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Top Ten Red Wines of the 2013 Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival

CIMG2077Picture a gorgeous fall day with bright sunshine, cool breezes, good food and an incredible, CIMG2094seaside mansion location.  What could make it better?  How about some good wine.  Well, there just happened to be some good wine over the course of the Newport Wine and Food Festival this year, as there is every year.  What made it better is that there was good wine everywhere, and all weekend.  We found great wines at the seminars, at Rosecliff Friday night and at both Grand Tastings.  Here we’ll present what we thought were the highlights of the event.  I’m sure we missed some, and I apologize for that in advance.  We tried well over a hundred wines during the three days, with quality ranging from not so good to out of this world and price ranging from CIMG2108under $10 to $200.  Surprises waited around every corner.  Rose’ seemed to be everywhere, and we only tried a couple.  We’ll give you our top ten reds in some detail, along with a list of Honorable Mention wines we thought stood out.  There were many.  Some of the whites will follow soon in another blog.

We’ll also do a separate review of the two wine seminars in detail, because they deserve it.  I keep saying the seminars are maybe the best value of the weekend.  Both I attended were excellent, informative and presented some great wine to consider.

For this Top 10 list we consider both quality and value.  Some make it due to staggering quality, some due to incredible value and some due to a good mix of both.  These wines range from $14 to $160.  Generally here at RedWinePlease we don’t recommend wines above $70 (and rarely above $40 for that matter), but there are some here that are just too good to exclude.  If you can afford it go for it.

So here is the Top 10, and it was not an easy task to select them from among a very strong field.  In general these are all wines that Cheri and I agreed on completely.  Some one of us liked more than the other, but the differences of opinion were marginal.

The Top 10 Reds

1.       2010 REALM Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – $160

From the New Collectibles seminar, this wine is just staggeringly good.  There is a pure core of cabernet fruit at its centerTK_RealmCellars_2002_CS that goes on throughout the tasting experience.  It is powerful and in control.  Very elegant and very, very long.  You appreciate this much more after a few seconds.  It doesn’t slap you in the head, but rather builds throughout.  I have seen reviews that referred to other  wines as presenting a “wonderful purity of Cabernet”.  That is exactly what this is.  Just beautiful.

2.       2008 Podere Sapaio, Sapaio Bolgheri Superiore – $60

We found this wine late on Sunday as we were trying to figure out which vendors we had missed.  It was a revelation.  They first poured their Volpolo blend, which was very good, and then they poured this.  This is dark and dense, but you can sense that it is still young and there is a lot more yet to come.  It’s a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the rest Cab Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  In Bolgheri they get more moisture and the region is very amenable to Bordeaux varietals.  I think this is elegant and delicious.  It will only get better.  I‘m working with the distributor to get a mini –vertical of this from 2005, 2006 and this 2008.

3.      2009 Brittan Vineyards Estate Syrah – ~$40 (likely sold out but the 2010 is available)

Also from the new collectibles, this wine is another sleeping powerhouse that will get better with age and will age effortlessly for at least a decade.  Inky purple it carries a deep nose with meaty undertones.  On the palate it is restrained and very dry, not hitting you with quite what you expected based on the aromas.  The tannins are restrained and integrating well.  All the while the cherry and grape and berry flavors go on and on and on.  I would love to try this in five years.  I’m trying to get some 2009 and 2010 to start a vertical of this as well. Really, really nice cooler climate Syrah from the home of Oregon Pinot Noir.

4.       2010 Domaine Skouras Grand Cuvee – Aghiorgitiko – $40

Talk about an unexpected surprise, well this was it.  This is a Greek red that blew us away.  The grape varietal has been cultivated for over 3000 years and the vineyards are at an elevation of 3500 feet.  The Aghiorgitiko grape (which I can spell but still can’t pronounce) produces a wonderful, full bodied red, and translates to “Saint George”.  It presented some pepper right up front on the nose and the palate, with good fruit that just kept going forever.  This wine is long.  It’s unusual.  It’s a keeper.  I would have bet against there being a Greek wine on this list, but that’s the beauty of wine.

5.       2010 Casey Flat Ranch Estate Red – $35

This we encountered Friday night at Wine and Rosecliff.  Brenda,  the VP of Sales and Marketing for the vineyard, was pouring their 2010 red from small cabernet style decanters as well as their Estate White.  The red is fabulous.  The vineyards are within a 1600 acre ranch and were planted initially in 2004.  Additional acreage was planted in 2008 and they now cultivate 24 acres of vines.  This red is expressive but still quite elegant.  It’s a blend of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Syrah, 19% Cabernet Franc and 4% Mourvedre.  It’s flat out delicious and a very good value in our book.  We’re looking to pick up a mixed case of this and the 2009 vintage, which you will soon see checking in at #8.

6.       2010 Antinori Tignanello – $75

This is a legend, and now I know I why.  This was the first super Tuscan, created in defiance of the wine making ruling body in Italy in 1971 and labeled as a simple table wine.  I assure you this is not a table wine.  It comes from the Chianti Classico region, and blends 80% Sangiovese with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc.  It’s somewhat floral on the nose, along with rich fruit.  There is some subtle wood and some firm tannin.  This needs some time yet, but it is very elegant and structured, and it’s a legend.  I would like to put a few of these in my cellar.  I tried Tignanello once before but not in a setting I could really appreciate it.

7.       2011 Vina Chocolan Cabernet Franc Reserva – ~$20

You don’t very often find a 100% Cabernet Franc wine with the depth and richness of this wine.  There are deep fruit flavors and a tannic backstop that tells you it needs some time in the bottle.  It’s very good and going to get better.  It’s also unusual which is great.  I believe you can find this locally.  The vineyards are in the Maipo Valley of Chili.  If you get some we suggest putting a few bottles down for a few years and then going back to it

8.       2009 Casey Flat Ranch Estate Red – $35

Here we are again, only a year earlier.  This red is also fantastic, but it is quite different.  The 2009 does not have the elegance of the 2010, but brings a brawnier, fruit forward approach to the palate.  It’s a bit more rustic, with a deeper flavor profile than it’s younger brother.  This wine absolutely screams for a grilled steak.  When we get our case we’ll definitely try that.  I can’t wait to visit the ranch.  A blend of 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. 20% Cabernet Franc and 50% Syrah, it’s another good value.

9.       2008 Ken Forrester Renegade – ~$20

From Stellenbosch, South Africa this is a Rhone style blend that packs dense flavors in a well integrated wine.  The man behind the counter, who I believe was Ken Forrester,  said it was a blend of Shiraz and Grenache.   When I asked him where the Mourvedre was he replied that there was a little in there.  It tastes like a very good Chateauneuf du Pape.  The wood is prominent but nice and the wine finishes very long.  This is a definite buy as well.

10.   2010 Bodegas Barco de Piedra – $14

Here’s a major value wine from the Ribera del Duero in Spain.  It’s a fruity and bold expression of Tempranillo that leaves you very satisfied.  Cheri absolutely loved it.  It’s aged in French and American barrels and presents some complexity and nice cherry and berry flavors.  It’s very ready to drink now, and this is not something to put down for ten years.  However for drinking now it is definitely a crowd pleaser and a great value.

There were twenty others we could have included here, and there is no way to know what the exact list should be as it will change for every person.  You can’t go wrong with these however.  To be fair here is a list of some of the others we considered excellent.

Honorable Mention (Wines retailing for over $100 are indicated and unfortunately avoided by us)

2010 Antinori Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino

The entire collection at Blackbird Vineyards – 2010 Arise (~$50), Illustration, Paramour and Contrarian (~$125)

2008 Banfi Excelsius

2010 Joseph Carr Merlot

2010 Hall Cabernet Sauvignon

2010 Rustenberg Stellenosch John X Merriman – Bordeaux blend

2011 Bouchard Finlayson Galphin Peak Pinot Noir

2008 Miner – The Oracle – (~$100)

2012 Kistler Pinot Noir

2011 Somerston Cabernet Sauvignon

2010 Somerston Cabernet Sauvignon (~$120)

This was truly an exceptional wine tasting experience when considered start to finish.  We can’t think of a much better way to spend a weekend.

Already looking forward to next year.

A votre santé!

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