Our favorite wines of 2019 offered a few surprises. For me, the biggest surprise was that two of the top four are California Chardonnays. Let me be clear; Gary loves Chardonnay but prefers French. But for me, of all the white wine varietals that I have tasted, Chardonnay is (was) one of my least favorite. Now that does not mean I am an ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) drinker. It’s just that my history with Chardonnay has been fraught with too much oak and, or too much butter. Both Gary and I are thrilled that the trend is moving away from that style. For those that like that, you can still find it. But we are excited that wineries are making the fruit the star of the show. That said, for two Chardonnays to be in our top four in a single year is quite amazing.
First, Our Top Four Favorite Wines are:
2017 Peay Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast
I bought this wine after tasting it at Edmund’s Oast Exchange. Derek Reijmer, the Peay Vineyards National Sales Rep was in town, so a quick tasting was pulled together by Sarah, Certified Sommelier Extraordinaire. We tasted two or three estate Pinot Noir wines and this Chardonnay. I came home with this Chard and one Pinot. Both were and are extraordinary, but this Chardonnay made an impact on Gary and me.
Crisp, clean, medium- to full-bodied with racing acidity. Gorgeous mouthfeel and texture. Long, crisp finish. The palate presents a mild salinity, wet river rock, and pleasing citrus flavors.
Back when I first tasted, I said I was in love. I still am.
This wine is sold at Edmunds Oast Exchange.
2016 Gratus Vineyards, Estate Grown Malbec, Napa Valley
My first Malbec was probably
35 to 40 years ago (damn, forget I said that). It was undoubtedly a grocery store wine around $8.00 a bottle, from Argentina and suitable for my naive palate. Oh, how times have changed.
The first time this gorgeous wine crossed our lips was last June. It was at one of our Wine Club Signature Tastings. Thomas Wargovich, the proprietor of Gratus Vineyards, was leading the tasting, his daughter, Lauren was assisting. Gary and I worked the room like any good host, but we were also tasting these wines along with our guests for the very first time.
We tasted several wines that evening, and they were all perfectly matched for my wine profile. But when that Malbec hit my lips, angels sang.
You will enjoy luscious black fruit with a touch of earthiness on the nose. The mouthfeel is smooth and velvety with moderated tannins.
Blackberry and blueberry come through on the palate. Slight spiciness came through for Gary but not for me. Holy moly, we both fell for this wine and are rationing our purchases so that we can share with special guests.
The finish lingers but not too long. Just enough acid to make you want more.
This wine is sold directly from the winery. Gratus Vineyards.
2015 Alpha Omega Chardonnay, Napa Valley
This wine lept into the top four without Gary ever tasting it. He will soon, but not soon enough, and this wine deserves to be here. I was back in the Columbus area for the Christmas holiday. On one of the days, we met up with friends and travel buddies, Lynn and Luci at Luci’s home. Lynn brought this Alpha Omega 2015 Napa Valley Chardonnay to share. This was incredibly kind of her given that Alpha Omega is well known for the upper end of wine both in quality and price.
I was drinking the Pinot Noir that I brought and was happy to do so. When Lynn opened this bottle, she said to me, “You need to try this.” I thanked her and said that I was happy with my Pinot. She then said, “no, you really need to try this. I brought it so you all could try it.” I am nothing, if not gracious, so I went into the kitchen and got another glass.
…was all I could say as I completed my first sip.
I was awestruck by the nose of this wine. There was a pleasant herbally, mint aroma. Nothing like I have previously detected.
The first sip brought mouthwatering acidity. The spigot was on, and I was happy. Then came the oak and the vanilla. Definitely present but nicely in balance with the acidity so that neither overpowered the other. Orchard fruits of apple and pear fill in the middle, and a touch of citrus brings in a fresh and lingering finish.
I loved this wine so much I called to inquire about an order, and to see if there was a case discount or any sort of special. There was, so I put out an email to several wine enthusiasts and friends to see if they wanted a share of the purchase as we could not buy the entire case. I got a few takers but not enough for me to pull the plug. On New Year’s Eve, I called again to see if the special was still available. I spoke to a different “ambassador,” and he said it was not. But he found a better promo in the system and subsequently explained it. I did not pause or take a breath… I said, “let me give you my credit card information.”
Everyone needs a Celebration wine. This one is mine. The wine is sold by the winery only. Alpha Omega.
2018 Pascal Jolivet, Rosé Sancerre, Loire Valley, France
Of course, there is rosé in our top four. We discovered this wine when having brunch with friends at The Establishment. (If you have not been, you must go.)
Most folks think Sancerre and think only white wine. I get that as Sancerre is most well known for delicious Sauvignon Blanc wines from the Sancerre AOP. But wine from this small sub-region in the Loire Valley also produces delicious Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir Rosé. And this rosé is a real winner.
The color of this wine is a beautiful coral (not as orange as it looks in the bottle). The nose at 50º is that of a strawberry, raspberry, cantaloupe, and casaba melon salad. There is a secondary note of grapefruit that comes in after a few sniffs. It is one of the densest, most aromatic bouquets we have found in a rosé. And I love it.
On your first sip, expect the quenching acidity to make the back corners of your mouth tingle in delight. The fruit flavors transform from a bouquet of red fruit and melon to a palate of raspberry and generic citrus. It is a truly delightful wine that remained consistent from the beginning of the year with the 2017 vintage through to the end with the 2018 vintage.
This wine is primarily sold to restaurants versus retail wine shops. If you “gotta have it,” as I did, go to your favorite wine store and have them special order a case for you. It is a great value, and you will certainly drink through the twelve bottles. Or just call Sarah at Edmunds Oast Exchange and have her get it for you (and get a case discount). It is now in her system because that is where I order it.
Honorable Mention – Reds
With the volume of different wines that we sample and drink each year, there is no doubt that we e have more than four favorite wines. The balance of this post includes other favorite wines that we loved.
Honorable Mention – Whites
Honorable Mention – Rosés
Below are the old standbys that we keep coming back to year after year. They are so good that we keep buying them because they are a great value and deliver excellent wines. Not saying any more here. Just great, drinkable rosé that remains a favorite year after year.
That is all for now.