With Rhône wines on my mind and a plethora of splendid wines from the Rhône Valley from which to choose, my first Top Pick this month is a no brainer. Domaine du Vieux Lazaret’s 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape covets the first spot. It’s a wonderful Châteauneuf-du-Pape from an outstanding vintage. Enjoy it now or lay it away for a couple more years to gain further depth and complexity. The second Top Pick is a bit more challenging. Why? Caggiano’s 2011 Fiagre is a unique wine that offers tremendous personality as well as pleasure, but then there is Château St. Eulalie’s splendid 2009 cru Livinière La Cantilène from the finest area of the ancient appellation of Minervois. So, my second Top Pick depends upon whether I am hankering for a delicious white wine or an equally satisfying red wine. In an ideal world, one serves both wines on the same evening with respective courses, and both become Top Picks. Come to think of it, that’s my plan, and I’m sticking to it. Why not try it, too? A votre santé.
It’s a new year with a whole new set of wines from which to choose! Decisions, decisions. This month’s Premier Series features represent outstanding quality and value across the board, but preferences being what they are my first Top Pick goes to Errazuriz’s excellent 2011 Estate Reserva Carmenère. The wine is top notch, and I simply love good Carmenère, so one down and one, well . . . maybe two, Top Picks to go. The 2010 Anayon Corona de Aragon Chardonnay is an extraordinary find, so it deserves top billing as well. It hails from an unlikely locale, but who cares. Anayon has put it all in the bottle, and in a very beautiful bottle, too. This wine blew away dozens of more expensive Chardonnays from renowned vineyards and could easily have been considered for our Collector Series. It also received a rousing ovation and unanimous support from our tasting panel, and that’s really tough for any Chardonnay to do. Consequently, Anayon’s 2010 Corona de Aragon earns my nod. With that said, the 2011 El Pajaro Royo shouldn’t be shunned. It is a gorgeous Bierzo Mencia that drinks beautifully now. A votre santé.
The Rhône Valley of France has for many years been one of my favorite wine destinations. The swift flowing Rhône cuts a fine swath as it descends from the Alps to the Mediterranean. The region’s physical beauty and luminous light are legendary, and within sight of the Rhône lay some of the finest vineyards and appellations in France. Hermitage, Côte Rôtie, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Vacqyueras, and a bevy of Côte-du- Rhône villages that turn out some of the world’s most affordable treasures can all be found along the mighty Rhône. Sadly, I don’t get to the south of France very often anymore, as there are so many other wonderful wine regions to explore and new vineyards that merit attention. To compensate for my loss and to remind me of times past, I make sure to drink my share of splendid Rhône wines. Why? Because I like them, first and foremost. Secondly, they conjure the colorful images of Provence and nearby Languedoc that have been indelibly printed in my memory. And last but not least, year in and year out, the Rhône Valley consistently turns out an abundance of unadulterated wines that people enjoy drinking. So, one of my quests this year is to find more of the Rhône Valley’s