We tried some truly great wines in February. Most striking about this "best of" are the vastly different wine and food cultures that managed to get represented on our top five list. Be advised, it's possible that you've never seen Napa, Lebanon, Massachusetts, Portugal, Burgundy, Australia, and West Virginia coherently discussed in so few paragraphs. It is, indeed, a small world!
Hesperian Cabernet Sauvignon Tom's Vineyard 2007 (Napa, California, USA)
A good friend pulled this phenomenal Napa Cabernet out of his private stock while we stopped off on a difficult blizzard-tested journey. Napa is known for its big, bold, amazing Cabs, and Hesperian's offering from Tom's Vineyard was no disappointment. We found brilliant, jammy red fruit and currant. It was amazingly smooth and well balanced between big fruit and subtle, smoky wood. Truly irresistible, this bottle was one of the best in its genre that we've had in a long time. Also, at least from the perspective of your two coast-guarding nautical chart geek wine tasters, the bottle itself is beautiful!
Chateau Musar 2007 (Bekaa Valley, Lebanon)
Many would be surprised to know that Lebanon's Bekaa (Beqaa) Valley produces this nice red, alongside other wineries in the region. Chateau Musar has been making wine for many years, and its signature dense dark cherry colored offering is what you might call a cousin of France's Bordeaux wines: similar, but not an exact replica. There's blackberry, plum, and black cherry juice in the nose alongside earthen, cedar chip notes. The mouthfeel offers us full, pleasant tannins, with more of those earthen dark fruits on the palate.
Travessia Vidal Blanc 2014 (Massachusetts, USA)
This Vidal Blanc is from the Travessia Winery in downtown New Bedford, Massachusetts. Winemaker Marco Montez sources his grapes some from nearby Massachusetts vineyards, some from elsewhere. The owner of Travessia and a leader of his family's winery in Portugal, Marco is a unique expert in winemaking across cultures, countries, and oceans (New Bedford's Bristol County is the only or one of the only counties in America where Portuguese ancestry comprises a a plurality of the population). This is one of the driest Vidal Blancs we've had, be design as Marco tried to go more dry in his 2014 vintage. We found really nice orange blossom and a touch of molasses (interesting in a white), with nice acidity that finishes dry as it began.
Domaine Jean Guiton Savigny-lès-Beaune 2013 (Burgundy, France)
Burgundy is complicated (another post for another time), but suffice it to say this is a "village wine", meaning that it is made from grapes grown in from potentially different vineyards in the same village (placing it a rung above "Bourgogne", which need only be made from grapes grown in Burgundy). We'd gently decant this wine, as in 2016 it does still need to open up a bit before you can fully appreciate the deep cranberry it has on offer. You can sometimes find nice values in Savigny-lès-Beaune, and here you'll find fresh, clean, and bright cherry acidity. Try it as an alternative to the pricier (but quite nice) premier cru alternative(s).
St. Hallett Shiraz Gamekeeper's 2013 (Barossa Valley, Australia)
Tough to be the most unique wine in a lineup that includes some of the finest from Lebanon and Massachusetts, but here we are with this blend of the Shiraz, Grenache, and Touriga grapes. For context, Shiraz (called "Syrah" outside of Australia) and Grenache (called "Garnacha" in Spain) are frequent blending partners with the grape Mourvèdre, with whom they are on good terms (such wine is often called a "GSM"). Touriga, however, is a grape most famously associated with Port, a fortified wine produced in Portugal and world-renowned as a desert wine... but I digress. We took the "Gamekeeper" moniker to heart here, and really changed it up by pairing it with country fried venison, mashed potatoes, and corn. Those wondering which wine to pair with this simple and delicious West Virginia specialty need look no further. Gamekeeper's rustic cranberry and coffee notes are a winner.