Our Wine Of The Year Is......
Every year we amass some of our favorite wines for our Wine of the Year blind tasting. We taste wines from the past year that not only impressed us but also really over-delivered for their respective price point. We then place them in brown paper bags to remove any bias.
Tasting blind can be quite humbling but also very educational, sometimes you are sure you are tasting a specific grape and it turns out you weren’t. This type of tasting allows us to analyze the wine’s components, break it down, and see how well it stacks up against the competition.
We had fifty wines as contenders for our Wine of the Year this year, but only one can come out on top. Domaine Vincent Paris wowed us with his Les Cotes Saint Joseph and it was the clear winner. The first thing you will notice is the elegant profile in the glass, this is clearly not Syrah from southern France. This Saint Joseph is a wine of subtlety and layered nuance, not a “fruit bomb” style you might experience from this varietal in other parts of the world. For example, the alcohol is only 12.5% which is so integrated that you don’t even notice it. As the wine lingered in our glasses the traditional notes of northern Rhone Syrah unveiled themselves, showcasing garrigue and a savory animal fat component. On the palate, the wine builds and builds displaying pretty blackberry and cherry fruit with some white pepper intertwined. The finish is stoney and a bit rustic which adds so much charm to this very drinkable Saint Joseph.
“I like to drink this wine young, with fruit and freshness, but it can also be kept for around 10 years.” - Vincent Paris
We absolutely adored this wine and we believe you will too! Domaine Vincent Paris’ wines have adorned our shelves many times over the years and we are proud to promote his 2022 Les Cotes aint Joseph as our Wine of the Year. Enjoy!
Domaine Vincent Paris Les Cotes Saint Joseph Rouge 2022
Winner of our Wine Of The Year 2023 Blind Taste Off!!!
Organic. 100% Syrah from 10 and 20 year old vines in Granitic soils at 300m in elevation. Prunes to only four bunches of grapes per vine (the norm is between five and seven) which concentrates the vines' growing power and cuts down on the need for green harvests. Ferments at low temps, vinfied 2/3 in barrel and 1/3 in tank. It is aged in oak barrels for up to 12 months. Only 580-650 cases produced annually.
Second place goes to Bodegas Sierra Cantabria Unica Reserva Rioja 2019! This is a stellar Reserva Rioja from the latest outstanding vintage of the region 2019. Tasting this blind it was apparent that it was Rioja as it demonstrated those classic Rioja notes of dill, savory Tempranillo fruit, and a touch of sweet wood influence. What captivated us about the wine was how seductive the fruit was, ripe without being sweet. We would categorize this as a youthful modern Rioja with enough classic notes to do Rioja proud. This wine is going to make a lot of new friends as it is absolutely irresistible now, but yes it will age a decade easily.
Third place was a nice surprise because it is a brand new wine on the scene, Mallea GSM Santa Barbara County 2021. This is a traditional Rhone blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre (GSM) but from Santa Barbara County California. The pedigree of the guys behind it is first-rate but what impressed us was the juice in the bottle! If you enjoy Cotes du Rhone or Southern French reds you are going to love Mallea. This is a wine of subtlety and not as flamboyant as our number two wine. Clearly, the wine is masterfully blended as each component adds complexity, and yet the wine is seamless on the palate. Fresh jovial fruit dances on the tongue with its lively acidity while pepper and Mediterranean spices come out in the finish. Mallea GSM provides a ton of pleasure for a very reasonable price.
There you have it, our second and third finishers out of fifty superb wines blind-tasted. Not too shabby Bodegas Sierra Cantabria and Mallea. Our Wine of the Year will be released soon, but I wouldn’t overlook these two terrific wines while we wait. Enjoy!
#2. Bodegas Sierra Cantabria Unica Reserva Rioja 2019
Organic. The Eguren family are the pioneers in the production of parcel specific single cru wines from Rioja in the Burgundy model. Sierra Cantabria Reserva Única is the family’s introduction to their single vineyard range, which is sourced from a spectacular vineyard on the banks of the Ebro River in Labastida. The entire vineyard is vinified as a Reserva, and throughout the aging process, Marcos Eguren carries out a severe barrel selection with only the finest being used for Unica. The wine is produced every vintage, but in varying quantities (1,500-4,000 cases) depending on the quality of the year. Unica represents a premier cru style Rioja single vineyard with fantastic structure, a seamless texture, and a pure red fruit character. Tempranillo (97 %) and Graciano (3 %) from vines older than 30 years.
#3. Mallea GSM Santa Barbara County 2021
Sustainably farmed Grenache 44%, Syrah 42%, Mourvedre 14% from four vineyard sites in Los Olivos and the greater Santa Ynez Valley - Rolling Vines, Bernat, Coteaux de Clair, and TTT Roblar. The Syrah and Grenache are fermented partly with whole clusters, while the Mourvedre is 100% destemmed. Fermentation is with native yeasts in open-top oak tanks. The wine is matured for 14 months in neutral barrique and bottled without fining or filtration.
Mallea is a collaboration between viticulturist Erik Mallea (director of viticulture at Sanford & Benedict and a co-founder of Willett-Mallea Farming) and winemaker Justin Willett (of Tyler Winery and Lieu-Dit Winery). After working together in various capacities for over a decade, Erik and Justin have started this exciting new project to highlight Santa Barbara County’s potential with Rhône grape varieties. They are farming four small vineyard sites clustered around Los Olivos in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara.
The labels reference Erik Mallea’s Basque heritage, depicting 19th & 20th-century aspen tree carvings by Basque shepherds in the American West. Erik’s father, Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe, is a respected scholar of this cultural tradition.