WINE OF THE YEAR- 2013

As my passion for wine deepened further in the year 2013, I was able to taste and record ratings for just over 400 different wines, more than half of which came during two long, wine-centric vacations. The first, which I made in April, realized a lifelong dream, as I spent a week in the Southern Tuscan town of Montalcino visiting its famous wineries and tasting as much of its luscious, velvety Brunello as I could. The extended touring and relaxed pace of tasting in that region allowed a visit to just a winery or two per day, followed by an afternoon of sipping my purchases on a massive balcony overlooking the hillside below, and savoring the aromas of gamey campfire roasts as dusk approached.

In July, I made my annual pilgrimage to Napa and Sonoma, and extended the trip out beyond a week to ensure I was able to hit every stop I needed to following a trip in 2012 that felt too short. Aside from being able to sample what would turn out to be the most highly regarded vintage of the young century in the 2010 Cabernets, new stars emerged, including the rapidly improving examples of Petite Sirah and the always unique Zinfandels of Dry Creek Valley.

Still, aside from these great vacations, I managed to locate and sample a great deal of fine wine through various other outlets. Despite the disappointing discontinuation of tasting events at Binny’s retail stores (I attended only one this year, very early on), the distribution chain continued to sponsor two fantastic Taste at the Track Events; the weather co-operated with one, but not with the other.

I’d be remiss not to mention the company dinner I attended at Del Frisco’s in Chicago, where I was able to sample the highest scoring and most expensive bottle of my life, the Penfolds Grange 2008. At $850 retail, the $995 menu price for a wine that had been given the first 100 point score from the Wine Spectator in nearly two years seemed a worthy splurge for a special occassion. While this was my highest rated wine of not only 2013, but of my entire life after nearly 4000 wines tasted (99 Points), its high price point and relative lack of availability forced me to look elsewhere for my Wine of the Year choice. In fact, I was arguably more impressed at that dinner by the Shafer Relentless 2009, which at $130 on the wine menu provided equal power and easily 1/8 the quality (95 Points). Price matters, my friends.

The wine I have selected as Wine of the Year was the very best of the bunch of nearly 30 high end Bordeaux wines that I tasted way back in February, and is my second highest scoring wine of 2013 at 97 Points. For a wine to stand out the way that it did in such esteemed company, and for the memory of its superiority that night to stick with me was long as it has, this was an easy choice for me. I present the Wine of the Year for 2013, from the right bank of Bordeaux:

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Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere St. Emilion 2010, 97 Points, $104, 4500 Cases Produced- Huge, toasty nose offers smoked meat, violet, blackberry and mocha bean. Gorgeous balance of deep, refined blackberry, plum and licorice above layers of complex, creamy café mocha, smoke, spice and powdery chocolate, hanging with a chalky mineral note that hits late and adds depth. An amazing wine, remarkably polished and put together at this young age.

OTHER WINES I TASTED THAT SCORED 94 OR HIGHER:

Penfolds Shiraz Grange South Australia 2008, 99 Points, $850

Casa Piena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2008, 96 Points, $150

Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron Paulliac 2010, 96 Points, $220

Chateau Prieure Lichine Margaux 2009, 95 Points, $45

Shafer Relentless Napa Valley 2009, 95 Points, $65

Chateau Pavie Macquin St. Emilion 2010, 95 Points, $130

Vietti Barolo Rocche 2008, 95 Points, $130

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Superiore Ornellaia Bolgheri 2009, 95 Points, $175

Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2004, 95 Points, $180

Chateau Lynch Bages Pauillac 2010, 95 Points, $160

Clos de l’Oratoire St. Emilion 2009, 94 Points, $50

Booker Oublie Paso Robles 2010, 94 Points, $60

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino 2007, 94 Points, $60

Argiano Brunello di Montalcino 2007, 94 Points, $70

Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Crau 2010, 94 Points, $78

Altamura Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009, 94 Points, $85

Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2010, 94 Points, $90

Beaux Freres Pinot Noir Ribbon Ridge The Upper Terrace Willamette Valley 2009, 94 Points, $90

Chateau Larcis Ducasse St. Emilion 2010, 94 Points, $95

Hall Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena Bergfeld Vineyard 2010, 94 Points, $110

Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosodi 2008, 94 Points, $120

Chateau Leoville Barton St. Julien 2010, 94 Points, $125

Gallica Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009, 94 Points, $125

Chateau Rauzan Segla Margaux 2010, 94 Points, $150

Chateau Pape Clement Pessac-Leognan 2010, 94 Points, $160

Chateau Troplong Mondot St. Emilion 2010, 94 Points, $160

Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes 2008, 94 Points, $325

Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Tenuta Greppo 1997, 94 Points, $425

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