The holidays have come and gone and so have some great wines. Two reds and two whites stand out among the best I've tasted in recent weeks:
California's 2007 Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Belle Glos Clark and Telephone Vineyard Pinot Noir were truly fantastic, living up to their 90-plus ratings. Both retail for about $45 but I captured them on sale during 2012 for much less.
As for the whites, the 2009 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay was an absolute gem as was the 2011 Dr. Loosen Riesling Spatlese Mosel Wehlener from Germany. The Newton, normally $60 a bottle, was a steal at $37.99 at Gordon's Fine Wines in Waltham where I bought it in a pre-holiday sale. The riesling ($32) was a gift.
So now we turn our attention to the new year and new wines that should capture the imagination and palates of eonophiles in 2013. I base my observations on numerous new release readings from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Sommelier magazines.
California will certainly have its fair share of quality releases and I will take those up in next week's column.
For now, though, the Wine Novice is tracking the overseas markets where I believe great values are coming to America.
Let's start with Argentina where winemakers are producing outstanding Malbecs and red blends at superb prices. If you see the name Catena Zapata on any 2010 /2011 release from Argentina, you can rest assured it is going to be good. The fruit had near perfect weather at most elevation levels, the higher the better. Look for the 2011 TintoNegro Co-Ferment Altamira ($20) which is a Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc blend. Also, the 2011 Don Miguel Gascon Colosal Red Blend ($15) is a great value, according to Sommelier's regional expert, Natalie Guinovart.
Chilean wines will also be at the forefront, with names like Lapostolle, Veramonte and Montes Alpha leading the way. Lapostelle's spicy 2010 Canto de Apalta ($20) features Camenere as the dominant source grape. We featured Veramonte's Primus Cabernet Sauvignon ($24) in an earlier Wine Novice column, and the new releases from Colchagua Valley promise to be good bargains. Vina Montes is releasing a 2010 Malbec Montes Alpha ($25) that is being touted as its best ever while a new 50-50 Cabernet/Merlot blend, Montes Twins Red Wine ($18), is worth watching for.
I'm making a strong effort to learn more about French wines this year. According to Master Sommelier Doug Krenik, the 2010 Burgundy vintage hitting the markets now is "a classic in every sense, featuring delicious ripeness, amazing transparency, firm structure and juicy acidity."
I'll be seeking out Nicolas Potel's 2010 Maison Roche de Bellene Burgogne Vielles Vignes ($19) and any affordable bottle (under $40) from Nuits-Saint-Georges, Volnay, and Pommard.
Take this one to the bank from me: You would be wise to buy all the Saint Cosme Cote du Rhone "Les Deux Albions" you can get your hands on. This is a delicious, expressive, well-structured red in the $17-$20 price range.
But any Saint Cosme, especially from Louis Barruol, is bound to light up your dining experience. Robert Parker says, "Louis Barruol of Saint-Cosme is getting very good publicity just about everywhere I look. It is certainly well-deserved, considering the broad range of wines he produces, from his inexpensive and over-delivering Cotes du Rhones and Vins de Pays, to his top-flight, world-class wines made in Gigondas." Parker says the 2010 vintage could match the great wines of 2007.
The new Chateauneuf-du-Papes releases are also creating a buzz with Alain Junguenet's selections getting great early reviews. If you think the Domaine Tour Saint Michel Chateauneuf-Du-Pape Cuvee ($57.99) is too pricey, save up for a $41 bottle of Domaine de la Cote de L'Ange Chateauneuf-Du-Pape Tradition. These are opulent wines for great occasions.
If you come across a 2009 Chateau Lyonnatg Lussac St. Emillion, ($21.99), jump on it. Wine Spectator reviewed this full-bodied, plum-flavored wine and gave it 95 points. Be the first on your block to show off the label.
All eyes should remain focused on New Zealand, where overproduction of Sauvignon Blanc in recent years has contributed to a market glut. The 2012 harvest is smaller and satisfying and prices should stay moderate. The exotic and grassy Spy Valley SB ($14) is a price-buster from Marlborough and measures up well to the premium Cloudy Bay ($32). The citrusy Dog Point ($16) and Pallister Estate ($17) are also solid values. Astute winemakers who've turned their focus to Pinot Noir should benefit with new releases. Robert Bath of Sommelier magazine is high on the 2010 Felton Road ($40), 2009 Mt. Difficulty ($35) and Wairarapa, Martinborough and Nelson pinots in the $30 to $45 price range.
NEXT WEEK: Wines to watch from Italy, Spain, Portugal and California.
Read more at http://blogs.lowellsun.com/winenovice. Follow Jim Campanini on Twitter @suneditor.