto” – I love the wines of Barolo and I have been lucky enough to taste some amazing examples and to visit the region in 2007. The local Nebbiolo grape finds its greatest expression in the Langhe hills around the town of Barolo. This is very light in colour, almost Pinot Noir like, with a bouquet that opens up like a symphony with lifted notes of rose petal, earth, tar, spices, tart cherry and more. On the palate this is like a linebacker wearing a velvet dress. At first very pretty with bright fruit and vibrant acidity, then the classic Nebbiolo tannins kick in giving a reminder of why these wines have such famous aging potential. The greatest Barolo I have ever tasted (although like the rest of the wines on the list, beyond my means at $220.00 per bottle).
Top 5 Value Wines:
- Dr. Loosen Riesling “Dr.L” – Mosel, Germany – Simply delicious, with just the right amount of sweetness and a mouth-watering apple character that’s a sure crowd pleaser. $16-18
- Telmo Rodriguez “Basa” Bianco – Rueda, Spain – From one of Spain’s hottest winemakers this was my house wine for the summer of 2009. Fresh, crisp, lively and expressive. $15-17
- Chateau Pesquie Cotes du Ventoux “Les Terrasses” – Southern Rhone Valley, France – Customers at Bin 905 may well be sick of me constantly recommending this wine, but I will continue to recommend it likely to my death. A blend of Syrah and Grenache from the more obscure region of Cotes du Ventoux, this is delicious with loads of blueberry fruit and peppery spice. $15-18
- Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre IGT – Veneto, Italy – This baby Amarone from one of my favourite producers from the province of Veneto is a sizzling value. Given the price of Allegrini’s Amarone is now hovering around $100.00, the Palazzo Della Torre is a great buy at just over $30.00. With 1/3rd of the grapes dried on straw matt’s for 3 months, this wine has a plush mouth-feel and notes of black cherry, milk chocolate and vanilla. This is well worth keeping an eye out for and the newly landed 2006 vintage is stellar.
- Remondo Palacios La Vendimia Rioja – Rioja, Spain – With a bubbly personality and a fun label to boot this is one of my standard party wines. A blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Tempranillo this $20.00 gem shows why Alvaro Palacios is one of Spain’s greatest winemakers.
Worst Hangover: Hendricks Gin – Under a list of healthy methods to cope with a break-up would likely be activities such as yoga, a mountain retreat or a bubble-bath. I learned the hard way that one not-so-healthy way to cope is to go out with a bunch of guys, mix a gin and tonic IN the bottle of gin and then end up dancing like an idiot by yourself in a crowded bar, throwing your expensive prescription eyewear on the side of the road and eating pizza by yourself sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. Not exactly my proudest moment. Instead of the delicious rose and cucumber extract that Hendricks Gin is known for, I was left with only the taste of shame…lesson learned.
Most exciting addition to the cellar: 2005 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Hommage a Jacques Perrin – This was a part of my prize for winning a sales contest at work. This wine is only made in the best vintages and only 4000 bottles are produced annually. A legendary monster of a wine, I may not be drinking this beast until my 40th birthday. It will be well worth the wait and I have been dreaming about owning this wine for years.
Best tasting: Bordeaux Battle 2009 – This was surely the best tasting I have hosted to date, pitting some of the greatest Cabernet wines from both Bordeaux and California against each other in a no-holds-bard blind tasting battle. In the end California came out on top with the 1997 Dominus Estate and 1996 Ridge Monte Bello finishing first and second respectively. For full details visit (http://vinearts.wordpress.com/2009/10/16/when-titans-collide/)
Favourite meal: Although I have eaten a lot of great meals this year I think the most memorable was still the 2008 Bin 905 staff Christmas party (January, 2009) which was held at The Ranche Restaurant in Fish Creek Provincial Park here in Calgary (http://www.crmr.com/theranche/). This rustic historic building is absolutely beautiful and the food and wine was out of control good.
Oldest wine consumed: 1979 Chateau Montrose – Although showing its age this geriatric Bordeaux was still delicious. This was a very generous contribution from a guest at a friend’s 30th birthday party.
2009 was a huge year for my continued development and learning in the world of wine. In addition to my already amazing group of friends and family, I am blessed to work with and learn from some of Canada’s top wine professionals. I can’t wait to see what 2010 will bring and thank you to everyone who has followed my writing.
All the best in the New Year,