A Wine Writer’s Top 10 Wines Of 2023
When I think of the qualities that make a wine “the best” I think of the bottles that brought happiness, surprise, or delight—scores and ratings rarely come into play. Yet, I must confess to feeling validated when one of my favored wines also has a high score or rating, so there’s that. To keep it simple I prefer to think like Ernest Hemingway, who summed up the essence of wine so nicely in A Moveable Feast: “we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also as a great giver of happiness and well-being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary.”
Moet & Chandon Collection Impériale Création No. 1, FR: This is an exciting new bubbly from a legendary Champagne producer that honors the purest expression of Champagne with a zero dosage finish—I found it to be intellectual and serious but also decadent and joyful. This first-ever release took almost 23 years from conception to bottling—it’s a harmonious blend of seven different vintages, each one aged through a different maturation process and then blended to achieve harmony. Cellar Master Benoit Gouez describes it as “the ultimate expression of Moet & Chandon. To enjoy this you need time, the luxury of time, if you have only five seconds for this wine then it is not for you. We crafted it for the luxury of time.” Take a breath, buy a bottle and savor it with special friends.
Il Conte Villa Prandone IX Prandone, IT, 2022: Made of 100% merlot aged for 15 months in barrel and 15 months in concrete, this richly textured expression comes from Italy’s less well-known Marche region—one that is full of gems to discover such as this one. The nose is ripe with morello cherry and red fruit notes, and on the palate you’ll get warm spices, cassis and a savory note that keeps the wine interesting. Best to open and let breathe in a decanter, or a wine glass, for an hour or so to get the best expression. It is polished and powerful—indeed, the winery notes that it can age up to 50 years. Buy one to sip and one to store. $80
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Sea Smoke Grand Pinot Noir, 2016: Another new wine makes the list this year—this one a rich expression of estate pinot noir hand-harvested and blended from the most exquisite lots of the 2016 growing season. A wine that bottles the ultimate expression of the Sea Smoke Estate Vineyard—blending the best of the best for the purest expression of character, complexity, and age-worthiness. Aged 16 months in barrel and cellared for an additional five years in bottle, the final wine opens with silky, elegant fruit tempered with old world notes of dried herb, black tea –all of which is integrated into a ripe, lush palate of black cherry and strawberry notes. $400
Haynes Vineyard Syrah, Forgeron, Coombsville, Napa Valley, 2021: There are few surprises left in Napa as the region has so firmly rooted itself as the land of Bordeaux varietals, with Cabernet Sauvignon at the top. But this silky, seductive Syrah from the cooler Coombsville appellation totally surprised me with its delicacy, freshness and concentration. The blue-black fruit is succulent, and the tannins have a nice polish but the core of the wine is earthy and nicely structured. Even bigger surprise, the fact that Coombsville sits on the vestiges of a collapsed caldera of an ancient volcano. $149.95
Monteabellon Finca-Matambres Ribera del Duero, 2017: The numerous gold medals awarded to this wine are testament to its overall quality, but it still must taste good and this spicy, soulful expression of Tempranillo from Spain’s Ribera del Duero region delivers on flavor, richness and complexity. I love it’s dark morello cherry richness and the earthy core accented with notes of cedar and cassis. This is a wine you can be serious with, or sip with family by the fire, but what you’ll love most about this wine is the price—avg. $29.99 online—now that is a wine that truly surprises and delights in the best way.
Keush Extremis Sparkling Wine, Armenia, 2018: Established in 2013, this winery produces is the first method champenoise sparkling wine made with indigenous Armenian varietals. Crafted from high-elevation 120 year-old bush vines that have never been grafted, this delicate bubbly brings notes of peach raspberry with biscuity notes and a whiff of lemon cream. Made 100% Areni grapes are sourced from various growers in Khachik. $39.99