I spent much of this year exploring emerging regions in the U.S., especially in the Upper Midwest where only the cold-hardy, non-vinifera grapes will survive the winters. While these regions of the country are making tremendous progress, only occasionally do they produce wines that can compete with wines from more established regions.
Happily, I had time to sample wines from the classic regions as well although this list includes gems from unexpected locations . Below is the list of my top wines tasted in 2017.
Penfolds Grange Bin 95 Shiraz South Australia 2003
This was glorious, one of the best wines I have had the opportunity to taste. It exhibits the tension between power and elegance shared by all great wines. Score: 96 (See my review here)
Chateau Margaux 1978
Musty at first but after it blows off this wine is gorgeous showing cedar, smoke, and fennel behind the cherry and cassis. Still lots of midpalate freshness and soft persistent tannins. Outstanding. Score: 96 Not previously reviewed.
Dominio Pingus Ribera del Duero 2001
A gorgeous finish with tannins the texture of cashmere lifts this wine toward greatness. A “cult wine” deserving of its reputation. Score: 95 (See my review here)
Winesmith Syrah Suisun Valley Mangel’s Ranch 2005
A relatively cool climate Syrah from a vineyard near San Pablo bay, this wine is lush but with electric acidity and minerality. Score: 94 ( See my review here)
Chateau Clos l’Eglise, Pomerol 2001
In excellent shape, this Merlot dominated blend shows lots of earth and a mineral core, with lush polished fruit and silky tannins. This vintage was considered ordinary but is now attracting attention. Dense and sensual. Score: 94 Not previously reviewed
Pheasant Ridge Pinot Noir Texas High Plains 1993
From a region that is not supposed to be able to produce Pinot Noir, this gem is simply extraordinary. Explosive eucalyptus,clove and black cherry, with caramel hints on the nose. It’s still round and full in the mouth with a long, lively finish resting on powdery tannins. Abundant vivacious fruit after 24 years. Amazing. (Full review forthcoming.)
Villa Parens Metodo Classico Rosé de Noirs Dosage Zero Friuli-Venezia Giulia 2013
100% Pinot Noir aged on the lees for 36 months, this is a beautiful sparkling wine, delicate and silky, yet full of tension. Score: 93 (See my review here)
Littorai Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2010
Effortlessly aging, this has fresh exuberant charm, an undercurrent of gravitas, and a long, flavorful finish. Made from biodynamically-grown grapes. Score: 93 (See my review here)
Milagro Vineyards Zinfandel New Mexico 2010
No year of travels would be complete without a stop at one of my favorite wineries in the U.S. Milagro Vineyards near Albuquerque has mastered the art of breeding wines for aging. Bright red fruit, enveloping earth on a satin-like frame, with electric mineral notes on the finish. As elegant a Zinfandel as you will find anywhere. Score 93 (Not previously reviewed)