Best of lists never grow old, as long as they are filled with passion. Here are the wines my mouth fell in love with in 2008, and why.
Turkey Flat 2007 Rosé Barossa Valley (Australia)
Consistency is key with wine, and these guys have it. Year after year, this rosé astounds me. 5/21/2008 review: "This refreshing rosé blend made from grenache, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and dolcetto (an Italian grape) is soft 'n' elegant, with cranberry, sweet cherry, ripe strawberries and fresh, lively acidity. Quite perfect, really." Sw = 2. $17. 5 stars
Col Solare 2004 Columbia Valley (Washington)
I visited Col Solare in eastern Washington State during harvest this year and was dazzled by the modern technology married with traditional practices. It ain't cheap, but it's tasty. 10/22/2008 review: "This cabernet blend is still very young, but decant it and watch it sing with black cherry, sweet oak vanilla and leathery tannins." S, T. $75. 5 stars
Vision Cellars 2006 Pinot Noir Gary’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands (California)
Many wine people drown in their own egos, but winemaker Mac MacDonald, despite his brilliance, blows a refreshing waft of down-home appeal up wine’s snoot. 8/13/2008 review: "Whoa! Unbelievable wine. Elegant and feminine, seductive and flirty, bright raspberry and fresh wild blueberries with soft tannins and a firm acidic backbone. Beautiful but dangerously addictive." Sw = 1. $50. 5 stars
Sbragia Family Vineyards 2004 Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon (California)
Monte Rosso easily makes the top five Sonoma grape vineyards, whose 100-year-old vines yield grapes Ed and Adam Sbragia craft into incredibly dense, elegant cabernets. 2/27/2008 review: "From this famed vineyard comes a seductive and elegant cabernet. Has smooth black cherry covered in sweet chocolate, followed by lush vanilla and earthy coffee. What a California cabernet should be." Sw = 1. $50. 5 stars
Bodegas Ateca 2007 Garnacha del Fuego Catalayud (Spain)
For the money, you just can’t find better than this. Period. 11/19/2008 review: "Big fruit up front, launching into nice acidity, ripe, red cherry, with an earthy follow-up that makes it interesting." SW, S, T. $9. 4.5 stars
Quivira 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Fig Tree Vineyards (California)
Biodynamic farmers and educators, Quivira deserves respect and praise for crafting excellent wines while remaining good stewards to the land. 10/29/2008 review: "Steely with ripe peach, tart acidity and lively lime, followed up with soft, flowery honeysuckle." S, T. $18. 4.5 stars
Bonny Doon 2006 Vol des Anges (California)
Bonny Doon's Randall Grahm is cutting edge, creative and a troublemaker, which completely endears him to me. 1/30/2008 review: "Quite possibly the best Bonny Doon wine I’ve ever tasted, this deliciously balanced dessert wine melts on the tongue. Ripe peaches and apricots dripping in honey gush from this late-harvest Roussanne." Sw = 7. $30. 4.5 stars
Zind Humbrecht 2005 Gewurztraminer Wintzenheim (France)
When I lived in Switzerland, I drank gewurztraminer like water. This is the closest substitute I've tasted. 6/25/2008 review: "An aroma you'd want to rub all over to find your Zen. Rose oil, lavender and tangerine rind. Flavor follows with roses, toasted almonds, clove and honey cut with cream. Luscious and rich, but it smells sweeter than it tastes." Sw = 2. $30. 4.5 stars
S.A. Prum 2006 Essence Riesling Mosel Saar Ruwer (Germany)
Gorgeous nectar that I can't seem to find anymore. Everyone else must love it, too. 4/30/2008 review: "From this quality-driven producer in Germany's Mosel region comes some amazing stuff, especially for the price. A fruit-forward, succulent peach, pear and honey extravaganza that finishes tart and clean.”"Sw = 3. $12. 4.5 stars
Rosenblum 2005 Zinfandel Rockpile Road (California)
Although Diageo bought this exceptional zin house in January, I'm hoping that doesn't keep Kent Rosenblum from making vinous music. 2/27/2008 review: "Bold, inky, gushing black fruit like black cherry and wild blackberries, with edgy, bittersweet chocolate and a spicy finish. Voluptuous comes to mind." Sw = 2. $30. 4.5 stars
Sweetness (Sw) rating is out of 10, 10 being pure sugar. 1 (star) rating is out of 5, 5 being wine nirvana. Sweet (SW), Hypersensitive (HS), Sensitive (S), and Tolerant (T). Find out your tasting profile at budometer.com.
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