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The (PLCB) Fine Wine and Good Spirits Edition

This past year was a fantastic one for those of us living in Pennsylvania, at least for wine.  The first independent wine shops started cropping up all over the state, and a handful of state-run stores finally found their footing (go here for our new list of the region’s top wine stores).

We reviewed over a hundred amazing wines, along with the two thousand bottles tasted during wine classes in 2017.  We distilled those down to our top 10 favorite wines of the year. To be our top picks, wine could not just be fantastic; they had to be offered at an amazing price, as well.

Some of these wines are probably sold out by the time you read this.  If you want to be kept appraised of all the best wine deals in the  Fine Wine and Good Spirits (PLCB) stores, all you have to do is sign up for our free wine newsletter.   We’ll send out our list of the top wine buys once a month. You can also check out our Wine Review page, as well.

#10 Tormaresca 2012 “Trentangeli” Castel del Monte 

I am a big fan of Aglianico, but it isn’t a crowd pleaser. It’s more like the Metallica of the wine world. Even some of our sommelier friends balk at the molten minerality of the grape. I’ve been waiting for a smooth version of this overtly-aggressive wine and this is it.

This bottle is both accessible and elevated, with cassis, espresso, and toasted vanilla barrel notes throughout the fleshy structure. There are also beautiful aromas of wet earth and savory spices that open up on the finish. More.

#9 Glenelly 2011 “The Glass Collection” Syrah, Stellenbosch

When this bottle dropped into the shelves of my local wine shop, I hoarded it like a squirrel sitting on a lifetime supply of black truffles. It wasn’t for personal consumption (that’s what the Yuengling is for): This was the perfect bottle of Syrah for our Wine 101 classes.  For under $15, it had more bang for the buck than a hitman in a speedo contest.

If a Milkyway bar and a bag of teriyaki beef jerky had a love child, it would grow up to be this wine. More.

#8 Shirvington 2010 Shiraz, McLaren Vale 

Kim Jackson is one of my favorite winemakers. She knows how to tame the beast that is Aussie Shiraz.

Burnt incense, toasted allspice, and chocolate-covered cherries bobbing in a gigantic vat of blackberry jam. Oh, and the tannins are as big and round as the face of a velvet dolphin.  Pure hedonism. More. 

#7 Zotovich Estate 2013 Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills

The wine regions tucked away in Santa Barbara are the best-kept secrets in American wine.  This beauty came into the PLCB Wine and Spirit Stores for a crazy low price. I’ve drunk plenty of $50 bottles of Pinot Noir that didn’t come close to this.

Taut red fruit with layers of wild rose and honeysuckle. It is a lithe expression of Pinot Noir that offers great finesse and clarity.

#6 Wynns 2013 “Black Label” Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra

This is the wine that put Coonawarra on the map as one of the world’s top regions for growing Cabernet Sauvignon.  It made its way into the PLCB Fine Wine and Good Spirit stores at a piddling $25.

Scents of dried roses and cigar ash mix with aromas of fresh, dark fruit.  Fruit flavors veer towards plum and cassis, while spice notes —cardamom, allspice, cinnamon—begin on the attack and follow through to the finish. More. 

#5 Robert Young Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Scion Estate

A five-generation family of farmers turned winemakers in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. How could you go wrong? This is one of those rare Chairmans’ Selections that really pulls its weight.

Aromas of Earl Grey tea and hibiscus are balanced with fresh mint and tobacco. The wine is rich and voluptuous, with flavors of sun-dried plum and fresh red fruit accented by cedar and allspice. The finish moves toward chocolate and allspice but then rises into espresso and raspberry. More. 

#4 Venus La Universal 2013 “Dido” Montsant 

One of the most romantic wines we tasted all year. Our Advanced Sommelier students became so enamored of this bottling that they raided Wine & Spirits stores in three counties to stock their cellars.

Dried lavender on the nose, with blue fruits and a wisp of a forest floor. Flavors of smoke and mineral intermix with orange blossoms and tart cherries. Medium bodied with a sexy lushness that is backed up with structured tannins and an open, appealing freshness. More.

#3 Anzivino 2010 Gattinara

For all the  Barolo I’ve tasted this year, this Nebbiolo from up north charmed the hell out of me. This wasn’t a Chairman’s Selection, but it did come into the state at less than $20, which was a steal. Wish I had a few more bottles.

Aromas of crushed lilac, rose water, and sage. Rum raisin and cherry compote fill in the edges with a bit of wood smoke. On the palate, it is elegant with bright acids and finely-grained tannins. More.

#2 Robert Mondavi Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville 

Thank you, Mr. PLCB Chairman. THANK YOU.  This was a gift to every wine lover in the state. A bottle of To-Kalon vineyard cabernet for $30?  I stand by my original review: “This is like listening to Nirvana’s Teen Spirit for the first time. It answers every argument as to why Napa is one of the great wine regions of the world.”  More.

#1 Delille Cellars 2013 “D2” Columbia Valley 

All of a sudden, Philadelphia fell in love with  Washington State wines last year.  We’ve had to run two classes on the subject just to keep up with demand. This wine (along with the 2:2 reviewed in 2016)  may have something to do with it.

Complex aromas of burnt cedar, ocean air, and marjoram fill the nose. Flavors of anise and dried plum move into vanilla and cardamom on the palate. The finish reveals savory herbs and dark berries.   More.