The Year in Review

As the year end approaches, I decided to look back at my wine reviews and select some of the highlights of 2014.  I have broken it down to Sparkling Wines, White Wines, Rose’ Wines and Red Wines.All the wines I list have been rated a BEST BUY or HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, or both.Sparkling WineChandon Brut Nature, $19.40, 13% alc. ArgentinaThis non-vintage blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir shows full flavors with some intensity. A very nice alternative to more expensive French Champagne.

 White Wine

2013 Crios Torrontes, $8.75, 13% alc. Argentina

Always a favorite. With a dry, medium body and hints of citrus, peach and honey.

2012 Lagarde Viognier, $12.65, 14% alc. Argentina

 Dry with a minerality uncommon for a Viognier.  As it warmed, it became richer and more complex.  My wife ordered a case, which should tell you something.

2013 Pazo Baion Albarino, $26.25, 13% alc. Spain

Very unique and beautiful bottle shape.  Honey, citrus, flower blossoms.  A bit of earth and minerality make this a very interesting wine. Nice long finish.

2013 Trapiche Pinot Grigio  $5.75 13% alc. Argentina

Dry, crisp, almost tart but with good pinot grigio character.  Hints of lemon, citrus and grass.  

2011 Eroica Riesling $25.70 11% alc. Washington State, USA.

This world class wine is so complex that every sip reveals something new and exciting.  Stone fruits of peaches, apricots peaches, lemon, Muscat grapes and a spiciness which comes through in the finish.  It also is complex enough to have a bit of earthiness

2012 Calvet Grande Reserve Chablis, $22.50, 12.5% alc. France.

Crisp, earthy, subtle fruit and great balance.  This is the sort of wine which reaffirms for me the great potential of chardonnay.


2012 Pasion de Bobal, Rosado, $9.00, 12.5% alc. Spain

This is made entirely from the Bobal grape, a lesser known Spanish variety.  Complex with a lovely light watermelon juice color.  Crisp with flavors of green apple, sweet cherries, minerality and a long finish.  This is versatile and can be drunk alone or with light or medium bodied food.   

2012 Gaia 14-18h, $10.25, 13% alc. Greece

This was maybe the most surprising. Made from the agiorgitiko variety with 14-18 hours of skin contact.  I guess that’s where they got the name of the wine. Medium pink color with a crisp and dry feel.  Citrus, floral and complex.  Fuller bodied than most rosés, almost like a red wine without the tannin astringency.

2012 Minuty Cuvee de L’Oratoire, $20.50, 13% alc. France

Mostly Grenache. Smells and tastes of peaches, nectarines, coconut, pineapple and other tropical fruits.  Black cherry on the finish, which goes on for a long time.  

Red Wine

Senorio D Barriobero, Joven, Rioja, Spain.  12.5% alc.  $4.65!

I can’t find a vintage anywhere on the label.  This wine blew us away!  Rich, balanced and complex.  A heavyweight at a lightweight price.

2004 Col Solare, 14.4% alc.Columbia Valley. 

Blend of 80% cabernet sauvignon, 17% merlot, 3% cabernet franc & petit verdot.

Even better on the 2nd day. If you want a really good wine at a peak of maturity and flavor, this is it!  So may flavors: Aromas of red & black cherry as well as black currant. Notes of vanilla, clove, and tobacco. Rich and balanced on the palate. Finishes with long, lingering flavors of cocoa, black currant, and vanilla.

2010 Palo Alto Reserva Organic Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon.  $7.95, 13.5% alc. Chile

Made from organically  grown grapes.  Delivers from start to finish with a complex nose of mint, spice and multiple fruits. Flavors of earth, clay, berries, toast and leather.

2010 Casillero del Diablo by Concha Y Toro Reserva Privada Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah.  $12.15, 14.5% alc. Chile

Flavors of black cherries, chocolate, spices, toast and vanilla. Very long finish of chocolate covered cherries.

2012 Susana Balbo Brioso, $33.25, 14% alc. Argentina

45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot.  Another interesting blend with complex flavors.  Nutmeg, cinnamon, herbs, dark fruits.  Excellent wine drinking very well now but age worthy.

2012 Terrazas Reserva Malbec, $19.40, 14.5% alc. Argentina

100% Malbec in a nice style.  Not too tannic, showing complexity of raspberries, chocolate and oak.

2010 Arzuaga Crianza, $29.40, 14.5% alc. Spain

Elegant, balanced and complex.  Very long finish.

2009 Arzuaga Reserva, $57.00, 14.5% alc. Spain

95% Tempranillo, 3 % Merlot, 2% Albillo.  Really elegant and complex.  Beautifully balanced.  Many flavors of earth, herbs, flowers and fruit.

2007 Remirez de Granuza Reserva, $83.45, 14.5% alc. Spain

90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano, 5% Viura y Malvasia.  Rich, extremely complex, still young and closed.  Intense flavors of dark fruit, earth spices, oak.  One of the best from Spain.

M. Stefan has over 20 years experience in the wine trade and has traveled extensively throughout the wine producing regions of the world.  His column is a regular feature of La Playa Community.  He can be reached at and appreciates your comments.