Wine must be lived as fully as life itself because wine records our memories with a glass.
It is much more than a photo album, it is a collection of unforgettable moments and emotions shared with beautiful people. Unrepeatable experiences make wines impossible to be appreciated (and found) a second time.
A great wine is a perfect combination between an emotion and a strong distinct personality, where both of them are impossible not to be recognized, in the same way an exceptional wine is impossible to mistake in a blind tasting.
You can find all the wines below in my new book The Impossible Collection of American Wines published by Assouline. I have selected 100 wines from 2016 to 1955 which are not only impossible to stock in one cellar for their rarity but especially because each of them represents a unique moment impossible to relive (even priceless).
My selection below is a great example of extraordinary wines under $100. Since wine is a never-ending discovery, these 12 American rare pearls are worth to be opened and shared, because wine is generosity.
Soter MSR Mineral Springs Ranch Yamhill Carlton
Soter is a wonderful winery established in Oregon in 1997 by the owner Tony Soter. He can be considered an emblematic personality of the American wine, who has been working 35 years in Napa for Spottswoode, Shafer and in 1982 he founded Etude, which was subsequently sold in 2001.
On the palate is very well balanced, vibrant and fresh. This delicate and refined wine finishes long, sapid and fresh. Perfect to drink now. $75
Cobb Pinot Noir Coastlands Vineyard Sonoma Coast
Cobb Pinot Noir Coastlands is complex intense bouquet of cherry, vanilla, pomegranate, raspberry jelly, black berry and spruce. On the palate is very well-balanced and enjoyable, featuring smooth and soft tannins. A lingering finish with notes of golden apple and raspberry. $89.99
Littorai Mays Canyon Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
Ted Lemon, a well-respected winemaker, is the creator of this charming winery. In 1981 he takes his degree in oenology at the university of Dijon, where he has the great opportunity to start his career through several experiences at well-known wineries in Burgundy. Until 1993, age of his first harvest of ten hectares in Sonoma at only eight miles from the ocean.
Many vintages both of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are excellent; the latter especially in the cuvee Mays Canyon. The Pinot Noir, have a bright ruby red followed by a refined nose of raspberry jelly, dry rose, black pepper and laurel. On the palate is delicate, gentle with a lingering finish. Such a harmonious wine should drink well with age. $79.99
Donelan Cuvée Keltie Syrah Sonoma County
An outstanding winery in Sonoma, where wonderful expressions of Rhone and Burgundy varieties are finding their way. Very remarkable the Syrah especially in the cuvee Obsidian Vineyard from Knights Valley.
The Cuvée Keltie Syrah as its rarity makes it even more special. A bright intense purple with a complex nose of blackberry, blueberry, black pepper, violet and a touch of burned stone. Full bodied, elegant, broad and silky textured. The ageing potential is remarkable. $54.99
Arnot Roberts Cabernet Sauvignon Fellom Ranch Santa Cruz Mountains
A tiny and discrete winery located in Healdsburg, Arnot Roberts is funded in 2001 and today it showcases limited quantities of several wines from different areas: Sonoma, Napa and Santa Cruz Mountains. All the following wines I tasted are top quality: pinot noir Peter Martin Ray Vineyard, chardonnay Watson Ranch and Syrah Que Syrah Vineyard.
Cabernet sauvignon Fellom Ranch from Santa Cruz is known for its wonderful richness and harmony. A bright ruby red is followed by a rich nose of vanilla, eucalyptus and young notes of black fruit like blackberry and blueberry. What makes it distinct is its vibrant freshness featuring elegant tannins and a creamy density. This wine will age beautifully. $79.99
Lieu Dit Cabernet Franc Santa Ynez Valley
A cabernet that goes in the opposite direction of the rich and powerful Napa cabs, and Californian as well. This cabernet franc perfectly shows that a top wine does not necessarily correspond to concentration, alcohol and heavy oak treatment.
Lieu Dit Cabernet Franc Santa Ynez after some years is still fresh and young. Harvest takes place in November and grapes are completely destemmed. A deep purple is followed by an intense and refined nose of blueberry, graphite and geranium. Only few minutes to open up exhibiting notes of juniper, black pepper, ash. Round with soft and velvety tannins finishing with hints of plum and green pepper. $35.99
Rhys Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains
The road leading to Rhys offers a breathtaking view. I left my hotel in San Francisco still at dawn to get to Rhys for breakfast at 8 am. I will never forget the magic panorama: for one hour I drove through the morning clouds, which turned out to be fog created by the shift in temperature between ocean and sky, night and day. I was struck by the giant Sequoia trees in the calm of nature. Altitude and cool climate are key to Rhys; they are also very careful to vinify single plots separately in 140 mini cuvee of stainless steel.
The winery was established in 2004 and today produces 10.000 cases divided in twenty labels. I selected Alpine Chardonnay: an intense straw yellow with golden reflections. It is laced with yellow fruit, like pineapple and lemon. Despite the malo, finishes with vibrant freshness with hints of citruses. $99.99
Gramercy Cellars Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
A great story the one of Greg Harrington's, a professional sommelier who decided to treasure his experience in the wine restaurant side to become a passionate and enthusiastic wine producer. From a hectic New York in 2004 he moved to a slower-paced Walla Walla. Like in many cases, it is from the contrasts that creation happens, so he manages to craft beautiful wines, especially focusing on Rhone varieties, such as Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.
I selected Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve for its impressive elegance and ageing potential. A concentrated ruby red with purplish reflections is laced with aromas of cassis, mint and blueberry. Highly complex and aromatic featuring young and refined silky tannins, which give depth enhancing the creamy texture. Finishes bright and fresh with notes of fresh black fruit and spices. $80-$95
Domaine De La Côte La Côte Pinot Noir Sta Rita Hills
What a surprise! This winery will sound more and more familiar in the next years because of the impressive quality of its wines. An enormous potential with a fantastic vineyard, except for the winemaking process which nowadays takes place in a refrigerated warehouse; wishing them the deserved success also to grow in the infrastructure.
Domaine De La Côte Chardonnay is one of the best American white wines I have ever tasted, which made it extremely difficult for me to select just one wine. As a matter of fact, regarding the reds are worth mentioning also Bloom’s Field and Memorious. Personally, I believe that La Côte is the best expression. This pinot noir is whole cluster showing a rich bright ruby red followed by a complete nose of fruit, spices and flowers, such as violet, rose, black pepper, cassis and wild strawberry. On the palate there is a balsamic hint that lifts the complexity to this young wine which is evolving perfectly. $89.99
The Hilt The Old Guard Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County
A recent reality, whose very first vintages are already showing beautifully both the pinot noir and the chardonnay. Santa Barbara good reputation in these last years has allowed new projects, like The Hilt, to develop. Old Guard Pinot Noir is a wonderful example of the new style of American wines because of its richness counterbalanced by a vibrant freshness, which makes it very drinkable together with an immediate nose of fruity aromas.
A bright ruby red with purplish reflections with a wide intense nose of young aromas of violet, pomegranate, strawberry and green pepper. On the palate there is a pleasant combination of richness and freshness with sapid hints featuring soft tannins. This wine has a clean, straight finish with notes of cherry and coriander. $64.99
Tyler Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Pinot Noir Sta Rita Hills
Justin Willett is surely a skilled solid winemaker of the new American generation, who knows how to produce chardonnay and pinot noir-based gems in a special area, that is Santa Rita Hills. Many of his wines could be included in The Impossible Collection; I would like to mention at least Sanford & Benedict and Bien Nacido Vineyards. The former especially the vintage 2016 is extraordinary and obtained from the old vines.
Bright ruby-red with purplish hints. The nose is persistent exhibiting aromas of violet, raspberry liqueur and black pepper. A refined personality showing freshness and deepness. Still young this wine has a great ageing potential. The Chardonnay obtained from the same vineyard, where the vines were planted between 1971 and 1972, is as outstanding as its red brother. Just to briefly mention Bien Nacido Pinot Noir, it has a more spiced profile. $85.99
Bethel Heights Vineyard Casteel Chardonnay Eola Amity Hills
Iconic winery in Oregon, Bethel Heights is established in 1977 planting the first vines, while the first wine is released later in 1984. Tasting both young and old vintages, what strikes me most is the vintage 2016 of the chardonnay and the pinot noir.
The Casteel chardonnay shows a bright golden yellow with greenish reflections. To the nose a wide range of fruity and floral aromas, like chamomile, fresh and candied Jordan almonds, peaches in syrup, verbena and saffron. This wine showcases richness at the beginning which is counterbalanced by both freshness and youngness. A creamy texture with a persistent sapid finish with hints of green lemon. $70-$75