The Best Wines We Drank in 2017

To close out another year of our National Retailer Wine Panel reviews, we asked panelists to recollect the top wines they drank in 2017. These reviews include brief tasting notes and a rating. If you’re a retail or off-premise professional who would like to learn more about participating in our panel, please contact Managing Editor Kyle Swartz at (203) 855-8499 ext. 2225 or kswartz@epgmediallc.com.

Rating System

Five Stars (100-92): A top-flight wine, superior in taste and character, and providing a superior price/value ratio.

Four Stars (91-86): A very good wine and an excellent value. A wine for which customers will keep coming back.

Five Star Wines

(98) Sets Brunelli 2012 (Italy). If classic brunello is what you want, classic is what you get! Sesti produces their wines the rustic style, embodying the style that brunello gained its fame for. The fruit flavors are there, but they take a back seat to the aroma that bursts from the glass and welcomes you in for a brunello experience you won’t soon forget. ($98.99)

(98) Pascual Tuso Alta Malbec 2013 (Argentina). An absolutely stunning old-vine Maipú malbec from one of Argentina’s top producers. Amazingly young-looking in the glass, the nose and palate possess plenty of rich dark fruit, with hints of spice. Exceptionally mouth-filling, and satisfying to the last sip. ($49.99)

(97) Bodega Noemia de Patagonia J. Alberto 2014 (Argentina). This is a malbec making a statement. The statement is: You have to check me out! Intense in color, on the nose, and on the palate. A dense violet/ruby in the glass, the nose and palate are dominated by black fruit, mostly berry. The palate follows suite, with a hint of minerality to accent and balance this superb wine from Alto Valle del Rio Negro. ($57.99)

(96) Domaine Filliatreau “Linnea” Saumur Blanc 2016 (France). 100% chenin blanc from 25-plus-year-old vines grown on the Filliatreau Family Estate. Fermented and aged in stainless steel with a short maceration on the skins. A bouquet of melon, pear, peach and a wisp of anise leads to those flavors on the palate with crisp, lively acidity and a hint of minerality on the lengthy finish. The wine is totally dry, though really shows lovely ripe fruit. It’s a great example of Loire chenin blanc that will complement seafood, cream sauces and milder Oriental cuisine. It’s also a perfect aperitif. ($16.99)

(96) Broc Vine Starr Zinfandel 2015 (California). This urban North Coast winery boasts some of the best wines in California and is starting to get recognition all over the world. Their Vine Starr zinfandel leads the bunch and is zinfandel like you have never seen. Lighter, brighter and so much more alive than most zinfandel, if you have a chance to get your hands on this one make sure you do. The production at Broc Cellars is very little. ($32.99)

(96) Domaine Filliatreau La Grande Vignolle Saumur-Champigny Rouge 2015 (France). The Cabernet Franc for this fabulous wine is grown on the La Grande Vignolle vineyard which is composed of a unique type of limestone called tufa-stone and highly calcareous subsoils. The mineral nuances are evident in the wine from beginning to end. Along with this, there is a lush bouquet of lilac, raspberry, and cherry. There are layers of concentrated red fruit, clove, and licorice flavors with a hint of “cigar-box” leading to a long finish with firm tannins. To enjoy now, decant for at least 2 hours. For optimum enjoyment, lay this one away for 5-7 years. Your patience will be well-rewarded. ($22.99)

(96) Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen Eroica Riesling 2015 (Washington). An outstanding example of riesling, from Columbia Valley in Washington State. In cooperation with one of Germany’s top riesling producers, the Eroica sets the bar extremely high for other producers in the U.S. and across the globe. Great tropical fruit, with a very long and balanced finish. ($20)

(95) Pedroncelli Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel 2014 (California). The Dry Creek Valley vines on the Bushnell Vineyard average 50 years of age. The wine is a truly unique style. There are intense aromas of baked cherry, plum and spice with a nuance of tobacco. On the palate there is a concentrated, almost Port-like texture with rich flavors of black fruit, toasty oak and cedar/spice. The fruit is rich and ripe, yet not sweet. Tannins are firm and in perfect balance with all other components. The best food pairing is a great bleu cheese like Gorgonzola. If you enjoy a good cigar, pair this wine with a Maduro wrap. ($19.99)

(95) Silver Oak Twomey Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2015 (California).  Absolutely stellar, elegant and seductive pinot noir. Silky, smooth, aromatic ripe berries and a long, luscious finish. ($50)

(95) Lovo Colli Euganei Fior d’Arancio Moscato DOCG (Italy). Fior d’Arancio means “orange blossom.” Indeed, there are aromas and flavors of such along with mandarin, nectarine and ripe melon in this unique style, made from the moscato giallo clone, which is rare. The wine is frizzante, sweet, crisp and refreshing. It’s absolutely delectable! Even those who don’t usually prefer sweet wines would probably enjoy this. It’s a delightful aperitif, or will complement many desserts, fresh fruit and mild cheeses. ($17.99)

(95) Manni Nossing Gruner Veltliner 2015 (Italy). Gruner veltliner from . . . Alto Adige? Yes, that’s right! Welcome to the coolest and most surprising white wine you will try all year. This is the white wine of all white wines this year. Wonderfully balanced, perfectly acidic, dancing on all cylinders and making us forget this is a grape Austria made famous. Partake in this gem from Manni Nossing and join the Italian gruner veltliner bandwagon. ($26.99)

(95) Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2016 (South Africa). One of the most complete chardonnays you will experience. The delicacy of a beautiful Burgundy, yet the robust hints of northern California chardonnay. Your palate will be gently taken from one profile to the next, leaving you with a satisfying finish, making you want for more. ($32.99)

(95) Domaine Filliatreau Chateau Fouquet Saumur Rouge 2015 (France). 100% Cabernet Franc from organically grown grapes from vineyards in the Saumur village of Breze. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel. Expressive floral, black fruit and coffee aromas combine with rich earth tones. Concentrated flavors of blackberry, plum and mocha harmonize with firm tannins and a lovely hint of terroir. The finish is long with sweet/tart acidity melding perfectly with the tannins. Decant for at least two hours and pair with roast pork, duck, lamb or game. Though very enjoyable now, this wine will cellar beautifully for 3-5 years. ($19.99)

(94) Elvio Tintero Barbaresco 2014 (Italy). Elvio Tintero makes affordable wines in Piedmont and the Barbaresco is the star. This fruit-forward, easier-drinking expression of nebbiolo offers people a nice entry into the market, while also attracting the nebbiolo purist. This is the perfect balance between big and bold, and pleasing to drink now, with roses screaming from the glass into your nose and red fruits and earth finishing on the palate. Most barbaresco that come in at this price don’t deliver the goods. This is not that case. ($29.99)

(94) Quilt Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (California). This wine offers everything you would expect from a high-end wine producer. The color of this wine is deep and dark. Aromas of chocolate, licorice and dark berry fruits overtake the nose. Bold oak notes are prevalent on the palate along with hints of molasses and a rich but balanced tannic finish. ($40)

(94) Northstar Merlot 2012 (Washington). The epitome of great Washington merlot. Dark cherry and vanilla flavors work so nice together in this wine. The perfect balance of oak makes the finish long and memorable. Big, bold and built to last. Lay this wine down to enjoy for years to come. ($35)

(94) Chocapalha, Arinto 2016 (Portugal). Arinto (pronounce it like a Star Wars droid, RN2) is a great alternative for your sauvignon blanc/pinot grigio customers. Bright, clean, with great focus, it’s refreshing, and very food friendly. This version is one of the best, and a wonderful value. Citrus, and a touch of tropical fruit, with a long finish. ($14.99)

(94) Timeline Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (California). Deep Garnet in the glass with rich aromas of red fruit and a touch of tobacco rise up from the glass. The palate boasts robust dark berries with a balanced acidity and smooth, sweet tannins on the finish  Truly an excellent value in the category. ($30)

(93) Truchard Napa Carneros Pinot Noir 2014 (California). Silky smooth and packed with wonderful flavors of dark plum, strawberry, black cherry and wild berry, combining with sweet vanilla and spice. Well balanced with delicate tannins and firm acidity on a long, lingering finish. ($35)

(93) White Oak Russian River Chardonnay 2015 (California). Outstanding! This delicious Russian River chardonnay offers aromas of baked bread, apples and vanilla. As soon as it hits the palate, flavors of lemon, green apples, pear and cream are evident. Wonderful depth with an oily texture, this beauty ends with enough acidity to stand up to the fruit and oak. ($24)

(93) Daou Paso Robles Cabernet (California). Rich and concentrated with dark chocolate and dried cherries. Develops beautifully in the glass. A bargain for a top-notch California cabernet. ($30)

(93) Bodegas Ondarre Reserva 2010 (Spain). An abundance of nice tart cherry and spice are prevalent on the nose. The palate is greeted by a pleasant plum and balanced oak taste. There are notes of vanilla and earth around mid-palate. The finish is long and tannic with subtle spice. ($20)

(92) Henry Fessy Les Vergers Macon-Villages 2014 (France). The bright apple and citrus aromas that fill the glass are quite welcoming. The presence of all-stainless-steel ageing are evident in this extremely bright, clean and elegant wine. Beautifully balanced acidity and minerality make this wine truly a pleasure to drink. A wonderfully fresh-but-slightly sweet finish is perfect for any occasion. ($16)

(92) Gran Appasso 2015 (Italy). A remarkable blend of negroamaro and primitivo grapes from Puglia. Deep rich color with dense cherry notes. A slight raisiny character with soft vanilla oak tones. Overall medium balanced fruit and oak body with a lasting dried fruit finish. Great when paired with lasagna and tenderloin roast. ($17)

(92) Antica Corte Valpoicella Ripasso 2015 (Italy). This wine expresses power and concentration of the Ripasso method. The wine showcases flavors of black cherry, blueberry and oak tones. It’s framed with a fresh acidity providing a long length and excellent food compatibility. ($25)

(92) La Rioja Alta Vina Arana Rioja Reserva 2009 (Spain). Rich, powerful and full bodied. Loaded with inviting black truffle and blueberry. Well balanced. Drinking great right now but will continue to develop for a few years. ($30)

(92) Domaine Pichot Vouvray 2015 (France). A dazzling expression of vouvray. There is balance of acidity and vibrant, slightly sweet fruit combined with a creamy texture like you would experience with a golden chardonnay. A must-have with lobster or crab legs. ($19.99)

(92) Round Pound Kith & Kin Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (California). This cabernet sauvignon offers amazing control; the fruit is robust yet doesn’t overwhelm. As it coats your palate, the profile changes from structure and dark fruit to a bright pop of cherry. Amazing wine for that special dinner. ($35.99)

(92) Aegerter Les Enfants Pinot Noir 2016 (France). Aergerter is a well-known Burgundy producer that travels outside of Burgundy to make an amazingly affordable pinot noir from…. the Languedoc? With the same care and skill they use in Burgundy, they are able to craft the most well balanced, pure pinot noir you will ever find for under $15. ($12.99)

Four Star Wines

(91) Les Franches Sancerre by Jolivet 2016 (France). A nose of citrus fruits and fresh rain on rocks. This sancerre exhibits a palate of lemon, lime and minerals. The brightness of flavors is paired perfectly with a lingering acidity. ($25)

(91) Colome Estate Malbec 2014 (Argentina). The dark and edgy fruit of this Salta malbec are countered with a velvety texture across the mid palate. A perfect wine for grilled meats or sitting by the fire. ($27.99)

(91) Aeris Pinot Noir 2015 (Oregon). Yet another standout by winemaker Sarah Cabot. Enticing aromas of red berries, cherry cola and a touch of sweet oak appear on the nose. Slightly darker fruit is present on the palate with some notes of strawberry and subtle hints of violet. Sophisticated and well balanced. ($20)

Kyle Swartz is managing editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece 5 American Whiskey Trends to Watch in 2017-18.

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