Vinotasting December 17, 2012 – End of Year Round-Up

Our tasting panel meets several times monthly to taste wines blind, thus providing unbiased evaluations of the newest wine releases.

Best Buy ratings are given for those wines that we feel offer exceptional quality for their price. Most "Best Buy" wines are $20 or less.
Best Wine ratings distinguish exceptional quality wines of any price point, when compared with other similar wines.
For each issue our editors sometimes share their impressions about wines that stand out in the tasting.

VinoTasting Panel Tasting December 17, 2012

Sparkling Wines, Sweet White Wines
Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs Brut Sparkling NV North Carolina $25 Best Buy!

Pale straw color, with aromas of Meyer lemon, crab apple, and green apple. On the palate, a persistent mousse and bright acidity with a fairly short finish. 12.5% abv.

Dry White Wines
Banfi San Angelo Pinot Grigio 2011 Toscana IGT $18 Best Buy!

Pale lemon color. Good effusive ripe fruit. Cantaloupe, red apple. Medium bodied, with a soft texture but a good line of acidity. This even shows a nice slight spiciness on the finish, often found when Pinot Gris/Grigio becomes quite ripe! Nice. 13% abv.

Masseria 2010 ‘Altemura’ Fiano Salento 2010 $13  

Pale straw color with interesting almond (marzipan, even), honey and peach notes. Moderate acidity. Slightly oxidized on the finish, like a bruised apple. Sounds strange, but adds to the complexity and intrigue. Made for ricotta and hazelnut ravioli.  12.5% abv.

Rocca di Montemassi 2010 'Calasole' Vermentino $14 Best Buy!

Pale lemon color. On the nose, the wine has an array of fun aromas - smoky, flinty, banana peel, and Clementine. Good viscosity on the palate, quite lovely balance and length, with a sappy orange marmalade finish. Absolutely delicious. 12.5% abv.

Santiago Ruiz 2010 Albariño Rias Baixas $18  

Almost water-white in color.  Good, very classic, clean and crisp with medium body and a good creamy white peach flavor that lingers nicely. 13% abv.

Pascal Jolivet 2010 Sancerre $25  

Pale lemon color. Hints of jasmine, asparagus and flint, with a slightly bitter lime peel note on the finish. It’s probably just starting to fade, the flavor intensity going away but the structure is there. For the price, it is a good representation of what Sancerre should be, and the latest, freshest vintage should prove a great value. 12.5% abv.

Edna Valley 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Central Coast $15 Best Buy!

Pale lemon color. Medium intensity aromas of green pepper, some ripe melon, and ruby grapefruit. There’s an opulence to the fruit; one would almost think this was from New Zealand except for that ripe melon fruit that comes sweeping across the finish, a tell-tale of California Sauvignon Blanc. Good acidity, good length, very well made and typical. Not blowsy. Fabulous with halibut and a mango-jalapeño salsa. 13.9% abv.

Stinson Vineyards 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Virginia $22  

Fermented in concrete eggs with 5 months sur lie aging to impart richness. Pale lemon color. Smells like passion fruit juice with a hint of herbaceousness and grapefruit compote, especially on the finish. "This is a wine geek's Sauvignon Blanc' - it's a bit eccentric, but it's lovely.” Doesn't have quite the length to propel it to 4 stars, but it does have a very pleasant aftertaste. Only 140 cases made. 13.5% abv.

Louis Latour 2010 Montagny 1er Cru La Grande Roche $21 Best Wine!

100% Chardonnay. Bright, pale lemon. Aromas of roasted nuts, yeasty bread, with subtle notes of golden apples and pears. Medium bodied with a good, textural lees-y quality on the palate, balanced acidity and good length. For the price it really is a good representation of a lesser appellation in Burgundy.  13% abv.

Trivento 2011 Chardonnay Mendoza, Argentina  $10 Great Value!

Pale lemon color. A very ripe, tropical, sweetly-fruited style.  "Tastes like a wedding". Aromas and flavors of pineapple, vanilla, white sugar frosting and spiced apple compote. Medium to full body but a little short. 14% abv.

La Crema 2011 Monterey Chardonnay $17

Best Buy!

Medium, bright lemon color. Pretty and well-defined aromas of vanilla, browned butter, nectarine, tropical mango and perfume. Good texture with elegant flavors and well-integrated oak and acidity and a long, pleasing aftertaste. Well worth the few extra dollars. 13.5% abv.

Red Wines

Spy Valley 2010 Pinot Noir Marlborough, New Zealand $23  

Medium ruby color. A slight rubber note, but typical, with bright, deeply juicy black cherry and pomegranate flavors. Well-integrated, subtle use of oak. Good personality! 14% abv.

Wild Horse Pinot 2010 Noir Central Coast, California $27  

Medium ruby to garnet in color. Aromas of vanilla, red cherry, cola, and sweet tobacco. Good viscosity, a round texture, soft. Not terribly long but tasty. Classic California Pinot. 13.5% abv.   

Angelini Pergola Rosso Marche, Italy $17
Best Buy!

100% Pergola Rosso. Pale-medium ruby color. Smells like a red Moscato. A conversation-piece wine. Like pure delicate roses, and freshly tanned leather. Long finish. A lady. 12.5% abv.

Tenuta Ca'Bolani 2010 Refosco Friuli  $18  

Deep ruby color with magenta highlights. Aromas of ripe bing cherries, huckleberries and graphite. Good structure, with big, well-managed tannins that call out for steak on the finish. 13% abv

FontanaFredda 2010 Dolcetto Langhe DOC $16  

Deep ruby color. Aromas of violets, dusty minerality, and sour cherry. On the palate, the wine has bright, cleansing acidity and grippy tannins - so typical of food-friendly Dolcetto. 13% abv.

Angelini Sangiovese 2008 Colli Pesaresi DOC Marche, Italy $17  

Pale garnet color. Light aromas, of savory porcini mushrooms and aged cheese. Moderate tannins and body, with fairly low acidity for Sangiovese. A good well-made wine, but we’d all love to taste the latest, freshest vintage. 13.5% abv.

Castello Banfi 2007 Brunello di Montalcino $52
Best Wine!

Medium garnet color. An unmistakably Italian nose with clear pedigree. Aromas and flavors of sour cherry, allspice, freshly shaved chocolate, and fresh, pungent tobacco. The burly tannins show that this wine is young even for an ’07, but will drink well now with a hearty meal. Good length. Good value Brunello. 14.5% abv.

Castello Banfi 2007 Brunello di Montalcino Poggio alle Mura $52 Best Wine!

Deep garnet color. Mocha-cherry, menthol, and pine notes. Clearly a very highly-extracted wine, with long hang time and ample new oak. The acid-alcohol balance is a bit off. For fans of a hedonistic, super-ripe style. 15% abv.

Castello Banfi 2009 Belnero Proprietor's Reserve Toscana IGT $32  

Deep ruby-garnet color. Almost exclusively Sangiovese, fermented and aged in new French oak for 14 months. Deep ruby color. Saturated with eucalyptus, coffee, and dark, jammy red fruit aromas and flavors, with a rich texture and long finish. 15% abv.

Bodegas Lan Rioja Crianza 2009 $13  

Medium garnet color. Not overly oaky, with aromas of earth, mushroom, and dried red cherry. Medium-bodied and softly textured. Great for pork chops with scalloped potatoes. 13% abv.

Gérard Bertrand 2008 Grand Terroir Cotes du Roussillon-Villages Tautavel $19 Best Wine!

A blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah and 15% Carignan. Deep ruby color. Pronounced aromas of wild raspberry, garrigue, dark chocolate, and anise. Lush texture, moderate acidity, and a lingering, balanced finish. Very nice. Bring out the leg of lamb! 14% abv.

Gérard Bertrand 2010 ‘Cigalus’ Vin de Pays d’Oc $50
Best Splurge Wine!

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot from the Domaine Cigalus estate. Demeter Certified Biodynamic. Aged 12 months in new French oak. Opaque ruby color. Really dense, with intense cassis, toasted coconut, sweet vanilla oak. Huge wine, very layered. Needs time for oak to integrate (6 months – 1 year), but has a very long and complex life ahead. Impressive. 14.5% abv.

Gérard Bertrand 2010 Corbières $15
Best Wine!

Carignan, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Deep, bright ruby. Expressive aromas of blackberry jam, some anise, bramble, and dark minerality. Quite sweet and figgy with medium-full body but not very long on the finish. 13.5% abv.

M. Chapoutier 2009 'La Ciboise' Luberon $11  

Deep ruby-garnet. Displays aromas very typical of Grenache – youthful, strawberry jam, white pepper. The texture, too, is very Grenache-like – big and soft with low acidity. Good cocktail wine. 14.5% abv.

Paul Jaboulet Ainé 2007 Crozes-Hermitage ‘Les Jalets’ $21  

Bright medium-deep ruby color. Aromas of smoke vanilla, blueberry, and bacon. Nice texture with additional notes of lilacs on the palate. Good, fine tannins and lovely equilibrium on the finish. Wonderful for peppered, grilled meats and sausages. 13% abv.

Vidal Fleury 2010 Crozes-Hermitage $21
Great Value!

Very deep ruby, bright color. This displays more of a cured meat quality than the Jaboulet, and additional notes of rubber and toast. The bright acidity, cured meat and black pepper typicité really come through on the palate. Textbook. Should age beautifully for 5-7 years. 13% abv.

Stinson Vineyards 2010 Meritage Virginia $32  

 40% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Fermented and aged in French oak (30% new) for 18 months. Deep ruby color. Aromas and flavors of coffee, eucalyptus, dark chocolate, black plums and blackberries. Medium to full body with toasty oak tannins on the finish. Better with a good meal than on its own. Only 130 cases produced. 14.7% abv.

O Fournier 2008 ‘B Crux’ Uco Valley, Argentina $24  

60% Tempranillo, 35% Malbec, 10% Merlot. Deep garnet color. Quite ripe dark red and black fruits and toasty oak with full body and massive tannins. The fruit has a somewhat dried, raisined quality but overall the wine has a completeness and good length. 15% abv.

December 17, 2012 Panelists
  • Christopher Davies, Wine Writer, Editor-in Chief & Co-Founder of Wine Country International Magazine
  • Natalie Guinovart, DWS CWE FWS CS, Wine Educator
  • William Davis, CSS, CWE, Wine Trade Professional, Court of Master Sommeliers (Master Candidate),the Wine and Spirits Education Trust
  • Terri Hamilton DWS CWE
  • Brandon Tebbe CWE MS
  • Ashley Hausman Vaughters CSW CS
  • Michelle Bainbridg
  • Lisa Graziano