Tasting, Traveling and Takeaways from 2016

Guarilihue Itata Valley Chile
Winemakers and the author (third from right) in Guarilihue, Itata Valley, Chile / Photo courtesy Michael Schachner

One would be hard-pressed to call 2016 a normal year. Yet, amid all the rancor and discord, wine, food and travel provided necessary points of distraction. Here’s a look back at the highlights of my year, with a focus on the top wines I reviewed, the coolest places I visited and the best meals I had in my two “hometowns,” New York City and Hudson, New York.

Top-Shelf Selections

Among the more than 2,000 wines from Spain and South America I reviewed this year, dozens stood out. From myriad contenders, here are my three most recommended wines from Argentina, Spain and Chile, based on quality, availability and price.

Alta Vista 2013 Temis Malbec (Mendoza); 96 points; $48. The quality-to-price ratio on this single-vineyard Malbec is off the charts. I thought Alta Vista had gotten everything it could from Temis in 2012, but then this came along to reset the benchmark for ripe, round and lush Argentinean Malbec. Drink 2018–2026.

Marco Abella 2010 Clos Abella (Priorat); 95 points, $90. Any Priorat of this quality for less than $100 qualifies as a head-turner in my book. I love this wine’s magnetic aromas of woodsy spice, cedar and berry fruits. If possible, buy more than one bottle of this world-class blend of Garnacha, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon, then revisit it over the ensuing 8–10 years.

Pangea 2011 Syrah (Colchagua Valley); 93 points; $60. Syrah is Chile’s ace in the hole. By now, you probably know Cabernet and maybe Carmenère, but Syrah is thriving in multiple Chilean terroirs. This hails from the warm hillsides of Apalta. Complex aromas and flavors of cola, spice, patchouli and berry fruits are highly appealing. Drink through 2023.

Around The World

Beach José Ignacio Uruguay
Beach in José Ignacio, Uruguay / Photo courtesy Michael Schachner

In March, I escaped the last days of winter for Punta del Este, Uruguay, where I stayed in the idyllic beach town of José Ignacio. Located about two hours east of Montevideo, José Ignacio was once a surfer’s village, but it has evolved into a must-experience blend of Argentina, California and the Hamptons.

My wife and I attended the opening of Bodega Garzón, Uruguay’s grandest wine project to date. We indulged in a three-hour seafood lunch at La Huella, a quintessential beachside restaurant, and stayed at Bahia Vik, one of four architecturally stunning, art-filled hotel properties in Uruguay and Chile owned by Alexander and Carrie Vik.

In May, it was off to Bordeaux to stay at Château Canon. With a new interior by American designer Peter Marino, Canon offered the optimal Bordeaux experience. Walking through fields of Merlot and Cabernet Franc vines on the way to dinner in jewel-box St-Émilion, hunting for black truffles in Perígord and eating oysters on the shores of the Bay of Arcachon was as good as it gets.

In August, we vacationed in an increasingly popular Iceland, where the food and drinks culture exceeded expectations. In December, I went to Chile to visit the vineyards of BĂ­o BĂ­o, Itata and Maule, which together form the cradle of Chilean wine. Vines were planted in these dry-farmed regions as far back as the 18th century, and the old-vine Cinsault, Carignan and Muscat that now comes from these once-forgotten places will be chronicled next year in Wine Enthusiast.

Reykjavik: Exploring the Capital of Cool

Table For Two, Please

And finally, my three top restaurants in New York State.

Le Coucou, in New York City’s Soho neighborhood, is where the Chicago-born chef Daniel Rose, formerly of Spring in Paris, offers outstanding interpretations of French classics. The room is whimsically decorated, while Beverage Director Aaron Thorp’s list is in lockstep with Rose’s menu.

Agern, tucked into New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, is the forum for Icelandic Chef Gunnar Gíslason’s palate-probing New Nordic creations. For ingenious usages of ingredients that range from lichen and beets to sea buckthorn, Agern should not be missed.

Fish & Game, located in Hudson, New York, is a Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Wine Restaurant for the past two years and continues to impress. Chef/Owner Zak Pelaccio is a master at marrying locally sourced Hudson Valley ingredients with intriguing and often delicious natural wines. Take the two-hour trip from New York City—you won’t regret it.

Happy Holidays, and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2017!

Published on December 30, 2016
Topics: Editor Speak