Top Fourteen Wines of 2014

It has been a phenomenal year in my life-long journey to discover the world’s finest wines.  It is that time of year when some of us feel an urge to reflect on the definitive wine experiences of the past year. This list represents my version of wine nirvana for 2014.

 

The wines are listed in alphabetical order.

 

My Wine Epiphanies of 2014

 

2009 Allan Scott Sasa Methode Traditionnelle Sparkling Wine

 

This sparking stunner comes from the godfather of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Allan Scott; one of the most gracious wine producers on planet.  Made from 100% Chardonnay, it is aged for three years. Aromas of honeysuckle, white flowers, Meyer lemon waft from this exquisite and delicate 2009; the bright acidity is off the charts. It easily rivals many significantly more expensive Champagne and sparkling wines.

 

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2005 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Richebourg

 

Not many of us have the opportunity to taste one of the rarest wines in the world. I was fortunate enough to sample the stunning, generous 2005 vintage. Poetry in a bottle, it reminded me why so many Burgundy fanatics chase this elusive bird of palatal paradise.  Tasting this wine was ethereal; producing a surreal out-of-body experience that can only come from wines that are transcendent.

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1997 Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanee Cros Parantoux

 

When tasting a wine of this caliber the feeling of reverence can be overwhelming. Such a moment was delivered by this wine, fashioned by one of the industry’s most iconic producers. The late Henri Jayer’s genius in coaxing casual elegance out of what could have been a massive, even monolithic, wine is mind-boggling. The powerful progression of flavors as the wine unfolds on the palate feels like nothing short of miraculous. The pedigree is undeniable, yet there is a familiarity to it that is both shocking and deeply gratifying.

 

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2011 Gandona Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

 

The 2011 vintage was not easy for a large number of North Coast producers. Nonetheless, it is my favorite 2011 mountain-fruit Cabernet. Power and delineation spring to mind when I recall this highly nuanced wine. It offers deep, rich, concentrated black/blue fruit, savory herbs, and just a hint of menthol. It’s well integrated tannins are wondrous for its massive size.  The wine’s finish is long and silky.

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2012 Kongsgaard The Judge Chardonnay

 

This forty year old vineyard was planted by John Kongsgaard’s father, who was, in fact, a Napa County Superior Court Judge! Known for its miniscule yields, it produces fruit that makes for an other-worldly wine. The level of concentration is downright unsettling.  More savory than fruit-driven, this dramatic, monumental, magnificent beast of a Chardonnay could easily be laid down for several years; but who would deny themselves that long?

 

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1998 Krug Clos D’Ambonnay Champagne

 

I debate whether I should write a love letter to David Fink, founder of the spectacular GourmetFest, for providing me with the opportunity to taste this transformational sparkling wine, or to complain bitterly to myself that it’s not a part of my regular regimen. The moment I inhaled the aromas delivered on the wings of sparkling angels, I knew that my wine life would never be the same. Ethereal floral aromatics flowed from the flute; the depth and breadth of flavor was nothing short of mind bending.

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1998 Marcassin Vineyard Chardonnay

 

Gorgeously golden, this offering was a dead ringer for a top flight Burgundy due to its ultra-refined, poised, flavor profile. The palate revealed exotic fruit framed by unctuousness. Voluptuous in all the right places, this is a regal beauty.

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2012 Paul Lato Le Souvenir Chardonnay Sierra Madre Vineyard

 

Invariably, Paul Lato’s wines are the epitome of elegance and class. I adore every wine Paul Lato touches. He is known for his Pinots and Syrahs, however, it was his Chardonnay that pushed me over the edge this year. Broad-shouldered, broody, minerally, the wine is impossibly generous. With crisp, clean acidity and just the right touch of oak, its finish never seems to end.

 

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2012 Peter Michael L’Apres Midi Sauvignon Blanc

 

Fashioned by Nicholas Morlet, this barrel-aged Sauvignon Blanc has never disappointed me in the past, however the 2012 is particularly outstanding. One of the prettiest bouquets I ever experienced, it seduces with fields of flowers, lime blossom, white stone fruit, and a touch of feijoa. Expansive spectrum of aromatics is framed by vivid minerality, flowing effortlessly into the sophisticated, classy, layered finish.

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2001 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon

 

This powerhouse feels like it still has decades to go. The ’01 Screamer is not for the weak-palated. Inky, dense and commanding in its presence, it redefined my perception of black/blue fruit. I found myself asking whether Screaming Eagle tasted like cassis, or was it the other way around?! A rocket of a bottle, this stunner is destined to reach the stars.

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1995 Shafer Hillside Select SLD Cabernet Sauvignon

 

Wine historians will memorialize John Shafer’s legacy of excellence. Every time I taste Hillside Select, I can’t help but feel a sense of awe. Some bottlings give me goose bumps; 1995 was indeed such an offering. Rich, opulent, and boasting phenomenal fruit and intense concentration; this massive, yet deftly balanced creature, has decades to go.  It is a treasure to behold.

 

 

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2004 Sine Qua Non Into the Dark Grenache

 

SQN’s vintner, Manfred Krankl, had mastered Rhône varietals like no other in the New World. This cult wine producer made headlines when some of his older vintages sold for upwards of $30,000 for a single bottle. “Into the Dark” is my favorite Grenache blend to date. Deep, dark, and unctuous, it hits upon every hedonistic note. It is smoky, spicy, savory and sumptuous; I only wish I had a case or two stashed away.

 

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2013 Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

 

Saint Clair’s wine making team has won countless awards for their wines. The magic of proximity to the ocean and Wairau Valley fruit, has redefined what the essence of Sauvignon Blanc can be. The wine’s aromatics are off the charts. Brimming with exotic fruit, intense kiwi/gooseberry, intermixed with complex herbs and lifted minerality, this wine delivers a lingering sixty second finish.

 

 

2014 St Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

2009 Vineyard 7 and 8 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

 

I tasted this wine on three occasions and I can honestly say, it blew my mind each and every time. The distinguishing feature of this wine is its tremendous mid-palate, which is both round, and beautifully constructed.  Forest floor, a tight core of black fruit and a hint of graphite emerge from the glass, silky texture caresses the palate.  The finish is thunderous and remarkably lengthy.

 

2009 Vineyard 7 and 8 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Ilona Thompson

Ilona Thompson is Editor-in-Chief at PalateXposure, a destination site for oenophiles, gourmands and luxury travelers. She also recently launched #Wine, a site dedicated to wines and spirits reviews, and #Photography, a site devoted to high-quality wine, food, and travel related photography.

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