This year I explored more wine shops and delved into more wine lists than my wallet preferred. As happens when one delves into any subject matter seriously, patterns start to emerge. You notice certain bottles and varietals cropping up around town both on store shelves and on restaurant menus. You know when a distributor is trying to move product by selling cases of wine at discounted prices to various shops (queue an email from multiple wine shops alerting you to a special deal). You also know when you’re drinking something that nobody else carries.
Below is a list, in a very particular order, that takes all of the above into consideration. Some of these are trends, but all are ultimately darn good bottles of wine that have stuck with me over the months. And please, free to share your own favorites from the year below. I’m always open to trying more wine.
8. 2008 Cabernet Franc Tiger Mountain Vineyards
Wines are made in Georgia, and I’m not talking about the country. Kyla Cox at Savor Wine Boutique was the first to suggest to me that this vineyard in Rabun County is serious about its vino. With copious notes of green pepper and spices, their Cabernet Franc was a fine portrayal of how the varietal should be produced. Available at Savor Wine Boutique starting January 23rd with a personal appearance from the vineyard’s owner, Martha Ezzard.
7. Brut, Blanc de Blanc, Pierre Péters, Cuvée de Réserve, NV, Grand Cru
Once the jocks of Champagne, big name houses like Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon just aren’t cool anymore. Meanwhile, grower Champagne—the smaller, shyer, and lesser-known kids of the playground—are thriving. Perhaps rooted in our passion for farm-to-table-locally-sourced-artisan-made products, single vineyard grower Champagne like Pierre Péters gives off more golden fruit and nuance since their grapes are not sourced from dozens of vineyards across a region. Available at Tower Wine and Spirits on Piedmont Road for $54.99.
6. 2005 Chateau Redortier Gigondas
Bursting with energy and layers of ripe berries, this Gigondas out of France’s southern Rhone Valley is perfectly drinkable without food. The grapes are a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Counoise. This bottle is a true bargain. Original retail was $40 but you can find it at Highland Fine Wine for $24.99.
5. 2012 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso
I credit Justin Amick’s daring wine program at the Spence for turning me on to a number of obscure varietals, which I’m now seeing at various stores around town. This 2012 Tenuta is one of them, hailing from Sicily in southern Italy and made from a grape called Nerello Mascalese. Think of it as Barolo’s flamboyant brother: dried fruits, bold, and spicy but also full of finesse and light on its feet. Available at Highland Fine Wine for $21.
4. 2012 Peyrassol Cotes de Provence ‘Commanderie de Peyrassol’ Rose
Last year exports of rosé from Provence to the U.S. increased by 41 percent. No other rosé satisfied me more this summer than Peyrassol. A beautiful, light shade of pink with refreshing notes of peach and strawberry, the 2012 Peyrassol was a gorgeous wine that had plenty of savory notes to pair with most foods. Unfortunately, I don’t think this bottle is on the market anymore, and most unfortunately, I finished the last bottle from my own supply last week. Out of season, typically $24.99
3. 2011 Wolf Mountain Vineyards, Blanc de Syrah, Brut
Another Georgia wine, another surprise. Juan Cortes at Restaurant Eugene is serving this sparkling wine by the glass, and it’s quite the shocker. Super fine bubbles, a star-bright violet hue, and a crisp, delicious finish on par with blackberry jam makes this the most delightful sparkling I’ve had all year. Available by the glass at Restaurant Eugene for $14 or available by special order at H&F Bottle Shop.
2. 2008 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve
The next vacation I take will be to Oregon’s Willamette Valley where winemakers produce high-quality, Burgundy-style Pinot Noir—which is a thin-skinned grape that thrives in cool climates. The aroma is big on this Eyrie, as notes of Bing cherry and delicate tannins unravel themselves the longer this bottle sits out. Available at Tower Wine and Spirits on Piedmont Road for $69.99.
1. 2009 Eric Texier Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes
Right now Empire State South’s Steven Grubbs is pouring a miraculous wine I wish I could swim in. Rhone Valley’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a French appellation known mostly for its reds, but here’s a white that deserves serious attention. Primed with apricot, orange citrus, a floral nose, and good weight, this wine has everything you want. Grubbs ordered it two years ago and only has a few bottles left. After that, who knows if we’ll ever see it again. Available at Empire State South for $120.