It was another ‘winederful’ year and these top twenty wines blew me away. It is no small task to create a list of the best wines that I have tasted throughout the year. Reviewing my notes, I had tasted over 2500+ wines this year, whether it was traveling the globe, tasting with winemakers in NYC, virtual tastings over zoom, trade events and seminars or from my personal cellar. I had the privilege of tasting some amazing wines this past year.
Narrowing down that list to just a few wines is not an easy feat, but here are my top twenty wines that you need to drink in 2023 and beyond. The best wines don’t have to be rare and expensive, they simply have to leave an impression. Some wines enamor you with their story and personality while other wines capture your attention with their texture and complexity.
This year reveals some fascinating trends, Napa is back on the map with five wines making the list, Champagne is forever a favorite, and Italy and France always dominate. I also drank a lot of German Rieslings and a new favorite was Alentejo wines from Portugal.
So when you are choosing wines, don’t just go with the easy choice and pick the one you are most familiar with, try one of my favorites from this list and be ready to be wowed and surprised.
Charles Heidsieck ‘Champagne Charlie’ Brut Cuvée ($750)
Champagne Charlie is a monumental wine that is a masterful blend celebrating 200 years of history. Celebrating the 200th anniversary of the house, this Champagne Charlie wine comprises a base wine stemming from the 2016 harvest which is supplemented by 80% reserve wines, the oldest of which is 25 years old. It is drinking history in a glass. An extravagant choice but will certainly leave behind lasting memories.
Henriot L’Inattendue Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru 2016 ($160)
100% Chardonnay from Avize. This cuvée cannot leave one indifferent. The aromatic profile is precise, fine and chiseled. It’s a real statement. Minerality and citrus fruit dominate. Indeed, it is chalky and ethereal and the fresh lemon expresses itself, accompanied by mentholated notes. In the mouth, it is perfectly coherent. The intensity and precision guide the taste perception. One of my favorite Champagnes this past year.
Weingut Dönnhoff Felsenberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2019 ($85)
Donnhoff is one of the premier luxury Rieslings producers in Germany. Grosses Gewächs is a mark of quality; a mark of one of the best producers, from one of the best sites making dry wines. This estate wine combines the two major soils that dominate the holdings for the estate, giving the drinker a look into what Dönnhoff is all about. An elegant and remarkable dry Riesling, this wine is very complex, displaying great, smoky crystallized minerality with a flinty character – unmistakably Felsenberg.
Baron Philippe de Rothschild Baronesa P. 2019 ($75)
Baronesa P. is a selection of the finest micro-terroirs, selected over a period of several years based on experience and understanding of these soils and vineyards. Over many years and after producing countless batches, they refined their selection to create this cuvée in honor of Baroness Philippine de Rothschild. The nose is intense and potent revealing black fruit aromas. The palate starts out lush and complex with good concentration accompanied by elegantly structured and wonderfully ripe tannins. Nicely balanced with a natural freshness that brings out a complex aromatic expression. The exceptionally persistent finish combines power and elegance, accounting for this wine’s excellent aging potential.
Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion 2006 ($650)
La Mission Haut-Brion needs no introduction. Exuberant describes it best. Right from the first swirl, one experiences an explosion of diverse aromas with impressive complexity. The mouth starts with an enveloping feeling of softness. From that moment on, the extremely mature tannins take over illustrating the enormous concentration of this wine. An amazing freshness carries this tannic mass, carrying it a long way to a finish of immeasurable length on the palate. No stopping, no rest, the wine simply evolves with every stage superbly managed from start to finish. Let us say: 2006 is one of the greatest vintages of La Mission Haut-Brion.
M by Michael Mondavi Red Blend Napa Valley 2018 ($200)
M by Michael Mondavi Family expresses the family’s intimate knowledge of Napa Valley vineyards and varieties through a unique blend that showcases the best fruit from the best plots in each vintage. This blend features Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and a touch of Petit Verdot. Aromas of fresh plum with notes of roasted hazelnut are at the core of the bouquet. A medium body and a soft texture mingle with delicate and refined flavors of dark red fruits and orchards. Refined and elegantly styled, a truly remarkable wine.
Grattamacco Bolgheri Superiore 2019 ($120)
Grattamacco’s Bolgheri Superiore is iconic in Bolgheri, Italy, and beyond. This flagship wine of the estate was the second most important wine to come from the Bolgheri area following Sassicaia. The 2019 is a real beauty with power, elegance and complexity. There are ripe red fruits on the nose with hints of Mediterranean herbs. The palate is fresh yet austere with a balance of minerality, fruit and tannins. Great persistence on the palate exhibits the long-aging potential of this wine. Grattamacco is a phenomenal wine from Bolgheri that deserves huge accolades.
Coeur De Vigne Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford, Napa Valley 2019 ($110)
Grown and produced at the historic Sullivan Rutherford Estate, the property was originally planted under the guidance of legendary Rutherford winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. The 2019 Coeur de Vigne pays tribute to the region’s long history of producing wines of quality and place. The 2019 Coeur de Vigne expresses the unique characteristics that make Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford so iconic. Made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, the nose offers rich aromas of blackberry, thyme and graphite. This wine is full-bodied on the palate with mouthcoating tannins, while also maintaining bright acidity. Flavors of tart fruit and cocoa-dusted coffee beans flirt with baking spices. The long finish highlights undertones of toasted new oak, suggesting the wine will develop beautifully over time.
Bibi Graetz Colore 2020 ($250)
Colore is the highest expression of Bibi Graetz’s dream, from very old vineyards of Sangiovese. Poor soils mixed with sand and stone and high altitude create the perfect terroir for a wine that tells a lot about Tuscany and its ancient taste. Only the best few barrels of the whole production will become Colore. A wine with lively tension where the power of the vintage dances harmoniously with the elegance of the vines. An intensely perfumed nose follows through on the palate with great structure and complexity. The tannins are firm and powerful. The magic of the old vines shines through in the glass. This may be one of Bibi Graetz’s finest wines produced.
Markham ‘The Character’ Napa Valley 2018 ($135)
Markham has remained dedicated to excellence in Merlot and Bordeaux varietals. The Character is the pinnacle of the Markham collection. Markham’s passion for Merlot stretches back more than forty years, thus it seems only fitting that Merlot plays the leading role in this blend of the five classic Bordeaux varietals. A luxurious estate-grown Merlot-based Bordeaux blend supported by a classic cast of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, The Character is a limited barrel selection of the very best lots showcasing richness, density and complexity. The Character celebrates history and Markham’s dedication to Napa Valley’s community.
Goosecross State Lane Aeros Napa Valley 2019 ($165)
Located in the heart of Napa Valley, State Lane Vineyard is home to Goosecross. This special vineyard produces some of Napa Valley’s most sought-after wines. Aeros is the first wine Goosecross composes from their State Lane Vineyard. It represents the best blocks of vineyards and then the best individual barrels within those blocks. In the glass, the Aeros 2019 is constantly evolving, displaying aromas of blackberry, dried figs, fresh violets, cassis and cigar box. The palate is complex and layered with rich blueberries, dark plums, creme brulee, black currants, fresh new leather, and black licorice. A wine to cherish now or cellar.
Cliff Lede “Roundabout Midnight” Rock Block Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District 2019 ($110)
Jean-Luc Colombo Vallon de l’Aigle Cornas 2018 ($275)
Innovation, passion and dedication are what drive Jean-Luc and Anne Colombo. As devotees of the Syrah grape, they found their home in Cornas. Today, Jean-Luc Colombo’s wines express the typicity of their terroir with elegance and character. Vallon de L’Aigle (Valley of the Eagle) is a micro blend with only four barrels produced. This wine is the quintessential expression of Jean-Luc’s savoir-faire in Cornas. It is made only in exceptional years, from the free-run juice of his highest altitude single-vineyard parcel. The 2018 offers a very complex nose with subtle aromas of flowers, blueberries and mulberries. On the palate, there are floral notes of iris and violets with round silky tannins. A wine with personality, beauty and strength.
Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2019 ($40)
The De Marchi family founded the estate back in 1956, and it is now firmly established as one of the region’s leading producers. Isole e Olena played a key role in reviving the quality of Chianti in the 1970s. Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2019 is elegant and well-balanced with notes of cherries, blueberries and spice. It is medium-bodied and boasts copious floral, minty red berry and red cherry flavors of lovely purity. The wine has a smooth yet vibrant texture with freshness and acidity.
Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2019 ($77)
Wine grapes have been grown at the estate since the 1500s, making Château La Nerthe one of the oldest estates in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre with an average vine age of over 40 years, the wine has an intense bouquet that reveals aromas of cherry, black currant, and olives with spicy and floral touches. The tannins are ripe and the finish is long and deep. A wine with impressive aromatic expression and great cellaring potential.
Herdade do Mouchão Alentejo DOC 2015 ($75)
The Herdade do Mouchão is one of the best wineries in Alentejo, Portugal. The estate was founded by Thomas Reynolds in the early 19th century and has been in the family ever since. Mouchão wines are among the most consistent and highly prized in the Alentejo. Sourced predominantly from the estate’s best Alicante Bouschet grapes from the Carapetos, Ponte das Canas and Dourada vineyards, with up 15% of other local varieties, mainly Trincadeira grown on the Estate. The latter provides an important aromatic component as Alicante Bouschet’s primary aromas are naturally shy. The 2015 has great structure and silky tannins and is a magical wine.
Poggio di Sotto Rosso di Montalcino 2017 ($120)
Poggio di Sotto is known in Montalcino for its unique parcel of old Sangiovese vineyards (more than 50 years old), of which there have been identified 120 Sangiovese biotypes. This biodiversity produces the characteristic brightness and complexity that is found in Poggio di Sotto wines. Crafted with painstaking attention to detail from one of the greatest terroirs in all of Tuscany, this is simply stunning Sangiovese. This is one of the few Rossos from the region that can be cellared for a few years. This Rosso drinks like a Brunello and will need some time in the cellar. But wow! This is an exceptional wine. This Rosso di Montalcino has all the attributes of its big brother Brunello, it is complex, fresh, rich and elegant.
Henri Germain Meursault Perrieres Premier Cru 2018 ($280)
Domaine Henri Germain is one of the top producers in Burgundy. The wines display incredible richness, complexity, character and depth of flavor that is unequaled in almost all of the region. This Meursault Perrieres Premier Cru has a clear, gold color, and an aromatic bouquet. The supple palate is underscored by a pleasant acidity which gives it freshness and good cellaring potential. Germain wines are flying under the radar at the moment, but won’t be for long, as they are beginning to garner critical acclaim.
Vigneti di Ettore Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2017 ($65)
I discovered this producer during Amarone Antiprima in Verona this past summer and was in love at first sip. Ettore is a family-run winery in Valpolicella that is earning critical acclaim. After an uncompromising selection of the grapes, which come exclusively from the very best vineyards, they are carefully laid out on straw mats and air-dried for approximately 100 days. The wine is elegant with plum and blackberry aromas. The palate is fresh and lively with notes of sweet spice and ripe fruits. There is nice freshness and lively acidity with intensity and length.
Horsepower Vineyards Syrah The Tribe Vineyard Walla Walla, WA 2019 ($210)
As the oldest son of the centuries-old Champagne house, Baron Albert, Christophe Baron, founder of Horsepower Vineyards, was born into the wine industry. Baron pioneered the biodynamic farming movement in the Walla Walla Valley in Washington State in 2002. Today Christophe produces some incredible cult Syrah wines from Walla Walla. The Tribe Vineyard 2019 has classic Syrah aromatics of violets, blueberry, lavender and white pepper. Full-bodied and rich on the palate, there are hints of black cherries, umami and olive tapenade. Great complexity and mouthfeel with silky tannins. This a classic old-world Syrah with a bit of ‘The Rocks’ funk.
Rhys Vineyards Horseshoe Ranch Pinot Noir 2019 ($110)
Rhys Vineyards aspires to make great wines from California’s Santa Cruz Mountains. The wines produced at Horseshoe Ranch are uniquely mineral-driven, precise and focused. Lots of savory herbs, black cherries, rocks and tobacco notes on the palate. The fine tannins are perfectly focused. The wine offers an almost palpable tension that greatly rewards aging. A mindblowing Pinot Noir that will capture your heart and palate.