Favorite New Releases of 2011 from the TOP|SOMM Finalists

With the year drawing to a close, we asked our 2011 TOP|SOMM and Top New Somm finalists to highlight five favorite, impactful new releases from the past year, regardless of price.  Selections from each finalist are not listed in any particular order.  Price is approximate retail, with importers in parenthesis where appropriate.

Ian Cauble (The Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay, CA) TOP|SOMM 2011

  1. Jean Paul Brune, Terres Doree, Fleurie, Beaujolais 2010 (Dressner) $25
  2. Graci, "Quota 600," Etna Rosso, Sicily 2009 (Vinity) $45
  3. Domaine Abbatucci, Ajaccio Rose, "Cuvee Faustine," Corsica 2010 (Kermit Lynch) $30
  4. Weingut Knoll- "Ried Kreutles," Smaragd, Wachau 2008 (Circo Vino) $40
  5. Philippe Foreau, Vouvray Sec, "Clos Naudin," Loire Valley 2009 (Rosenthal) $34

Desi Echavarrie (French Laundry, CA) Top New Somm 2011

  1.  Rebholz, Riesling, "Kastanienbusch," Grosses Gewächs 2009 (Rudi Wiest) $60
  2. Lopez de Heredia, Viña Gravonia, Rioja Blanco 2001 (Think Global) $40
  3. Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Chassagne-Montrachet, "Les Caillerets," 2009 (Atherton) $95
  4. Ameztoi Rubentis Getariako Txakolina Rose 2010 (De Maison Selections) $20
  5. Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, "Santa Caterina d'Oro" 2004 (Henry Wine) $100
James Lechner (Bastille Café and Bar, WA)
  1. Patrick Piuze, 1er Cru Vaillons, Chablis 2009 (Martines) $45
  2. Charly Thevenet, "Grain and Granit" Regnie, Beaujolais 2009 (Kermit Lynch) $35 "Fruit from 100 year-old vines, produced by Jean-Paul's son Charly."
  3. Domaine Combier, Crozes-Hermitage 2009 (Charles Neal) $25
  4. Pierre Gonon, St Joseph Blanc 2009 (Kermit Lynch) $60
  5. Bérêche et Fils, Extra Brut Reserve, Ludes, Montagne de Reims NV (Triage) $50
Ryan Fletter (Barolo Grill, CO)
  1. Fuligni, Brunello di Montalcino 2006 (Empson USA) $55
  2. Dugat-Py, Gevrey-Chambertin "Les Evocelles" 2009 (The Sorting Table) $140
  3. Robert Weil, "Kiedrich Gräfenberg" Riesling Spätlese 2010 (Loosen Bros.) $72
  4. Vilmart & Cie, "Coeur de Cuvée", Brut 2002 (Skurnik/Theise) $115
  5. Chanin, Chardonnay "Los Alamos", Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley 2008 $34       
Kevin Reilly (Cyrus, CA)
  1. Cédric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne "Blanc de Blancs - La Bolorée", Celles-sur-Ource 2007 (Polaner Selections) $150 "50 year-old Pinot Blanc vines!"
  2.  Silvaner, Hans Wirsching "Grosses Gewächs - Iphöfer Julius-Echter-Berg", Franken 2009 (Rudi Wiest) $70
  3.  Meursault, Jean-Philippe Fichet "Gruyaches" 2009 (Rare Wine Co.) $78
  4.  Côtes-du-Rhône, Reynaud Family “La Pialade” 2007 (Martines) $38
  5.  Spätburgunder, Meyer-Näkel "S", Ahr 2008 (Rudi Wiest) $85
Emily Pickral (Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant, CA)
  1. Ryme Ribolla Gialla "Vare Vineyard" Napa 2009 $32
  2. Ceritas Chardonnay "Ritchie Vineyard" Russian River Valley 2009 $47
  3. Hirsch Pinot Noir "Westridge Vineyard" Sonoma Coast 2009 $90
  4. Occhipinti Frappato, IGT Sicilia 2009 (Dressner) $33
  5. Marc Hebrart, Premier Cru Brut Rose, Marieul-Sur-Ay NV (Skurnik/Theise) $47
Michael Meagher (Treasury Wine Estates, MA)
  1. Grosset Polish Hill Riesling, Clare Valley 2011 (not currently imported) $30
  2.  Westport Rivers, "Cuvee RJR," Brut, Southeastern New England 2006 $28 "Blind tasting this makes you think Champagne.  The price tag makes you think 'I'll have another bottle.'  Family-run winery in Westport, Massachusetts." 
  3. Billaud-Simon Chablis 2008 (Langdon-Shiverick) $30 
  4. Clerico, Barolo "Pajana" 2005 (Skurnik) $99 
  5. Penfolds "Grange" Shiraz, South Australia 2006 (Treasury Wine Estates) $500
Mariya Kovacheva (Cafe Boulud Palm Beach, FL)
  1. Georges Laval, Champagne, Cumières Premier cru, Brut Nature NV (Mid-State Distributors) $80
  2. Kelley Fox, Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, ‘Maresh Vineyard,’ 2009 $55 
  3. Dunn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain 2007 $82
  4. Casanova di Neri, ‘Tenuta Nuova,’ Brunello di Montalcino 2006 (Dalla Terra Winery Direct) $94
  5. Guillaume Gilles, Cornas 2009 (Rosenthal) $67
Christopher Bates (Hotel Fauchere, PA)
  1. Hermann Weimer Cabernet Franc Reserve, Finger Lakes 2008 $28
  2. Gramercy Cellars, Syrah, Walla Walla Valley 2009 $45 "Master Harrington has proven that sommeliers CAN make wine."
  3. Kerpen Riesling, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Kabinett 2010 (Skurnik/Theise) $19
  4. Monteleone Valpolicalla, Amarone della Valpolicella 2006 (not currently imported) $49
  5. J Christopher Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley 2009 $28
Chris Dillman (Market District Giant Eagle, OH) 
  1. Rousseau Freres Touraine Noble-Joue 2010 (Skurnik/Alain Jungeunet) $13
  2. Kinkead Ridge Ohio River Valley Viognier/Roussanne 2010 $18 "Ohio's best winery."
  3. Keller Dalsheimer Hubacker Auslese* 2010 (various importers) $120
  4. Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling and Gruner Veltliner "Tradition" 2009 (Skurnik) $55
  5. LIOCO Pinot Noir "Michaud", Chalone 2006 $55
Jaclyn Stuart (Margaux Bistro and Wine Bar, WI)
  1. Champagne Leclerc Briant "  Chèvres Pierreuses" Cumieres Premier Cru NV (Estelle Imports) $48 "I was heartbroken when I heard the news about Pascal Leclerc-Briant's passing in late 2010. His biodynamic Champagnes are like no other."
  2. Lang & Reed "Two-Fourteen" Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley  2008 $40
  3. Weingut Rainer Arns & Sohn Spätburgunder Rosé, Mosel 2010 (no current importer) $12
  4. Domaine Carneros "Le Rêve" Blanc de Blancs, Carneros 2005 $95
  5. Belle Glos "Meiomi" Pinot Noir, California 2010 $22
Roland Micu (La Toque, CA)
  1. Kloof Street, Chenin Blanc, Swartland, South Africa 2011 (Kysela Imports) $20
  2. Arkentsone, Sauvignon Blanc, Howell Mountain 2009 $50
  3. Movia, Veliko Rosso, Slovenia 2004 (Domaine Select) $56
  4. Carlotta Cellars, 2009AD Rouge, North Coast $26
  5. Virna, Barolo, "Cannubi Boschis" 2006 (Solstars) $75

  • Great list of wines, and solid values there too!  

    Proves that wines do not have to be expensive to be good.  

    Wine trends are going in the direction of 'off the beaten path' of what is usually seen and expected on wine lists (and isn't that what we're here for??)

    I have put these on my list of wines to look out for.  Thank you for all the recommendations.  

  • I'm with Bates on this. I have been tasting to many European wines that are out or wack. The new world wines seem to be finding more balance. Hmmm. Could it be that it is more important that the wines are balanced then it is that they are less then 14% alcohol?  Sorry, had to throw that in there.

  • Wow...thank goodness we got a few New World wines up there! The first few folks had me worried... Awesome rec's, lots of fun. Saw a few that I absolutely love, too! Georges Laval is remarkable - in Europe, those wines beat Selosse for prices garnered. But, 'tis the ones I haven't heard of that I can't wait to try...thanks for the illumination, all.

  • I think pricing might have to do with a lot of things....Less big rollers are letting us drink their fancy wine for free these days. They are tipping a bit less well. And I think a new generation of honesty is happening in what we may all be able to drink (not just taste).

    As for the US selections, I would though in that while european wines are increasingly out of balance, american and even ausi wines seem to be coming more and more in balance. I rekon experience with extreme ripeness seems to go to the new world these days...

    Awesome choices all around.

  • Unfortunately up here in Massachusetts, we're usually a vintage behind on a lot of juice, so what I've been tasting recently doesn't qualify as current release.  We like to remain a step behind the rest of the world and scoff at them from afar.  

    Though, in all seriousness, the Westport Rivers sparkling is ridiculously good for New World bubbles.  And it doesn't hurt that the family that runs the winery also makes some damn good beer.  It is always a fun spot to visit!