Grand Awards 2018
Andrew Harper's Favorites from the Past Year of Travel
The wide variety of high-quality wines produced nowadays continues to amaze me, and I derive great satisfaction from finding them in unexpected places. This year, I discovered superlative wines in the suburbs of Lisbon and along France’s Côte d’Azur, as well as world-class German-style whites in central Portland and stellar Pinots in California’s Anderson Valley.
Château de Pibarnon
La Cadière d’Azur, France
Heading east from Marseille, the Var department is a wine-producing region where many wineries have shifted from volume to quality in recent years. One of the best of them is the Château de Pibarnon, an estate in Bandol that has been owned by the Saint Victor family for the past four decades. They produce white, rosé and red wines, but the reds are especially noteworthy and a fine choice with lamb and other red meats. Made from Mourvèdre and Cinsault grapes, the Pibarnon reds characteristically have a woody nose, with notes of heather, cherry, plum, nutmeg and cinnamon on the palate.
Boonville, California, United States
Lichen Estate is a relatively new winery in the Anderson Valley. A glass of Lichen’s Pinot Noir at a lunch earlier in a trip through Northern California had piqued my interest and led me here. The 2015 Moonglow Pinot Noir has a classic nose of cherry and spice, with tart plum and cherry on the palate. We also tried the 2013 Blanc de Noir, a delightful sparkler with a citrus nose, a note of toasted brioche and flavors of citrus, with grapefruit predominating.
Teutonic Wine Company
Portland, Oregon, United States
There is nothing fancy or pretentious about the Teutonic Wine Company. But the small tasting room is stylish, and the wines we tasted were seriously delicious. Owner and winemaker Barnaby Tuttle trained in the Moselle Valley, but such is the quality of his wines that interns now arrive from Germany. Had we not known that the fragrant and focused 2016 Crow Valley Vineyard Riesling came from Oregon, we would have guessed it was from a top Moselle winery. We also won’t soon forget the lively and ethereal Alsea Blanc (a blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Meunier) or the perfumed and cheerful Traubenwerkzeug Pinot Noir. Our excellent tasking guide had intimate knowledge of every wine he poured.
Beautiful Villa Oeiras is the only estate now producing Carcavelos, a fortified wine that, like port and Madeira, has its own Denominação de Origem Controlada classification. Alas, the historic estate lies between Lisbon and the resort town of Cascais, and housing developments in the 20th century consumed many of the Carcavelos vineyards. Fortunately, the municipality of Oeiras partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture to found this winery and preserve 30 acres. The flagship wine, aged 10 years in oak, is remarkable. It tastes rich with nuts, honey and wood, but the acids are so lively they prickle. It’s amazing to think that wines of such quality and pedigree were almost lost for all time.