The Best of Food in 2007
10 Best Wines of the Year
Banfi Principessa Perlante Gavi ($14) This is what the Italians call frizzante – a slightly sparkling wine. It is made from the white Cortese grape, which is pretty obscure to American tastes. Italians love it. So do I, and check that price!
Chateau St. Jean Fume Blanc ($15) Chateau St. Jean has been on a roll for the last couple of years. Their high-priced wines have always been some of California's best, and often at a bargain compared to their competition. But it's down in the trenches at the budget level where these wines shine. If you like this one, try their equally yummy Chardonnay.
Domaine Davenne/Domaine les Temps Perdus Sauvignon de St. Bris ($20) You'll have to order this wine from a specialty retailer. It's worth the trouble. This is one of the few Sauvignon Blancs legally allowed to grow in Burgundy. One taste, and you'll understand why French Sauv Blancs are the gold standard.
F.X. Pichler's Grüner Veltliner Smaragd "M" ($70) This is another wine for which you'll have to romance your purveyor, and I admit it's steep for an Austrian white. But once you get a perfumed whiff, feel the luxurious richness in the mouth, savor the bracing acidity, and then experience the five-minute finish, you'll understand.
Domaine Ponsot Morey-St.-Denis Premier Cru Clos des Monts Luisants Vieilles Vignes Blanc ($50) Take your favorite wine purveyor a Christmas gift when you ask for a bottle of this Aligoté; it's not going to be easy to acquire. I've never tasted an Aligoté like this. The grape, widely planted in Eastern Europe, is also the second most planted white in Burgundy after Chardonnay. People love it for its lively acidity and apple-y citrus aromas. Very attractive and very powerful.
Jadot Fixin ($27) Fine wineshops should either have this or be able to get it. If you like Pinot Noir but have been turned off by the astronomical prices of most Burgundies, here's your chance. I've tasted $400 Burgundies that aren't this good.
Lolonis Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) Organically grown, lovingly tended, and very elegant for a California Cab, this wine whispers.
Château Génot-Boulanger, Mercurey ($35) I judged in a Burgundy competition in New York earlier this year. After tasting 50 bottles of Pinot Noir in a double-blind shoot-out, this was my favorite.
Frank Family Napa Valley Zinfandel ($32) Rich Frank used to run Disney. Now he sits high above the Napa Valley, surveying his vineyards and producing killer wines. This Zinfandel is one of his least-expensive bottles. It's a true Napa Zin, more restrained and controlled than its Sonoma brethren.
L'Arco Pario ($55) If I had Michael Dell's money, one wine I'd be buying by the case would be Quintarelli Amarone, which runs about $300. I don't, but once or twice a year, I don't mind swinging for a truly great wine like L'Arco Pario. They rest young grapes on the pressed skins of the Amarone, lending a bit of the flavor of the real thing. And L'Arco's winemaker had the blessing of the elder Quintarelli.
Ruinart Blanc de Blancs ($70) If my Champagne collection had only Ruinart Blanc de Blancs and Bollinger, I would be perfectly satisfied. They play yin and yang, with Bollinger's dark, rich, toasty flavors offsetting the Ruinart's sunny brightness. I tried a lot of very expensive Champagnes this year. I'd buy this one over any other.