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Top Wines of 2008

Member Rating

By James Geneau

It is that time of year again. A time to look back at the wines our members rated as their top picks. When we launched our new Web platform in September, we created a whole new world of interactive offerings for our members. Once signed in, anyone can rate, review, and share a bottle of wine with friends. In addition, they can add it to their favorites for reference at a later date. We have big plans in 2009 to make this even more valuable and entertaining , but until then, here are the top 5 star picks of 2008 according to our valuable and wine savvy members

Hardy's Bankside Shiraz 2005
This wine scored five stars from our members with its typical Shiraz characteristics of berries, plum, vanilla, and pepper. Generous fruit flavors, excellent structure and great length on the finish. This wine fits everything from formal steak to casual burgers.

Chateau Cote Montpezat 2001
Chateau Cote Montpezat is a perfect example of a Merlot blend. There is some irony to this, since it was made under the consultation of Michel Rolland who was savagely vilified in the film Mondovino for making New World-style "fruit bombs". He didn't here, anyway.

Dogridge The Pup Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Dogridge's "starter" wine The Pup is a Sauvignon Blanc that will confuse your guests when you serve it before dinner. Where is this from? It's constrained and balanced enough to be Old World, but there's a boldness that screams New. No wonder: Dogridge is one of Oz's most forward (and backward - in a good way) forces in the wine making business

Galil Mountain Winery Yiron 2004
A wine from Israel's Upper Galilee region consisting of Cabernets with little Merlot &amp; Syrah. Ripe with red currant, raspberry, plums, figs, herbal, earth, leather aromas. Full bodied and well balanced with a bright cherry, pipe tobacco finish

Henry of Pelham Baco Noir 1993
Niagara region was well represented this year with Henry of Pelham. This wine is deep ruby with a garnet rim. Black fruit, tar &amp; molasses, old spice box and herb crusted charred meat aromatics. Light to medium bodied with dried plum, fig and cherry flavors with acidity still kicking and a cacao finish

Henry of Pelham Cabernet Franc Ice Wine 2006
Our only ice wine on the list. Intense, vibrant fruit aromas and flavors, exhibiting strawberry and raspberry above all others. Age for 1 to 4 years from vintage. Made from grapes harvested from Henry of Pelham's own Short Hills vineyards

Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Brut 2006
Our only sparkling to receive 5 stars from our members in 2008 - just in time for New Year's Eve! It is a wine with complex and elegant aromas. Bright fruit with subtle toast and baked apple tones. Made from the blending of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Able to develop for 2-3 years but intended for drinking upon release.

Los 800 2003
Spain was a big favorite for members this year. The los800 delivers spicy Grenache notes: red berries, maybe even a bit of cherry and almond coming from the six months in French oak. It's a powerful and bold wine, but it's also subtle. Dangerously subtle: there almost no hint of its 14% alcohol by volume. This is a great dinner party wine - just make sure everyone takes a cab home. It's too easy to keep sipping.

Matua Valley Hawke's Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2003
There is lots of excitement these days for wines from New Zealand and this one made it to our member's top list for 2008! For once a new world red that doesn't blow off the alcohol scale. This wine is food friendly and full of good fruit, cherries.

Montecillo Crianza 2005
Back to Spain with a great wine at a good price. Made primarily with Tempranillo from the Spanish region of Rioja. Fruity, specifically cherries, with some hints of tobacco and a lovely ruby color. Great on its own, with cheese and pate or inside or along side a great lamb stew in the fall. This one could become a day-to-day favorite to keep on hand

Nemea Tslopos Agiorgitiko 2005
We had a Greek wine appear as one of our member favorites and we could not be happier! Dry, with a soft velvety taste and an abundance of aromas from fruits and nuts, a great example of the agiorgitiko grape. It combines ripe red fruits with a touch of spices and light vanilla from the oak barrels.

Palha-Canas 2004
Portugal was not left out of our member-picks for 2008. The 2004 Palha-Canas, from the large Casa Santos Lima, should pack a powerful punch at a heady 14% alcohol, but is surprisingly restrained with complex finishes: there's certainly fruit but it's tempered with tannin. The dominant grape is Touriga Nacional: the Portuguese version of Tempranillo and one of the grapes most used in Port. If you're a fan of oaky Spanish reds, this is a wonderful wine to compare with.

Penescal Tempranillo 2005
Back to Spain for another favorite and a bargain at that! Great value for under $10. It's jammy and deeply concentrated and touched with oak, but perfectly quaffable.

Penfold's Grange Shiraz 2002
OK, so not all wines are a bargain, but Penfold's The Grange is no surprise showing up in our member picks for 2008. Inky black color. Spicy wild berry black fruit, still youthful, highly complex. Full, very big but not clumsy, spicy red and black, highly intense. Great wine here. Super high intensity and concentration. Carries high alcohol elegantly.

Simonsig Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
You certainly could not have a top picks of 2008 without South Africa showing up for the party! This is a deeply delicious wine from the great cape estate of Simonsig. It pours a lovely deep red color with a black cherry and youngberry aroma. Taste wise, it is bold and fruity with hints of cigar and spicy vanilla oak with a fruity aftertaste. It will age well, so feel free to tuck a few bottles away for enjoyment at a later date.

And finally...

Wolf Blass Shiraz, Platinum Label 2004
Another Australian sits at the end of the list for alphabetical reasons only. This wine is 60% Eden Valley plus two 100+ year old vineyards from Barossa). Only 1,000 cases made. �Pure expression of Shiraz'. Full, weighty, some minty notes here too. Lots of super ripe black fruit, plum, jammy cassis, high intensity, and balanced acidity. Full, powerful, long finish.

And there you have it, our member picks for 2008. What will 2009 have in store? Who knows. We have 12 months of ratings to go through. Want to make your vote count for 2009? That is easy. Simply log in as a member and then head over to our library section. Here, you can rate, review, and comment on a growing list of great wines from around the world.

And be sure to add a few bottles to your list of favorites so you can keep them for later!

Have a great 2009!



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