As I looked over candidates for my top ten wines of the year, I decided that 2016 was a pretty good year for drinking wine. My list, of course, is a highly personal and idiosyncratic one...as is my blog. I do not award points and do not presume to judge quality--only personal pleasure. For various reasons, these are the most memorable wines I drank during the year.
1. Taylor-Fladgate 20-Year Tawny Port. Both this and my No. 2 wine were consumed on a trip to Spain and Portugal last June. I trudged at least a mile up a steep, cobblestone lane to reach Taylor's, but the pleasure at the top was truly worth it. For less than $20, I had three- to four-ounce glasses of three Ports. Even though, I usually lean toward Vintage Port, this 20-Year Tawny caught and held my attention. Rich, rich, rich bouquet of nuts and caramel with exotic dried fruit flavors. I drank slowly and enjoyed every sip. See my note from June, 21.
After returning home, I kept my eye out for 20-Year Tawny Ports and, on Christmas day, enjoyed another excellent example--Graham's 20-Year Tawny. Judged side-by-side, I am not sure which would get my top nod.
2. Taylor-Fladgate Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port, 2002. Even the Late Bottled Vintage from Taylor's was excellent, but this Quinta de Vargellas was my second choice. See my note from June 21.
3. Paul Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert, 1994. Domaine Thalabert has been one of my favorite Rhone wines since the early 1980s, although I quit buying in 1999 when it became clear that quality was declining. During 2016, I had bottles from three vintages--all at least 20 years old and all drinking beautifully. My favorite was the 1994 (April 24), which has taken on tones of cured meats and Provencal olives. The 1995 (July 28) was a close second, followed by the 1989 (May 8).
4. Giacomo Fenocchio Freisa, 2013. (November, 23). This was my first bottle of Freisa, and the wine is now on my shopping list. I was blown away by the aromas; similar to those of Nebbiolo but maybe even more entrancing. Flavors for this bottle were still a bit backward, but I could see the potential.
5. Bybee Vineyards and Habitat Russian River Pinot Noir, 2005. (May 26). I enjoyed many good Pinots this year from Russian River and Anderson Valley. This was my favorite. Others included 2001 Martinelli, 2006 Saintsbury Cerise Vineyard and 1997 Alderbrook.
6. Gigi Rosso Barolo Arione, 2001. (December 26). I drank this wine with Christmas dinner, along with the 1995 Barbaresco from Ca Rome Romano Marengo, and wavered as to which I liked best. The Barolo was clearly superior in terms of bouquet and about equal in terms of flavors.
7. Ca Rome Romano Marengo Barbaresco, 1995. (December 26, March 28). I chose this as one of my birthday wines and opened another on Christmas Day. No disappointment. This is an estate I really like. Another Barbaresco I enjoyed during the year was the 1993 Musso Cru Pora (March 10).
8. Domaine Beaurenard Chateauneuf du Pape, 1990. (May 1). As usual, I drank many good Chateauneufs du Pape, including the 1998 Vieux Donjon (April 10), 1990 Domaine Marcoux (March 6), 2000 Mas de Boislauzon (December 27), 2000 Pierre Usseglio (December 27) and 1994 Domaine du Haut des Terres Blanches (December 27). All were excellent, but I was surprised by the fruit purity of the Beaurenard.
9. Trimbach Alsace Riesling, 2012. (December 30). I really didn't have much of this Riesling because I was intrigued by other wines at the table. I had enough, though, to know that it is a special wine. I also enjoyed the 2011 Trimbach Pinot Blanc (February 27). And I was impressed by a mature bottle of Cuvee Emile Willm Pinot Gris from 2001 (December 14).
10. Grao Vasco Dao, 2013. (June 21). This inexpensive wine was another highlight of my trip to Portugal in June. While we were waiting for carry-out pizza, my wife and I ordered a glass of the house wine. For about $1.50 each, we were served huge glasses of this impressive Dao--reminded me of a cross between a very good Cotes du Rhone Villages and an equally fine Pinot Noir. Peppery, spicy fruit on a delicate frame. The waiter showed us the bottle and exclaimed: "Very good wine, very low price." I have been looking for Dao wines ever since and may have come close with the 2011 Portado Winemakers Selection from Lisboa (December 30).
There are so many other wines that came close to making this list: the 2001 Domaine l'Oratoire Saint Martin Prestige, 1998 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras, 1999 Font-Sane Gigondas, 1982 Poujeaux, 1981 d'Angludet, 1983 Patache d'Aux, 1985 Domaine des Baumard Clos du Papillon Savennieres and 2012 Franco Serra Barbera. It was a good year for drinking wine. And I will try to do even better during the year to come.