Happy National Wine Day! It's true, we struggle distinguishing May 25 from National Drink Wine Day (celebrated annually on February 18), but we don't like questioning an opportunity to try great wine. We're rolling with it. To celebrate, we've decided share a lineup of six greatest hits over the last year, a "Best of Wine:Thirty Flight", so to speak. Some of these are our personal picks, and some of these are honored as being the most popular, visited, or liked by our readers. Click the heading to read our post about it, and learn why it's been our favorite so far this year!
Delaplane Cellars sits on Lost Mountain along U.S. Route 17 in Delaplane, VA. Situated in the Middleburg AVA (American Viticultural Area), the immediate locality is home to a number of other wineries of which several rise to what we'd think of as cream of the crop status. The winery itself seems almost cut into the hillside, its big windows towering above the vineyard and the road below to boast spectacular mountain views from its patio and tasting room. In the distance you'll notice three mountain peaks that inspire the elegant labels that adorn each bottle.
Owners Jim and Betsy Dolphin "have worked together on every phase of the development of Delaplane Cellars". We love their blend of variety and consistently high quality, a combination that many winemakers find difficult to achieve. They've done this by meticulously growing much of what they make right there at the winery, supplementing those varietals from other nearby vineyards. We understand that Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Petite Manseng, and Sauvignon Blanc are estate grown, and that 100% of their grapes are grown in Virginia.
Soter Vineyards has produced a fine representative what we love about about great Pinot Noir from Oregon, tending to be cooler (i.e. less alcoholic "hotness" than California Pinots) but also substantively flavorful. In addition to the characteristic red fruit, we found some amazing notes of creamy chocolate, coffee, and smoke that finished just brilliantly when it went down. This wine is definitely hearty enough to pair with food, our choice being a bourbon glazed salmon and asparagus grilled outside and served over mashed potatoes. You can order Soter's wine online in many states. Otherwise you're looking for a quality bottle from Oregon's Willamette Valley (we also love Umpqua Valley).
"Bodega" is Spanish for "winery", so you'll see this in a lot of Spanish wine naming schemes. This bottle from the "LAN" winery in Spain's premier Rioja winemaking region is labeled a "Crianza", meaning that it has been aged for at least two years, of which at least six months have been in oak barrels. It's a safe bet that red wine from Rioja will be a 100% varietal made exclusively from the Tempranillo grape, and this bottle is no exception. It's initially unclear what you're sniffing in the rather alcoholic nose, but we found a really pleasant mouthfeel of rustic, gentle tannins and chalky cranberry in the palate. It goes down smoothly, but leaves a little tannin on the front to middle of your tongue. This makes a particularly great house wine because it's drinkable on its own, but is hearty enough to be very versatile with food. 2011 was a great winemaking year in Spain, and this LAN was far and away our winner for this episode of House (Wine) Hunters!
Runner Up: João Portugal Ramos Vila Santa 2014
We snapped this great photo while sipping Sangria at the Sugar Cane Grille in Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was a gorgeous night at a charming small outdoor restaurant well deserving of the attention our photo brought it!
Our review of the amazing wine from the Umpqua Valley's Brandborg Vineyard and Winery on May 18, 2016 was easily our most viewed post of the year. We hope everyone was able to get their hands on a bottle of Pinot Noir!
"We briefly profiled the Umpqua Valley as one of four places whose great wine hasn't been on your list (until now). You'll find Umpqua Valley about three hours southwest of Portland, OR, south of the Willamette Valley. It's less well known than its northern neighbor, but produces beautiful and food friendly cool climate wine that is just as good.
"Sue shared with us the story of how Terry began making wine years ago in his basement in Fairfax, CA, sourcing juice from all over California. Together this self-taught wine making couple have built their Brandborg Vineyard and Winery in the tiny town of Elkton, OR, specializing in Pinot Noir and a lineup of other stunners whose food pairings we've shared along with our notes below. We were fascinated by the incredible wine coming out of such a relatively small vineyard: they have five acres planted out of sixty that are growable."
Readers' Choice Tweet: 2012 The Diddler White Blend, Caduceus Cellars, Northern Arizona
We're still amazed by this tweet, which garnered thousands of impressions to become 25% more popular than our #2 tweet of the year (which was also about The Diddler), and nearly five times more popular than our #3 tweet (mentioning the great Pinot Noir from Beaune in France).