Over the last few weeks I have seen a number of articles on the best wines of 2011 but hard as I looked, I couldn't find any of the wines that had moved me during the past year. So I decided to create my own list. This is a list of the best wines I tasted in 2011, regardless of vintage. These wines were, for the most part, consumed at our Orlando tasting events and were acclaimed wines of the flight, and in some cases, wine of the night, by our tasting panels. There is no preferential ranking implied other than chronological. So here goes.
The first set of wines is drawn from our 13-vintage Dominus tasting:
- Dominus 1984 Nose of ripe red fruit. Earthy. Sweet fruit, coffee, tobacco, and earth in the mouth.
- Dominus 1992 Beautiful nose of cassis fruits, cedar, earth, and coffee. Nicely balanced with good fruit structure.
- Dominus 1994 Yes it was richer and more opulent than the 1991. Huge ripe black fruits, spice, earth, and truffle with amazing texture and a super-long finish.
- Dominus 2007 Nose of sweet ripe red fruits and licorice. Richer and denser on the palate than both the 2005 and the 2006.
The next wine on the list was tasted as a part of the Italian Wine Merchant's tasting held at my home:
- Valpolicella Superiore 2001 from legendary producer Giuseppe Quintarelli. Aged for six (6) years in Slovenian oak, this wine did not reach the marketplace until eight (8) years post-harvest, a massive amount of time for a Valpolicella. The wine is made in the Ripasso style, where the finished Valpolicella wine is passed through the pomace (crushed grapes, skins, etc.) from the production of Amarone. The wine was phenomenal, presenting a nose of flowers, dried fruit, dark caramel, and figs. The aromas carried over to the palate, with some hints of earth and licorice added for good measure.
The 1982 Bordeaux tasting held at the Bull and Bear yielded quite a few gems:
- L'Evangile 1982. Aromas of dried rose petals, potpourri, acorn-fed meat, prosciutto, sugar cane, and cedar box. On the palate reinforcement of aromas along with a chocolate creaminess and long finish.
- Leoville Las Cases 1982 had notes of of carmelized chocolate pudding, fresh pine, spice box, vanilla, and sweet tobacco. This wine was concentrated, a "big boy." On the palate, stiff tannins with a rich, lush, long finish. This wine was still in a youthful phase.
- Cos d'Estournel 1982 Notes of black fruit. Rich and concentrated with black olives showing through on the palate. Balanced, with acidity and fruit retention.
- Pichon Lalande 1982 Roasted pine nuts and coffee. Lush creaminess. Well balanced. Very long finish.
- La Mission Haut-Brion 1982 Notes of mushrooms, earth, tobacco, molasses, and dried stewed fruits. Layered, complex, with a long finish.
- Laville Haut-Brion 1982. Notes of crushed pineapple, ocean air, boat exhaust, linseed oil, and a certain waxiness. On the palate, freshness, gasoline, smoked lychees, stony minerality, volcanic ash. Dry, balancd finish. Vino da meditazione.
As did our A World of Cabernet Sauvignon tasting:
- Ducru-Beaucaillou 2003 On the nose hints of chocolate, clove, and ripe fruit. On the palate a good mouthfeel, structure, and body with persistent soft tannins on the backend. This wine had a Napa structure -- a result of the heat in Bordeaux in 2003 -- without the jamminess and alcohol. Excellent finish.
- Heitz Martha’s Vineyard 1985 This wine was huge and expansive on the nose. Hints of graphite, chocolate, leather, tobacco, asian spice and earth co-exist with a decided creaminess. The wine retains some acidity, is silky smooth, balanced, and elegant with a long finish. This is the way California wines used to be.
- Leonetti Reserve 2003 Raspberry and blackberry on the nose along with a certain creaminess. The components of the wine hang together well. Beef stock and petrol flavors. Well integrated tannins. Described by one panelist as "refreshing and in a perfect place in terms of development."
Two wines stood out at our Missing Link(s) tasting:
- Magrez Fombrauge 2000 Aromatic. Ripe. Opulent. Surprisingly well balanced. Seamless and seductive.
- Masseto 1996 Terroir-driven. Coffee. Smooth. Great texture and complexity. Grippiness. Concentrated but not weighty.
Flight winners from our 1996-vintage Champagne tasting sparkled:
- Pol Roger Cuveé Sir William Churchill Brut 1996 This wine showed amazing balance, a laser-like focus on fruit and acidity, and notes of buttered apple and pear danish.
- Deutz Cuveé William Rosé 1996 Freshest, most vibrant, and most open of the Rosés. Rhubarb and sherry.
- Krug Brut 1996 Off the charts in intensity. Its bracing acidity, steely minerality, and fruit structure are reminiscent of a great Chablis. Notes of toast, marrow, and sea shell.
Non-Sparkling wines from the post-Champagne-tasting dinner:
- Gruard Larose 1961 Cigar box, tar, minerals, brush.
- Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape 2000 Meat, herbs, cherry, vanilla, brambles, cigar box, mint.
A number of wines tasted in less formal settings demand attention:
- Fiorano 1985 Dark gold in color. Lively. Earthy. Waxy.
- Antinori Solaia 2001 Blackcurrant, earth, coffee and vanilla. Balanced wine with a smooth texture and a long finish.
- Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano 1999 Dark fruit, sweet tobacco, new leather and spices.
- Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano 2001 Ripe and fruit-endowed. Fine tannins.
In discussing this list with Russell last night, his wine of the year was the Laville Haut-Brion 1982. I do not disagree with his choice as that was truly a phenomenal wine. But by a thin margin I will give the nod to the 1982 L'Evangile, because every time I open a bottle of this wine it is orgasmic.
So there it is. Fire away.
So there it is. Fire away.