Years ago, when the New York Cork Report was at its apex, the regional editors and I would gather late each year and taste a bunch of wines together to pick our wines of the year. Those were fun, intense tastings with lots of debate but almost always consensus.
Writing about East Coast wines for more than a decade, I’ve met and befriended writers who specialize in wines from various states the way I used to focus on New York. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll convince some to become editors for this site we’ll somehow be able to hold annual “Wines of the Year” tastings.
In the meantime, I decided to do a virtual version of something similar this year.
I called in a bunch of favors and asked these regional wine writers to pick a wine (or two, if they wanted to cover more than one state) that they wanted to choose as their “Wine of the Year” from there state of expertise. I didn’t instruct anyone to pick a “best” wine — because that’s a stupid descriptor. Maybe it would be a favorite or a wine that was important for one reason or another. It could just be something they thought my readership would find interesting. Some sent a sentence or two. Some submitted several paragraphs. I left it pretty open-ended.
Below you’ll find those 2017 Wines of the Year, with picks from The Cork Report sprinkled in where we felt like we tasted enough to be able to pick something. And yes, I’m about a week late with this. Herding cats can be difficult at times. The panelists that I invited to take part were:
- Isaac James Baker, Reading, Writing & Wine
- Paul Brady, The Cork Report
- Elaine Chukan Brown, Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews
- Carlo DeVito, East Coast Wineries
- Kate Meyers Emery, VinifeROC
- Doug Hillstrom, FingerLakesWine.info
- Cathy Huyghe, Enolytics
- Aaron Menenberg, Good Vitis
- Frank Morgan, Drink What You LIke
- Dezel Quinlan, My Vine Spot
- Robin Shreeves, Wine and Wonder
- Wayne Schutz, FLX Drinking Now
- Todd Trzaskos, The Cork Report
- Ashley Hausman Vaughters, Mistral Wine
Elaine Chukan Brown: Sand Reckoner Vineyards 2015 Malvasia Bianca Cochise County
Sand Reckoner consistently delivers that lovely combination of beautiful aromatics and great palate tension one gets from the best Malvasia. Here though it’s all spun through with the distinctive character of the Arizona desert — hints of prickly pear, chaparral, and dusty red earth. Rob and Sarah Hammelman bring together his professional training in Adelaide with their love of the Arizona desert to make some of the best wines of the state. It’s inspiring to know that with their professional background they could have made wines anywhere but believe in the quality of the Willcox Bench in Southeastern Arizona. Their bootstrap winery is worth keeping an eye on as they deliver delicious quality in their other wines as well.
Malvasia at its best is one of the most beautiful varieties. It can be hard to find though as little of it is planted in the world, and where it does grow it often ends up soupy or blousey without the tension needed to make it work. Discovering how well Malvasia does, then, in Arizona is especially thrilling. Arizona wine is something I’ve been keeping an eye on since 2002 as I lived there for my previous career as an academic. It’s great to see the state getting more outside attention. The best producers in the state have achieved a quality that deserves it.
Isaac James Baker: Aridus Wine Company 2014 Petite Sirah Cochise County
I’ve been traveling to Arizona and tasting wine there for six or seven years now, and I’m still discovering new things. A unique combination of hot and arid climate, large diurnal temperature swings, and diverse soils (with lots of limestone), sets the backdrop that allows ambitious Arizona winemakers to craft a wide array of delicious wines. Rhone and Spanish grapes thrive, and there are some delicious Bordeaux blends as well.
Some of my favorite wines come from the high-elevation vineyards of Cochise County, like this 2014 Petite Sirah from the relatively new producer Aridus. Their estate vineyards sit at about 5,200 feet in elevation, which adds a surprising layer of freshness to this normally dense grape. I get classic black currant and scorched earth aromas, and the wine shows sturdy backbone and plenty of dark, concentrated fruit. But add in some freshness, mesquite, black pepper and stony minerals, and there is a lot going on here that should intrigue any Petite Sirah lover.
Ashley Hausman Vaughters: Creekside Cellars‘ 2014 ‘Franc’
This wine does a beautiful job exemplifying what Colorado arguably does best: Cabernet Franc. Here, beneath the intense sunlight, Cabernet Franc takes on such a unique expression. This wine lets go of the leafy, vegetal traits in favor of more defined red fruit character– red currants and alpine cherry met by dried savory herbs. This wine embraces the warm caramelized notes of Appalachian American oak. Balanced, thoughtful and generous on the palate, it’s no wonder that this wine won this year’s Governor’s Cup recognition for excellence. It was more than deserving– a real source of pride for us in Colorado.
Michelle Cleveland has long been a favorite among Colorado winemakers. She works tirelessly to improve her wines and is one of the most curious, inquisitive winemakers this state has to offer.
Aaron Menenberg: Old Westminster Winery 2014 “Black”
The French term vigneron refers to one who cultivates grapes, but in the wine industry it means much more than that: vignerons take great pride in making wine from the grapes they cultivate and place the concept and execution of expressing terroir at the center of their efforts. Many wineries express these terms, but very few faithfully follow such an approach from vineyard to bottling. One of the most exciting examples of a vigneron anywhere is Maryland’s Old Westminster Winery. Their self-professed principles include doing everything by hand, using only Maryland fruit, farming sustainably and putting great attention into every minute detail.
Ashli Johnson, Drew Baker and Lisa Hinton, the three siblings behind Old Westminster, are wholeheartedly dedicated to cultivating the best grapes they can in a challenging region, spending years and considerable amounts of money finding the best vineyard property and determining the best varietals – and clones – to plant, and then taking the time to properly prepare the soil for planting. This process, with its extended timeline and substantial financial investment, is rarely so faithfully and objectively followed. The family’s creativity and passion
are then added to the terroir when the grapes are brought to the winery where every effort is made to express the best of what the state can offer.
Their 2014 red blend called “Black” is evidence that they’re well on the way towards their goal of indisputably establishing that world class wine can be made in Maryland. Consisting of 38% Antietam Creek Merlot, 25% South Mountain Cabernet Franc, 25% Antietam Creek Petit Verdot and 12% Pad’s View Syrah, this one might as well be call a reserve wine because it comes from premier vineyards and is a brand-new release having spent a year and a half in oak before resting for another year and a half in bottle.
The nose delivers bruised cherries, Acai berries, cinnamon, scorched Earth, hickory smoke and black pepper, and is utterly captivating with extended decanting. The palate is mouth-coating with round but firm tannins that will require time to fully release. Bright acid delivers a medley of red, black and blueberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, subtle olive and smoke. It finishes with a kick of cracked black pepper. This is just a baby, it stands to improve with time in a cellar. 93 points now, likely more in the future. This is up there with the 2014 Malbec and 2014 Antietam Creek cabernet franc as my favorite Old Westminster reds to date.
Lenn Thompson: Old Westminster Winery 2014 South Mountain Malbec
One of the best wines I tasted all year — from anywhere — truly one of the best North American Malbecs I’ve ever tasted. This Maryland-born Malbec is intensely aromatic with layers of dark fruits, violets, bitter dark chocolate and peppery smoked meat — aromas that step forward and back over the course of an evening. Mouth-filling on the palate with ripe, densely packed fruit that ranges from black cherry to raspberry to blackberries, it also shows savory notes of licorice, black pepper, and herbs. With tannins are still quite young and gritty, and a nice bit of acidity, this wine should improve with another year or five in the cellar.
You’ve read about Old Westminster Winery plenty here on the site this year (and elsewhere). Expect more — the wines they are putting out are already often great and will only get better in coming years. Ashli, Lisa and Drew are laser-focused on not only understanding the terroir of the vineyards they work with, but expressing those sites as transparently as possible.
Lenn Thompson: Cannon River Winery 2015 Family Reserve White
Going into my first exploration of Minnesota wine this year, I expected to fall in love all over again with the Marquette grape — and I did, though I found many of the examples I tasted a bit oaky. Instead, my favorite Minnesota wine was a surprising blend of 34% Prairie Star, 33% La Crescent and 33% St. Pepin that was aged in oak for 24 months (!). Luckily, 70% of that was neutral. All of it was Minnesota-grown.
Floral and citrusy on the nose — with streaks of salted caramel and wet river rocks — this lighter-bodied (12.1% abv) white has all of the acidity you might expect from these Minnesota hybrids, but the edges are rounded. The acid-driven frame remains taut and minerally with pithy citrus and hints of peach that emerge as it warms to room temperature. I wrote “MN Chablis?” in my notes, but this obviously isn’t that and truth be told I hate those kinds of comparisons. There is a gritty pear finish that I find particularly appealing.
Lenn Thompson: Unionville Vineyards 2013 Pheasant Hill Syrah
I’ve been nothing short of stunned — and admittedly a little embarrassed — in recent months as I’ve tasted my way through as many Garden State wines as I’ve been able to get my hands on. I’ve known for a long time that there were delicious wines being made in New York, Virginia and Maryland. Even my home state of Pennsylvania has some wines worth noting (see below for more on that). But New Jersey was a clear gap in my tasting knowledge and experience — and I don’t really have a reason or excuse for why I never paid them much attention.
Now that I have, I’ve found so many good wines from more than a handful of quality-focused producers that it was actually difficult narrowing it down to one for this post. In the end, it is this beautiful, varietally correct Syrah that gets the nod. Dark fruit is layered with a peppery, earthy edge as well as high-toned floral aromas (from the 5% Viognier blended in, no doubt) and flavors. I haven’t found many East Coast Syrahs that are even close to this good.
Robin Shreeves: Beneduce Vineyards 2014 Blue 2 Blaufrankisch
Picking just one wine from New Jersey is difficult, but I’m going to go with Beneduce Vineyards Blue 2 made from 100% Blaufrankisch because it’s an example of the desire so many of the state’s winemakers have to grow the best grapes for their specific climate. Winemaker Mike Beneduce looked at climate and soil data for his winery’s site going back 100 years and determined it’s very similar to Burgenland, Austria. He flew there, talked to growers, tasted wines, and decided to plant Blaufrankisch in 2009.
The 2014 vintage has intense, enticing aromas of blueberries and leather. It tastes of plum, mulberries, and spices. It has nice acid and tannins, making it a lovely food wine. And as Mr. Beneduce told me when I interviewed him earlier this year, in Austria, the 90-100-year-old vines make incredible wines, so I expect Beneduce’s Blue 2 to get better and better as the vines mature.
Paul Brady: Chëpika 2016 Sparkling Catawba
Sparkling wines have been a specialty of Chëpika Finger Lakes winemaker Nathan Kendall, of Nathan K. and Hickory Hollow Cellars, since working as an assistant winemaker at Chateau Frank, the sparkling wine house of Dr. Konstantin Frank. (Master Sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier is also a partner and consultant for the Chëpika brand.) Kendall additionally spent years as an assistant winemaker at Ravines Cellars where, according to him, he drank mostly chardonnay and sparkling wines with winemaker Morten Hallgren, despite Hallgren’s reputation for making some of the most pedigreed riesling and pinot noir in the region.
The Chëpika sparkling wines (which also include a bottling made from the native Delaware grape) are produced by the ancestral method, in which a fermenting wine is bottled to finish fermentation enclosed under crown cap producing an effervescent wine. This ancestral method is often mistakenly equated with the French pétillant-naturel (or “pét-nat”), which is a less controlled, more natural approximation of the ancestral method used to produce a vin de soif.
The 2016 Chëpika Sparkling Catawba is produced from organically grown grapes from vineyards on Keuka Lake. Its richly intense structure of acidity and weight will pique even the most acid-driven palates of sommeliers, critics, and serious wine drinkers. It drinks bone dry and its native grape flavor, accented with secondary sensations of dried lavender flowers, rosemary, and sage, is delicious on its own. But when paired with food it will go best with flavorful fishes, meats, or substantial vegetables, cooked or garnished with similar herbs and spices, otherwise the wine will overpower the cuisine. It is far from a weekend brunch session-pét-nat, and should drink well for at least five years.
Kate Meyers Emery: Hermann J. Wiemer 2006 Cuvee Brut
Of all the wines I tasted this year in the Finger Lakes, this is the one that stood out the most. Not just because it is an incredible example of a sparkling wine, but because it exemplifies the amazing craftsmanship going on at this winery.
Ten years ago, Fred Merwarth officially took over as the head winemaker of Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyards, partnering with Oskar Bynke, to continue the vineyard’s legacy. When they took control of the winery, the 2006 Cuvee Brut sparkling wine was aging on the lees. Extended contact with the lees can build weight and create a creamy texture on the palate. Usually, sparkling wines are aged on the lees anywhere between 18 months to 5 years. It’s only when you get into the premiere champagnes that you get more; Dom Perignon is aged seven years on lees and Bollinger Grand Année is seven to ten years.
Hermann J. Weimer’s 2006 Cuvee Brut has ten years on lees, and marks the anniversary of their new owners. It is a time capsule, a celebration, and the most incredible wine I tasted this past year. The nose has subtle notes of apple and pear, toasted brioche bread with apricot jam, and custard-like notes and texture that linger onto the palate giving the wine a creaminess that is well balanced by the delicate bubbles and clean acidity. This is the wine I’ll be celebrating with this holiday season.
Doug Hillstrom: Terrassen Wine Cellars 2016 Gamay Noir
This is one of the most important Finger Lakes wines of 2017. It was produced by winemaker Kelby Russell of Red Newt Cellars and noted sommelier Thomas Pastuszak. It is this sort of collaboration that is improving Finger Lakes wine and raising the profile of the area’s product in New York City and the country at large.
Gamay has not been an important grape in the Finger Lakes. None of the Gamay wines produced in the past have come close to the gold standard for the grape — namely, Beaujolais. Until now, that is. This is a wine with verve, compelling aromatics, a good deal of flavor intensity, and the ability to pair with many types of food.
Wayne Schutz: Kemmeter Wines 2016 Rosé of Pinot Noir
My wife and I drank a lot of Rosé this summer and into the fall, but this one from Johannes Reinhardt blew our socks off. Made from only select Pinot Noir grapes, it is a wonderful medium dry wine with a gorgeous deep color and medium body. With minerality on the nose, it’s crisp with hints of cranberry and red cherry on the palate and a lingering finish. It is a wine that we choose to enjoy again and again. We paired it with summer dishes such as macaroni salad. In the autumn it pairs lovely with lighter chicken dishes. Served slightly chilled, it really accentuates the lighter fare common to summer and early autumn.
Johannes is a German winemaker, the former winemaker at Anthony Road Wine Company. He makes uniformly excellent wines at his own winery, Kemmeter Wines. Although it was a tough choice with so many excellent Finger Lakes Wines, a careful analysis of our wine log showed we kept coming back to this Rosé of Pinot Noir.
Carlo DeVito: Tousey Winery 2011 “The Loic” Blanc de Blanc
There were so many great wines to choose from in the Hudson Valley this year. Some great Cab Francs, Pinots, and whites. But the one that really took my breath away was the Tousey Winery Hudson River Region Estate The Loic Blanc de Blanc 2011 Inaugural Vintage. This wine first premiered in December of 2016. Made from 100% whole cluster Chardonnay grapes, the whole thing is pressed at 34 degrees F with the idea of preserving the freshness of the fruit.
This sparkling wine is made using the methode champenoise technique and took three years to mature in the bottle. Peach and green apple and fresh ripe red apples and Bosc pears all compete with other tropical notes and are swirled in hints of bread and spice. The wine ends with great acidity and a hint of creaminess. A very very excellent sparkling wine!
Lenn Thompson: Paumanok Vineyards 2015 “minimalist” Cabernet Sauvignon
Paumanok winemaker Kareem Massoud’s minimalist line of wines, which has included whites to date — Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc — welcomed its first red wine this fall, and that’s the wine I’m choosing as my Long Island Wine of the Year, not just because it’s delicious (it is) or is made by one of the region’s most talented and important winemakers (yup, that too). I’ve chosen it because it’s such a singular wine on Long Island, at least for now.
Not only is this savory red wine made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s made from a single clone, 412, that the Massoud family first planted in 2008. It’s since led to each of the winery’s “Tuthill’s Lane” single-vineyard cabernet bottles.The 412 clone has tiny berries and loose clusters — perfect for Long Island’s often-humid climate.
Massoud describes his cellar protocol for the minimalist cabernet sauvignon: “Absolutely nothing has been added to this wine. It’s pretty simple.” After being hand harvested and crushed, the fermenting juice spent two months on the skins. Half of the juice was then moved into stainless steel and the other half into older, neutral oak barrels for 17 months. Then it was bottled. Nothing was added, not even the small dose of sulfites Massoud adds to the minimalist whites. Sulfites are naturally occurring preservatives created by the fermentation process, but because the total sulfites are below the 10 parts per million threshold, the back label of this wine doesn’t have the standard “Contains Sulfites.”
This distinctive expression of North Fork Cabernet is decidedly savory, with layers of grilled herbs, bitter dark chocolate, leaf tobacco and cured meat, bringing a surprising complexity to a melange of ripe red and black fruits. Medium bodied, the palate shows the wine’s youth in its chewy tannins, which are still a bit angular.
This wine is made for aging — especially since it’s bottled under screwcap. But, if you want to drink this wine young, decant it for a few hours. At least be patient and enjoy the bottle over the course of an evening, watching it change as you do. Of the roughly 100 cases made, there are only a few dozen cases left.
Lenn Thompson: Galen Glen Winery 2015 “GJT Vineyard” Stone Cellar Riesling
No one associates Pennsylvania with quality Riesling. Sure, there are a lot of producers putting out sweet, middling stuff, but I have yet to find Riesling that is as crystalline and pure and expressive as those made by Sarah Troxell at Galen Glen in eastern Pennsylvania. Many of the better producers are in the southeastern section of the state, but Galen Glen is further north in the Lehigh Valley, where it’s cooler and where conditions are perhaps better suited to white wines. The GJT Vineyard, the winery’s oldest Riesling planting, was planted in 1999 on a site that slopes gently south and is comprised of glacially deposited soils topped with loess (windswept glacial silt), resting on a shale sublayer.
Riesling is clearly very happy on that little slope. The resulting wine shows pristine pear and citrus fruit qualities with beautiful texture. Focused and a little gritty, there is a chalky minerality that adds layers and dimension to nicely concentrated pear and peach flavors with a long, citrus plump and peel finish. Their other single-vineyard Riesling, from the Fossil Vineyard, got some attention this year — but I like the structure and chalkiness of this one just a bit better. Oh, and did I mention that it’s $16 at the winery? This might be the deal of the year too.
Todd Trzaskos: Galen Glen Winery 2016 Gruner Veltliner
En route to TasteCamp 2017, I met up with Lenn at Galen Glen in Pennsylvania, not quite knowing what to expect, other than that I’d get to try some east coast Grüner Veltliner.
Even if I’d had some expectations they would have been exceeded.
In this beautiful spot carved from fossilized limestone and gravel strewn by glaciers, winemaker Sarah Troxell was demure and almost apologetic when she told us that because of their location and the local clientele’s desires for off-dry and sweet wines, they only had a handful of dry wines to offer us. The perceived limited quantity was easily eclipsed by the quality of the Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Cab Franc, and oh yeah, the Grüner. Instantly recognizable, easily approachable, light in weight but solid in citrus and white pepper notes, that slight mineral oil texture…if I’d have been blind tasting I would have guessed it came from an Austrian vineyard somewhere just off the plains and moving into the hills. It’s one of the oldest plantings of Grüner in the US, and with a sixth generation now farming the land, I raise a toast and “Prost” to their future.
Cathy Huyghe 2016 William Chris Pétillant Naturel Rosé (Texas, U.S., $25)
If there was a wildcard in the bunch, this was it. And, true to the form of a wildcard, some tasters loved it (I personally sided with this group) while others dismissed it, less because it was a “bad” wine and more because they didn’t know what to do with this “pét nat” style or, for that matter, with wines from Texas. “It doesn’t currently have a placement in my palate,” one taster said.
The wine, made mainly from Malbec and Malvasia Bianca, is naturally sparkling and bottled before primary fermentation, with no added yeasts or sugars. It’s a conversation-starter as well as a testament to the creativity and innovation right now of the wine industry in Texas.
Todd Trzaskos: Lincoln Peak Vineyard 2016 Marquette Nouveau
I am compelled to give a shout out to Chris Granstrom and the Lincoln Peak team here in Vermont. I’ve been a fan of theirs since early on as they’ve developed and honed the styles that express their place in the Champlain Valley through the lens of cold-climate fruit. Lincoln Peak’s Marquette has consistently shown breadth, weight and body that confounds those who think cold-climate reds, and reds from the East in general, are thin, tart and somewhat weedy creatures.
In this region, oak aging has universally been the cosmetic treatment for those lighter, tighter wines, and the “deserved” reward for those of bigger stature. Lincoln Peak has been slowly working on dialing back the wood with Marquette, and I’ve been encouraging that evolution towards naked expression. It may have been a combination of multiple, similar recommendations from TasteCamp 2016 attendees, or the size of the bumper crop that year, but Chris went for it and produced a nouveau style version without a sliver of oak. Freshness meets richness, fulsome black cherry imbued with a post-malo creaminess that was simply delicious. I bought a case, we drank it all year, and everyone I shared it with were all like…WOW, OMG and GTFO!
I think all of us are sold on the idea that Marquette has a life outside the bounds of the barrel.
Lenn Thompson: Shelburne Vineyard 2015 “Crimson Sails” Dry Marquette
Ignore the tourist-intended label — this dry, unoaked Marquette is a serious wine (without being too serious.) We got to taste during TasteCamp 2016 while it was still in it stainless steel tank. At the time, we all told winemaker Ethan Joseph that he should bottle it as it was. An interesting — even contested — discussion ensued about barrel aging for the variety between Ethan, TasteCamp attendees and winery ownership.
I won’t pretend that what a bunch of writers thought about the matter had any impact on winemaking decisions going forward — I’m just glad that they bottled at least some of it the way it was. Juicy and berried with a subtle spicy undercurrent, I drank a couple bottles on Thanksgiving and I’m wishing I had more. This is one of the first Marquette wines to wow me.
Isaac James Baker: Michael Shaps 2014 Petit Manseng Honah Lee (2015 Pictured)
I’ve been an evangelist for Virginia Petit Manseng for years now, and things are only getting better. This white grape (native to Southwest France) has found an adopted home in the Commonwealth as it handles the region’s heat and humidity very well and manages to retain its naturally high acidity very late into the growing season.
More and more Virginia winemakers are producing both dry and sweet versions of this wine or using it to pump up acidity in white blends. I tasted a bunch of Virginia Petit Manseng wines this year, but the best was without a doubt the 2014 Michael Shaps Petit Manseng Honah Lee. This Monticello AVA wine shows aromas of rich tangerine, peach nectar, orange marmalade, seashells. Full-bodied but so zesty, with lip-smacking acidity and flavors of orange creamsicle, lemon crème, flowers, shells, chalk, and wax. It is delicious now but will continue to evolve in the cellar.
Frank Morgan: Foggy Ridge Cider “Final Call” Cider
For me, a memorable wine is more than expressive aromatics, flavor, balance, or expression of place; it’s the experience and story of the wine.
Picking the best, or most memorable, Virginia wine is more than difficult because I value so many local wine stories and personal experiences.
Enjoying a bottle of Claude Thibaut’s Blanc de Chardonnay with my wife on our deck on a warm spring evening while talking about leaving the daily grind for a simpler life. A bottle of crisp and refreshing Rose on the patio at Early Mountain Vineyards while watching my daughter run around the lawn chasing butterflies. That bottle of 2013 Hardscrabble Chardonnay on the deck at Linden Vineyards paired with my annual reading of The Sun Also Rises on that spontaneous mental health day. The 2006 Barboursville Viognier Reserve at Library 1821 enjoyed while talking about viticulture with winemaker Luca Paschina and Keith Edwards. Or maybe the 2009 RdV Lost Mountain poured by RdV founder Rutger de Vink at his winery paired with a conversation about farming.
While I appreciate each of these wines, experiences and the stories behind the bottle, my most memorable wine this year is a cider — Final Call from Foggy Ridge Cider. Final Call is the last cider that will bear the name Foggy Ridge Cider. In November, Diane Flynt, who founded Foggy Ridge Cider two decades ago with her husband Chuck, announced that she would be returning to the orchard full time.
The Flynt’s planted their first orchard at Foggy Ridge in 1997 and released their first cider in 2005. The Foggy Ridge orchard now includes 30 acres of semi-dwarf apple trees planted with 30 different cider apple varieties, which Flynt will continue to farm with the same unwavering commitment to quality.
Today, Foggy Ridge Cider is iconic in the cider industry and Flynt is considered an American cider rockstar who helped usher in the fine cider renaissance in Virginia and beyond.
Final Call is not my most memorable wine of the year because it’s refreshing, perfectly balanced and delicious. It is all of these. Final Call is memorable because it represents Diane Flynt’s 20 years of unwavering commitment to quality farming and fine cider production. For me, this cider evokes the many memorable conversations I’ve had with Diane over the years about apple growing, family, our careers, and her encouraging words about my writing. A bottle of Final Call represents Flynt’s professionalism, mentorship of the next generation of farmers and cidermakers, her many contributions as part of the Virginia Wine Board, and 12 vintages of fine cider.
For these reasons, Foggy Ridge Cider Final Call is my most memorable wine of the year.
Dezel Quinlan: Linden Vineyards 2006 Hardscrabble Red
My pick is Linden Vineyards’ 2006 Hardscrabble Red. I had the pleasure of enjoying this wine on two separate occasions this year, and it came as no surprise that this wine aged really well— still poised, energetic, and showing appealing tertiary character. This Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend is medium-bodied, supple, and streamlined. It offers up a delightful mélange of red berry compote, sun-dried tomato, savory herbs, undergrowth, and mute spice box flavors, all held together by a well-focused frame of firm acidity—a Linden trademark. Rustic yet charming, this is an excellent food wine, especially with earthy dishes. The last time I opened a bottle, liver and onions topped with bacon, along with mashed potatoes and asparagus proved to be the perfect
Hardscrabble is the winery’s estate-vineyard, with plantings dating back to 1985. Only 454 cases of the 2006 vintage were produced.