Whoa — 2014 is almost over?
When I think back on this year’s awesomeness, it’s no wonder it went so damn fast. I kicked off the year with a wine trip to the Languedoc and Roussillon regions of Southern France, and had a blast exploring vineyards and tasting lots of organic and biodynamic wines.
I surfed some powerful swells on the East Coast this year. And I finally made it to my personal Mecca, South Africa, where I surfed some incredible waves and sipped many a fine wine. While here in DC, I tasted many great wines with friends and for tasting reports for the daily wine blog Terroirist. Oh, and my wife is pregnant with our first ─ a baby girl due in vintage 2015. So, yes, its been quite a year.
Like I’ve done in 2013 and 2012, I looked back over the year and picked out the wines that excited me most. When scrolling over my tasting notes from a full year, I remember not only the tasting experience but all the great people who shared the experience with me. Friends and family are a crucial ingredient to wine tasting, and I’m lucky to know some solid human beings. And I’m lucky they love wine.
Champagne is well-represented this year. I’ve long been excited by wines from the Jura region of France, and this year I tasted a bunch of really interesting ones. We’ve also got some wines from two of my favorite American wine producers, Cayuse and Cameron. Their wines always stun me, and this year was no exception. And, look at that, a Barossa Valley Shiraz made the list.
I hope your 2014 was amazing and full of good wine and people. Cheers to 2015!
2013 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Bouzy Rouge Clos Colin - France, Champagne, Coteaux Champenois
Cherry juice color. Intoxicating nose of white and red cherries, wild strawberries, dried cranberries, not to mention the fall leaves, violets, nettles and graphite. The palate is incredibly smooth and clean while the acid is electric, well-structured by the dusty tannins. Red cherries and raspberries, so fresh, tangy and pure, backed up by complex notes of loam, truffle, cigar smoke and gravel roads. The minerality in this wine is intense, and the overall package is so complex. More black fruit than the other two wines, this is the most intricate and lasting, at the same time it’s so delicate and elegant wine. I’m stunned. This limited still Pinot (6 barrels) goes into Clicquot's La Grand Dame Rose Champagne. (96 points)
2008 Cameron Blanc Clos Electrique - Oregon
I tasted this during an amazing wine dinner, and it got me stoked. Just intoxicating with its aromas: pineapple, lime, mixed nuts, white flowers, whipped honey, crushed chalk, sea salt, quinine, endlessly complex. Palate shows lots of melon and lime, plus crisp, racy acid. Salty, chalky, lots of seashells, a mineral-driven but it’s also full and creamy. Balanced but intense, deserving even more cellar sleep. 3.5 years since I tasted this and it’s just as amazing as it was then, if not slightly more complex and nuanced. An amazing Chardonnay. (96 points)
2005 Cameron Blanc Clos Electrique - Oregon
My first taste of this vintage, and I love it. I'm perpetually impressed by this wine, every vintage, but this one is classic. Aromas of saline, apricot, graham cracker, flowers, so deep and aromatically intriguing. Pure and fresh on the palate, this is a deep and incredibly complex wine. Almonds and white tea mix with quince, lime, apples and minerals. Endless finish. Creamy and rich but the acid sings. The C word (Chablis) was thrown out a few times, and it does have that depth and nerve, but it’s also pure Oregon goodness. A beauty. (95 points)
1985 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon - France, Champagne
Gorgeous juice. Apple cider colored with a nose of hazelnut, mushroom, potpourri, rye bread and baked apples. Tingly acid, full body, creamy, with incredibly complex notes of mushroom, dark bread, forest floor on top of candied citrus. An amazing experience. (95 points)
2004 Cayuse Syrah En Cerise Vineyard - Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
Beautiful stuff, holding up amazingly well. Smells like every kind of olive, bloody Mary, radish, seaweed, roses, wet earth and white pepper, and underneath some currants and plum sauce. Really velvety on the palate, with polished tannins and tangy acid in perfect balance. Juicy and fleshy with raspberry and black cherries, but this is all about the non-fruit flavors: olive tapenade, seaweed, roasted meat, smoke, pickled beets. Also some sweet floral and caramel notes. So long and pure and complex. I love the state this wine is in right now. Not sure how much longer I’d cellar this if I had some. (95 points)
2004 Cayuse Syrah En Chamberlin Vineyard - Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
Deeper and darker on the nose than the 04 Cailloux tasted side by side. More plum cake, baked berry pie, more black olives. I also get a meat and seaweed note. Plummy and rich with blueberries, almost cough syrup-like presence, but it’s actually very pleasant and precise at the same time – somehow. So many complex flavors to unpack: fall leaves, bacon fat, teriyaki jerky, also some dried rose potpourri and lavender notes. A feast for the senses and a beautiful accompaniment to the slow cooked lamb shoulder. (95 points)
2002 Two Hands Shiraz Ares - Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
The cork was in great condition, the purple having oozed into the cork only an 1/8th of an inch or so. Aromas of plums, blueberry pie, pickled beets, braised meat and BBQ sauce. The palate is rich and bold but also fresh from some medium acid. Dense and plummy with blueberry and fig paste. I also get some roasted red peppers, capers and olive brine. Rich and bombastic, but also velvety and kept in some level of balance by the acid. The label reads 13-16% alcohol, but it’s gotta be 15+. Still packed with flavor and nuance, with a long finish full of black and green olive. At 12 years old, this is a beautiful Aussie Shiraz. If kept in perfect condition, this is doing well, but perhaps time to drink up over the next year or two? (94 points)
2000 Domaine Ganevat Côtes du Jura Les Vignes de Mon Père - France, Jura, Côtes du Jura
What a cool wine. Color of dried honey with some spritz in the glass. Smells like my wetsuit after surfing in winter on the East Coast, with sea brine and jetty rocks and seashells all thrown together, and that is a very good thing. The acid rips across the palate, and the lemon seed and green melon notes are strong and complex, backed up by mineral, white tea and all sorts of green herbs and pickling spices. Not for the unadventurous, but I think this wine slays. (94 points)
2009 Jacques Puffeney Savagnin Arbois - France, Jura, Arbois
A crazy interesting wine. Aromas of hazelnut, sea salt, oregano, dried honey and lamp oil. Medium-bodied with bright acidity, the oxidative winemaking is obvious and intriguing, but I love the way it weaves into the other elements instead of dominating the entire wine. Flavors of green apple and apricot, laced with sea brine, jetty rocks, crushed peanut shells, oil and brie rind. Long, complex, deep, this maintains freshness and vibrancy throughout. I need to pick up some more and bury it for a decade because I'm interested to see what comes out. (94 points)
2013 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay - South Africa, Walker Bay, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley
This was one of my favorite wines from my trip to South Africa. It’s a deep, complex aromas of peach, flowers, slate, honey and minerals. So pure, clean and fleshy on the palate, with flavors of white peach, pear. lemon curd, apricot and green melon. Creamy but mineral-driven, so complex yet subtle and nuanced, with all sorts of tea and slate notes. Long, complex, verging on the profound. Wow. I’d love to cellar this for two or three years. (94 points)
2004 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé La Grande Dame - France, Champagne
Vibrant copper-salmon-orange color, a bit deeper in color than the 2004 Brut Rosé. Such aromatic complexity, it really takes time to open up and show its true stuffing: strawberries, apricot, red apple peel, limestone, oyster shell, sea breeze, biscuits and a hint of smoke. Tart acid on the palate, this is an intense wine but it maintains an elegant posture despite itself. Red cherries, currants and wild strawberries play off of minerals, chalk, oyster shell. Lovely toast and brioche, I get some really interesting notes that I can’t quite place, something like barley and sweet onions, but whatever it is I love it. Time coaxes out all sorts of complexity. A beautiful wine, but decades away from maturity. The Pinot in here comes from the Clos Colin plot of Bouzy, so it was fascinating to taste this wine alongside the still 2013 Clos Colin Pinot Noir. (94 points)