The Herald Bulletin

December 28, 2013

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


The Herald Bulletin

---- — 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.

u Les Jamelles 2011 Syrah — It can be found in lots of wine shops and liquor stores. A simple wine doesn’t have to be bad. Not everything in your glass requires 4-5 adjectives to enjoy it. Sometimes plain and simple suffices. It’s got a little fruit and some spice. Not bad for $9.

u Huber’s Winery Vignoles — The Indy International Wine Competition Wine of The Year represents a movement among several Indiana winemakers to reduce residual sugar while maintaining the fresh fruit. The Vignoles is an outstanding summer sipper but would also be good with creamy cheeses or salty meats. $14.99.

u David Hill 2011 Estate Pinot Gris — It has bright and pronounced acidity with aromas of stone fruit. Try this with some grilled shrimp. It’s great white wine from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. $18.

u Tenuta Frescobaldi Di Castiglioni 2010 — Toscana is a really bold wine perfect for steaks, roasts, and hearty pasta. The Tuscan blend is 50 percent Cabernet, 30 percent Merlot, 12 percent Cabernet Franc, and 8 percent Sangiovese. Has notes of currant, plum and dark fruit. Dynamite wine for around $20.

u Chateau Recougne, 2009 — This is a Superior which is the largest classification in Bordeaux. The wines are quite a bargain. This particular wine had a fresh palate from its 75 percent Merlot, 15 percent Cabernet, and 10 percent Cabernet Franc blend. A Bordeaux bargain at $10-$19.

And … drum roll, please … the worst wine of the year:

u Evil Pinot Noir — This red juice made its way to the U.S. for Octavin’s boxed wines, many of which are pretty good. This $6.99 bottle enjoyed a big display in a high-end Indianapolis market that called to me like a siren’s song. Downside? Don’t buy wines with monkeys on the label! Evil just begins to describe it.

Next column: Looking forward!

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, In., writes about value wine every other week for 23 midwestern newspapers. www.howardhewitt.net