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December 28, 2013

Howard Hewitt: Best wines of the year, and one to avoid

It’s time again for the ‘best of the year’ lists including wine! Ranking wine is a difficult trick. How does an Indiana white stack up against a French red? Wouldn’t an Italian Barolo blow a little Oregon wine away?

That’s why Grape Sense’s year-end column just reviews 9 really good wines. The wines are ones you are likely to find at a neighborhood shop. And, these wines all come in at under $20. Why nine? Because I just had to warn gentle readers about the worst wine of 2013.

In no particular order or ranking, here are 10 of the best wines I tasted in 2013.

u Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills Les Cheavaux — It would be easy to mis-identfy this Merlot- blend as a Bordeaux wine. While not as nuanced as even inexpensive Saint Emilion ,it has the fruit characteristics to make you look twice at the bottle. It’s 80 percent Merlot, 13 percent Cabernet, and 7 percent Syrah. If you like big bold fruit, you’re going to love it at $15.

u Château d’Esclans 2012 Provence Rosé Whispering Angel — Rosé rocks and this bottle rocks off the charts. It has a wonderful hint of strawberry and citrus. It’s a beautiful salmon color, dry, light, and pink — what else is there to say about a great summer wine? $16-$23.

u La Maia Lina 2007 Chianti Classico — I find a lot of Chianti, usually at a lower price point, unbalanced and too acidic. This wine may not have huge fruit but has nice balance. It has the typical cherry flavors with some earthy or woodsy hints. $19.

u Powers 2010 Spectrum — It’s big enough to please regular wine drinkers, rounded enough for wine novices, and pairs great with about any dish. The blend is 39 percent Merlot, 33 percent Syrah, 22 percent Malbec, 6 percent Cabernet. $10-$13.

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