Monday, December 27, 2010

Year in Review: My top 4 wines of 2010

With 2010 now at a close, it’s time for me to look back on some of the best bottles I’ve enjoyed over the past 12 months. I’m really happy to say that my top value and top shelf wines of the year are still readily available at retail. What’s even better is that my top shelf bottle falls under $50. A truly defining revelation I had was when I realized that, out of 355 tasting notes written this year, each of my top wines were Italian. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the wines of other regions. However, it does show that my heart is still in Italy. In my opinion, no other region shows the mix of diversity, opulence, style, finesse and sheer drinkability of Italian wines.

On to the wines:

Value Wine of The Year
(Sub $25 bottle that’s still available at retail)

Tuscany gave us many great wines from the ’06 vintage and it doesn’t surprise me that my value wine of the year hails from this region. However, what was a bit of a surprise was that it was not from Chianti Classico or Montalcino, instead it came from Carmignano. This Sangiovese blend, made in a classy and seductive style, was an easy choice, and the best part, is that it’s still available at retail for around $22.

2006 Piaggia Carmignano Il Sasso - Amazing nose like a basket of ripe red fruits. First it was raspberry, then wild berries and then cherry cough drops followed up by cedar and saddle leather with a hint of toasty oak. The palate revealed sour cherries, crème fraiche and clove with a medium body and wonderfully brisk acidity, leading to a nice long red berry finish. (93 Points)

Find it on Wine-Searcher

Top shelf Wine of The Year
(Fancy dinner or need to make an impression, a great bottle in the $35 - $100 range)

In 2009, I tried the ‘03 L’Arco Pario and was immediately impressed by its concentration and Amarone like character with layers of aromatic detail. However, when I tasted the 2004, I was floored. It had all of the rich and detailed aromatics and flavors but was fortified by a level of finesse that brought it from good to great. This is a spellbinding wine from the Veneto region and it’s made by a producer who’s yet to be truly discovered by mainstream media.

2004 L'Arco Pario Veronese IGT - L'arco took it up a step with the Pario in 2004. What came across as residual sweetness in the '03 has been turned into a sweet and sour effect on the palate of the '04. The nose was intense with dark port-like fruits, Christmas spice and ginger bread. On the palate I found a fresh sweet and sour play with a burst of spiced sour cherry and a dark run raisin that led into the long finish. This wine was, all at once, rich yet finessed and truly stunning on the nose. (94 Points)

Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Vintage Wine of The Year
(For some of us, aged wine has no equal. My top bottle with at least 15 years of age.)

I knew the day I tasted this wine that it would end up as one of my top wines of the year. The ’89 vintage of Barolo has truly shown to be a legend in the making and the Conterno, Cascina Francia, has been the top bottle that I have yet to tasted to date. Amazing to think that this is the producer’s normale bottling and that there’s a Riserva that I’ve yet to taste. Also, something to look forward to in 2011, is a V.I.P. Table ’89 Barolo retrospective.

1989 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia - The nose showed dried red fruits, tar, mushroom broth, a bit of black strap molasses and a hint of barnyard. It also showed a gorgeous structure on the palate that gives the impression that this wine will last for the ages. Still a little tight with a tannic grip, but nonetheless giving with dark red fruit and a mineral core. The finish was long and fine, showing sour cranberry. (98 Points)

Trophy Wine of The Year
(Pulling no punches and the sky’s the limit on cost and rarity)

There was no competition for my top wine of the year. Quintarelli is a master and this bottle was truly magical. The best part about it was that I served this wine blind to a group that had no idea of the price or prestige that the producers name carried. It was thrilling and a bottle that any lover of Italian wine should taste before they die.

1995 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva - The 1995 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva was a dark mahogany color with rich and wild aromas rising from the glass. I found it difficult to take that first sip because the aromatics were so seductive that I simply didn’t want to take my nose from the glass. Black cherry sauce with saw dust, and then butterscotch and hazelnuts which then turned to spiced ginger cookies and plum reduction. So many layers could be pulled away to continue finding descriptors in this wine and I was only sad that we didn’t have the time to spend hours with it. On the palate I found a menagerie of red fruits as cherry, then raspberry and cranberry filled the palate. Vanilla and milk chocolate, butter cream and roasted nuts with spicy cedar. However, with all this concentration, the wine remains finessed and fresh on the palate. Its 16.5% alcohol is nearly invisible due to the impeccable balance of this wine. The finish lingered for 30 plus seconds with cherry dark chocolate. (99 Points)

Looking forward to more wine and friends in 2011.
Thank you all for making The V.I.P. Table a success!
Eric Guido


  1. Nice post, Eric. Sadly, no riserva or Monfotino was produced by G. Conterno in 1989. That wine is their only Barolo that year. It's not entirely clear why, but you can find some info at the bottom of my G. Conterno page:

    Best regards for the new year!


  2. Thanks Ken, I guess I never thought to question if a Monfortino was made in that year. You site as always in the very helpful.

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