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#25-#11: My 25 Most Exciting Wines of 2010

Monday, January 3, 2011

Alright everybody, back to work.  You know that feel you've got right now where you feel like you're burned out on opening too many really nice wines the past couple weeks?  Don't worry it'll pass and you'll be back in action in no time sleuthing out next year's tremendous wines.

I set out to capture the 10 most exciting wines I tasted in 2010 and ended up with 25.  I selected these wines with a similar criteria that Wine Spectator uses for their Top 100 list.  It's not a rank ordered list of the best wines I discovered.  Rather, it's a combination of value, availability, and excitement.  Many of the wines were ones where I joined with friends to buy a straight case or more to reduce per-bottle costs. (Interested in a Boston-area wine case club?  Drop me an E-mail and I'll add you to my list and I'll include you in future offers.)  Some others were more one-off discoveries.

More than anything it's a list of wines I'll remember when looking back at 2010.  On with the list...

#25 2007 Waterbrook Reserve Merlot

This wine was a tricky one for me.  From a numbers perspective, 92 WS with a $22 release price for a Washington Merlot was appealing.  CellarTracker median is at 89 right now, and the wine landed at #46 on Wine Spectator's Top 100 list.  However, I had a really hard time garnering interest from my case club friends for 12 bottles of this.  I think some had a negative impression of the brand from past experience with their entry-level bottlings.  I thought this was a 90 point wine.

#24 2007 Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon

There's tremendous value to be had in relabeled wines.  This one pushes the envelope in terms of price point - and it delivers.  More on this wine here.  I wasn't nearly as impressed with their 2009 Sonoma County Pinot Noir.

#23 2007 Beaulieu Vineyards Tapestry

93 WS with a $50 release price is one thing, but the availability of this wine is so widespread it's not hard to find for just over $30.  It's a little rough around the edges at this point but I think it'll settle down nicely and reward short term cellaring.  I agreed with Spectator on this one: 93 points.  How on earth did it not make the Wine Spectator Top 100 list?  More here.

#22 2006 Snowden Cabernet Sauvignon The Ranch 

Ugly label, beautiful wine.  Every time I've tried this wine I've thought it was spot-on Napa Cab but there's something about the package that leaves me disinterested in buying a bunch of it.  I rated the wine 94 points and that may have even been dragged down subconsciously by the label.  I've had a little trouble finding this ~$40 wine in Massachusetts lately.

#21 2008 King Estate Signature Pinot Gris

In 2010 red wine consumption here at the WWP outpaced whites by an 8:1 ratio.  I keep trying to get more into white wine but it only takes 1 lackluster bottle to send me scurrying back to my comfort zone of fruit-forward domestic reds.  This white wine delivers however - try it with chinese food.  91 points for me.  I paid between $11.49 and $15.50 for this wine in 2010.

#20 2009 Annabella Pinot Noir 

After a bit of an off year in 2008, this wine is back on track in 2009 and compares favorably to the excellent 2007.  90 points for me and readily available for less than $15 in MA.  I think this makes for a great choice in an affordable-but-varietally-correct Pinot Noirs around the world tasting.  More on that here.

#19 2009 Honig Sauvignon Blanc

I bought a couple bottles from Wine Nation in Millbury, MA this year (review).  The first was an oxidized Pinot Noir.  The second was this Sauvignon Blanc I opened as a backup.  Wow, did this white wine taste delicious after that flawed red.  I paid $12.94 and rated it 90 points.  For my palate, Honig delivers value at all price points - more on them later in this list.

#18 2006 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Sometimes, I think I look too hard to find wines of great value.  Everyone knows the name Mondavi - and for good reason.  Mondavi still cranks out great wines at a variety of price points.  At the high end their Reserve Cabernets - particularly back vintages available at a discount - can be tremendous values.  This wine was a sample and I compared it to the 1994 and 1999 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernets.  The 2006 was the star of the lineup for me.  I rated it 97 points - one of the best Napa Cabs I've ever had.  $135 release price.

#17 2007 Paul Autard Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Ah - who doesn't love #CdP07?  This was perhaps the most pure case club we've done to date.  Those who joined with me snagged the wine at $25.99 a bottle (off a $43 release price) and the wine has absolutely delivered.  93 WS and I agreed with them.  This wine is a winner.

#16 2008 Elk Cove Pinot Noir Mount Richmond

This was another wine that a number of us bought from The Wine Cellar of Stoneham at a favorable price given its 94 WS rating.  The 2008 vintage of Oregon Pinot Noir is supposed to be fantastic.  My experience so far has been hit or miss.  I know one thing - tasting this alongside a California Pinot Noir of similar stature probably isn't a good idea.  Or maybe it needs some bottle age to shine.  That said - I actually like this wine a lot (91 points) and wish I had the restraint to keep some on hand for years to come.  Relatively speaking it's a great value if you can find it south of $40.  It makes the list here because it's a wine I think I'll remember from 2010.

#15 2005 Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Benchland Select

This is more of a personal sentimental play given that I like Cakebread so much.  I picked it up at the Boston Wine Exchange when they were having a 15% off sale as a way to make amends for their Buy With Me offer that was thwarted by buzz killing Massachusetts laws.  They wanted $100 for it so I grabbed it for $85 and enjoyed it at noon on Thanksgiving.  94 points.  Further reading on what makes Cakebread a special brand.

#14 2007 Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Here's an example of why I don't publish my Top Wines of 2010 list until 2011.  Well, I didn't have it written up until 2011, but anyway - I tried this wine for a second time this year on December 23rd and it delivered a powerful combination of brambly fruit and barnyard.  If you have some of this and are thinking of laying it down for a long time I'd encourage you to check at least one bottle out in the near term - I think it's drinking beautifully right now.  93 points for me, 94 points Wine Spectator. #CdP07 baby!

#13 2008 Elk Cove Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

The Mount Richmond mentioned above has a release price of $48 whereas this one is $28.  I think this appellation-designated offering is the value play.  If you stack up some discounts you can find this wine for right around $20.  For my palate this is textbook 2008 Oregon Pinot Noir in an elegant package for a great price.  Bulk buy recommendation.

Wine.com: 2008 Elk Cove Pinot Noir $24.99

#12 2008 Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir

It's easy to find this one for $19.99 and it is absolutely delicious.  I first tried it by the glass at The Capital Grille.  I've had probably 6 bottles of it since and every time I've shared it with someone new the response has been similar - "Wow - this is DELICOUS.  What is it?"  Hard to argue with those results.  A fantastic end of the week wine to open when you just want to enjoy a nice glass of wine without breaking the bank.  Love it.  Haven't tried the 2009 yet though I hear it's coming to market now.  The 2008 is a wine I can see regretting not buying more of no matter how much I might buy.  More here.

#11 2006 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco

Speaking of wines that might be impossible to buy too much of...  Wine-wise 2010 was a breakthrough year for Nebbiolo consumption for me and Barbaresco led the way.  This 92 point Wine Advocate wine can still be had for $29.99 and what's unique about it is that in 2006 the Produttori didn't release single-vineyard wines.  The leap one might make from that is that the quality level of their entry level bottle might be better in 2006.  All of that aside it's a great wine at a fair price and I've been pleased with every bottle I've opened.  Here's a tasting report that includes this wine and other current release wines from Barbaresco.

Coming later this week:
I'd love it if you subscribed to the site so we can continue the conversation.  Happy New Year!

What do you think of these picks?  What were some of your favorite wines of 2010?

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