Most memorable wines of 2012

Courtesy PhotoHaden Fig Pinot Noir from Oregon has a suggested retail price of $18 and tastes much better than other wines from the region that have a higher price tag.

Courtesy PhotoHaden Fig Pinot Noir from Oregon has a suggested retail price of $18 and tastes much better than other wines from the region that have a higher price tag.

Trying to remember every wine I’ve tried this year is like attempting to remember every at-bat the Giants had at AT&T Park. Narrowing it down to wines I actually enjoyed is akin to detailing each one of Marco Scutaro’s hits — I know there were a lot, but I only remember a few.

These five wines stick out:

Viña Tabali Sauvignon Blanc, Talinay Coastal Limestone Vineyard, 2011 (Limari Valley, Chile): My faith in Chilean sauvignon blanc has been restored. A departure from the canned peach-tasting renditions of yore, this wine from the coast is one of the best sauvignon blancs I’ve tried all year, New or Old World. It is like licking limestone. Massively minerally but with grapefruit, lime and fresh white peach, the mere thought of it makes me want to open a bottle. Suggested retail: $20

Vinyes de Jordi Sanfeliu, Rosat Trepat, 2010 (Vall del Corb, Catalonia, Spain): I remember tasting this wine for the first time at Terroir with the importer, Jose Pastor. “F***ing A,” I thought to myself. My drinking buddy was equally impressed. Magnificently unique and refreshing with spice, tea, cedar, white and black pepper, watermelon and strawberries, I can’t wait to try the next vintage.
Suggested retail: $20

Porter-Bass Chardonnay, Russian River, Old Vine, 2010 (Russian River): The first time I tasted this was at Le Cheval in Oakland with a tasting group. Impressed but still not a believer, I visited the winery in August and was converted. Rich but well-balanced with cotton candy, blanched almonds and honeysuckle in the nose, and citrus, plantains and red apple skin on the palate, all who have given up on chardonnay need to grab a bottle. These folks, unassuming natural-wine producers,  are on it.
Suggested retail: $30

Maison Trenel Gamay Rouge, 2010 (Burgundy, France): This was one of the first wines I tried at an outrageous Burgundy tasting in April. Made from gamay, Beaujolais’ claim to fame, Trenel — which has several wines from Beaujolais as well — gets this fruit from the Maconnais. It’s so pretty, so pure and so reasonably priced compared to a lot of cru Beaujolais.
Suggested retail: $15

Château Haut-Bailly, Le Parde de Haut-Bailly, 2007 (St. Julien, Bordeaux, France): Right after this amazing Burgundy fete, Bordeaux rose to the occasion and followed it up with a small tasting of top growths and their Right Bank equivalents. Le Parde de Haut-Bailly is the third wine from Haut-Bailly, but no doubt plenty of folks would be happy to call it the flagship. A classic St. Julien with cocoa, blackberries, currants, plums and Moroccan spices, it should age well for another three to five years.
Suggested retail: $30

Haden Fig Pinot Noir, No. 52, 2010 (Willamette Valley, Oregon): Oregon pinot noirs are a dime a dozen and, truthfully, I’m a little tired of them; many are in the $30 range and just not all that remarkable. However, tasting the Haden Fig wines rekindled my appreciation of the northern territory as nearly all of the wines, from the rosé to the single vineyard, shine. With rhubarb, strawberries and white pepper, this is the best deal to be found in Oregon at the moment.
Suggested retail: $18

Bonus wine:

Brazilier, B Rose Pineau d’Aunis, NV (Coteaux du Vendômois, Loire Valley, France): Closing out with bubbly, this is the deal of the year. B came in through the out door and wow, what an outstanding creature it is. Made entirely from Pineau d’Aunis, an en vogue but previously very obscure grape, it is minerally and floral with tobacco underpinnings, a delicate mousse and long finish. I’m not ashamed to admit I mistook it for a $36 Champagne.
Suggested retail: $15

These wines can be found through Arlequin, Berkeley Bowl, Blackwell’s, Harvest Hills Market, The Jug Shop, Diablo Foods (Lafayette), Paul Marcus Wines, San Francisco Wine Trading Co. and Southern Wine Group.

Pamela S. Busch is a wine writer and educator who has owned several wine bars in San Francisco, including Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen.

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