Best (and cheaper) wines from a fabulous year
It's been a fabulous year for wine. Fans of the grape, whether Tea Party types or Occupy Wall Streeters, revolted and demanded cheaper wines. Sellers cut $90 wines to $50.
Readers went further and found wines for under $10. Sweet wines came to the fore, as did wines from cold climates. Modest bubblies got even more popular. Here are my Top 10 wines of 2011.
The best: The best wine I tasted all year was the 2005 Feudi di San Gregorio Serpico DOC, from Campania, south of Rome. It has aromas of rose petals, earth and vanilla, powerful, dense body, flavors of mulberries, earth and vanilla, rich and complex, with bitter chocolate finish. It's made from the aglianico grape, from 200-year-old vines on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. List price is $90, but you can get it for less online; try wine-searcher.com
Reader's choice: 2009 Ménage à Trois Red Wine, St. Helena, Calif. (zinfandel, merlot, cabernet sauvignon): jammy, red-raspberry fruit with soft, ripe tannins; $9. I asked readers for their favorite "Tuesday night" wines for midweek supper when the boss is not coming and there's nobody to impress. "I found a good one," wrote Tomas Mulet of Miami. And he was right.
By committee: 2008 Clos de los Siete Malbec Blend (56 percent malbec, 21 percent merlot, 10 percent cabernet sauvignon, 11 percent syrah, 2 percent petit verdot), Canton de Tunuyán, Mendoza, Argentina: powerful, smooth and aromatic, with aromas and flavors of black plums, spice and mocha, big, ripe tannins, long and smooth finish; $18. This is made by seven big-ego visiting French winemakers led by the famous Michel Rolland. They must have gotten along very well.
Canadian: 2007 Mission Hill "SLC" Syrah, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia: inky-black, with rich flavors of black plums and bittersweet chocolate, full-bodied, smooth and powerful; $37. A perfect wine for something ultrarich like roast goose.
Bubbly: 2007 Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards Brut Rosé, Carneros: Lots of long-lasting tiny bubbles, firm structure, tart cherry flavors, long finish; $28. This won the "best specialty wine" title at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair in September.
Pricey white: 2004 Gustave Lorentz Pinot Gris Grand Cru, Altenberg de Bergheim, AOC Alsace: hugely rich but not heavy, powerful from 14.6 percent alcohol, very dry, with complex flavors of apricots, melons and honey; $50. I know it's too much. My philosophy is that everyone should have a good friend with a boat and a wine cellar.
Old-fashioned: 2008 Amapola Creek "Vinas Antiguas" Zinfandel, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley: powerful flavors of black raspberries and cloves, full-bodied, very rich, smooth; $30. This is a zin like they used to make them: unsubtle, in-your-face, a hearty 15.1 percent alcohol — wonderful.
Sweet white: 2010 Chateau Ste. Michelle Harvest Select Riesling, Columbia Valley, Wash. (10.5 percent alcohol, 4.98 grams per 100 milliliters residual sugar): honeyed, almost viscous mouth-feel, rich flavors of ripe peaches and nectarines, crisp and lively; $9. Try this with spicy Thai green curry chicken, and you'll convert.
Trendiest: 2010 Moscato Allegro, O'Neill Vintners, Cairn Ranch Vineyard, Calif.: intense aromas of orange blossoms, quite sweet, frizzante, intense orange and tangerine flavors; $12. This is cool among the social-media set; messaging a friend about it is almost sexting.
Best sangria: Eppa "SuperFruit" Red Wine Sangria: luscious, juicy, sweet-tart, intensely fruity; $12. It's made with cabernet sauvignon and syrah from California's Mendocino County plus organic, antioxidant-rich juices from pomegranate, blueberry, even açaí. This is not your abuelo's sangria.