2009: The Year in Review from A to Z

Can’t believe it is already March, unfortunately I’m not all that surprised that I have yet to close out my “2009 Year in Wine” series. I have a few resolutions but want to focus on one here: start spending more time writing about wines (or topics) I enjoy. Upon reflection I realized there were many wines I would have liked to dedicate more time to in the year that passed. Given that I was inspired by @TommyTablas post on All Things Consumed to use the alphabet to memorialize those that I enjoyed and those that deserved more of my time and attention…

A is for unexplored, for me, Amador County and the surrounding Sierra Foothills. I paid my first visit to the area when I stopped by Sobon Estate whose wines I enjoyed throughout the year, particularly the Zins. In the sub $15 range wines like the Rocky Top deliver well beyond their price point. A family friend has also shared a number of Obscurity Cellars who finely demonstrate the unique grapes being produced in this region.

B is for 2006 Boekenhoutskloof Syrah which I was lucky enough to taste as part of the Hospice Du Rhone Ready, Set, Syrah! Taste Live event which featured 3 Shiraz offerings from Australia and 3 Syrahs from South Africa. This was my favorite of the bunch; my notes: “Bottle looks of quality, worried it won’t deliver but it does. Nice herbs on top of cherries delivered on a smooth, dry, chalky backbone. Shame to drink this now, would have loved to lay it down for 3 years or so”. Recently learned they are behind the Wolftrap label as well, need to try those. With World Cup 2010 on the horizon this is a region that is going to get a lot of attention soon.

C is for Wines of Chile. Not once, but twice I had the pleasure of joining their fantastic online tasting events. The first was covered here. The second, consisting of 8 Carmeneres, still languishes on the pages of my tasting notebook. Of the 8, the 2007 Cono Sur Vision Carmenere was my standout wine. My notes: “Beautiful nose of tobacco and chocolate. Silky smooth in the mouth with bursts of blackberry. A meaty, smoky component emerges on the mid palate leading to a tart, lasting finish”. The most important learning of the year? Carmenère is pronounced Car-men-YAIR not Car-men-are-a like I have been saying for years…

D is for 2006 Don David Cabernet Sauvignon which is made by Michel Torino and was tasted as part of a series of wine during the Salta, Argentina Taste Live event. My notes: “Nose like a cigar shop, loaded with cedar and cherries. The same cherries start the palate. This one is perfectly balanced and finishes with a tart, spicy backbone that lasts & lasts. Still seems a bit young but there are a multitude of layers here. Could taste this one all night and not “figure” it out. At $14 retail this represents a superb value”. I meant to get more of this one and never did, just added it to the to-do list!

E is a shout-out to the Trader Joe’s Epicuro offerings which deliver a series of unique Italian varietal offerings that have been on my value list for years. That said, hoping in 2010 E is for Tablas Creek’s Esprit de Beaucastel.

F is for the master of disaster in the wine world; Fred Franzia of Bronco Winery fame. 2009 saw him unleash the Blue Fin label, which included a $4 Pinot Noir and the $3 Crane Lake Down Under Chardonnay. Given the economic environment I am expecting a lot of activity from Fred in 2010, it will be interesting to see what he comes up with!

G is for Greece. My single, biggest regret of the year is not continuing my series of posts on my visit to Greece last year. I had wonderful visits with Apostolos at Domaine Spiropoulos and Petros at Gentilini Wines that are still stuck on paper (actually in ¾ done Microsoft word form). This is one thing I still hope to rectify in 2010, I’ve refused to drink any of their wines I brought back home until I do so. I have some tremendous experiences to share.

H is for Paul Hobbs and his Viña Cobos label. You can pay ~$100 for his California offerings (which, for the record, I’ve never had) or <$20 for the Cocodrilo Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina. I stocked a case of the ’06 in the cellar. As a young’en this one was big and it has only ever so slightly smoothed out. Looking forward to watching how this wine continues to evolve over the next few years…

I is for Irsai Oliver, a Hungarian grape that calls Gewurztraminer and Muscat Mom & Dad. At the recommendation of Blue Danube Wine I gave the 2008 Szöke Irsai Oliver a try. Here’s my notes: “Nose of mineral/oils. Showed ripe, pollinated floral notes on a tight acidic, mineral, stony backbone. This one started off challenging but look forward to giving this varietal another go”. I love trying new grapes and look forward to getting introduced to many more in 2010. So bummed I’ll be missing the 25 grapes tasting at Solano Cellars!

J is for Jim Neal, the winemaker responsible for the one and only (in my mind) Trader Joe’s cult wine the Chariot Gypsy. As matter of fact I am sipping some as I write this post. That said, let’s move on as the post on the ’08 vintage is next in the queue…

K is for 2005 Kaesler Stonehorse GSM which I brought home from my trip to Australia a few years back. I loved that trip and this wine. Here were my notes: “Deep purple in color, nose shows dark fruit. The palate shows loads of blackberry that are restrained and balanced by a firm tannic, acidic backbone which leads to a long, rich, dusty chocolate finish”. Wish I could get more!

L is for Lang & Reed and Cabernet Franc too! Vinography turned me on to the 2007 North Coast Cabernet Franc which solidified my connection with Viva la Wino! who drinks loads of Chinon. I’ve been stocking up on some of his recommendations and can’t wait to dive in and starting tasting those.

M is for Mendocino and Navarro Vineyards my long-time favorite winery. I drink their wines much more often then I review them, Just got the mailer that my Spring shipment will be here soon. Can’t wait!

N is for 2007 Bodega Norton Malbec the reigning champion of the controversy filled 2009 Grape Madness Tournament. By the way, the 2010 version is right around the corner, you in? Stay tuned for more details soon…

O is for Owen Roe. I have long been a fan of their Abbot’s Table red blend. Realized two things over the previous year; 1) didn’t taste/buy the latest version and 2) only had one bottle all year long. What a shame! While I look to make up for that in 2010 please check out RJ’s series of post to learn more about Owen Roe.

P is for Pinot Noir. Specifically, a multitude of value offerings under $15 highlighted by the Davis Bynum. It started with the Castle Rock, then the Caretaker followed by the Sebastopol Hills and MacMurray Ranch. Guessing there are more headed are way in 2010, can’t wait to see what is on offer!

Q is for QPR. From K&L Wines to the treasure hunt that is the Trader Joe’s wine aisle there is nothing I love more than finding a QPR gem. My favorite gem of 2009? The 2007 Trentatre Rosso.

R is for Riesling. Last year I was lucky enough to both visit the Mosel and partake in the Riesling Wold Tour 2009 tasting. This is a region and varietal that I became much better educated on. From recognizing the extremely low alcohol percentages (7.5-9.5%) of these well made wines to learning about Silvaner and Scheurebe it was a “fruitful” year.

S is for samples, the first of which I received this year. Some good, some bad but best of all the doors have opened up to many tremendous tasting experiences. Not only have I immensely enjoyed these events but I have grown as a wine drinker because of them. In 2010 I am hoping to find a way to share these more directly with you my readers. Be on the lookout for my first attempt here very shortly!

T is for Taste Live. Craig Drollett and crew have put together a great platform that has attracted top notch wineries. Beyond the great wines I’ve met and engaged with a number of great people. Look forward to watching the platform evolve and participating in more events in the year ahead…

U is for Urbano Cellars. Urbano Cellars is a small local winery that reached out and offered to send me some samples. With expectations low, I drank one after another and was more impressed each time. Then I checked their price sheet and was blown away. Here are my notes on their Petite Verdot: “Violet notes and stewed plums on the nose, delicious fruit on the palate that shows both restraint and elegance. Rich and velvety throughout with hints of cedar on a nice, soft tannic finish. Some heavy sediment in the bottle.” And thus I present my 2nd biggest regret of the year. The good news is they are local, I need to swing by and grab some more of their wine. And this time I need to be sure to share that experience with you all!

V is for Veramonte, specifically their Sauvignon Blanc which has been my summer wine of choice for years. Haven’t had it yet? Wait for the mercury to rise and grab a bottle! Can’t wait for the seasons to turn…

W is for my son William and my continual search for his birth year wine. He was born in 2006 and I have long been seeking a few cases to stash away for him until he reaches legal drinking age (or at least close). That said, haven’t pulled the trigger yet, I guess I’m having commitment issues. Thinking 2010 is the year, the favorite heading in? The Chateau Cantemerle Bordeaux. My notes: “restrained, showing great structure. Nice acidity & cranberry notes on the palate lead to a dry, lingering finish.” This one showed some promise, need to get another bottle soon! Anyone out there have any other recommendations?

X is for Xinomavro which is another new grape I tried in 2009. Markus Stolz just wrote this great article describing Xinomavro. I tried the 2000 Hatzimichalis Xinomavro Naoussa, here were my notes: “An offering from Macedonia, this one was super dry and light (12%) and slightly on the thin side. Showed some earthy components with a green aspect as well. Coats the palate nice on the finish.” Looking forward to drinking more Greek wine soon!

Y is for You! More than anything I look forward to sharing another year of adventures with all of you. We have a great community here and I appreciate all your comments, recommendations and support. Looking forward to more of the same in 2010.

Z is for Zinfandel, specifically Ridge. I still remember the 2003 York Creek that ignited my passion for field blended wines. I’ve since appreciate many more but never as much as the Ridge offerings. It so happens they are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Eric Asimov penned a great retrospective on the half century that has passed. Let’s hope the next half century delivers more of the same!

So there you have it! Have you had any of these? If so, would love to hear your thoughts. If not, let me know what wines you enjoyed over the past year that you would like to see get a little more attention…

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17 thoughts on “2009: The Year in Review from A to Z

  1. Jason–

    Cool post. Thanks for the shout out…I do like Chinon. I liked the Lang & Reed quite a bit although not as much as the wine that John recommended to me–Baudry’s “Le Clos Guillot.” I also am a big fan of Owen Roe. I don’t like the Abbot’s Table wine nearly as much as when I first started drinking wine, but I had two bottles (maybe it was three?) and they were quite nice.

  2. Hey Jeff – I actually grabbed the Baudry’s “Le Clos Guillot on my last visit to K&L, maybe I will pop it tonight! As for Owen Roe I was a huge fan of the ’04 Abbot’s Table and bought a few cases. Bought a case of ’05 on sight and while nice doesn’t get my wine smile going. Maybe with time that will change. For now I will continue working my way through that ’04. Thanks for the comment. Cheers!

  3. Did you grab the “Les Grezeaux” too? Everyone that has had that wine has been gaga over it. Interesting–you’ve got the 04 left. I think that was the first one I tasted, but it’s long gone now. I was thinking about it, and I’ve had three bottles of the 07 this year. Owen Roe rules. I think my favorite recent Owen Roe is the “Ex Umbris…”

  4. Yet to grab the “Les Grezeaux”, you reviewed it no? I’ll drink the other tonight if food is appropriate and let you know what I think. As for Owen Roe, good stuff indeed. Would like to get up that way and taste one day!

  5. Yeah, I actually liked the “Les Grezeaux” more, although Wine Spectator gave it a point less than the “Le Clos Guillot.” Unfortunately, I think you’ll have to search for the “Les Grezeaux” now. You might be able to pop into Kermit Lynch in Berkeley, but K&L is out. I would like to visit Owen Roe as well…someday…

  6. Jason, I admire your post,it really captures the spirit of a true wine lover. You cover a great number of countries and grape varieties that many folks are unfamiliar with. I sure hope that your readers will become enticed to venture off the beaten track. I also learned a great deal, I did not even know what Amador county is or who Fred Fanzio and Urbano cellars are. Thank you for showing us what you are up to!

  7. @Jeff I remember you saying that about the supply of “Les Grezeaux” drying up. Hopefully searching it out is a problem I will want to be taking on after the weekend!

    @Markus I really think that the reason I enjoyed writing this post so much is because I feel it appropriately captures my adventurous spirit when it comes to the world of wine. Thanks so much for the kind words, made my day!

  8. “F” is also for Fin as in “Green Fin”, which is Fred’s newest release. It is an organic white blend that (according to an interview with Franzia) includes Sultana, French Colombard and Muscat grapes, among others, I am sure. I detected chard and viognier, but never suspected that the above mentioned grapes were present.

    It sounds sweet, and is (slightly) but very floral and quite drinkable for $3.99. A red version is in the works and I can’t wait to see what is in THAT one.

    (As a side note, Sultana is also known as Thompson’s Seedless here in the US.)

  9. Jason. It was a wonderful surprise to see you commenting on Amador County and the Sierra Nevadan Foothills. I’m third generation from Sutter Creek and as a local (though admittedly a novice and living up in Seattle) I’d recommend Cooper Vineyard (their Zin is excellent) and Dobra Zemlja.

  10. Great post, Jason. My wife and I had twin daughters in 2008 and I’ve started looking into birth wines for them. My idea is to find multiple cases and have one bottle each year on their birthday to track the development and contemplate how both the wine and our lives have changed over the year-then I would have bottles to give them when they turn 21 or earlier. Then again, a well-aged bottle of wine will be totally wasted on a 21 year old. ;)

    I’ve done the same thing with my anniversary year (2005). I’m collecting a range of varietals both foreign and domestic from the 05 vintage and I look forward to sampling a bottle every 2nd of July. There’s a really cool connection there…that the grapes were sitting on the vine when we were married. Call me a romantic or a wine romantic but I think it’s a really cool way to celebrate the occasion.

  11. @PeterB I’ve yet to try the Green Fin, will surely grab it on my next visit. Most of the commentary I’ve seen is positive. Interesting you tracked down the blend! I’ll have to find that interview. I’ll keep my eye out for the red as well…

    @Eric Thanks for the comment and recommendations. I added both of these wineries to my list and will certainly try to find an opportunity to sample their offerings. If I track them down I will be sure to let you know

    @joshiemac Twins, sweet! Did you get a ten case budget? Agree with your take on a 21 year old bottle of wine being wasted on a 21 year old but we get to sample it along the way. Plus can’t we still dictate that they have to be “good sharers”? As for the wedding year, we kept two cases of our wedding wine; a ’99 Trinchero Cab and, like you, pop one open every year. Though we have a case+ left the wine is getting long in the tooth. Guessing it last another 3 years max so we may have to start celebrating our anniversary monthly in the near future! That said, perhaps I can get some budget approval to procure some 2003 offerings to replace them… Thanks for the comment!

  12. Tasting notes: 3/19/10

    2007 TJ’s Reserve Paso Robles Syrah: $10

    Big cherry/plum friut forward, then clean and
    delicious. Good with BBQ & chocolate too.

    TJ’s Grower’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc: $5
    Light with nice grapefriut notes and the beginning and end with a slight dip in the middle. Easy-drinking value.

  13. Angela, I can wait for the Reserve Syrah to arrive. I am huge Rhone Ranger fan, and a great Syrah at $9.99 if what I have been waiting for. Who makes it, or is it just another négociant wine?

    The ’07 TJ’s Reserve Dry Creek Valley Cab came and went far too quickly… I only grabbed about a half a case. :(

    I am waiting for the Rosenblum Syrah to change vintages to the 2007, as I loved the ’05, found the ’06 to be rather lackluster.

  14. @PeterB: I wish I had more access to availability information outside of my area so I could let you know when the Syrah would be available. It’s been in the NC Order Guide for over a week.

    Yeah, the Dry Creek Cab & Zin came and went way too quick. Didn’t get either of those, but I did snag one of the Rutherford Meritage as well as the Grand Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir.

    Working Night Crew today, gotta run.

  15. No worries Angela, the Reserve Syrah just arrived yesterday and I have sold through most of our allotment. I like it a lot, although the finish is not as spicy as I usually look for.

    We never got the Rutherford Meritage, or the Grand Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir. We HAVE been carrying the Grand Reserve Russian River Pinot though.

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