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The Year In Review: Impressive wines and wineries of 2013

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As the year comes to a close, I am thinking about the wines that have had a lasting impression, those wines truly wowed me. Between the numerous tastings I have gone to in the last year here is my list of exceptional wines and wineries I discovered throughout the year. There is no particular order to this list and many of my discoveries in Argentina, Paso Robles and the Sierra Foothills will be featured in 2014.

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Here are the wines that stood out as very memorable for 2013:

Shai Cellars, Santa Ynez: Shai in Hebrew means gift. Shai Cellars certainly gives you the gift of exceptionally wonderful wine and for Los Angeles, owner/winemaker Shawn Shai Halahmy; the wines are truly a gift. The 2009 Adome, a Rhone blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon was a richly balanced and smooth with a velvety finish and a hint of berries. In addition, the 2009 Grenache was another very balanced wine. Both are very drinkable and I was impressed with the consistency of the wines. The wines from this boutique winery are only available directly from the winery.

Sequana, Santa Lucia Highlands: The 2010 Pinot Noir “SHL” is a light yet silky, smooth and very balanced Pinot Noir that is very drinkable. Sequana, which is named appropriately after the Franco-Roman goddess of the River Seine and guardian of France’s Burgundy Region, the area where Pinot Noir comes from is part of the Hess Family Estates.

Alta Colina Vineyard and Winery, Paso Robles: I found a consistency throughout the wines from this family owned winery specializing in Rhone varietals. Some of my favorites were the Alta Colina’s 2010 GSM is a fruity smooth and balanced blend of 42% Grenache, 32% Mourvédre and 26% Syrah and the 2010 Old 900 Estate Syrah. From Alta Colima’s second label Baja Colina, the 2010 Rhone Red, a blend of 50% Syrah, 25% Grenache and 25% Mourvédre is a wine that becomes more approachable with time.

Lindley Wines, Sta. Rita Hills: This is one new winery that truly impressed me this year was. It was quite a surprise to find this very well balanced 2011 Pinot Noir “La Lomita Vineyard”. This Pinot was full-bodied with hints of strawberry.

Kitá Wines, Santa Ynez and Sta. Rita Hills: This is an up and coming boutique winery with a very consistent body of wines to the importance balance that the winery has. Although I liked all in Kitás portfolio, the surprise was the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Camp 4 Vineyard, a wine varietal not typically known to this region. An exceptional wine both in value and flavor, one savors the currants and blackberries immediately. This wine has won many awards and is on par with any Cabernet from Napa.

Cloudy Bay, New Zealand: My favorite of their wines was the Sauvignon Blanc with its grassy aroma and crisp refreshing flavors of citrus and a hint of spice.

Dukes Family Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon: The 2009 Charlotte Pinot Noir is a full-bodied wonderfully balanced Pinot from the Eola-Amity Hills. This bold wine, reminiscent in style to that of a California Pinot Noir. It was a full-bodied wine with aromas of blueberries and strawberries. One finds flavors of lavender and some spice. The color was darker and as the Pinot evolved the wine became fruitier. This wine also could be held, getting even better with time.

Bertani, Italy: The 2012 Rosé, known as Bertarose is a blend of 50% Merlot and 50% Molinara. The wine had just the right amount of sweetness and acidity for a Rosé and was well priced. Also the 2011 Sereole Soave was one of the best Soave I had ever sampled. There was a smooth luscious quality and texture to this white wine. Topping off was a Recioto dell Voalpolicella Valpantena, a wine made up of 80% Covina Veronese and 20% Ronidinella. Considered the father of Amorone, the Recioto is rich and velvety with sweet flavors of cherries.

Hook & Ladder, Russian River Valley: The 2010 Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was a full-bodied wine with aromas of blueberries and strawberries. One finds flavors of lavender and some spice. The color was darker and as the Pinot evolved the wine became fruitier. This wine also could be held, getting even better with time.

Don Melchor, Chili: Tasting a vertical of four Cabernet Sauvignons, 1989, 1993, 2006 and 2009, I found all to be well-balances. The nuances of each wine depended on the year but each one stood well on its own.

Cardella Winery, Mendota, California: Winning a gold for their 2010 Vineyard 22 “Fattoria Cardella” Sangiovese, I found the wine to be a fuller bodied, very fruity and balanced Sangiovese. They also won a bronze for the 2010 Barbera L’aquedotto Vineyard. In 2012 this same wine received the Best in Class at the California State Fair and I can see why. This Barbera is big, bold and very fruit forward.

Hawk and Horse Vineyards. Lake County: Utilizing Biodynamic farming I found the wines to be extraordinary. All wines available are consistent. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold dark red in color wine that is very balanced with just enough spice and a velvety finish. The 2009 HHV/Block Three Cabernet Sauvignon blends 5% Petit Verdot with the Cab. The 2009 Latigo, a late harvest Cabernet Sauvignon is a real gem when it comes to dessert wines.

Cheval de Andes, Argentina: “The Grand Cru of the Andes", the wine is composed of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot depending on the year.

Lava Cap Winery, El Dorado: The 2010 Petite Sirah is a wine that expresses depth and structure. This Petite Sirah is a blend of 75% Petite Sirah, 19.5% Grenache, 4% Merlot and 1.5% Barbera. The deep red/purple color gives way to a bouquet of fragrant fruit, especially that of currants and cherries. This full-bodied wine is rich and intense yet very balanced with hints of vanilla, cherries and currants. There is almost a creamy vanilla quality. The wine is smooth on the finish with a jammy sweetness that is thoroughly wonderful. I have to say this is one of the best Petite Sirahs I have ever tasted.

Ecluse Wines, Paso Robles: This is another winery were I was impressed with the consistency of their entire portfolio. The 2010 Prelude a white blend of 48% Viognier, 28% Roussanne and 24% Grenache was delightful and refreshingly balance with a nice sweetness. The reds were truly impressive. The 2009 Grenache was a bigger wine with a fragrant nose of sweet currants. The currants permeated the wines flavor with a little bit of spice. The 2009 Rendition, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Zinfandel had a fruity zing on the finish. The 2010 Petite Sirah was a very rich velvety wine that definitely has holding power.

Riverbench, Santa Maria: With their new winemaker Clarissa Nagy this winery is going to take off. Being a Rosé lover one cannot miss the 2012 Pinot Noir Rosé. The wine is crisp and creamy with a bit of vanilla. All the Pinot Noirs are outstanding. The 2011 Estate Pinot Noir combines the Martini clone with 667 and 115. There is a hint of spice, perhaps allspice among the cherry flavors. The 2011 Mesa Pinot Noir is 100% Martini clone. Finally the 2011 Pommard Pinot Noir is 100% Pommard clone, which was planted in 2007 at the winery. This Pinot Noir is softer and silkier.

Crawford Family Wines, Buellton: Although I was impressed with most of their wines, the 2012 Pinot Noir, 22 captured my fancy. This wine is from section 22 of the Bentrock Vineyard and is Clone 828. The wine is a big rich full-bodied Pinot Noir with a lot of depth and hints of spice.

I am looking forward to exploring new wines and wineries in 2014 to discover new gems of the wine industry.

Happy New Year!

If you enjoyed the collage in this article, check out the photography of Tenley Fohl visit www.TenleyFohlPhotography.com or Tenley Fohl Photography’s Facebook Page.

If you would like to follow more of Cori Solomon’s articles, she would love you to subscribe to her column by clicking the box next to her photo.

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