wine of the year each year.
It's never an easy choice, and this year I was stymied by the idea that the wineries and wines I most wanted to pick, I had already raved about. I am very impressed by the turnaround at Barone Ricasoli, but I already wrote that story for WRO. I tasted the best Chardonnay I've ever had this year, from Domaine Romanée Conti, but it costs more than $2000, and I wrote that story too. I didn't just want to write a greatest hits piece.
At the same time, there was a thought I haven't been able to get out of my head. I went to New Mexico this year and had, not just the amazing Gruet Blanc de Noirs that I sent my own non-oenophile family for New Year's Eve, but delicious still Pinot Noir. I didn't leave the airport in Texas this year, but I had McPherson Viognier each time through both Houston and Dallas and just adored it. I had a suite of delicious Michigan Rieslings that made me believe that state is soon going to challenge New York for the best Riesling in the US. These aren't just good regional wines, but great wines, period -- yet if you follow the major ratings magazines, you'd never know it.
I have a longtime irritation with San Francisco sommeliers who refuse to carry California wines for whatever snotty hipster reason. I've been to restaurants where they brag about knowing all the farmers for their produce, yet their wines are all shipped across an ocean. Wine is food. If there's a locavore movement, it should include wine.
This feeling comes to me in San Francisco, but sitting in a Washington DC restaurant where I couldn't buy any Virginia or Maryland wine, it really hit home. California's wine industry doesn't need local support. But the other 49 states' wineries do. They get it in Oregon and Washington -- boy, would I love to spend a week in Portland or Eugene drinking only local wines -- but they can't count on it elsewhere.
So I used the opportunity of Winery of the Year to make a statement that Wine Review Online hasn't run yet; I might put it on my blog next week. My Wine of the Year is related: it's not the very best wine I had in 2011, but one that I hadn't stopped thinking and talking about. I could easily have given both to Domaine Romanée Conti. But like the California wine industry, DRC won't be changed in a positive way by you buying a single case of wine, while my Winery of the Year might be (though it's not Otium).
In 2012, maybe I'll be on the lookout for 100-point wines from Jan. 1 and I'll emphasize one if I find it. But this year, I chose a wine not for its overwhelming awesomeness, but for the power it held over my imagination.
Please drink a decent bubbly tonight. See y'all in 2012.
Read the Wine of the Year piece here. We'll see about Winery of the Year.