Thursday, December 29, 2011

Grape Sense's 2011 Top Wine Picks

Top 10/year-end lists are unavoidable at this time of year. Grape Sense has featured a Top 10 list for three years so here it is for 2011.

The Top 10 wines are value wines and are widely available in Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois. The wines taste above their price point and represent great value. I’d gladly serve this 10-pack to any guest in my home.

You’ll find more white wine in this list than any previous year. Great, and unusual, white wines have become a new passion.

No. 10 – La Vieille Ferme Blanc – A French white wine made of Grenache Blanc, Rousanne, and two lesser-known French grapes  has nice acidity and a hint of lime. ($5-$9). 

No. 9  - Bonterra 2008 Mendocino Zinfandel – Inexpensive Zin isn’t that hard to find in supermarkets or wine shops. But the Mendocino Bonterra label delivers one of the best full-flavored Zins you’ll find for the price. ($11).

No. 8 – Brassfield Estate Serenity - This is a very nice white wine blend.  Serenity mixes Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Gewurtztraminer and Semillon. It comes from Napa Valley. The wine has a distinctive pineapple and apple nose and taste. ($10-$14)

No. 7 – Buried Cane 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon – A great value Cabernet that’s 75 percent Cab and 25 percent Malbec from Washington state. It has dark fruit, richness, good acidity and finish. ($13)

No. 6 – Concannon Crimson & Clover – A new wine in 2011, the fifth to Concannon’s big-selling Conservancy line. A blend of Petit Sirah, Cab, Syrah, and Zin isn’t for the faint of heart. ($15)

No. 5 – Turtle Run Dry Traminette – Indiana’s wine industry has come a long way and, in part, thanks to Traminette. Most of the Indiana’s Traminette, similar to Gewurztraminer, is done in a sweet style. Jim Pfieffer at Turtle run is one of few to make a dry version. It rocks! ($12)

No. 4 - Chorum Sangiovese - Sangiovese is the great Italian grape at the heart of Chianti wines. This has sour cherry and a light feel on the palate. It’s one of the most drinkable Sangiovese wines you’ll find. ($10-$19)

No. 3 – Tikal Patriota – Bonarda and Malbec make up this wonderful Argentinian wine. It has cherry, raspberry, and goes beautifully with grilled or smoked meats. It is a critic favorite, consistently scoring 90-plus points. ($17-$19)

No. 2 –  Charles & Charles Rose - This is the first white or Rose’ to ever crack my year-ending Top 10 list. This Washington Rose is a collaboration between two premier winemakers. It’s 100 percent Syrah – big flavor with sage, raspberry, and a hint of Jolly Rancher. ($10-$12)

No. 1 – Alain Juame & Fils Domaine Grand Veneur Les Champauvins – This is one of the best value wines I’ve tasted in three years of wine writing. The Cotes du Rhone wine is 70 percent Grenache, 20 percent Syrah, and 10 percent Mourvedre – a traditional French GSM wine.  It has a wonderful red berry aroma. It’s rich, perfectly smooth, and silky with just the right amount of spice. It is fabulous French wine. ($15)

Just for fun, here are my picks from the past two years:

2010: George Deboeuf’s Julienas, Domaine de Niza Languedoc 2005, J. Lohr Cabernet, Etim Seleccion, Montebuena 2009 Rioja, Errazuriz Cab, Altos Malbec,  Il Fiorino 2008 Chianti, Este de Bodegas Alto Almanzora, and my 2010 No. 1 pick: Durigutti Malbec .

2009: Domain Lafarge Catalan Cote EST, Turtle Run’s Dry Tortuga, Burgan’s 2007 Albarino; Dona Paula 2007 Malbec, Creta Roble 2006, Pasanau Ceps Nous 2006  Priorat, Milbrandt 2006 Traditions Cabernet Sauvignon, Domain Lafarge Grenache Noir, Klinker Brick 2006 Old Vine Zinfandel, and my No. 1 pick:  Patrick Lesec’s Cotes du Rhone Bouquet. 

Howard Hewitt, Crawfordsville, IN., writes every other week for 18 Midwestern newspapers. Write him at:

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