I’m not entirely sure how many wines I tried in 2006, but I do know that I filled a towering stack of reporter’s notebooks with tasting notes. A lot of these wines were terrific, but the following are among my most thrilling finds: They represent the most exciting new wines of the year. Some are new projects from world-renowned winemakers like French consultant Michel Rolland (now producing a richly textured Bordeaux-style blend in Washington State) and John Duval (the longtime winemaker at Penfolds in Australia who left to focus on his own artisanal venture). Other wines are new projects from ambitious young winemakers rediscovering and meticulously refurbishing ancient vineyards in places like Spain and Portugal. Still other wines defy easy categorization. You’ll see some unusual grape names (varieties like Carmenère and Godello) and a few amazing new value wines, too—including a juicy $7 Grenache.
2005 Pazo de Monterrey Blanco ($14)
The growers at the Bodegas Ribera del Támega vineyard in a remote corner of Spain’s Galicia region have forged a joint venture with young winemaker María Vidal. One result is the Pazo de Monterrey Blanco, a blend of the indigenous white grapes Godello and Treixadura. Clean, crisp and food-friendly, it’s a great value.
2004 Martin Alfaro Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay ($20)
Full of apricot and lemon zest notes, this vibrant California Chardonnay from new producer Martin Alfaro is made with grapes from four vineyards scattered throughout the Santa Cruz mountains. Winemaker Joe Martin ages the Chardonnay in French oak on its lees (spent yeast cells that are produced after fermentation), which helps give the wine both an added complexity and a silky texture.