The best wines of 2011
By Josh Perilo
From the moment I smell turkey in the oven, to the seconds before the ball drops in Times Square, I rejoice in the same holiday gift every year: a bevy of best of lists. Top TV shows, top movies, top albumsâ€¦it is my annual, number one guilty pleasure.The fact that I have my own column allows me the luxury of publishing my own â€œbest of list. I had so much fun doing it last year that I"ve decided to do it again this year. So, without further ado, I would like to present the 2011 Penniless Picks:
5. Kicking off the list is the unusual, inexpensive and delicious Batasiolo Moscato Rose ($15.99 at 67 Wine and Spirits, 179 Columbus Ave. at 68th St., 212-724-6767). Starting with a salmon-hued mousse, the glass immediately gives up a massive amount of candied apple and rose petal scents with a floral note in the background. The palate on this dessert wine is intense. Equal parts sweet and tart come on strong, with a wallop of orange marmalade up front. The flavor morphs mid-palate to butterscotch, and the finish, which is long and solid, also provides a hint of rose candy. This is one of the best Moscato d"Asti"s I"ve tried in a long time.
4. I am not, traditionally, a fan of Fume-style Sauvignon Blancs. That"s why I"ve put Groth Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($18.99 at Sherry-Lehman Wine and Spirits, 505 Park Ave. at 59th St., 212-838-7500) on this list. It completely changed my mind about what a Sauv Blanc that has spent time in oak should taste like. The flavor profile is luxurious and super round thanks to the wine aging on its lees. This gives it a soft texture but doesn"t rob the wine of its acidity. It"s like biting into a fresh apricot.
3. This was not a banner year for Pinot Noir tastings, personally speaking. That being said, Siduri â€œVan Der Kamp Pinot Noir 2009 ($36 at Sussex Wines and Spirits, 300 W. 42nd St. at 2nd Ave., 212-867-5838) is easily one of the best wines I"ve tasted all year, let alone the best Pinot Noir. This wine is a powerhouse. Showing the use of oak, but not in an overpowering way, there is star anise, rosewood, coffee and vanilla on the nose. The palate gives up a ton of candied cherry right up front, then becomes spicier in the middle and finishes with notes of tobacco and wet earth. An absolutely dynamite wine.
2. Putting a Barolo on a â€œBest of list almost seems like a no-brainer, but the Elio Grasso Barolo Runcot 2004 ($130.69 at Morrell and Company, 1 Rockefeller Plz., 212-688-9370) is no typical Barolo. The nose is compact and sweet with cedar, pine and other sweet wood scents. The palate starts with flavor notes of caramelized sugar, which morph into molasses and baked fig. The tannins balance the fruit flavors, along with a pleasant, espresso-like bitterness. The finish is stoic. An absolute masterpiece.
1. The number one spot goes to an obscure dessert wine from Hungary. That"s right. A Hungarian dessert wine. The type of wine is called Tokaji (pronounced Toe-Keye) and it has a 500-year-old tradition. Throughout my career I have tasted and enjoyed many, but the Royal Tokaji 2000 Betsek First Growth, 6 Puttonyos ($88.95 at Sherry-Lehman Wine and Spirits, 212-838-7500) left me speechless. There was butterscotch, hazelnut, honey roasted almonds and candied orange on the nose. A bright acidity underpinned the heady and rich notes of caramel, tea, blanched almond and cinnamon on the finish. This is, quite simply, one of the greatest things I have ever tasted.
Special Mention must go to the Pinot Bianco Alois Lageder 2009 ($12.99 at Garnet Wines, 929 Lexington Ave., betw. 68th & 69th Sts., 212-772-3212) from the northern Italian province of Trentino-Alto Adige. There were white peach and wet stone scents on the nose, with palate notes of lemon zest, white pepper and edamame. From a producer who makes consistently thrilling white wines, year in and year out, count this one as another â€œW for Alois Lageder.
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