November 1 2010
In December of last year, I wrote a two-part story (here and here) highlighting examples from the online wine scene that I thought were the “best of” their niche for the year. It was a well-received series of posts and I am continuing this year with a somewhat broader scope encompassing a perspective not limited to just the wine blogging scene.
Why publish early in November, just moments after Halloween, marking entry into the end of the year? Hmm … good question. I think it is because I’ve been two months ahead all year. 2009 was such a challenging and difficult year that I wiped the mental slate clean in November of last year, so I’ve mentally been in 2010 for 12 months already.
On the other hand, perhaps I have been spurred into creating mental order because I was recently voted THE best wine blog by the folks at the web site, “Guide to Culinary Schools”—a list that clearly indicates some kind of disruption in “The Force.” The rest of the top five, out of 50 wine blog listings, includes Gary Vaynerchuk, Alice Feiring, Eric Asimov, and Alder Yarrow. Yeah, I also laughed at the notion of being numero uno. As the Latin proverb goes, “De gustibus non est disputandum”—there is no accounting for taste.
What follows here is an opinion-heavy perspective on, “The good stuff” for 2010, and, mercifully, I am not including myself.
Large Winery of the Year: Bogle Wines
In 2010, consumers, still reeling from the economic malaise of the last two years, love a wine brand that reliably delivers at a reasonable price across a broad spectrum of varietals. Found nationwide, but staying slightly above the supermarket fray, Bogle delivers high quality and varietally correct wines from Riesling to Petite Sirah and most are under $12 a bottle while NOT tasting confected as so many supermarket wines do. The Bogle Phantom, the most expensive table wine they offer at around $18 a bottle, competes on quality against wines at twice the cost.
In addition, Bogle is my default recommendation for wine-interested friends who need a “woobie” comfort brand to look for at the store.
Kudos to the folks at Bogle for for consistently over-delivering on value while not compromising on quality, all at a good price – a winning wine recipe for 2010 and for years to come…
Medium-size Winery of the Year: LIOCO
LIOCO was winner of the 2009 Winery of the Year Award from Wine & Spirits magazine, a prescient decision from Joshua Greene and team and more prestigious than my notice here. However, I note LIOCO for good, duplicative reason …
To me, LIOCO represents the “natural” wine movement domestically, a movement that has “earned its spurs” this year in wine wonk discourse. In addition, LIOCO also represent a movement that I call “Nü California” – fruit forward wines with an old world sensibility. LIOCO’s chards are generally vineyard-designate, unoaked, mostly fermented with ambient yeasts and they are unfined and unfiltered. Fantastic wines. Their Pinot’s are likewise perfect – fruit forward, alive, and vital with just a kiss of oak for structure.
All of their wines are offered at a fair price for the quality in the bottle and all of them offer a memorable and compelling lip-smacking quality. To drink LIOCO is to feel a rush of exhilaration similar to your first kiss in that movie theatre years ago. Seriously.
Small Winery of the Year: Kimmel Vineyards
The winner of the Small Winery of the Year Award goes to Jim Kimmel and family from Kimmel Vineyards. Five hundred and fifty six cases across two varietals – Chardonnay and Merlot—constitutes small (micro?) production in my book.
The reason I have selected Kimmel Vineyards is not because of their wine, which is very good, their Chardonnay, in particular, being an exemplar of what a restrained, but oaked Chardonnay can be in California. However, more importantly, Kimmel Vineyards is truly a family operation with all of the positives and negatives that come with being a small business – the struggles to sell grapes, heck, the struggle to sell wine, period—the twists, and turns of being a vineyard owner and a small vintner. Jim Kimmel and family have experienced the gamut of highs and lows in the last two years.
A good guy, Jim Kimmel and Kimmel Vineyards are people worth highlighting and worth rooting for in the sometimes schizophrenic wine business.
Wine of the Year: 2007 Continuum
I contemplated selecting the 2006 Dry Riesling from Anthony Road winery from the Finger Lakes, almost the polar opposite of the 2007 Continuum from Tim Mondavi’s venture, Continuum Estate. The deciding factor had little to do with the notion of a small NY winery versus a renowned winemaker from Napa, and had everything to do with the wine.
The Anthony Road was electrifying, but the Continuum is the single best thing that I’ve put in my mouth all year, a wine that I have a distinct taste memory for and a wine that I scored a 95. I don’t review many wines on this site – for good reason, there’s too much grade inflation in wine rankings and many dole out 90s like first grade teachers giving smiley faces on homework assignments. Yet, in hindsight, I might have graded this one a little too tough at the time. It’s surely a 95, and perhaps higher. It’s a wine that’s rich and decadent, yet finely wrought and obviously built for the long haul.
As compared to other so-called “cult” wines in Cabernet, Continuum is a steal at $140 SRP (and found for less online). In different economic times, the wait list for Continuum would have stretched out til 2013. Count your blessings while you can …
In part II of the 2010 Best of Wine Online Awards, I’ll cover people to watch, trends, apps, books, and more …