Top 10 Wine Experiences Of The Year

Truly one of the great sparkling wines of the world Photo from Roberto Viernes

Truly one of the great sparkling wines of the world
Photo from Roberto Viernes

Some wine magazines have listed their top 100 wines of the year, but I have my top 10 wine experiences of the year. I have detailed most of them on these pages, but in case you missed them, here they are, in no particular order.

1) Drinking 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon at the Kentucky Derby. So much of the experience is context. “The most exciting two minutes in sports” did not disappoint, and the wine helped warm me up on a cold and rainy day. I loved seeing people gussied up on one hand, and youths sliding and playing in the mud in the infield on the other. I’ll never forget it or the wine.

2) 30-plus vintages of Chateau Latour. This was a complete bacchanalia with some absolutely phenomenal wines, as well as some tragic ones. And it was not all Bordeaux, either. There was a New World yin for every Old World yang, and other special treats all over – Yquem, Grand Cru Burgundy and Champagnes.

3) I could call the entire Hawaii Food and Wine Festival a highlight, but the experience was the 10-year vertical of Harlan Estate. All the wines were at such a high level of quality and complexity. It is undeniably one of California’s “First Growths” in my never-tobe-humble opinion.

4) I have visited France at least once a year for more than a decade now, and there are some producers that have been on the “bucket list” for some time. One of the boxes was checked earlier this year when I had the privilege to visit the winery at Domaine Raveneau in Chablis. For me, this is the penultimate white wine producer of the appellation. Bernard Raveneau is so reserved but a genius when it comes to the wines. And, to be honest, for them, the genius is in the vineyard, its vines and the terroir on which it sits. Simple as that, and simply some of the world’s greatest wines.

5) My 40th birthday celebration. Yes I turned 40 years young this year. Surrounded by family and friends, we shared some good times, good food and, of course, some fabulous wines. The piece de resistance was the vertical of DRC Grands Echezeaux: 2001, 1982, 1966 and 1949. They were not only decades apart, but also stylistically worlds apart. The 2001 was sleek, modern even, with the 1982 being very light and elegant. The 1966 was extremely earthy and as light a Burgundy as I can recall having. It tasted delicious. The 1949 was slightly past its prime in the nose, but on the palate was absolutely gorgeous – pure silk and Pinot flavors. A special thank-you to my wife for planning it and bringing all the pieces together.

6) My latest trip to Italy was filled with highs. The first was discovering the Trento DOC wines of Ferrari. The Cuvee Giulio is truly one of the great sparkling wines of the world. Drinking it at the historic Villa Margon, where the Council of Trento was held in 1545 and home to some of the most well-preserved frescos of the Renaissance, then getting onto a helicopter just steps outside the doors of the villa to tour the Dolomite mountains was a once-ina-lifetime experience.

7) On the same trip, visiting the vineyards and cellars of Quintarelli in Negrar was amazing. Francesco Grigoli, Guiseppe Quintarelli’s grandson, has a firm grip on the superior standards that make Quintarelli’s wines so famous and adored. That tasting was a tour de force. Every single wine resonated with deliciousness, purity and intensity.

8) Teaching the Introductory Course for the Court of Master Sommeliers. It is rejuvenating for me to see wine professionals learning and challenging themselves to become better at their trade. It also is inspiring to see the next generation of wine professionals in the naissance of their wine journeys.

9) That’s Burgundy Wine Dinner. Virtually every time we get together is a highlight of the year, but I must say that our last gathering over Domaines Dujac and Leflaive was perhaps the most memorable. Both the 1996 Bonnes Mares and Clos St Denis were terrific, and how can I forget the 2001 Chevalier Montrachet? That’s Burgundy, baby!

10) Thanksgiving dinner. This was the first year in more than 10 years that I did not cook. I actually went to New York to be with family. With a bottle of 2007 Pierre Guillemot Savigny Les Beaune 1er Cru Les Narbontons and 2005 Michel Bregeon, we enjoyed a lovely meal at Blue Ribbon Café. In this case, the wine was just a foil for the joy that we shared as a family.

I wish you have as many highlights with wine in the coming year!

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. Email or follow him on Twitter @Pinotpusher.