Its been one hell of a year wine wise. The wines have certainly been flowing and I have expanded my tastes beyond anything I could have imagined. A year that has seen a balanced blend of classic and off the path rarities has shown me just how freaking amazing the world of wine is, and how awesome the world is because of wine. So I just had to do it, albeit last minute, and create a list of my top wines from the year.
To be honest, these are not the wines I consider to be the best wines of the year but rather my favorites that I have tasted over the course of the last year. These are the wines that have stuck to my mind, the wines that stood out, and I just enjoyed. They are essentially my favorite wines from the last year. Wines that made the year awesome, and wines I cannot wait to revisit in the roaring twenties!
10. Santini Collective Champlitte
When a friend of mine and distributor brought this wine for me to taste I was blown over, blown away, and just mind blown. The Santini Champlitte is a wine that breaks so many rules just to exist that it leaves you questioning the conservative nature of Europe’s regional wine rules. A co-fermentation of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Auxey Duresses in Burgungdy, the wine is sexy, dirty, kinky, and taboo. The electric bite will widen your eyes and leave you wanting more. The 1 liter bottle fills you with lust. Its so wrong, but so damn right.
9. Kelly Foxe Aruhani Pinot Noir
I was super excited when this wine showed up at my old work, Brix Wine Shop in Boston. The owner and wine buyer Cari Wroblewski spoke volumes about Kelly as a frank, no bullshit kind of person and her wines were much the same. Certified biodynamic, Kelly cuts all the bullshit out of the winemaking to create expressive Pinot Noirs that show off her prowess as a winemaker. Vibrant, yet elegant like wearing a gown for a New Year’s Eve party. What’s more, there are so many more wines in her arsenal that dig deeper into the terroir of Oregon that will make her one of the icons of North West wines.
8. Martha Stoumen Post Flirtation Red
If you do not know who Martha Stoumen is by now, you must be hiding under a rock. I interviewed her a couple of years ago and her wines have impressed me ever since. She has an extraordinary talent and is one of a few California winemakers unearthing hidden gems as well as putting a spin on some classics. The Post Flirtation Red is an easy introduction to her style and prowess. A blend of Zinfandel and Carignan done in a much lighter style than you would expect from either of these two, this wine brings tart red fruits, herbs, and hibiscus to an almost candy like finish. No its not sweet, but it has that awesome funk that many of these winemakers are becoming famous for. Its easy to obsess over this wine, drink it by the case load, and cry when you hear its sold out online, but that just makes me look forward to the next year even more.
7. A bottle of “Vin Rouge”
Sorry to anybody looking at this list and trying to seek out these bottles, because this one is a doozy. When a couple of friends returned from France they brought with them a wine simply labelled “Vin Rouge.” Like, what the fuck? Who are you, where are you from, and why do you have to hide your sweet sweet mysteries from me? Despite the simple label we crushed this wine in no time. Every sweet carbonic drop was lapped up with glee. It was a simple Gamay, but it was so tasty as to leave us craving more and more. After much searching I would find out that it is Clos de Tue Bouef Vin Rouge, and its awesome but hard to come by.
6. Broc Cellars Valdiguie Pet-Nat
Where do I begin with this wine? 2019 felt like the craze for Pet-Nat wines had died down and there were too many bottles coming out that were way too funky for the sake of being funky. Then there were a few wines that suggested Pet Nat is a category that is about to grow up and the winemakers take it a little more seriously. Broc Cellars has just that wine in their Pet Nat of Valdiguie. Tart and dry, crisp with velvet like bubbles that sit softly on your tongue and break down into a fruity blanket. This should be a mainstay of any summer wine selection.
5. Las Jaras Glou Glou
2019 was the year I finally got my hands on a bottle of wine from Las Jaras! When the moment finally came to open up and drink it I was not dissapointed. Granted it was not their famous Sweet Berry Wine, their Carignan, or their collaboration with Martha Stoumen (which was killer by the way) it was their super summery, crushable drinker, the Glou Glou. I found the name to be very appropriate because I gulped this sucker down! Easy drinking, friend sharing, kick ass party wine.
4. 1990 Le Pin
When a wine is this rare, this sought after, and this old, how can it not make at least the top 5 of any list? While I had the great fortune of tasting a handful of first growth Bordeaux wines, it was this cult Pomerol producer that shook me to my core. What amounted to the most cerebral wine experience of my life, tasting a 1990 Le Pin was head fuck of complex layers, fruits, earth, and something that reminded me of chemicals hiding in the damp corners of an old shed. Still this was an exquisite and delicious wine and an experience that could never possibly be matched again, even if I were to somehow luck out and get another bottle. Maybe its out there somewhere awaiting my post IPO celebrations. One can dream right?
3. 2016 Domain A.F Grosse Vosne-Romanee
The tiny village of Vosne in France is home to two of the most famous vineyards in the world, Romanee Conti and La Tache so its no wonder that just about every wine to come out of this commune is incredibly freaking delicious. What blows my mind is the adventure this wine must have taken to get to my glass and my cellar (by which I mean a 12 bottle wine rack in a storage closet). The entire vineyard is the size of the shop I manage (The Urban Grape in Boston), a fact I cannot get over. The wine is spectacular, deep, and yet so elegant. It dances with dark cherries and red peppers so well that it could put on a mask for any occasion. Shoutout too to the 2016 Bourgogne Rouge which is a spectacular example of juicy Burgundy.
2. 2008 Cristal
You just have to have this wine to understand. A lot has been said about 2008 being an outstanding vintage for Champagne, perhaps even the best in living memory. Though this may be a stretch, and my memory of Champagnes is not that long to begin with, I will agree to proclaim just as much with this exceptional bottle of wine. One of few bottles of wine to earn the famous 100 point rating, and the first time Cristal has earned such acclaim its hard to say this wine is anything but perfect. An experience that starts off tart and continues to open up as the night draws on. Of all the 2008 Champagnes I tasted this bottle stood head and shoulders above the rest. Arguably the 2008 Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill is better, but alas that wine that escaped my glass this year.
1. Sandhi Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay
To be clear, the number one on my list is a damn good wine. It may not be the single best wine I have tasted all year, that award goes to the 2008 Cristal, but it is a wine I have obsessed over, a wine that I crave more often than anything else. I have always thought Raj Parr was awesome, but 2019 is where Raj Parr became my hero. I feel like this guy just gets wine. Raj seems to have an understanding of what wine should be all about, better than most people if not all people. While the rest of us struggle to comprehend wine as one of life’s great mysteries Raj just makes wine that he finds delicious, expressive, and full of life. The Sandhi Chardonnay is a perfect introduction to this man’s delicious philosophy and at roughly $25 to $30 a bottle depending on where you are, is as humble an introduction to the man as he is himself.
Honorable mentions go to the Sohm and Kracher Lion Gruner Veltliner which is the most elegant Gruner ever, Monte Xanic Sauvignon Blanc from Mexico that shows Mexico is going to be a thing in the wine world, and everything else by Broc Cellars because they are crazy awesome. All in all it was a good year of win tasting that shifted and changed many of my perspectives, so here’s toasting to 2020!