Winning Wines 2012
By Denman Moody denmanswineblog.com
J Brut Rosé non-vintage — Coinciding with its 25th Anniversary celebration, J Vineyards and winery has switched to a sleek, sexy new clear bottle featuring a distinctive black version of its iconic brushstroke J with the eye-popping, rich, pink salmon-colored Pinot Noir-based sparkling wine on full display. The wow factor continues with elegant aromas of strawberries and sprightly flavors of cherry, citrus and tropical fruit. A “must” for 2012. $28
Patz & Hall Chardonnay Zio Tony Ranch Russian River Valley 2009 — This vineyard was planted in 1990 by the Martinelli family who have been farming in Sonoma County since the late 1800s. An enticing and luscious Chardonnay, this wine exhibits lovely peach and hazelnut flavors, and is imbued with excellent balancing acidity followed by a long, clean finish with hints of clove and vanilla. $60
Burgans Albariño Rias Baixas, Spain 2010 — Leaping into the contest of great white wines of the world, Albariño exploded onto the scene in the early to mid-2000s. So far, nobody can make a wine from this grape that is anywhere near what can be produced in northwestern Spain, just above Portugal. A wine of bracing acidity, somewhat like Riesling and Gruner Veltliner (Austria’s white gem), the enticing fruit flavors marry well with hors d’oeuvres and fish dishes. Topped with a screwcap, this is a wine you could get used to pretty fast. Morgadio is another good Albariño. Another “must” if you haven’t tried it. $14
Foppiano Petite Sirah Lot 96 Sonoma County 2009 — Foppiano has been growing grapes in the Russian River Valley since 1896, thus, Lot 96. It comes from their own estate as well as selected vineyards throughout the county. Blended with 10 percent Carignane, 5.5 percent Zinfandel and 4.5 percent Grenache, winemaker Natalie West uses “tender care” in production, aging with only a limited amount of oak. Topical, rich aromas of blueberries, cherries and spice are followed by blackberry and plum flavors. Perfect meat pizza wine. One of Foppiano’s favorite pairings: Veal Milanese topped with a pile of arugula. $12.99
Villa Ragazzi Sangiovese Napa Valley 2009 — Long before Michaela Rodeno retired as CEO of St. Supery Winery, she and her husband Greg planted a small Sangiovese vineyard. This lovely wine has a spicy red fruit character with excellent structure and a bright, clean, satisfying finish. It tastes like what a Chianti Classico producer would make if only he had a Napa Valley vineyard. Try with chicken or veal Piccata or Marsala with a side of spaghetti Marinara! Or a pizza. Only 75 cases made, and only available at villaragazziwine.com. $36
Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2007 — While everyone else is releasing their 2009s and 2008s, Jordan is releasing its 2007. One of Jordan’s traits is testing each vintage after bottling to determine when it is perfectly ready to drink, albeit a wine that will benefit from aging for another decade. For those who prefer a lower-alcohol wine that nevertheless has an elegant richness, here’s your wine. Try with anything from a roast beef sandwich — remember, Malcolm Forbes used to have Chateau Margaux with burgers — to beef tenderloin medallions. An incredible bargain at $39.95.
Nickel & Nickel Cabernet Sauvignon Martin Stelling Vineyard 2008 — From two of the prime acres of the Martin Stelling Vineyard (which is the main vineyard for Far Niente), this gorgeous wine has three of my favorite components: black cherries, black currants and chocolate! Aged 18 months in mostly new French oak, this is a perfect wine to cellar until December 2012 and either drink with a steak or rack of lamb, or give away to your favorite wine nut friend. $140
Saracco Moscato d’Asti Piedmont, Italy 2010 — One of the great surprise values in dessert wine, this is one of my favorites to serve to anyone who hasn’t tried it. Very lightly sparkling (frizzanti) and with only 6 percent alcohol, this perky little filly will prance through your palate with a sweet, refreshing, tingling feeling which calls for another sip. Perfect by itself or with a light dessert such as sugar cookies.$15
Nieport Porto Portugal 2007—There are still vestiges of large amounts of vintage Ports being purchased by the English to lay down for years (the British who were oenophiles and could afford it used to — and still do to a much lesser degree — lay down a pipe of Port—25 cases — from each of their children’s birth years, or from the nearest great year, and gift said Port stash to the new adult on his/her 21st birthday).
Dirk Nieport has been in charge of winemaking for over 20 years, and he feels he has created a vintage Port that’s “… not heavy but complex, not fruity but elegant, not aggressive but harmonious, not shallow but challenging.” The difficulty is having a vintage Port that shows well at release and also has the ability to improve with age for two or three decades. I believe this is just such a wine. Serve after dinner by itself, with a rich dessert, including chocolate but not ice cream, or with a cigar! $75