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Favorite Wines of 2011

During the past year, I reviewed fourteen (14) wines. Of these fourteen (14), the six (6) listed below (3 red/3 white) are my personal favorites. Please note: Prices quoted are approximates; and, with a bit of shopping around, may be had for less of an expenditure.

Rafael Palacios Louro Do Bolo Godello, 2009, $18.99 This white wine from Spain is an absolute stunner. It is produced from 92% Godello and 8% Treixadura, an aromatic white grape that indigenous to the Valdeorras region of Spain. The 2009 was aged for eight months in foudre, large casks, which accounts for a hint of oak. The color is attractive pale yellow, and the nose is rife with notes of mineral and citrus. On the palate, it is beautifully balanced, fresh and vibrant, tantalizing the senses with a vivid intensity and strong lingering finish.

Michel Sarrazin Bourgogne Pinot Noir “Les Vieilles Vignes,” 2009, $18.99 Pinot Noir is the great red grape of the Burgundy region of France. However, as I’ve mentioned on several occasions, it is extremely finicky. While Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon can grow just about anywhere – probably including your backyard – and make fairly acceptable wine, Pinot Noir, on the other hand, requires a great deal of care and cultivation. The difficulty of growing this particular grape, of course, has significant bearing on the price factor. Every once in a while, though, a vintage comes along that is both marvelously quaffable and easy on the wallet. And Michel Sarrazin’s 2009 is just such a wine. Produced from “Les Vieilles Vignes,” old vines, it exhibits a wonderful concentration and complexity. It is medium bodied, smooth as velvet upon the palate, and rife with understated nuances of cherry and herbs.

Stuhlmuller Vineyards Chardonnay, 2009, $14.99 This wine from the Alexander Valley represents a growing trend among California Chardonnays… a move toward less oaked, leaner, drier, and earthier wines. And this particular vintage is much in the manner of a fine French Chablis, exhibiting decidedly mineral-like elements but still managing to maintain an elegant, lush, and complex backbone of citrus and ripe fruit. There’s great body here as well… and a touch of oak. But it is perfectly balanced by 14.1% alcohol and sufficient acidity. This is a truly wonderful wine… bright, balanced, and completely food friendly.

Stoller JV Estate Pinot Noir, 2008, $24.99 Proprietors Bill & Cathy Stoller purchased the nearly 400-acre property that is now Stoller Vineyards, which was originally his family’s turkey farm, in 1993 and crafted their inaugural Pinot Noir in 2001. The rest, as they say, is history. Located in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley in the Dundee Hills, Stoller continues to produce world class wines. And the 2008 JV Estate is yet another stunning example of this winery’s oenological prowess. Produced from Jeunes Vignes, younger vines, this is a wine that is easy to like. It beguiles with a bouquet of spicy fruits and is soft, supple, and elegant on the palate. Acidity and tannins are held in perfect balance by 13.1% alcohol. At $24.99, this wine is price friendly as well.

Tedeschi Valpolicella Superiore San Rocco Ripasso, 2008, $14.99 Valpolicella is a blend of grape varieties. This particular vintage, the Tedeschi 2008, is comprised of 30% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella, and a 10% combo of Molinara, Rossignola, Oseleta, Negrara, Dindarella, and Sangiovese. It is also a product of a process know as Ripasso; a method of achieving greater depth and complexity in light bodied wines. After the Valpolicella wine is fermented in the usual way, it is then placed in casks containing a concentrated mixture made from passito grapes, grapes that have been dried for weeks or even months prior to fermentation. This process – which usually lasts 2 to 3 weeks – adds, color, tannins, and concentrated & more complex flavors to the wine. And there is absolutely no question that the 2008 Tedeschi Valpolicella has benefited significantly from such oenological loving care. This superb wine exhibits perfectly balanced fruit, alcohol (13.5%), and acidity. Round and velvety upon the palate, the wine is lush of character and long & lingering on the finish. An absolute steal at $14.99.

Prinz von Hessen Riesling Kabinett, 2007, $12.99 If you have a passion for Riesling wines, as I do, the 2007 Prinz von Hessen Riesling Kabinett is a wine you will thoroughly enjoy. Hailing from the Rheingau region of Germany, this particular Riesling is a “Kabinett,” which means that it is usually the driest and least expensive wine in Germany’s highest quality wine category. And this Riesling has everything going for it: that distinctive “petrol” noise; just the slightest hint of sweetness on the palate before turning bone dry; touches of mineral & grapefruit; and a beautifully balanced acidity. This is a superbly versatile wine that marries well with a wide range of foods. One of the best Rieslings I’ve tasted in a long, long time. Definitely worth seeking out!


The Artful Diner
January 2012

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