Top Ten Wines of 2011

It has been said that everyone loves lists, except those tasked with assembling them. Here at Wine Lines, we must be the exception to the rule, because we have always enjoyed putting together our annual “Top 10 Wines” lists.

Why? Because, essentially, there are no rules. Such lists are totally subjective, which means it’s impossible for us to be wrong.

For the uninitiated, Wine Lines had been a newspaper column for some 22 years, first in so-called “alt. weeklies” (non-mainstream regional tabloids that are heavy on entertainment listings) and later in the food sections of daily newspapers.

Well, we all know what has happened to the newspaper business. So, in May of 2011, Wine Lines was re-launched as a website/blog. Just a few months later, even before we’d had a chance to build the archives (an ongoing process) and post more than a handful of features, Wine Lines Online was nominated for “Best New Wine Blog of 2011.”

And now, 2011 has drawn to a close, which means it’s time for us to share our “Top 10 Wines” list for the year — or, in this case, about seven-twelfths of a year.

In compiling the list, we considered only wines that members of our review team (Glen Frederiksen, Bob Johnson and Tom Madrecki) assessed during the months of April through December, and only those that attained “Featured Wine” status during the year (i.e., a rating of 90 or higher on Wine Lines’ 100-point scale).

These should not be considered the 10 “best” wines of the year, simply because it’s impossible to compare Chardonnay with Cabernet Sauvignon, or Sauvignon Blanc with Merlot. Rather, we have selected 10 wines that stood out among all sampled in 2011 — perhaps as good values, perhaps as outstanding examples of rare varieties deserving of more attention, perhaps as providers of pure hedonistic pleasure.

Interestingly, not one Cabernet Sauvignon made the list, probably a reflection of that variety’s generally high price points. Instead, on the red side, you’ll find two Rhone-style blends from California’s Central Coast, a Pinot Noir and one of those “rare” varieties that we try to champion.

The list is topped by two Chardonnay bottlings from California’s North Coast, and other whites include a still wine made by a sparkling wine specialist, a variety that’s more commonly used for blending, a wine from New York state and a delightful French bottling sampled in its country of origin.

And for value hunters, note that three of the wines are priced in the $14-18 range.

With that as a prelude, let’s get to the list: Wine Lines Online’s Top 10 Wines of 2011…

#1 – 2009 Patz & Hall Chardonnay, Hyde Vineyard, Carneros

This totally captivating wine begins with rich aromas of perfumed Asian flowers, Creamsicle, baking spices, and ripe pear and tropical fruit…

Read the full review here.

MSRP: $55 (November 2011)
Wine Lines rating: 94

#2 – 2009 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay, Napa Valley

This is serious Napa Chardonnay… It was a perfect match for a 35th wedding anniversary dinner of broiled lobster tail with drawn butter, accompanied by sweet yams…

Read the full review here.

MSRP: $70 (November 2011)
Wine Lines rating: 93

#3 – 2009 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir, Hyde Vineyard, Carneros

Deeply hued, this is an amazing Pinot Noir that shows off the richness and depth of the 2009 vintage in California…

Read the full review here.

MSRP: $65 (November 2011)
Wine Lines rating: 94

#4 – 2008 McPrice Myers ‘Beautiful Earth,’ Paso Robles

Perfumed and heady, this Rhone-style blend (79% Syrah, 16% Grenache and 5% Mourvedre) is big, bold and impressive…

Read the full review here.

MSRP: $42.75 (at The Poison Cup, Chicago) $38
Wine Lines rating: 94 (September 2011)

#5 – 2008 Artezin Charbono, Napa Valley

True confessions time: We at Wine Lines love Charbono. It’s one of our favorite varietal wines. The problem is, not much of it is made in California…

Read the full review here.

MSRP: $30 (June 2011)
Wine Lines rating: 93

#6 – 2008 Andrew Murray ‘Espérance’ Red Blend, Central Coast

This is a classic GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blend…

Read the full review here.

MSRP: $30 (October 2011)
Wine Lines rating: 92

#7 – 2010 J Vineyards Pinot Gris, California

Sourced from vineyards in Clarksburg, Monterey County and the Russian River Valley, this wine rewrites what it means to be a Pinot Gris from California… A captivating wine, and an excellent value…

Read the full review here.

MSRP: $16
Wine Lines rating: 90

#8 – 2008 Saxon-Brown Semillon, Cricket Creek Vineyards, Alexander Valley

There are a scant few bottlings of Semillon in California, and it is a darn shame… This will please all lovers of New World Semillon, and will blow away Semillon-based Bordeaux whites at twice the price-point…

Read the full review here.

MSRP: $18 (May 2011)
Wine Lines rating: 91

#9 –2010 Three Brothers ‘Zero Degrees of Riesling,’ New York

This wine is easy to like, from its lively nose through to its refreshing finish… Serve it with a chicken breast topped with mango salsa for a simple, satisfying meal…

Read the full review here.

MSRP: $14 (September 2011)
Wine Lines rating: 90

#10 – 2010 Domaine Alexandre Bain Pouilly-Fumé, Tracy-sur-Loire, France

Clean in the mouth with ample citrus acidity, this wine is as refreshing initially as it is complex on the finish…

Read the full review here.

MSRP (at Le Verre Vole in Paris): 21 Euro
Wine Lines rating: 93

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One Response to Top Ten Wines of 2011

  1. Nice post! I could not agree more with #4 & #6. It’s been a little while since I’ve some of the Patz & Hall wines….looks like I’ll need to rinse and repeat.

    McPrice Myers & Andrew Murray wines are a real treat across the board. I didn’t buy that much wine (for my standards) this year, but I made sure to get both these GSM’s wrapped up. I also really liked the McPrice Myers Larner Syrah, and Andrew Murray Watch Hill and Terra Bella Syrah’s.

    Can’t wait to check out the new vintages in the coming year! Cheers!

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