With 2022 in the rearview mirror, I am looking back on the wines that I enjoyed during the year – my top ten favorites from around the world, ranging from French bubbly to Argentine Bonarda.
Hands down the best Champagne I enjoyed was Roger Coulon Heri-Hodie 1er Cru Brut Champagne ($43). The Champagne is full-bodied, concentrated and elegant, with fresh floral notes and flavors of yellow apples, apricots, and marzipan with bright acidity. I’ve heard it referred to as “bargain Veuve Clicquot.” But in my opinion, Roger Coulon Heri-Hodie is better than Veuve. Simply put, if there’s a better Champagne value than Roger Coulon Heri-Hodie 1er Cru Brut Champagne, I’ve yet to find it.
I absolutely love Pinot Gris from the Alsace region of France and one of the very best – especially for the price – is Les Princes Abbes 2017 Pinot Gris from Domaines Schlumberger ($20.69). Les Princes Abbes 2017 Pinot Gris is a gorgeous, dry, fruity wine with an abundance of flavor, yet accessible to all. Swirl this Pinot Gris in the glass and you’ll find scents of honey, apple, peach, lovage and quince, along with a subtle smokiness. On the tongue, there is a slight effervescence along with pear and apple flavors and a moderate body.
Blackbird Vineyards Dissonance 2020 ($24.99) is a cool climate Sauvignon Blanc that I really love, from Napa’s Oak Knoll District. It has more tropical fruit flavors and flower aromas than a typically herbal type of Sauvignon Blanc that you’d find from, say, New Zealand. It’s a really gorgeous wine with acacia, honey and apricot aromas on the nose and guava, pineapple, white peach, and passion fruit on the tongue.
I love a crisp white wine with a firm mineral backbone and Clos Ste. Magdeleine Cassis Blanc ($22.41) from the Provence region of France has it in spades. You can taste the sandstone and sandy marl soil the grapes were planted in. Those grapes are 40% Marsanne, 30% Ugni Blanc, 25% Clairette and 5% Bourboulenc. Gorgeous aromas and flavors that burst from this wonderful white wine: peach, apricot and citrus balanced by a slight salinity with no oak, since this Cassis Blanc is aged for 14-18 months in stainless steel.
I’ve been a longtime fan of Soter Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot Noir from Oregon, as well as their Mineral Springs Brut Rosé. But it wasn’t until my wife, Faith, brought home another Soter sparkling wine that I became aware of Planet Oregon. Made from organically grown Pinot Noir grapes, Planet Oregon Pinot Noir Rosé Bubbles is a dry sparkling Rosé with flavors of strawberry, apricot and citrus, plus stony minerality and good acidity. Drink Planet Oregon Pinot Noir Rosé Bubbles with shrimp and avocado salad, blue cheese souffle, or perhaps a charcuterie board with goat cheese and hummus.
Another excellent wine from Oregon is Elouan Chardonnay 2019 ($19.99). This wine is a real beauty. I’ve had pricey bottles of Chardonnay from California and White Burgundy from France, and I’d stack Elouan Chardonnay up against most of them. Who knew Chardonnay from Oregon could be this good? This Chardonnay offers gorgeous floral aromas of white pear, apricot, acacia and honeysuckle. It is well-balanced, with good acidity, tropical fruit flavors, and subtle (I repeat, SUBTLE) oak. This is a ridiculously elegant wine for 20 bucks and one that you should run, not walk, to your wine store to score.
One of the tastiest Zinfandels I drank in 2022 was Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel Bambino Field Blend 2019 ($19.99) which was made, according to the winery, with at least 75% Zinfandel that is co-fermented with Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouchet with indigenous yeast without any nutrient additions. The wine is aged in neutral French oak for approximately 10 months. Bambino is classic California Zin – not too jammy or bursting with overripe fruit flavors. Rather it’s contained and more subtle than most CA Zins with well-balanced black fruit flavors of blackberry, plums, currants and blueberry. It’s a 20 buck wine that drinks like it should cost $50.
One of the most delicious Argentine wines I tasted this past year was certified organic Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda, which sells here for a very easy-on-the-wallet $10.90. The wine is a product of the Altos Las Hormigas Terroir Project in Mendoza, Argentina, which “stems from the idea that the main creative force behind the wine is its place of origin, and not the winemaker.” As with most Bonarda-based wines, this one is very fruity initially on the nose, with ripe aromas of plum, black cherry, blueberry, and hints of allspice and nutmeg. It’s a fairly light, easy-drinking (think: poor man’s Merlot) wine with dark fruit flavors on the tongue and notes of cinnamon and chocolate – a very quaffable red wine.
All too often, Italian Pinot Grigio can be a disappointing, insipid wine – especially mass-produced, inexpensive versions. And so, that makes this Italian wine all the more remarkable. Barone Montalto Pinot Grigio sells for a mere MSRP of $12, but you sure wouldn’t guess that from drinking it. There are lovely floral notes with white peach, apricot, melon and pear aromas upfront. On the palate, this Pinot has good acidity with citrus flavors like grapefruit and lemon, plus fresh herb notes. It’s a steal at twelve bucks and a wine that I found to pair beautifully with linguine and clam sauce.
I’m not overly familiar with Greek wines, but Skouras Moscofilero 2021 is a real beauty. It’s a white wine from the Peloponnesos region of Greece, priced here in Utah at $18.99. As you might have guessed, Skouras Moscofilero is made from 100% Moscofilero grapes, which in Greece have been given the nickname “The Chameleon” due to its wide-ranging uses and versatility. This lovely wine is crisply acidic, flowery, with intense, beautiful aromas and flavors.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.