Saturday, January 2, 2010

Top Wines of 2009

Before I get too far into this article I want to start with a disclaimer: These are my opinions and not some cold hard truths that come down from the wine gods. The wheels on the bus will not fall off if your favorite wine isn’t in here.

Last year this was the only article that I received hate mail and phone calls over. For some reason people felt that I had hurt their sensibilities because I didn’t mention their brand of White Zinfandel. Anyway, just relax and enjoy my picks for 2009.

Wine of the year - 2001 Garrison Creek Cabernet Sauvignon - No, the date is not a typo. Tucked away against the foothills of the Blue Mountains on the Washington side of the state border between Walla Walla and Milton Freewater is a beautifully constructed barn made out of imported slate, hand-hewn timbers, and gorgeous adornments. This is the home of Garrison Creek Winery. Available by appointment only, David March, the winemaker has bottled and is selling a limited supply of wine that will rock your socks. The 2001 vintage has had many years in the barrel and the bottle, making it one of the most fantastic Cabernets I’ve had in many years.

Best Chardonnay - Gordon Brothers 2006 Reserve Chardonnay – This is Chardonnay the way God intended it. Pears, apples, and melon on the nose and front of the palate, transitioning to the warm vanillas and baking spices associated with careful oaking on the finish. Absolutely delicious.

Best Red Blend - 2007 Fidelitas M100 Red Blend - Charlie Hoppes continues to prove why he is considered to be the region’s most sought after winemaker. This affordable blend simply “rocks”. Flavors of vanilla, cassis, chocolate, and dark fruit from start to finish.

Best Rose’ - 2008 Barnard Griffin Rose’ of Sangiovese - It isn’t rose season, but I have fond memories of this particular bottle from this year’s stock. You might be able to find it in a few specialty shops, but Rob is already working on his 2009 to be released sometime in the next few months.

Best White Blend – 2008 Saviah Cellars Star Meadows – Last year I named this winemaker the number one winemaker of the year. I still have to say that Rich Funk still tops the list. His 2008 Star Meadows is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semmilon, which brings out layers upon layers of citrus, apricot, and floral flavors.

Best Merlot – 2006 Pepper Bridge Merlot - This is one of the toughest years in recent memory for me in making this decision. A lot of absolutely fantastic Merlots have been coming from this region in the past few years. Jean Francois Pellet holds the top notch with this vintage. It has intense flavors of plum, currants, and cherries, with layers of chocolate and spice.

Winemaker to watch – Kontos Cellars 2006 Boushey Syrah - There aren’t a lot of winemakers in the region who were raised in the winemaking business, but Cameron Kontos is one of them. Following his father, Cliff Kontos of Walla Walla Cellars, Cameron has gone on to further refine his skills under Marie Eve Gilla of Forgeron over the past few years. 2009 was a fantastic year for Cameron. He and his brother Chris opened Kontos Cellars this year at the Walla Walla Incubator, and just a few months later he married the love of his life Becca. His Boushey Syrah earned a 91 from Robert Parker, and is absolutely fantastic! It opens with layers of peppercorn, bacon, and roses, soon followed by dark berries and truffles. The finish is long and satisfying.

I wish you all happiness and success in 2010!

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