My Favorite Wines of 2011!

A Top Ten List, if you will.  Been perseverating on this post for some time now.  Suffice to say, the last several weeks have been moving at warp speed.  It’s been full-on survival mode, pretty much since Thanksgiving.  Now that the end is nearing, I’m sitting down, focusing, and trying to bust this list out before the day gets away from me with menu changes and wine to be put away and people calling wanting reservations for New Years Eve.  Le sigh.

Upon reflection, I believe this list to be representative of me in general- heavy on the Rose and whites, no monstrosities of overly oaked Reds- as opposed to what our best-sellers were.  Although there are several overlaps.  And pretty much all the wines on the list did indeed sell beautifully, even if they weren’t the best.  I tried to pick wines that I really impressed me for the price point, as it would be pretty mean to make a list of things I loved that I got to try for free (that’s a separate list!).  “This wine’s amazing, now go buy yourself a bottle!  It’s only $250!  Thanks, stupid!”  I also picked wines that sold well despite their “odd factor,”  (A Gamay?  selling well in Columbia, South Carolina?), which makes me swell with pride at the slowly evolving tastes of our regulars.  It’s truly awesome.  So thanks to you, dear person, who ventured out and tried a Gamay, a Muller-Thurgau, even a Rose, when you thought you hated Pink wine.  You’re the reason I like my career.  Really.  So let’s go!  On with the fun.

These are in no particular order… I’ll just start with the sparklers, and move through to pinks, whites and then reds.  Sound good?  okay.

1.)  So, of course I have to start off with a tie for favorite Pink Bubbly.  I live to defy convention.  Charmeroy Brut Rose, NV France ($11) and Nicholas Feuillatte Brut Rose, NV Champagne ($39).  Charmeroy is my reining queen of the pink, inexpensive deliciousness.  At $11 I seriously think this one is destined for greatness.  It’s so fresh and perfectly fruity and it goes down soooo easily.  I think this is would be my Desert Island on a Budget wine.  (Full Charmeroy post here).  Nicholas Feuillatte Brut Rose, at $39, is… I’m just going to go ahead and say it… a panty-dropper.  It’s so light and ethereal… fleetingly beautiful in it’s fruit and hints of yeast and crisp finish.  Ahhhhh.  Divinity.

..... pink.

2.)  Las Lilas Vinho Verde Rose, 10 Portugal ($10).  Ohhh, yes.  You remember this one.  It literally flew out of here all summer long.  And you DO remember how LONG the summer is in Columbia, don’t you?  This wine is a savior.  Sent directly from Heaven to rescue us from our sweltering inferno of misery that we live in from June to September.  There is nothing as delicious as this wine when it’s hot out.  Juicy and light, with a fruity palate of watermelon and strawberries, and FIZZ!  ohh, fizz.  I love you.  This wine single-handedly turned many-a-Pink-wine-hater into a Pink-wine-lover.  Women flocked to it like moths to a flame.  It went to the pool, the beach, the porch, the lake… it was the epitome of a best friend, in wine form.  When it started to get colder, and my taste for Pink began to wane- I started to look forward to early Summer of 2012 when I could truly appreciate this wine once again. (Full Las Lilas post here).


3.)  Albaliza Rose, 10 Spain ($9).  This sturdy lil’ guy was my other go-to pink.  Yes, there’s room in my life for more than one Pink, folks.  Remember how I said Summer is long?  Is is.  I say sturdy because it it a beautiful darker shade of pink, and is a fairly medium-bodied Rose.  We had this on our by-the-glass list for months, and it was one of those wines that I’d forget about for a few weeks, and then I’d re-taste it and think “DAMN!  this is delicious!”  And really, $9?  Insane.  Honorable Mention: Charles & Charles Rose of Syrah, 10 Washington.  This, at $14, was my other other go-to Rose.  Unfortunately it’s sold out ’til next vintage.   (Big fat Rose post here).

4.)  Anne Amie Muller-Thurgau, 10 Oregon ($16).  THIS wine actually made me fear for my own sanity a bit.  I tweeted about my love for it so many times, that I began to think that the folks at Anne Amie might think me a tad looney.  Then in September, I saw Boyd from Anne Amie at a portfolio show and, under the influence of many, many tastes of many, many wines, I once again confessed my undying love for the wine.  And further went on to admit that I feared they might think I’m nuts.  I believe Boyd handled me in my flustered state with nothing but grace… but that, too, is a little hazy.  Anyone who has attended this particular portfolio show will certainly understand my situation.  And to those that haven’t… imagine for a moment being in a gigantic room with hundreds of open bottles of some of the most exquisite wines available to us.  Then stay there for four hours.  I know, I know.  It’s like porn for wine-nerds.  But it’s real.  Like the Velveteen Rabbit.  Anyway back to the wine.    A beautiful pale color, its notes of yellow apples, spring white flowers, citrus, melon, and pears are truly gorgeous.  (Slightly longer past post here).

I'm not crazy... it's just that good.

5.)  Lioco Pinot Blanc, 10 California, Chalone ($19).  Yet another white wine that practically brought tears to my eyes.  We had a small amount of this wine in the early Fall, and it sold so quickly that I never got a chance to write about it in detail.  But thanks to a fortuitous turn of events, we’ve managed to scavenge up some more, and it’s currently being hoarded in the wine room at Cellar, only to be sold to those I deem worthy (okay, not really…).  This wine is freaking amazing.  I’d never met a Pinot Blanc from California before, and I doubt that there’s another one out there that could follow this one.  It breaks all the molds.  It’s the texture that truly gets me- silky and elegant, with enough roundness to fill it out nicely.  I can’t do much better than the notes on the bottle that read “Aroma: hazelnut, lemon pith, crushed gravel.  Flavor: green apple, bosc pear, pie crust.”  All I can say is that the pie crust hints are real. freaking. pretty.  It even smells a touch like fresh pie dough, too.  The finish is unnaturally long and delicate.  The precision with which it is made is almost deafening.  Really, if there’s one wine I suggest you come in today and buy, it’s this one.  We were one of the few accounts that got any, practically outside of California itself.  The Slanted Door in San Fran pours this by-the-glass.  Need I say more??


6.)  On to the reds!  Verdier & Logel Gamay, 09 France, Cotes du Forez ($13).  This wine was my sneaky little Fall favorite.  And made me the most proud when it sold well.  Because who would’ve thought that a Gamay by-the-glass in Columbia would’ve garnered any affection at all?  Well, this one hit the right note, because once people tried it, they loved it.  And it was a runaway hit!  I think the timing was just right.  The stars aligned, and it just worked.  It made me happy and also made me feel smart- because I sensed that the time was right, and that I could get people to love this wine.  I’m revisiting this as I write, and gosh-darn if it still isn’t damn good!  Light, jubilant, a little spicy, tart, high in acid and totally thirst-quenching.  Gorg.  Really.  Freaking KILLER.  Am I making myself clear?  DID I STUTTER?   We’ve moved on to the 2010 vintage as of right now.  (Past post here).

7.) Evesham Wood Pinot Noir, 2010 Willamette Valley ($22, while it lasted).  Unfortunately this one has gone bye-bye til next year, but it was great while it lasted.  The real reason it was so amazing is because of its PRICE for QUALITY!  $22 for about 1000 case-produced Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is practically unheard of.  Now, I will readily admit that the reason I might have liked this one so much is because when I drank it I was on a mini-vacation in Edisto, with 75-degree sunny skies, a new book, a back porch, and not a care in the world.  I might have liked Apothic Red on that particular day (ha!  who am I kidding!  never.).  But this was the first 2010 Willamette I tried, and it struck me as being lean-yet-sexy, nicely peppery, with a perfect amount of musky-mushroomy earthiness.  Pretty darn delicious.  (past post here).

this wine brought to you by perfect weather in edisto

8.)  Mas del Perie “Les Escures” Malbec, 2009 France, Cahors ($16).  Another top “freakout” moment of 2011.  The first time I tried this wine, it was the 2008 vintage, and I literally almost fell out of my chair it was so good.  Unfortunately, a restaurant in Greenville bought it all before we had a chance to buy it.  So I waited.  The 2009 is jut as good, and we scored a decent amount.  I love French Malbec, and this one is such a good value, it’s almost silly.  So flooded is the market right now with $12-14 Argentine Malbecs, that this one really is really in a class of its own.  A God among insects, if you will.  Deep and dark, with hefty fruit, yet a pleasant balance of acid that keep it from being weighed down or flabby.  A nose of blackberry liqueur and something vaguely metallic, plus a distinctly French amount of terroir make this one a winner.  I forced this on almost everyone that walked in the door.  It’s been a staff favorite for some time, too.  Come give ‘er a whirl.

getyousome, again.

9.) Badenhorst “Secateurs” Shiraz blend, 10 South Africa ($15).  Yet another one of my sixth sense sort of moments.  I had a feeling that if we found just the right South African Red, it would be our best-selling Fall Red.  Well, I was sort of right anyway.  Because once it landed, it started flying.  Even if it wasn’t the “best” Fall Red, it was right up there in the top five.  Or maybe it was just that my obsession was so intense, that it wore off on people.  I might never know, nor do I really care.  This wine rocks.  It’s pure South Africa at its best.  Smoky, spicy, with hints of tar (sounds gross, but its not) black cherries, raspberries, and a nice touch of citrus peel that really brightens it up.  It even got 90 Points from Robert Parker (ahem, AFTER I decided I loved it).  I still love it.  And its still by-the-glass, so come see for yourself!  (Past post here).

obsession in a bottle

10).  Aaand, my top Higher-End Pick of the year- Orin Swift “D66” Grenache/Syrah/Carignan, 09 France ($42).  This one wins the “top-searched” award of 2011, as it got more hits from Google search than any other wine I wrote about this year.  Not surprising, when you consider that Orin Swift Wines are highly coveted in the wine-world, and usually limited allocation.  Which needless to say, adds to their appeal.  This wine, to me, was a study in unique.  Orin Swift is usually the King of lush, Cali fruit-bombs (albeit, good ones-) and then they go and make THIS!  A wine from FRANCE!  Whaaa?  But pull it off, they did.  I originally posted that this reminds me more of a Spanish wine, and it definitely does.  Sort of like a second-cousin-once-removed to the amazing Clio.  Which reminds me… I haven’t seen or heard much about Clio this year…. hmmmm.  An Honorable Mention to the Orin Swift “Machete” Petite Sirah blend, which was pretty darn fantastic, but the D66 just had me, hook, line and sinker.  (Check out full post here).

thanks, Orin!

So, as the last day of the year begins, I hope this list brought back some fond memories of wines past!  It was a good wine year.  Now let’s drink some more in 2012!  Thanks for reading, Happy New Year!


Kermit Lynch Vaucluse Rouge, 2010 Vin de Pays

Freakout. of. the. week.  !!!

I’m actually still freaking out, and I first tasted this wine on Wednesday.  It’s a freakout that can only be caused when a wine is extremely delicious AND extremely affordable.  And it couldn’t be better timed- we tend to overspend during the Holiday season, and this wine will firmly re-plant you back to reality, where we live within our means, and- SHOCKER!  our means CAN be amazingly delicious!  It’s like finding out your life really isn’t so bad.  Why desire a life where you can spend $50 on a bottle of wine and drink it on a Wednesday while you watch Modern Family?  Who has that life?  No one.  Well, a few people do.  Are they happier than you?  No.  We all live delightfully average lives, full of mundane activities.  But then this wine comes along and at $12 a bottle, is completely un-average and un-mundane!  So read on!

For anyone who doesn’t know, Kermit Lynch is sort of a boss.  He first opened a retail wine shop in California in 1972, right on the cusp of  the California wine explosion.  I don’t have a exact timetable, but he soon began importing and distributing wine, and developed an excellent reputation especially with French wines.  If I had to surmise, he might have been one of the first Americans to make French wine accessible and not scary.  Which is pretty cool.  Here’s the link to his website if you want to check out more about him.




Here’s the image that is found on all his wines, which became (and still is) an easy, identifiable way for wine shoppers to be sure they’re getting a high quality wine, even if they hadn’t tried it before.  Moving on to the fun part!  This Vaucluse Rouge is a blend of 55% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Merlot and 10% Marselan (remember that one?  a funny grape I wrote about earlier this year?  or maybe it was last year…).  Vaucluse, to the best of my google-ing ability, is a little south of Rhone and a little north of Provence.  Which accounts for it’s interesting and fun grape makeup.  It’s a lush a velvety little wine with a firm palate of blackberries and black cherries.  A hint of violets, cedar, and anise are found on the nose, but it’s the finish that really gets me- a perfect amount of salinity/limestoney-minerality/acidity make this a true lip-smacker.  Smooth, classy, and can’t be beat price.  The bottle even looks sophisticated!  You could definitely fool someone into thinking you paid at least $20 for this wine, if you really wanted to.  But I would only reserve that kind of thinking for someone you didn’t really like.  Because your true friends will appreciate that you only paid $12.  And if they don’t- well, get some new friends.  Not to be harsh.

this was supposed to show you what a pretty color this wine is, but really doesn't do it justice.

You can find this wine open at tomorrow’s Giant Wine Sale from 12-2!  Yes, there’s one again this weekend- since the last Saturday in December is Christmas Eve, we decided just to throw down and have a sale every other Saturday in December.  We have about a case and a half to sell, and I anticipate it will go rather quickly.  Other yummy choices tomorrow include the St. Francis Red (now they call it the “Splash”, which I think is silly), always a decent house red for $9, the Ostatu Crianza- another fave of mine, lots n’ lots of Charmeroy Brut Rose (you know you need some), and several other newbies that I will leave to the element of surprise.

If I can keep my act together next week, I’ll be posting a “Favorite Wines of 2011” entry, which I know you’re all just dying to hear about.  But it’ll be fun, at least.  And keep an eye out in The Shop Tart next week, as she filmed a Shop Tart Tuesday segment about the perfect Holiday Case of Wine here at Cellar this morning.  Should be a good one!  Happy drinking!