Special Recognition Award Winners
Mr. Harper's favorites from the past year of travel
Nowadays, fine wines are produced around the world. In 2016, I enjoyed the products of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia and the Salta region of Argentina, as well as notable bottles from classic areas such as Chablis, Burgundy and Bordeaux. I also tasted fine local spirits distilled in Vermont and Spain.
2013 Albert Bichot Domaine Long-Depaquit La Moutonne Grand Cru Chablis
Grand cru Chablis ranks among the world’s greatest wines, as exemplified by this powerful bottling. It had magnificent richness but a steely spine, further supported by zesty spiciness. What a joy.
2012 Château Fonplégade Grand Cru Classé Saint-Emilion
This blend of 95 percent Merlot and 5 percent Cabernet Franc would make a convert out of the staunchest Merlot-phobe. The exciting 2012 felt like a taut spring waiting to uncoil, with ample dark red and purple fruit, intriguing notes of mushrooms and earth and a touch of minerality.
2014 Coolshanagh Chardonnay
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada
It still comes as something of a surprise that Canada can produce superb dry wines, and “superb” is no exaggeration. This Chardonnay felt positively Burgundian, with its combination of richness and focus. It had creamy fruit and a note of buttered popcorn, but lively acids kept the wine beautifully balanced.
2014 Piattelli Grand Reserve Malbec
The high altitude of Salta gives its wines the potential to achieve impressive concentration, a fact immediately made clear by the deep color of this Malbec. I loved its voluptuous dark fruit, forceful acids, gorgeously supple tannins and elegant overlay of tobacco.
2012 The Federalist Dueling Pistols Zinfandel-Syrah Blend
Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, CA
The name of this wine refers to the famous duel fought by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, and indeed, The Federalist is the partner winery of the musical Hamilton. This opulently fruity and spicy blend was as powerful as the show, and its finish of beefy tannins and lush tobacco left me thoroughly seduced.
2011 Domaine de l’Hortus Grande Cuvée Blanc, Pic St-Loup
Jean Orliac has been making wines in this part of the Languedoc for over 30 years, using his intimate knowledge of the rugged calcareous soil to yield wines of great finesse. I found this luscious blend to have rewarding rich fruit, ample acidity and overall a fine balance to create a white wine that was a great pleasure to drink.
2010 Domaine Marquis d’Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Fremiet
I love Pinot Noirs, and nowhere do I think they reach better expression than in Burgundy (with some notable exceptions from the American West Coast). This is a beautiful Volnay with a nose of ripe red fruits and a palate that exemplifies the raspberry-strawberry succulence of a Pinot Noir with a dash of spice.
2004 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva
La Rioja, Spain
The firm light tannins, bright acidity and good balance of this magnificently harmonious and gracious Rioja reflect six years in oak barrels. Its savory nose — leather, tea, mushrooms with notes of dried cherries and balsamic — make it ideal for roasted or grilled red meat.
Nordés Atlantic Galician Gin
Distilled from locally grown Albariño grapes, this bracingly refreshing gin is best drunk neat on the rocks to savor the unusual botanicals that flavor it, including sea beans, cardamom, sage, ginger, quinine, hibiscus, tea and bay leaves.
Sapling Maple Bourbon, Saxtons River Distillery
I enjoyed exploring and sampling the products of Vermont’s growing spirits industry. My favorite discovery was the Sapling Maple Bourbon, a small-batch spirit with the judicious addition of Vermont maple syrup, which adds to the sweetness. I found that it makes a delicious Manhattan.
Single Barrel Gin, Stonecutter Spirits
This small producer currently only sells one product, Single Barrel Gin. Aged in former bourbon barrels, it stands as one of the most distinctive spirits I’ve tasted in some time. With a caramel hue, its nose gives scent of juniper, orange and burnt butterscotch with a remarkably smooth finish. (Look for a Stonecutter small-batch whiskey to be released in 2019.)