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Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Best of 2013

As a wine and spirits writer for a variety of publications like The Hollywood Reporter, The Tasting Panel,, Draft, Fine Wine & Liquor (China) and others, I taste through a lot of booze in a given year. 2013 was a good year, but not a great year, for new discoveries. I’ve listed the top 5 wines and the top 5 spirits I rated this year. If you get the chance, I suggest you put them on your dance card. And for 2014, don't be afraid to try something new...and let me know about it!

2013’s Top 5 Wines
Croft 2011 Vintage Port (91)
2011 was a declared Vintage year and this Port shows why. Viscous and rich with hefty black cherry, slightly smoky wood, dusty cinnamon, suburb tannins and proper acidic undertones – this is why people drink port – not to get a sugar rush, but to bask in the rich, opulent, smooth wine which is just so damn fun to drink. $120

Halter Ranch 2010 Ancestor (91)
Coming from Paso Robles on California’s Central Coast the Ancestor has great notes of cedar, blackberry, dark cherry, cinnamon and raspberry, a lush, rich wine which always calls for a 2nd bottle. It is seamless with its tannins, use of oak, pop of fruit and its smooth finish. $50

LaZarre 2012 Vin Gris (90)
Rose needs more love and for this little jewel there's a nice little acidity perfect for food with flavors of cranberry pomegranate and to a lesser degree, strawberry. It has an almost earthy, smoky quality to it and it’s lean and clean. $18

Vina Ventisquero/Grey 2011 Carménère (90)
From Chile comes this outstanding example of this unknown grape. This happy little number has a boatload of rustic zesty black cherry, rich red and black fruit, spicy pepper, and a slight acidity. $23.99

Robert Hall 2010 Merlot (90)
Paso Robles is Cabernet country, but Merlot is best expressed by Don Brady and his devotion to this grape. I’ve tasted though various years of his Merlots and they always work. Earthy, rustic, clean and soft tannins. $18

2013’s Top 5 Spirits
Herradura Reposado Tequila (90)
This reposado really intrigued me with its smooth caramel and resin flavors, sweet oak and a stealth citrus back note. Clean and viscous, there's a slight burn and a beautiful butterscotch aroma. $40

Stone Barn Brandyworks Coffee Liqueur (89)
Available only in Oregon, sadly, this this is a blend of coffee from El Salvador and Yemen. They infuse a house-distilled Pinot Noir brandy and pear/apple spirit with fresh roasted coffee. Toss in some Madagascar vanilla, cinnamon and invert the sugar to make the liqueur and, voila! $27

Bully Boy White Whiskey (89)
USDA certified organic white whiskey therefore it’s clear and lacking the caramel and wood flavors. There’s a smooth viscosity to this, a little burn but the liquor is rounded inside the mouth. This is clean, with near mint overtones, and it presents a cooler vibe not hot and alcoholic, medium bodied and subtle. $28

Hornitos Lime Shot (89)
Using blue agave, lime and salt this is cool, clean, minty, and yes, limey, and way too easy to drink. It's certainly drinkable on its own though it works better as a mixer. $18

Astral Tequila (88)
This tequila is produced from nothing but organic blue agave (I’m always a fan of organic if the end result is a better product). It has a cool clean nose of resin and eucalyptus and a spicy mint-ish vibe which grips the mouth. $34.99

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