My Favorite Wines of 2022
Richard’s Rating Scale: ****→*
Ratings key: * = good, ** = very good, *** = excellent, **** = exceptional, + = given rating plus, → = will increase in quality with time.
Two and Two-to-Three Stars
**→* Veritas Vineyards Momentarius White 2021, Monticello, VA
A blend of Viognier, Chardonnay and Petit Manseng, with some oak. The nose is subtle, mostly closed now, with hints of tropical fruit flavors on the palate, but the texture is lush and dense, but with balancing acidity on the finish. This will be an excellent food wine especially for cream sauces or with roast poultry like turkey. It needs 2-3 more months for flavors to emerge, but will be worth the wait.
**→* 12 Ridges Riesling 2021, Virginia
This Riesling is grown adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Nelson County, VA at 3,300 ft. elevation. It reminds me of a fine Finger Lakes, NY Riesling, with racy green apple fruit and minerality on the nose, then tantalizing, racy acidity on the palate with a range of apple ranging from Granny Smith green to Cortland red, with a long, fresh finish.
Is this Riesling dry, or sweet? A lot of West Coast Cabernet and Chardonnay fans who like to deride Riesling as being “sweet” would be taken by surprise at the high acid of this Riesling, because this is typical of quality, cool-climate Rieslings. To balance this high acid, the wine has some residual sugar, but it doesn’t really “taste” sweet, since it’s all relative to the ratio of acid to residual sugar. I’d say the wine is semi-dry, like a German Mosel Kabinett from a fine VDP estate (whose members don’t add any sugar to their musts to raise the final alcohol level). This wine was made from whole cluster-pressed fruit and went through a long (five month), cool fermentation (55° F) with native yeast. It is bright, racy, food-friendly, site-specific, clean and very varietally correct. $50 while it lasts. By 2023, it will develop to three-star status.
While they wait for the maturation of their wines, 12 Ridges is offering a thoughtful, curated tasting in both red and white of fine wines from around the world from high elevations, featuring regions such as Mendoza, Argentina, Alsace, Mosel, and others. The result is a great consistency in freshness of fruit and vibrant acidity from fine wine regions with some altitude.
**→* Atwater Vineyards Pinot Noir 2020, Finger Lakes, NY
Nose: closed, with hints of fresh bright red cherry. Palate: raspberry/strawberry flavors, fresh bright clean acidity, in a Cotes de Beaune style, but concentrated. Promising.
**+ Keuka Spring Vineyards Riesling 2021 (Humphrey’s Vineyard, Seneca Lake)
Complex nose, ripe peach hints. Palate: juicy, concentrated, high acidity. Young, needs time, multi-dimensional, elegant fruit/acid balance (0.9% residual sugar). Will be better by mid-2023.
**+ 2019 Bozzo Family Chardonnay “Eileen”, VA
Despite being a nice ripe 13% alcohol, is subtle with fresh, vibrant acidity and a touch of minerality. I had thought it might be getting mature by now, from a warm vintage, but Steve Bozzo sources his fruit locally and it shows definite Loudoun County character; firm acidity and impressive length.
On the nose, it’s both subtle and Burgundian; hints of lemon and ripe apple. On the palate, it is fresh, lively, pure and acid-driven, with impressive length. It reminds me of a Macon or even Petit Chablis from Burgundy, all the more impressive for the heat of the vintage and lower acids in warmer sites in Virginia.
Three Star Wines (Excellent) – Virginia
***→**Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir 2021 VA ($58-$62)
Released after only six weeks in the bottle, tasted when a year old.
Color: translucent medium ruby. Nose: racy, with bright red cherry, raspberries, a hint of white pepper and spice, flinty minerality. Aside from the red fruit aromas, very much like an estate Mosel Riesling. Palate: young, with vivid electric acidity matched by bright ripe red fruits. Mid-palate, the flavors change to truffle, clean earth and forest floor notes. Tannins are smooth, and balance the fruit and acidity. This wine is clean, with bright, vivid fruit. Young, you could say it is “embryonic,” but has great style, finesse, and a bright future. 14.5% alc. but with the acidity, you don’t really notice. Best from 2024-2031.
*** Veritas Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2021, Monticello, VA
Like a Sancerre on steroids! Loads of flinty minerality and lemon/lime and pink grapefruit. Alcohol only 12% and not full of passion fruit like the NZ style, but this is still a mind-blowing Sauvignon with everything you want. Great now but will be fully integrated by next spring.
*** Veritas Vineyards Viognier 2021, Monticello, VA
The freshness of the 2021 vintage gives this Viognier lovely tangerine fruit on the nose with white flowers. On the palate, an impressive balance of fresh tangerine flavor and zesty acidity, with floral hints on the finish. Fresher than in other vintages; a lovely style.
*** Veritas Vineyards Sparkling Rosé NV, Monticello, VA ($25)
For a sparkling rosé in this price range, this is a real deal, and very stylish! A blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Cabernet Franc, this wine was from the 2016 vintage and saw five years en tirage (resting on the lees). Nose: fragrant, fresh strawberries, then creaminess from years of lees contact. Palate: Fresh, dry but creamy, again from years of lees contact. Vibrant, fresh red cherries and strawberry flavors. Great quality and value.
*** Keswick Vineyards Lydian 2021, Monticello, VA
Like the Veritas Momentarius, this wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Petit Manseng. While the Momentarius is a rich, dense reserve blend, the Lydian is bright, fresh, fruity and fully enjoyable young. The Petit Manseng will enable it to age for a few years, if you can hold it that long. This is a versatile wine, good for summer appetizers or with light summer cuisine like shellfish.
*** Bozzo Family Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 “Lynne Marie”, VA
Although Loudoun County is 100 miles north of Charlottesville and in a cooler climate zone (“Peoria”), Cabernet Sauvignon will ripen earlier and better here because the soils are more well-drained. This Cabernet was aged in new and neutral French oak for 12 months. Nose: vanilla, spice, ripe red cassis. Palate: complex, dry, full-bodied, oak/vanilla/spice, firm tannins but ripe red cassis, and a fresh finish. Not over oaked, but gives depth and dimension for fans of full-bodied Cabernet and shows an elegant Loudoun County style in a good vintage.
***+ Merrie Mill Estate Red Blend 2019, Monticello, VA (Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot)
Merrie Mill’s two current red wines are testaments to the outstanding quality of the 2019 vintage, and Emily Pelton’s winemaking skill. Nose: Wow! Multi-dimensional; ripe red and black briar fruits. Palate: Wow again! Large mouth-filling volume, ripe fruit, then BIG ripe tannins, blueberry flavor hints, with a fresh clean finish. Stylish, lively, multi-dimensional, fruit-driven. Firm tannins but still elegant. This wine had short time on the skins and was gently pressed off a few weeks after harvest.
*** Brix & Columns Chardonnay 2021, Shenandoah Valley of VA
Barrel fermented. Nose: fresh, lemon and butterscotch, elegant oak notes. Palate: fresh, vivid fruit/acid balance, very skillful use of oak that matches the fruit and acidity.
*** The Winery at Kindred Pointe “ Picasso”, 2019, Shenandoah Valley of VA (70% Petit Verdot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Chambourcin)
Nose: black fruits and new oak. Palate: well-integrated ripe fruit, firm tannins, rich oak and fruit flavors, classic Meritage blend style and quality, notwithstanding the 12% Chambourcin.
*** The Winery at Kindred Pointe Petit Verdot 2019, Shenandoah Valley of VA
24 months in new American oak. Nose: lovely floral, herbal notes, with lavender, blueberries and blackberries. Palate: lovely, delicious, smooth, fine integration of fruit, oak, tannins. Very plush, sexy texture, also shows Shenandoah Valley terroir.
*** Rockbridge V d’Or 2018, Shenandoah Valley of VA (15% residual sugar, 13.5% alc.)
Cryo-extraction sweet dessert wine. A trio blend of hybrids: Vidal, Vignoles and Traminette. Gold color. Nose: a fruit basket of aromas: apricots, pineapple, mango. Palate: lively, ripe, rich fruit. Firm acid balances residual sugar, ends fresh and clean. Stylish, classy, well-balanced.
*** Bluestone “Houndstooth” 2017, Shenandoah Valley of VA (Meritage-style blend, mostly Cabernet Franc, a selection of 8 barrels)
Nose: wow! Lovely spice, black fruits typical of that vintage, and a large volume of bouquet, clean earth, spice and black fruits, some vanilla and oak. Palate: wow! Large but also very elegant and fresh. Solid oak balanced by solid fruit, but enough acidity for a fresh finish.
Three Star Wines (Excellent) – Finger Lakes, NY
*** Dr. Frank Dry Riesling 2021, Finger Lakes, NY
The 2021 vintage of dry and semi-dry Riesling was just released at the winery tasting room, but will take awhile to work down the supply change in other areas/states. Nose: elegant cool vintage style; clean lemon/lime Mosel delicacy, racy with mineral hints. Palate: apple flavors, firm acidity, hint of white peach, juicy mid-palate but crackling with acidity; great varietal and regional typicity, a fine long finish.
*** Dr. Frank Dry Rosé 2021, Finger Lakes, NY (Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, Blaufränkisch/Lemberger)
A darker than usual pink color. For a rosé from a poor vintage, this was much higher than my expectations. Nose; fresh, cotton-candy notes, clean. Palate: juicy, fresh, clean and dry, reminds me of dry Chambourcin rosé with its juiciness and fresh, delicate fruit.
*** Dr. Frank Blaufänkisch 2019, Finger Lakes, NY
Nose: fresh, bright, delicate briar fruits, some nice vanilla/oak notes. Palate: juicy! Fresh, but still has bright acidity. Elegant, with great varietal and regional character, with nice spice on the finish. Good now, will improve for a year or two.
Nose: fresh, clean, a bit closed still, since it was just released in May; reminds me of Savigny Les Beaune from Burgundy. Palate: full, round, vibrant fruit/acid balance, good tannins for a Pinot Noir; intense, vibrant, lovely cherry and strawberry flavors, a great Finger Lakes Pinot in a Burgundian style.
*** Point of the Bluff Blaufränkisch Reserve 2020, Finger Lakes, NY
Nose: fragrant briar fruits, more black than red, nice spice hints. Palate: juicy, round but then acidity and bright red fruits come in on mid-palate. Full, big volume, smooth and ripe tannins, great potential.
*** Point of the Bluff “Blau” 2020, Finger Lakes, NY (nouveau-style Blaufränkisch)
The Rooftop Reds winery in Brooklyn, the City’s only rooftop vineyard, commissioned this wine as one that could be enjoyed either room temperature or chilled for summertime pleasure. This carbonic maceration nouveau-style varietal wine from Blaufränkisch is a treat, and earns a star for both originality and brilliant execution. Color is vibrant, light ruby/dark pink. Nose: just like someone crushed fresh boysenberries into your glass. Palate: juicy but then the nice acidity comes in. Fresh, lively, juicy but dry, and balanced. Only 100 cases made, and it’s flying off the shelves at $30/bottle! Alas, the winery has closed.
*** Hunt Country Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2020, Finger Lakes, NY
Nose: leafy and herbal vegetal hints, some smoky oak and a hint of red cherry. Palate: strawberry, red cherry and black pepper, lively and intense, fruit and acid-driven, needs some time. Promising, great illustration of Finger Lakes terroir with this grape.
***+ Hunt Country Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2020, Finger Lakes, NY
It’s rare to see me rate a Finger Lakes Cab Sauv this highly, especially if the grapes don’t all come from southeast Seneca Lake, but in this vintage, it can happen. Nose: mostly closed, but clean with just a faint hint of ripe black fruits. Palate: lively and fresh, with smooth, ripe tannins and ripe black fruits that will eventually emerge, but needs time. A triumph of good grape growing, careful winemaking and Finger Lakes terroir in a great vintage; needs 7-10 years of patient cellaring.
*** Weis Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2021, Finger Lakes, NY (wine club only)
Nose: almost like a Finger Lakes Riesling, fresh, bright lemon, dill/herb notes. Palate: solid varietal fruit character of citrus and herb, dense, concentrated, and lively with Finger Lakes acidity. Great length; outstanding for this varietal in this region.
*** Weis Vineyards Semi-Dry Riesling 2020, Finger Lakes, NY (2% residual sugar).
Big acidity up front, but delicate fresh white peach on the palate that keeps growing. Could drink or hold. Intense fruit/acid balance, long finish of white peach flavor.
*** Weis Vineyards Chardonnay 2020, Finger Lakes, NY (10 months in mixed oak).
I normally don’t like really rich Chardonnays, but this one was like a well-endowed Brunhilde, spear in one hand, singing the Wagnerian equivalent of Aretha Franklin’s “What you want/you know I got it!” I paused and listened. On the nose, rich butter and malolactic notes. On the palate, bright, brilliant, rich malocactic flavors of yeast, butter and new oak…BUT with high acidity to balance the whole, and a moderate Burgundian alcohol level of 12.5%. Both the 2018 and 2019 vintages got double gold medals at the San Francisco International wine competition. The only reason I didn’t give this wine a rare four stars is that the finish was a bit too heavy/bitter for my palate, but any malolactic style Chardonnay that gets three stars from me is pretty darn good. Hit it, Brunhilde baby….
*** Lakewood Vineyards, Three Generations Riesling 2020, Finger Lakes, NY
Estate fruit. Nose: subtle, with a hint of kerosene and lemon. Palate: wonderful white peach and red apple, high acidity, then round and fleshy texture, finishes racy and lean. Very impressive for a ho-hum vintage for Finger Lakes Riesling. Could drink or hold.
*** Lakewood Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2020, Finger Lakes, NY
Nose: nice typical leafiness, herb and black pepper and cherry notes. Palate: solid black cherry fruit, firm, grippy yet ripe tannins. Big volume on palate, black cherry and pepper flavors. Can develop and hold a decade or more.
*** Hector Wine Co. Essence 2019, Finger Lakes, NY (30% Cab. Sauv., 24% Cab. Franc, 38% Merlot)
Nose: tightly knit black fruits, with oak and herbal notes nicely integrated. Palate: juicy, forward black fruits, HUGE smooth ripe tannins, long finish, top-notch!
***+ Hector Wine Co. Merlot 2020, Seneca Lake, NY
Nose: Wow-black fruits and herbs, very Right Bank Bordeaux style. Palate: Wow! HUGE dimension, ripe black fruits, notes of dark chocolate on the finish, ripe but smooth tannins. Gutsy but elegant.
Four Star Wines – Exceptional – Finger Lakes
**** Point of the Bluff Pinot Noir 2020, Finger Lakes, NY
Yes, this Pinot Noir from the fickle and rainy Finger Lakes rates a rare four stars. An A-grade site, combined with an A+ vintage and a world-class grape variety, plus attentive winemaking, made it work, with a classic Burgundian alcohol level of only 12%. Sadly, the winery has closed, but if this wine is out in distribution anywhere, Pinot fans should take action quickly.
**** Lakewood Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve 2020, Finger Lakes, NY $40
Estate grown fruit. Nose: Fresh, clean, subtle, hints of red cherry and spice. Palate: lovely, large volume of flavor. Rich, dense, concentrated. Fruit still elegant, racy and well-balanced with acidity, outstanding varietal and terroir character, worth the price. Needs a few years cellaring to reach its peak, likely best from 2025-27. Surprisingly elegant and firm for an alcohol of 14.5%; drinks like it’s 13-13.5%.
**** Hector Wine Co. Lemberger (Blaufänkisch) 2020, Seneca Lake, NY
Aged in mostly large format oak casks. Nose: mostly closed but with hints of fresh briar fruits, mostly blueberry, some pepper. Palate: Wow! Juicy, forward and fresh briar fruits, smooth ripe tannins, and a long finish: very sexy!
**** Hector Wine Co. Gewürztraminer 2020, Finger Lakes, NY
Fermented in stainless steel, 48 hour skin contact, giving the wine firm phenolics on the texture to compensate for low acidity. Nose: Lovely fragrant lychee, a hint of rose petal. Palate: Wow! Fantastic fruit/acid balance, spicy, rich, long finish. A great example of the classic Alsatian style.13.2% alc.
**** Hector Wine Co. Syrah 2020, Seneca Lake, NY
Nose: young, clean fruit, concentrated, with white pepper and red/black cherry notes and hints of smoke and bacon fat. Complex. Palate: fresh, bright, firm acidity and ripe, smooth tannins. Racy, with great fruit/acid balance, long impression and finish. Very stylish.
**** Hector Wine Co. Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, Finger Lakes, NY
A selection of 8 barrels. Nose: perfumed cassis. Palate: chewy but ripe, smooth tannins, great integration of fruit, oak, acidity, tannins, and varietal character. Alc. 12.8%
Four Stars – Exceptional – Virginia
****+ Muse Clio 2010, Shenandoah Valley of VA (Meritage-style blend, 25% each Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot). Aged for three years in barrel before bottling. Dark ruby. Nose: ripe, rich, Napa-like black fruits and oak, some baking spices. Palate: complex, intense explosion of fruit on mid-palate, has a fresh minerality. Great concentration, yet balanced; outstanding example of Valley terroir. Mature, but can hold until 2030.
**** Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyard “Wild Acre” Reserve Blend, Monticello, VA 2017
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyard has gradually expanded their product line, and now offer five wines over $50; two varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot), and three blends: Bundoran Blue $60, Wild Common, $55 (both red Meritage blends with some Tannat), and just released this fall, Wild Acre Reserve Blend, Monticello, from the very good 2017 vintage. The blend is 60% Tannat, 40% Cabernet Franc, and has a vineyard designation (Grapelawn); the arial photo of the vineyard on the label is the one visitors look out onto from the tasting room veranda.
I was glad proprietor Dean Andrews decided to hold this wine back until it had matured enough. The wine was aged in a mix of new and old French oak for two years, then aged like Rioja Gran Reserva another two years in the bottle. That’s a lot of delayed gratification, but it was worth it!
There are still a few 2017 reds here and there, but many Virginia wineries have sold through both 2017-2019 vintages, and are on to 2020 and even 2021 for current releases, so it’s a real treat to taste a top 2017 red blend that is only starting to be ready to drink.
The blend of Tannat and Cabernet Franc is both original and bold; I believe this is the only Virginia blend of these two grapes I have tasted. The color is opaque and dark with a bright ruby rim. The nose is closed, and takes a long time to open; over the next year, it should be decanted for at least an hour. On the nose, hints of ripe black fruits, elegant, no big new oak, but it took an hour to open. Then, exotic baking spices along with the ripe black fruits, hints of clean forest floor, and cocoa nibs.
On the palate, this wine is dense and texturally rich, but smooth and full, not coarse. As with the nose, it takes an hour for flavors to open at this point. Then, an explosion of ripe black fruits; plum, cherry and briar fruits, with huge spice and pepper notes. Tannins are firm, but smooth, and the wine finishes fresh and clean with no coarseness or obvious oakiness.Original, stylish and excellent, but built for the long-term; needs another 3-5 years to fully mature but can be enjoyed now with an hour of decanting. A great Virginia red for pairing with fine cuisine on a winter’s night.
**** Keswick Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Estate Reserve, Monticello, VA
The 2010 vintage was very good overall, especially for late-ripening varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon. A rare varietal label in the Monticello AVA, Keswick Vineyards has consistently made some of the best varietal Cab. Sauvs in Virginia.
When you have an estate reserve Cabernet from a very good vintage, it pays to cellar it well for at least a decade, to let the tannins soften and integrate with the oak and the fruit.
This wine was at the peak of development. The nose was rich and complex, with fruit-driven ripe cassis upfront but with plenty of toasty oak supporting it, and dried tobacco and tea hints.
On the palate, the wine was richly fruity, with juicy cassis, balanced with judicious but not too much oak (22 months in both French and American) which gave complexity and dimension. The palate was long, with ripe and smooth tannins. I admired the balance and pure varietal character of the wine, at its peak but which could continue to develop for five or more years if well-cellared.
This Keswick estate reserve Cabernet Sauvignon would, in a blind tasting, compare favorably with Cabernets of the same age from the Medoc as well as from Napa and other New World locations. This also shows the rewards that wait for those with the patience to lay down fine Virginia reds from fine vintages and reap the rewards; even after 11 years, this wine still shines.
**** Merrie Mill Petit Verdot 2019, Monticello, VA
Nose: gentle violet hints with clean earth and ripe black fruits. Palate: Smooooth ripe black fruits and dense but smooth ripe tannins, great finesse and integration. This wine needs at least another 5-6 months but could last a decade or more. Very promising, great style for Virginia Petit Verdot; you could calI bought this wine a year and a half ago expecting to drink it sometime soon.
Ratings key: * = good, ** = very good, *** = excellent, **** = exceptional, + = given rating plus, → = will increase in quality with time.