Never Too Much: The top 10 wines of the year (plus three).

This time of year, I start thinking too much. I think about what I did wrong (and not enough about what I did right), and I think about what should happen in the year to come. But my favorite part is re-living the great wine I consumed, because those memories are pleasant ones. Here’s a list of favorites still available in the marketplace, my top 10 wine memories. Actually, make that top 13 — because too much wine is never enough.

1. Schramsberg J. Schram 1999 (California) Soft, creamy and absolutely dreamy. Generous and almost Chardonnay-ish in character, with subtle pineapple and green apple seducing your tongue. Flawless wine — and it better be at this price. $80. 5 stars. (Published 12/2005)

2. Merry Edwards 2002 Pinot Noir Russian River (California) Oh Merry, how I love your wine. Earthy cherry, raspberry and blueberry home in on that one special spot in your mouth that ignites such pleasure. Elegant, classy and sophisticated. $34. 4 stars. (6/22/05)

3. Turkey Flat 2004 Dry Rosé Barossa Valley (Australia) A spectacular rosé symphony of red fruit flavors that indulge the palate with strawberry, cherry and raspberry. Elegant, with fantastic acidic balance. Well-priced for the quality. One word: yummy. $15. 4.5 stars. (6/01/05)

4. Alexander Valley Vineyards 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley (California) Silky, soft and elegant, like a luxurious bath. Perfectly constructed with fruit, acids and tannins all coming together in gorgeous harmony. Seduces with chocolate-covered cherries, with violets and red raspberry. $22. 4.5 stars. (1/5/05)

5. Mer Soleil 2002 Late Harvest Viognier (California) Gushing honeysuckle, peaches and bitter orange, this delicious dessert wine is only for the sweet at heart. This is decadence at its best… drink it with caution. $36. 4.5 stars. (4/27/05)

6. Branham 2002 Zinfandel Napa Valley (California) Somebody slap me upside the head and get me out of the clouds, since I’m floating after tasting this wine. Seductive, sultry cherry and blackberries with soft tannins yet enough oomph to impress you. $29. 4.5 stars. (9/28/05)

7. Robert Sinskey 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Stag’s Leap (California) Floral like a birthday bouquet with roses and violets. A ballsy cherry first impression flows into a bright, vibrant raspberry. Smooth tannins make this cabernet easy to enjoy. $55. 4.5 stars. (4/27/05)

8. Deloach Vineyards 2004 Gewurz-traminer Early Harvest Russian River (California) The best Gewurztraminer I’ve had in a long time. Aromatic with ripe peaches, pears and cinnamon. Quaffable with slightly sweet red apples, easy acids and a mineral finish. $14. 4.5 stars. (8/24/05)

9. Schloss Vollrads 2003 Spatlese Riesling Rheingau (Germany) Absolutely deliciously ripe with peaches, nectarines, red apples and a slate flavor on the finish. Lightly sweet alone, but pair it with food and that sugar melts into a rich, crisp wine. $19. 4 stars. (8/31/05)

10. Grant Burge 2003 Miamba Shiraz Barossa Valley (Australia) Full-bodied, dark, sensuous and sexy, with no apologies to other weaklings. The gushing blackberry and cedar punch you in the face, and you like it. $18. 4 stars. (13/05)

11. McManis 2004 Viognier (California) An aroma you’d gladly dive into, with fragrant honeysuckle and roses wafting up the glass. Follows with full-bodied apricot and toasted almonds. $10. 4 stars. (5/18/05)

12. Aura 2004 Verdejo Rueda (Spain) The tart, white Verdelho grape might be an acquired taste, but I’m sure digging its clean, refreshing flavor. So limey it makes your mouth pucker, with acidic, steely grapefruit and a nutmeg, orange-spice aftertaste. $17. 4 stars. (9/28/05)

13. Marcarini 2002 Moscato d’Asti (Italy) Smells like my grandmother’s bathroom, complete with frou-frou soap and potpourri. Tastes like violets, peaches, honeysuckle and lavender slathered in blueberry syrup. $17. 4 stars.(8/31/05)


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