Monday, January 24, 2011

Brown's Belated Top 5 for 2010

In December Red posted his Top 5 Wines for 2005 (link), and I have finally jotted down some 2010 highlights of my own. The wines have been shortlisted based on their enjoyment factor. There were more complex, expensive, expressive wines consumed in 2010, though many of these were at tastings / conducted in a tasting (as opposed to drinking) setting. All of the wines below were accompanied with a nice meal, except for #5 which is not a wine, and was not 'consumed' while eating :-)

Top 5 Wines consumed / Wine related events for 2010:

#1 - Coldstream Hills Reserve Chardonnay 2006 – Yarra Valley
This wine is made in a style that I love – it has oak, a creamy grapefruit flavour profile, and packs some punch, yet does not go overboard: A bit of a halfway house style. This was the perfect accompaniment to a roast chicken with chicken liver, thyme, garlic and rosemary stuffing. The 2 remaining bottles will be opened and enjoyed in the next few years.

#2 - Thomas Sweetwater Shiraz 2007 – Hunter Valley
Thomas wines in the Hunter Valley is one of the premier up and coming wineries in NSW. Andrew Thomas’s single site range of white and red wines are doing a great job of highlighting the differences in terroir that exist in the Hunter, and are also dispelling some of the myths about what defines Hunter Valley wine. The Sweetwater was an effortlessly enjoyable wine – sweet red fruit and approachable tannins, juicy and fulfilling. It is the lighter, more easy going partner to the 07 Kiss Shiraz - a fantastic wine that will live for 25-30 years with ease. Exciting times in the Hunter.

#3 - Toolangi Pinot Noir 2006 – Yarra Valley
The Toolangi Pinot Noir was blind tasted in one of our Face Offs (link) and acquitted itself very well. I had tasted a bottle of it before and after this tasting and on all occasions felt it was a wine that punched above its weight (especially when going up against more expensive Pinots from Mornington Peninsula and New Zealand). With Hoddles Creek/Wickhams Road and DeBortoli releasing top quality though affordable Yarra Pinot (vintage conditions permitting), the Yarra Valley is increasingly able to produce good quality Pinot Noir for under $20. I hope to see that trend continue in 2011 and beyond.

#4 - Teusner Independent Shiraz Mataro 2009 – Barossa Valley
This is one of those wines I have yet to ‘taste’ and take detailed notes - it is too delicious and moreish. The Independent (and Teusner winery in general) represents all that is good about the Barossa Valley and little of what it sometimes is criticised for: Oodles (or, dare I say a ‘gobfull’) of red and black fruit, some chocolate, but not of the bitter kind, nicely balanced oak and tannins, and a relatively savoury and restrained finish.
For less than $20 this wine represents bang for your buck on a scale that makes me shake my head and smile at the same time – give me one of these over 3 bottles of industrial mass produced red wine 130% of the time.

#PS - The 2008 and 2009 Dog Strangler were also highlights of 2010, as were a few of the Barossa Valley Grenache and Mourvedre released in the last year from producers who focus on these varieties. A very promising trend for the Barossa Valley.

#5 - James Suckling Promotional videos
I loved these videos, probably irrationally and disproportionally. They remain a highlight of my wine year in 2010, and worthy of a top 5 position. As noted in my rambling analysis of the videos (here) I am hoping James takes them to an absurdist/surrealist level and creates more of his ‘art’ for my amusement.

As an aside, I thought I would briefly stray into ‘foodie’ territory and list 3 memorable meals (served with wine) for the year. Going to Tetsuya’s in the month prior to it losing a Good Food Guide toque was an interesting, if inconsistent experience (I still question that decision and put it down to Terry Durack wanting to shake things up). The wines served at the Tetsuya’s degustation were almost 100% Australian – quite rare for a fine diner, and interesting in light of the #allforonewine 'drink Australian' initiative that has been so controversial in January.
Other finalists that didn’t make the cut include a night at Restaurant Balzac (in the year they too lost a toque!) and one of the many simple fish and chips meals we had at the beach in early 2010 (accompanied invariably by an Eden Valley Riesling).

Top 3 Restaurant/Cafe meals for 2010:
#1: Sepia (Sydney CBD) – For once I went to a restaurant on the rise, not suffering a Good Food Guide setback. Was lucky to have booked Sepia 2 months before it received a well-deserved second toque in the Good Food Guide, and experienced a consistently high quality meal with above average service. Of particular interest, the wine list for the degustation was 90% international, quite quirky and well-matched to the food – a chance to try new wines I rarely taste and the other side of the #allforonewine coin.
PS: There may already be a backlash against it, but the Sepia Forest Floor desert has to be seen/consumed to be believed. I still have a hankering for it 4 months after going there!

#2: District Dining (Surry Hills) -  Number 2 on the list primarily for the pork belly in lime salt (accompanied by a Shaw and Smith Chardonnay) and the lovely evening that was had. If we can see more restaurants in Sydney serving this type of share plate food I will be happy. Will have to go back here in Winter and with friends.

#3: Nancy’s Bacon and Egg Rolls (Randwick) – Nancy’s is one of our regulars in the North Randwick area, and we probably consumed too many of their bacon and egg rolls in 2010. The tangy aioli, melted gruyere cheese and semi sun dried tomatoes add a twist to a usually predictable formula. The roll is a Panini sourced from Sonoma bakery, and it is all matched with lashings of bacon and a drizzly egg – yum.

Bring on more fine wine and nice food in 2011!

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