Friends’ favorite wines of 2013

Before looking ahead to another fantabulous year of wine enrapturement, I asked some friends to augment my own list of favorite wines of 2013:

Mitch Zavada, retailer: “A lot of thrilling and ‘profound’ wines went down the gullet this year. To try and choose from those would be damn near impossible, so I’m taking an MVP angle and saying Cantina Bolzano St Magdalener [varnatsch and lagrein from Sudtirol]. It’s a delicious, refreshing, all-season red and it is perfect with salumi, and that is very important. It’s the one wine that made it to every car-reachable trip we took this year — Lutsen in February to Wisconsin cabin in May to Brainerd in August — and was perfect every time. ”

Craig Ritacco, restaurant GM: “The Soter Vineyards North Valley Compass Cuvee Soterwhite [55 chardonnay, 45 gewürztraminer]. Fuck, is it good. The blend is fantastic, very harmonious. There’s just enough gewürz; too much and I don’t like it. [Soter] hammered it. Oh and Val [Craig’s wonderful wife] loved it, too.”

Leo Sioris, friend: “1986 Prieure-Lichine Margaux.  It showed a beautifully balanced elegance with a complex flavor profile of black fruit and an abundance of secondary notes.  To me, a classic Bordeaux at a great drinking window.”

Darrin Minehan, retailer: “Great wine memories should be accompanied by great memories in general; waxing poetic about the contents of a glass being a life-changing experience when you’re swilling by yourself always struck me as a tad too wine-geekish. I think my favorite wine of 2013 would have to be the 2010 Bergstrom Pinot Noir Bergstrom Vineyard. I didn’t have a notepad handy as we polished this bottle off late at night in a friend’s garage last summer out in Portland, but I do remember that it was perfectly balanced, deep and rich, and it added a touch of class to the bluegrass picking I had been roped into. Next summer I’m bringing a 16-percent zin, and they’ve agreed to plug in and play some rock ‘n’ roll.”

Annette Peters, importer/wholesaler: “Bénedicte and Stéphane Tissot’s ‘Les Graviers.’ Not because this is the Tissotgreatest wine I’ve tasted ever, but because the wine is as authentic and  pure as it gets.  I think I am less likely to fawn over a big over-the-top hedonistic drinking experience these days.  I want clarity and purity instead. It’s a very hipster wine choice in one sense because it’s from highly topical Jura.  And very anti-hip in that it is a chardonnay.  It’s very white Burgundy in style, although a little slower to evolve in the glass than most Puligny-Montrachet. But when it does, it’s so pure, direct, apple confiture, chutney with spicy curry and saffron notes, but also an underlayment of nervous, racy acidity that draws out the flavors into a lingering mineral and briny finish.”

Chuck Kanski, retailer: “The Marc Hebrart NV grower Champagne. I’m truly embarrassed by how many bottles I’ve consumed of this amazing grower Champagne. If I wasn’t able to score a dinner date, I even brought half bottles into the shop … mainly for me on quiet weekday nights.”

Ken Goff, chef instructor: “Aren’t we the lucky ones that during every year we drink so many wines that are so good?  That said, since I do not take notes, I have trouble Montelenarecalling many of them.  So my pick is something recent: 1987 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.  In remarkable shape.  My wine but Mike opened the bottle at his place with an Ah-So, so concerned about the potential condition of the cork were we.  Bill, that cork was in the best shape of any cork pulled from a wine of that age I have ever seen.  It foreshadowed the wine. Everything you could ask or wish for in a Napa cab.  Impeccable balance mostly, and it did not break up in the glass but held up for a long time that night.  I am not sure cab is made like that anymore:  it wouldn’t be considered big enough, bold enough or extracted enough for the high-end cab drinker of today. And it stood out on a table of other very good wines (mostly bigger, some with plenty of oak).”

Reid Plumbo, friend: “As is always the case, my best experiences this year were created through emotional connections to the wine vs. a black-and-white score. 2007 Terra di Lavoro: Shared on the deck on the first tolerable evening of spring with family. … 1983 Chateau Palmer: A tremendous gift shared at a milestone birthday [Reid’s 30th]. Poured for, and tasted with, my mom. … 2011 Clos St. Jean Deus Ex Machina: Shared with the winemaker. Enough said. … I wrote these and then noticed the word ‘shared’ appears in them all.”

Lonny Isenberg, retailer: “My favorite would be the Champagne that [wife] Kim and I shared with our youngest daughter Katy when she turned 25 this fall. It was a 1988 Jacquesson Grand Vin Signature, and it was incredible!”

Brian Tockman, friend: [Our mutual friend] Joe’s ’83 Palmer that he cracked open for PalmerReid’s birthday.  Phenomenal wine, and great to have in the context of celebrating the young pup’s coming of age 🙂 … An ’07 Donnhoff Kreuznacher Kahlenberg Riesling Kabinett: magical, a perfect kabinett. Precise, layered, dynamic flavor profile. All that I like in German riesling was in this glass. Pure fruit expression, great backbone. Opened on an August evening, nothing better. … ’02 Le Cadeau Pinot Noir: drank my final bottle of that original vintage, and it delivered. Still is my all-time favorite Le Cadeau, and a pleasure to drink one more time. The Oregon smoke, spice and dust was there, a nice light purple/garnet color, rich but structured, boysenberry notes, leather, bacon fat. Just great.  Meaningful given my Oregon sojourns and that is was the first wine launched by our friends Tom and Deb [Mortimer].”

Jim Reininger, retired restaurateur: I liked these two wines so much that I bought a case of each. A-Z Vineyards Chardonnay 2012.  Great vintage and this wine dances with flavors of kiwi, citrus, quince and hints of pear and toasted nuts. Great value. I got it for $10 a bottle. And Agostina Pieri Rosso di Montalcino 2010.  A remarkably big ‘Rosso,’  if this is called a ‘baby brunello,’ I would be frightened to see an older sibling.  Excellent characteristic sangiovese fruit but with greater depth and intensity.  Could benefit from a little aging. About $20 a bottle.”

Peter Vars, retailer:  “The most significant wines I tasted all year were the wines of HocharChateau Musar when [owner/winemaker] Serge Hochar  [left] visited in October.  I have not experienced the intersection of time and place as they apply to wine in any comparable tasting to date.  The 1977 red was fantastically fresh, yet otherworldly in its grace and complexity.  Simply put, every older bottle I have tasted of his is a unique time capsule. Runner-up, and under $20: Borgo Maragliano Brut Chardonnay, $17/bottle retail.  Fantastic Piedmontese bubbly, rich and full with great cut across the palate.”

Mark Efron, friend: “1996 Sine Qua Non against the wall; 2007 Chester’s Anvil Zin (a Lagier Meredith-Pott joint venture); 2005 Charles Smith ‘Old Bones’ Syrah; 1992 Disznoko Tokaji Aszu 6 puttonyos. I loved them all because I thought they were sublime examples of their respective varietals.”

Mike Dombrow, retailer: “Dr. H. Thanisch Berncasteler Doctor Riesling Kabinett 2010.  Why: I looked at the tally of all wines I bought this year. I then found the wines that I bought the most of. I saw then that I bought more of this wine then any other. So I bought another and sat to thinking about it while drinking it.  Here is the scoop: I’ve had this wine with food, on its own, with friends, by myself, at parties, and sold/served it to customers. It is the perfect melding of fruity, sweet, acidic, and light … and that all leads up to why I love this wine: It’s fucking yummy. We need more yummy wines in the world. Wines just to drink and enjoy. I think that’s why I keep coming back to this wine and why, without trying, this is the Wine of 2013. Yummy.”

Jason Kallsen, wholesaler: [This has been trimmed; for the full, more richly textured  version, go here] ” ‘Best’ to me always means ‘best memory’ or ‘best Kallsenssituation’ or simply a moment I want to go back to. In March, [wife] Angela and I couldn’t take the Minnesota winter anymore and spontaneously bought tickets to San Francisco and wine country. [Upon landing] we were starving and headed for Zuni Cafe, our regular first stop. … We nestled into the coziest table in one of the greatest restaurants in our favorite city. The wine list arrived, and I’ve always believed that there’s a bargain to be had. Searching carefully, we happened upon the Chateau de Bellevue Lussac St. Emillion 1998, a terrific vintage on the Right Bank, for only $40. It was showing its 15 years of age gracefully and beautifully, with roasted red fruit aromas, integrated and seamless tannins. This might not have been the single best wine I had in 2013, but it was one of the best wine moments.
With the famous Zuni Cafe roasted chicken, it was a perfect start to what would be a perfect vacation.”

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