Monday, December 30, 2013

My Favourite Wines of 2013

One of the things that always interests me is when people choose the ‘best’ wines of a given year. I don’t quite understand how that works – mostly because I'm still a little confused by the criteria. This may come back to my  uncertainty around how wine scores work – does the wine with the highest score win the ‘best’ title or is it something else? I’m sure that people who have spent more time learning about wine totally understand how the selection is done, so I will leave that to the experts – they’re usually right.

For me, wine is often about the experience. The wine I celebrated my anniversary with this year tasted spectacular. Would it win ‘best’ based on the criteria for numbered scoring? I have no idea, but I loved that wine so much in that moment and that’s all that mattered.

As I was compiling this list (which is by no means exhaustive - I loved many wines this year), I realized that the moment I drank the wine tended to come to mind. And even though those moments were very different (on vacation in Germany, in my Wines II class, at a busy tasting), they all factored into how I experienced those wines. So will you look at this list and think I’m out of my mind to choose these particular wines over some fancy, 100-point scoring masterpiece? Maybe. But that’s OK, because the one thing I know about wine is that everyone has different tastes and my favourite may not be yours, but a really good wine tastes even better when sipped at the perfect moment. And it’s completely alright to have your happiest moments coincide with your best sips.

The Returning Favourite Category

Vineland Estate’s Elevation Riesling was my favourite wine in 2012 too. It’s just so crisp and refreshingly drinkable. I love the structure and how the green notes pop on my tongue and then leave a lovely, softly citrus finish. It’s no surprise then that I chose this wine to take with us when Shawn and I set off to celebrate our ‘first-date-iversary at The Millcroft Inn in Caledon in November. So when we were sitting in our beautiful room at the Millcroft, watching the snow fall on the waterfall outside our window, was the wine just as good? I’d argue it was better - because it was the perfect wine for us in that moment. 

I’ll give an honourable mention to Vineland Estate’sCabernet Franc in this category too, as it has become my ‘go to’ wine to bring when we’re visiting friends. It’s just such a crowd-pleaser and at an affordable price-point, so you don’t feel bad for spending $50 on a wine that no one in the room but you appreciates. Every time I bring this wine, people enjoy it and that’s way more important than the price tag.

The Year I Fell in Love with German Wine Category

I got to try a number of international wines this year and it really did open up the world of wine for me. It’s one thing to understand Ontario wine, but to really see it within the lens of wines from around the world is a treat. I was speaking with the winemaker from Errazuriz at an event and he said how much he envied Canadians because we have the wines of the world available so easily, which is very different than in Chilé. While I’d love to see a world where Canadians actually drank and appreciated Canadian wines the way other countries appreciate their own, I couldn’t help but get his point.

That said, I think there is something magical about drinking the wine of a region right where it was grown. Shawn and I had that experience in the Mosel, as we sampled so many of the local wines on our vacation. My favourite? St Urbans-Hof 2012 Kabinett, which we sipped one night as we watched the sun go down over the castle ruins in Bernkastel-Kues. Did the magic of that moment affect our appreciation of the wine? Absolutely. But I already knew it was a great one from my tasting at the winery earlier that week.

Another German wine that makes my list? The Dr. PaulyBergweiler 2011 Riesling Spatlese, which I chose for a recent #TOWineDinner. I am forever trying to choose a wine that will impress at those dinners, but because I am really just building up my cellar right now I don’t have anything vintage or fancy to bring most times. I love the dinners and learn so much, but I always feel like the newbie at the table. Following our visit to Bernkastel-Kues, I felt a bit more confident about bringing a wine from the region, as I’d had so much opportunity to really learn and start to understand the viticulture in the area. When those petrol notes hit my nose, I was concerned for a moment that it wouldn’t live up to the expectations I’d had, but I shouldn’t have worried at all. Everyone agreed that this was a great wine and I fell in love all over again with the crisp acidity and complex fruit and floral notes on the palate that German wines always bring me. I loved this one.

The Incomparable Canucks Category

While I have enjoyed visiting the world of wine, my heart always belongs with Canadian vino and this year I had plenty of chances to remember why. The best moment? When Paul Dearborn (whitbywino) broke out one of his Creekside Estate Winery 2007 Lost Barrel reds at a #TOWineDinner and my heart melted with every sip. This is one of those wines that opens up more and more with every minute it’s out in the air. One swirl brings black currents, another spicy caramel and cloves – it’s a wine you just want to sit with for hours, but that is just so spectacular to drink that you can’t resist. I loved seeing The Lost Barrel win the wine of the night – especially when it was up against such a stellar line-up of impressive international wines.

Another great wine I have Paul to thank for was The Old Third 2010 Pinot Noir. I think County Pinot has huge potential and for wineries like The Old Third, they are already reaching it. This was a fantastic wine that I am so thankful to have tried. I’m also lucky to be able to report that more amazing County Pinot is in the pipeline – based on a recent barrel tasting of the 2012 Lighthall Vineyards Pinot Noir, I am prepared to have that wine on my best of list next year.

The ‘I Can’t Believe I Got to Drink That’ Category 

Ridge Vineyard's 2010 Monte Bello is one of those wines that you hear about all the time. They reference it in wine books and articles – it’s considered an industry standard for California Cabernet. But it retails for about $150 a bottle in Ontario and that’s way too rich for my blood. Luckily, one of my wine instructors was willing to spring for a bottle in his class budget. And I’m so glad he did – because it was spectacular. Trying this wine, even in the sterile environs of a wine lab, helped me to understand what makes a quality wine – the body, the structure, the mouthfeel – it was unlike anything I’d experienced before and it was such a good learning opportunity. I feel lucky to have had the chance to try it.

Another wine worth it’s high price tag was Errazuriz’s 2010 Kai, which retails for $144.95 and is a delicious Carmenere with a splash of Petit Verdot. I had the opportunity to try this at an iYellow event and the memory of this wine has stayed with me long past the party.

And since we’re on the topic, a high price tag doesn’t always mean your heart will fall in love with a wine. Shawn and I were out grocery shopping recently when a friend tweeted that we had to check out the Ace of Spades champagne tasting at the LCBO nearby. Well, of course we did! So that’s how I found myself in jeans and a hoodie sipping $600 rosé champagne from a plastic sample cup. And it was… great. I liked it. But the $300 Ace of Spades gold champagne we also got to try was even better, in my opinion. Still, compared to any other sparkling I’ve ever tasted? Both these wines were incredible and I hope one day to get the chance to have them again.

What were your favourite wines of 2013?
Any must try wines for 2014? I hope you'll share them in the comments below.

2 comments:

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Holly Bruns said...

Happy New Year Krista! Hopefully we'll get to tipple together at some point in 2014.