Top 12 West Coast Wines of the Year 2010

And the winners are...

 


It’s time to now reveal the final winners in our Snooth Vintage of the Year, Winery of the Year, Wine Region of the Year, and Wines of the Year 2010 series.

Time for me to add my favorite West Coast Wines of the Year to the chorus. This is hard for so many reasons. Do I include all the back vintages of wines I’ve enjoyed? If not, then how far back can I go? Good questions and best answered by creating a list of wines from the West Coast that you can buy now. Let me just say that I do not purport this short list to be anything more important than what it is: a short list of wines that I particularly liked and that are generally available.

What I’ve tried to do here is highlight a few wines that surprised me this year. In truth, a fair amount of wines surprise me and I’m not including those here, so a little 'splaining is in order. The wines on this list are wines that are readily available, well priced, and offer a special drinking experience. Best? Well, they’re not even my highest-rated wines, since many of those are distinctly neither affordable nor well priced.

These are West Coast Wines of the Year for specific reasons, and I’ve pointed those reasons out with each wine. You may, or may not, enjoy these wines. Perhaps you’ll enjoy some but not others. I hope you will enjoy at least a few of them, but these wines made the list because I enjoyed them. I found each of these wines to be special, unique and distinct, and worth buying and sharing. So, with no further ado, my list of West Coast Wines of the Year!

Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling 2008, $12
Riesling seems to be the grape variety that is always poised for greatness but never seems to break through, excepting of course with the geek crowd of self-proclaimed acid freaks -- oh, and then there's the folks that are just looking for something a bit sweet.

Well, this Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling will please both crowds, and so many more. It's bursting with fruit and has a sweet edge yet there is so much electric acidity here that the wine finishes zesty and dry. A superb summer sipper and a great wine for spicy, complex, acid rich foods.
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Sausal Winery Zinfandel Family Estate 2007, $18
I'm a big fan of Zinfandel and have loved the wines for decades, but as those decades have passed, the wines have changed, and some more than others. Over time I've realized that I like some prominent American oak on my Zins, and Petite Sirahs as well. All that vanilla plays well with the rich fruit of Zinfandel and I've found that the briary, peppery qualities of Zin sometimes face too much competition from French oak.

I also like my Zin well balanced, and well behaved at the dinner table. This Sausal Zin hits all those buttons. It's fresh and balanced with red fruits and classic American oak notes. A bit of a throwback, but then again I like to throw them back!
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Kenwood Jack London Syrah 2007, $20
Speaking of Syrah and all its varied glory, sometimes a wine from California will surprise me with its restraint. I think these are sometimes called failures by many California wine lovers, but it's great to have the choice of experiencing a fruit bomb (or not) or something more subtle.

The Kenwood Jack London Syrah is definitely more restrained, and even subtle. It's a sneaky wine that disarms you with a bit of savory funk before unleashing fresh black fruit flavors. I know it surprised me!
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Valley of the Moon Pinot Noir 2009, $20
If we're talking about wines that may not find huge critical acclaim but meet one of my basic rules for ranking them well -- mainly that they are freaking delicious and fun to drink -- then we have to look no further than this somewhat off-center Pinot.

This is fresh, fruity, and seamless with blood orange and herbal tones adding some complexity, but complexity is not the point here. Having fun is, and if you don't have fun with this wine you should see a doctor. Your fun-o-meter is obviously broken.
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Château Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, $20
We tend to fixate a bit on regionality a bit at a time. California for cabernet, Oregon for Pinot, and Washington for Syrah. Or, wait -- is it Washington for Merlot? No, that might be Long Island. Whatever.

Here is a Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon, with 16% Syrah added -- so I might have been on to something there -- that manages to combine classic new world richness with excellent balance and real complexity from both grapes, as well as judicious use of oak.
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Willakenzie Estate Pinot Blanc Estate Bottled 2009, $22
I mentioned earlier that I've never been much of a Chardonnay kind of guy. So, what have I been drinking? Well, among other things, I'm one of the very few adamant fans of Pinot Blanc/ Pinot Bianco!

If you're looking for a fun wine that's decidedly different yet somehow very familiar you owe it to yourself to try a few Pinot Blancs. Willakenzie's version is a wonderful example. The fruit is fresh and bold but the wine's strength is the terrific interplay between fruit, acid, and a subtle bitterness that makes this refreshing and oh-so-food friendly.
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Flora Springs Sauvignon Blanc Soliloquy Vineyard Oakville 2008, $22
Sometimes we overlook some of the names that have been around for a while, since as wine geeks we're always hunting for the latest and the greatest. After a particularly impressive showing with Sangiovese, of all things, last year being followed up with this wonderful Sauvignon Blanc, it's time to tell folks to stop and take a new look at Flora Springs.

This is a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc. It's not trying to be anything but Californian and pulls that off with rich, complex fruit and lovely balance.
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Owen Roe Syrah Ex Umbris 2008, $25
I've written more than my fair share about Syrah, and how it's so different depending on all the factors that come into play when making a wine. Terroir -- that combination of man, land, and weather -- is something that Syrah excels at expressing, which is why I never tire of tasting Syrah, particularly Syrah like this.

The Owen Roe Ex Umbris Syrah is absolutely packed with fruit and yet it remains fresh and bright, with impressive mineral and herbal tones adding considerably complexity. While this is great today, I bet it'll be even more impressive after a year or three in the cellar.
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Alta Maria Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley 2008, $25

OK, I'm the guy who says he doesn't like Chardonnay, but I'm not the incorrigible guy who's saying that. Truth is, I do like some Chardonnay and from California the wines from Santa Barbara Country seem to hit my sweet spot.

This Alta Maria Chardonnay from the Santa Maria Valley combines some salty mineral tones with pure ripe fruit with such class and purity that I was frankly taken aback when I first tried it. Love this Chardonnay. Yes, I said that and it's in print!
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Andrew Rich Syrah "Les Vignes En Face" 2006, $35
Not to beat the Syrah horse to death, but, like I said, I really like Syrah and this was one of the best of the year. It's easy to see where many wines are headed in their youth but Syrah tends to zig when you think it's going to zag. A fruity wine may end up turning into a savory, meaty mess of deliciousness, and it may not, but my money is on this wine absolutely blossoming with some time in the cellar, though it's already a great bottle if you can stand the formidable tannins.

I love those tannins, and these tannins, and have no problem with this wine today, though I am excited to see where time will take it. Will it zig or will it zag?
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Torii Noir "Deux Verres" Reserve Pinot Noir 2008, $35
Oregon Pinot has really been on fire these past few years and the last two vintages, 2007 and 2008, have proven to be a dynamite set for learning about the terroir of various vineyards and how each winemaker handles that terroir.

2007 has been called a wine drinker's vintage as the wines tend to the elegant, complex side of things and lack the power that 2008 provides.

This Torii Mor Pinot has that rich fruit yet remains expressive and elegant. The best of both worlds and a fine example of Oregon Pinot.
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Emblem Oso Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, $45
I like my California Cabernets to smell like Cabernet and feel like wine. Yes, I get it, it's hot in Napa Valley, so I shouldn't be looking for Bordeaux. And the truth is I'm not, but something less than a blueberry/vanilla milkshake would be appreciated.

The Emblem Oso Cabernet might disappoint some folks. It's big, but not that big, fruity, but not that fruity, and has aromas reminiscent of herbs and tomato leaf -- oh, the horror!

In short, it's about as good a California Cabernet as I've had this year, and comes in a not inexpensive yet totally reasonable $40 or so per bottle.
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To view the photos for this article, go to Snooth West Coast Wines of the Year.


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Comments

  • Snooth User: Maxwell42
    331334 1

    Why must I click (12 times) through the whole list bottle by bottle to get to the summary article. A link to the Summary or a scrollable list so I can click once to get to the summary would be most helpful and a lot less annoying.
    If I'm missing something please correct me, and show me how to do it please.
    Have a good week and Merry Christmas.

    Dec 21, 2010 at 9:53 PM


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