Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008 Top Twenty Wines Under $20

It's time once again for the annual GWU$20 "Top Twenty Wines Under $20." (photo from peopleconnectors.org)

Each year I go through my tasting notes and gather together the most memorable and exciting wines I tasted. Then I hit the internet and make sure that they're available--for under $20. Who wants to get excited about a wine only to discover you can't get it anymore?

The world is awash with year end, top (fill in the blank) wine lists. Here's my contribution. You won't find many of these wines on other lists--I can promise you that!

What was the best wine you tasted this year? Share your favorite in the comments below, and of course if you've had any of these wines and agree with me, tell the world that, too.

Here they are, in reverse order. Click on any of the wine names to search for a retailer near you who might stock the wine.

20. 2006 Domaine Vissoux/Pierre Chermette Cuvée Traditionelle Gamay ($13-$18). Shy aromas of cherry, berry, and some chalk. The flavors are pure, juicy Bing cherry with an earthy undertow and some mineral notes in the aftertaste. Drinkable now, and should still have a few years left in it, too.

19. 2006 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($12-22). Very, very good Pinot Noir for the price. High toned cherry and raspberry fruit aromas, with a touch of allspice. Silky texture, and flavors of cherry, raspberry, allspice, and cobbler.

18. 2004 Domaine de la Noblaie Les Chiens-Chiens (around $20). The best Cabernet Franc I've ever had. Smoky, vegetable, and red fruit aromas combine nicely on the palate with a long, smoky aftertaste. Medium body, nice texture in the mouth.

17. 2003 Castelnau de Suduiraut Sauternes ($13-$36/375 ml). A honey-colored wine, with aromas of pineapple, coconut, and honey. Good acidity on the palate, which tasted of pineapple dipped in honey and deepened and gained weight as the wine opened up.

16. 2006 Mauritson Sauvignon Blanc ($13-$15). One of the best domestic Sauvignon Blancs I've had in a long time. Fresh and grassy, but not assertive with warmer melon, Meyer lemon, and clementine flavors.

15. 2006 Fort Ross Pinot Noir Rosé ($12-$16). A lovely, relatively full-bodied rose with aromas and flavors of strawberry and mineral. Delicious.

14. 2005 La Sibilla Piedirosso ($11-$15) An Italian red for Burgundy lovers. Light, true garnet in color, very clear and bright. Aromas of bacon fat and smoke, with a bit of high-toned black cherry underneath and flavors of leather, tar, and black cherry.

13. NV Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley ($15-$20) Pale straw in color, with abundant mousse and a small bead. Aromas of brioche and Meyer lemon and flavors of apples, toast, and a firm, nutty edge. Just terrific.

12. 2005 Arnaldo-Caprai Grechetto ($9-$24) Yummy, distinctive wine. Truly golden in color, with aromas of pears, herbs, and honeycomb. Slightly frizzante upon first opening, which dissipates quickly. Flavors run to orchard fruits--pears, a hint of white peach--with a zingy flash of lemon pith at the finish.

11. 2004 Di Majo Norante Aglianico Contado ($11-$20) Aromas of blackberry, tea, and a whiff of roses. Flavors of blackberry tending towards blueberry, tea, sassafras, and a little minty lift in the aftertaste.

10. 2004 La Rochelle Pinot Noir ($20) Beautiful, bright ruby color. Aromas of cherry and spice give way to flavors of cherry, pepper, and allspice with a spicy finish. Nicely made, with great acidity at the core.

9. 2006 Spann Vineyards Betsy's Backacher Bottle Blond ($14-$20) Contender for all around house white with its blend of Viognier, Semillon, and Chardonnay. Expect aromas of yellow apple, pear, and a touch of peach from the Viognier and flavors that are soft and round nectarine, peach, and apple.

8. 2007 Vignerons des Terres Secretes Chateau du Charnay ($18.60) Aromas of creme fraiche and pear and flavors of pear, apple, sour cream, and grapefruit pith. Very fresh and subtle, this is a wine for those who don't like the big California style. Excellent value.

7. 2007 James David Cellars Dry Muscat (price N/A, will be available directly from winery soon) A first offering, and a great dry muscat. Clear pale straw in color. Honeysuckle and mandarin orange peel aromas. Dry flavors of beeswax, Meyer lemon, and grapefruit pith.

6. 2002 Domaine des Baumard Savennieres ($11-$24) Aromas of lime, chalk, and almonds and flavors that were nutty, mineral, and citrus (somewhere between lime and lemon). Chalky finish. Piercing quality to the flavors, not sharp but very intense.

5. 2005 Veramonte Primus ($11-$26) Mix of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. Heady aromas and flavors of plum, blackberry, spice, and plum blossom. Satiny texture, integrated tannins, and a cedar-spice finish. Nicely made, well-balanced.

4. 2006 Adelsheim Pinot Gris ($14-$20) Delicious aromas of peach, honey, and a kiss of carmelized sugar. Lots of acidity to keep the peach and apple flavors in balance. Long, luscious aftertaste.

3. 2005 Preston of Dry Creek Valley Old Vines (I paid $20, but the price has risen) Amazing wine that's full-bodied and restrained at the same time. Aromas of plums and berries, yields to a silky-textured wine full of blackberry, dark chocolate, and roast coffee notes with a peppery aftertaste.

2. NV Osborne 1827 Sweet Sherry ($11-$18) Made with Pedro Ximenez grapes, this coffee-colored wine has molasses and cherry cola aromas and flavors. It's so syrupy that I believe those who told me that they serve it over vanilla ice cream. Delicious, affordable, memorable dessert wine.

1. 2006 Brooks Riesling Willamette Valley ($14-$20) Aromas of lime, apple, meyer lemon, petrol, and stone. Flavors of lime, honey, slate, and currants. Exceptionally complex for a wine at this price point. Well worth seeking out.


Joe said...

Hats off to you for putting together a diverse list of wines (even a sherry!) AND for remembering the importance of availability - too many writers out there touting wines you that you can only get at the cellar door or some NY specialty wine boutique. Glad to see that Contado made the list, one of my personal faves. All the best for the holidays!

Anonymous said...

Nice list. I agree with the previous comment about lists with availability. Also, I had the Adelsheim Pinot Gris for Thanksgiving and it was a huge hit!

Jeff (Good Grape) said...

Nice to see the Brooks Riesling on there -- super glad you got turned on to them. You should send a note to Janie, the proprietor, and let her know. I know she's LA-based, or at least somewhere in the vicinity


Anonymous said...

Great list DR D. The only one I had the fortune of tasting was the Preston while I was out in California and brought home a bottle of. Hopefully I can try some more of your top 20. I have been wanting to try the Brooks wines since you wrote about them earlier this year.

Dave said...

Nice list, good variety. I agree with your assessment on all the ones I've tasted.

Anonymous said...

So glad you liked the Mauritson SB so much! I've thought it was an excellent value ever since I had the 04 years ago, I look forward to it every year!

Anonymous said...

I think the MacMurray Ranch is OK, but I find that for the same general price range, O'Reilly's 2007 Oregon Pinot is heads and tails a better value. The grapes are grown from the same vineyards used in Owen Roe's top label, but are used in this off-label due to his standards for the premium wine. Just a great sub-$20 wine.