My 12 Favorite Wines of 2012Posted by L.A. on 12/5/12 at 11:49 am 00
These are my 12 favorite wines from 2012, regardless of price. Next week I will present my list of my 12 favorite wines for under $20.
This year there was no clear cut number one wine for me. In fact, any of the first seven wines on this list could have been number one, and the number eight wine is not far behind the first seven. Numbers nine through twelve, on the other hand, definitely form a second tier of this list. As a point of reference, for those who are interested, I’ll include the rating each wine received in either the Wine Advocate (WA), or the Wine Spectator (WS). Enjoy!
1. Blair Fox Cellars 2007 “The Dare”
Price: $48; 96 points WA. Blair Fox is the head winemaker at Fess Parker Winery. Blair Fox Cellars is his eponymous label. He makes very small amounts of wine, usually just a few barrels of each wine, but what he makes is outstanding. “The Dare” is a blend of his top single-vineyard syrah barrels. This wine will be hard to find, but it’s worth the search.
Lagniappe: try any of the 2008 single vineyard Blair Fox syrahs, like the Tierra Alta Vineyard, Thompson Vineyard, Purisima Mountain Vineyard and Paradise Road Vineyard. Each scored in the 92-93 point range in the WA and they’ll be easier to find than “The Dare.” By the way, the 2008 “The Dare” was not nearly as good as the 2007, so if you do find a bottle of this wine be sure to take note of the vintage.
2. Cuvelier Los Andes 2006 Grand Malbec
Price: $75; 95 points WA. 100% malbec, one publication called this wine perhaps the best malbec of the 2006 vintage in Mendoza. I won’t argue with that. It’s a great wine.
Lagniappe: The 2006 Grand Malbec might be hard to find. The 2009 Grand Malbec is out and it’s almost as good as the ’06 (94 points WA). And at a retail price of $55 it has the advantage of being less expensive. Also, consider the Cuvelier Los Andes 2009 Grand Vin, a blend of 73% malbec, 19% cabernet sauvignon, 8% merlot, aged in French oak for 18 months; price $35; 93 points WA. The 2007 is still on some shelves and it is just as good as the 2009. If you happen to stumble upon a bottle of the 2005 Grand Vin snap it up because it’s even better than the 2009 or the 2007. The 2008 of this wine was an off vintage so I would avoid it.
3. Tensley 2009 Syrah Colson Canyon Vineyard
Price: $38; 95 points WA. In my opinion Tensley is making the best quality-to-price ratio wines in California right now. This Colson Canyon syrah is a big, powerful wine that is just now starting to hit its stride, but will be even better in 2-3 years.
Lagniappe: Try any of the 2010 single vineyard syrahs that Tenlsey produced. They’ll be easier to find than the 2009 vintage. Tensley 2010 Syrah Thompson Vineyard (93 points WA); Tensley 2010 Turner Vineyard (93 points WA); Tensley 2010 Syrah Colson Canyon Vineyard (92 points WA); Tensley 2010 Syrah Tierra Alta Vineyard (94 points WS). They each sell for $38.
4. Concha y Toro 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Don Melchor
Price: $80, although I’ve seen it as low as $50. I think $65 is about the norm; 95 points WA. This is a world-class cabernet sauvignon, better, in my opinion, than any California cabernet sauvignon at anywhere near this price. The 2007 vintage might be easier to find and is almost as good. The 2008 is also out but I didn’t like it nearly as much as the 2006 or 2007.
5. Ojai Vineyard 2008 Syrah Roll Ranch Vineyard
Price: $45; 94 points WA. 2008 was not a great vintage for Ojai, but the Roll Ranch Vineyard Syrah proved to be the exception. It is a great wine. It’s the only one of their 2008’s that I’d recommend.
Lagniappe: I recommend any of the Ojai Vineyard 2006 or 2007 single vineyard syrahs you can find. Look for Ojai’s syrahs from Roll Ranch Vineyard, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Melville Vineyard, or White Hawk Vineyard from the 2006 & 2007 vintages and the Presidio Vineyard Syrah from the 2006 vintage only. I’ve had them all and they’re all great.
6. Lagier Meredith 2008 Syrah Mount Veeder
Price: $55; 95 points WA. This is a cooler weather syrah from Napa Valley. A lovely wine, it shows the beauty and elegance syrah can achieve when produced in cooler weather. The retail price is $55, but I found it here in Los Angeles for $45.
7. Stolpman 2008 Hilltops Syrah
Price: $48; 94 points WA. Year in, year out this is one of my favorite California wines. I actually prefer it to the 100% syrah Stolpman makes called “Angeli” which retails for $68. The Hilltops syrah, grown on steep hillsides in Ballard Canyon, is mixed with 3% viognier.
8. Beckmen Vineyards 2008 Syrah Clone #1 Purisima Mt. Vineyard
Price: $52; 93 points WA. The #1 clone is an Australian clone, so this wine has all the chocolate notes one expects from a great Australian syrah, even though it was produced in California’s Santa Ynez Valley. A big, luscious wine.
9. Dragonette Cellars 2010 Long-Aged Sauvignon Blanc
Price: $38; 93 points in both WA & WS; My favorite white wine of the year and the only white wine on this list. This is 100% sauvignon blanc, with half of the grapes coming from the Vogelzang vineyard and half coming from the Grassini Family vineyard, both located in the new Happy Canyon AVA. The wine was stored for 18 months on its lees in a mix of new and used French oak.
10. Enzo Bianchi 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $50; 91 points WA; From Mendoza, Argentina, a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, and 7% Malbec. I bought several bottles of this wine on sale for $30 a bottle and I’m much more comfortable recommending it at that price than I am at the $50 retail price tag. Not a great wine, but a very good one.
11. Dragonette Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir Black Label
Price: $75; 92 points WS. I liked this wine a lot, but it’s not worth the $75 in my opinion.
Lagniappe: Try the other pinot noirs from Dragonette, like the 2009 or 2010 Presido Vineyard ($54); 2009 or 2010 Santa Rita Hills ($42), or the just released 2011 Ampelos Vineyard ($54). Each scored 91 or 92 points in the major wine publications and their price tags are easier to swallow.
12. Foxen 2009 Range 30 West:
Price: $36; 92 points WS. I tasted through the wines at Foxen earlier in the year and this was one of the two wines that really stood out for me. When I think of Foxen I think of pinot noir and syrah, but this is actually a Bordeaux blend of 52% merlot; 48% cabernet sauvignon. A very pleasant, very drinkable wine.