Before the bottles start popping as we welcome 2013, I've got one more list to check off. (Check out my previous blog post for my list of California Winemakers Who Made a Difference. Here are 10 wines from the Golden State that excited me for one reason or another in 2012. A couple made the Wine Spectator Top 100 list. Some of the linked reviews are from my colleagues, or older notes for reference. Pay less attention to the ratings. One could easily sort out the top-rated wines by numbers, but these go beyond ratings, so I've listed them alphabetically.
I tasted thousands of wines in 2012, and you already know which wines we selected for the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2012. Today I want to recognize some of the California winemakers who stepped up their game in 2012, either with their own wines or in their consulting projects. You will see some familiar names as well as some you probably don't yet know, but all are making outstanding if not classic-rated wines.
Read on for more on Jeff Ames, Russell Bevan, Eric Jensen, Annie Favia and Andy Erickson, Kenneth Juhasz, Helen Keplinger, Joey Wagner and more.
Matt Courtney, who many thought would become Marcassin's winemaker, is leaving the high-profile winery after eight years and in January will become winemaker for Arista, a Sonoma-based, family-owned winery that specializes in Pinot Noir.
Joining Arista would seem like a good fit for Courtney, 41, since he's been working with both Sonoma Pinot and Chardonnay during his stint with Marcassin. Arista makes a handful of wines, including old-vine Zinfandel, which also appeals to Courtney. He worked with Zinfandel at Martinelli when Helen Turley was Martinelli's winemaker-consultant and also made Zin at Biale Winery in Napa Valley.