2017 Importers of the Year, Top 100 Wineries, Top 100 Wines
Wine and Spirits
31st Annual Buying Guide
Top Importers of the Year
Track records are important: They are what earned each of our Top 100 Wineries a place in this issue, as well as what landed these importers here. These five companies have a bevy of wines and wineries represented in this issue, a sure sense that their leaders have not just business sense but good taste.
Old Bridge Cellars
If you want to know Australian wines, look for Old Bridge Cellars. Focusing on independently owned wineries, they’ve assembled a collection of brands that spans the country, showcasing classics like Rutherglen Muscats from Chambers Rosewood Vineyards and new wave wineries like Giant Steps – both among our Top 100 Wineries. While the bulk of their book is Australian, it extends to New Zealand for brands like Innocent Bystander, and Burgundy, with Maison L’Envoye, wines our panels have been excited about year after year.
Top 100 Wineries of the Year
Chambers Rosewood Vineyards – Rutherglen, Victoria
The Chambers family tends ancient blending stock for Rutherglen “stickies,” complex sweet wines that are one of Australia’s overlooked treasures.
Years in top 100: 2006, 2011, 2015, 2017
Top scoring wines:
96 pts Chambers Rutherglen Rare Muscat NV
95 pts Chambers Rutherglen Rare Muscadelle NV
94 pts Chambers Rutherglen Grand Muscat NV
The Rare Muscadelle is fascinating, its plum-pudding sweetness made complex with notes of smoke, stones and leather. The Rare Muscat is even more intense: Dark and dense, a single sip saturates the palate, the flavors so intense they no longer seem sweet. Instead, the wine tastes of iodine and salt, of dried figs and warm stones, the mineral notes glinting through like stars in a wide open, moonless sky.
Giant Steps – Yarra Valley, Victoria
Whether in blends or single-vineyard bottlings, Phil Sexton’s wines show the cool side of Yarra Valley wines.
Years in top 100: 2013-2017
Top scoring wines:
93 pts Giant Steps Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2016
92 pts Giant Steps Yarra Valley Applejack Pinot Noir 2016
92 pts Giant Steps Yarra Valley Sexton Vineyard Chardonnay 2016
The ’16 Yarra Valley Chardonnay, blended from Sexton, Tarraford and Applejack vineyards, has a sense of coolness in its drive, and fruit complexity, ripe and nearly red in flavor yet entirely balanced. And Applejack, at 1,000 feet, grew a silky, transparent pinot noir in 2016, the sense of complexity and weightlessness heightened, perhaps, by the peppery lift gained from 60 percent whole bunches in the fermentation. Smoky, with notes of rye over the bright cherry flavors, this has tension that lasts.
100 Best Wines of the Year
96 pts Chambers Rosewood Vineyards Rutherglen Rare Muscat NV
Stephen Chambers, the sixth-generation winemaker at this family firm, releases his Rare wines from stocks that are more than a century old. This muscat coats the glass in its almost black mahogany color, just as one small sip completely saturates that palate, a layer of darkness allowing only glints of flavor to get through, even as those flavors have intensity and energy. You might taste it as salt, iodine and figs if you try to break it into components, or you might taste it as time revealed through light, a canvas as complex as the night sky with no moonlight to soften the details of the distant stars.
94 pts Yeringberg Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2015
The de Pury family established their vineyard in 1863 and replanted it after a nearly 80-year hiatus in 1969. David de Pury now farms the vines; his sister Sandra makes the wines. This 2015 is a deep yellow-gold, a tangy chardonnay that parallels Chablis in its briskness and mineral tension. It’s a wine of salty, creamy refinement, with nutmeat flavors that are fresh rather than oxidative. For Raveneau drinkers on a night off. – J.G.
94 pts Mount Mary Vineyard Yarra Valley Quintet 2013
This wine’s elegant structure lends it the kind of sophistication that’s rare in Bordeaux blends from outside their home region. Five Bordelais varieties make up this blend: cabernet sauvignon (49 percent), merlot (26 percent), cabernet franc (15 percent), petit verdot and Malbec. It shows delicate red fruit and cedar scents, with complexity in the grape-skin tannins, which yield spice and a fine form of richness. One of the most collectible reds in Australia, this is built to develop for years in the cellar.
100 Best Buys of the Year
94 pts Kilikanoon Clare Valley Mort’s Block Riesling 2015
A blend from three blocks on a hillside next to the winery in Watervale, this is an expansive and elegant Riesling, dominated by the limestone undergirding of the soil in Watervale. Layers of white grapefruit, pear and apple flavors open over the salt and lime stoniness in a generous, silken richness that lasts. It’s a racy and powerful vintage of Mort’s Block.
90 pts Innocent Bystander Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Round and supple, this sauvignon has intensity and richness to its flavors, pumped up by toasted-lees notes, even as the fruit holds to the crispness of green apple skin. The apple and lees notes merge in a clean, juicy, vinous wine with tight length of flavor.
90 pts Stickybeak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
This wine’s broad, rich, cherry-scented fruit has cabernet’s varietal notes of tobacco and red bell pepper. The tannins are gentle, saturated with sweet fruit. Built for braised beef.