Julien is on his vacances de noël. But you can check out his “What We Learned in 2020” at this link...

Meanwhile, this week we take one final look back at 2020.

We sourced 24 wines... from 20 different regions... including a shiraz from Langmeil, home of the oldest shiraz vines in the world, a cannonau enjoyed by the world’s oldest people, and even a tempranillo...from Washington state!

And we did it all despite various members of our team being literally unable to leave their homes for fear of police controls... what fun!

But that’s the benefit of having a team spread across the world. For instance, Julien over in the south of France was able to gain us an introduction to Corsica’s Clos Alivu... while Barry snuck in his sourcing trip to Australia right before the world went into lockdown...

So what were our favorite wines of 2020? Let’s check in with our team one by one...

Will: Sunal Ilógico (aka the 8950 ft. malbec)

Sunal Ilógico is a perennial all-star at the Partnership. The 2016 vintage was part of the first-ever shipment of wines we brought in from Argentina. We’ve been importing it ever since and remain its sole North American importer (Sunal’s criolla wine will be part of our upcoming return to the Calchaqui Valley in our 2021 extreme altitude collection).

Says Will: It's not as "big" a malbec as Tacana, and more fruit forward... But it's grown on me, just as it has with our members with whom it seems to become a top seller... It's less demanding of your attention than Tacana. Very versatile and smooth, yet clearly has the signature taste and richness of a Calchaqui extreme altitude wine... 

Diego: Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz (aka the floodplain shiraz)

From vines planted on Australia’s Langhorne Creek floodplain, Selkirk is one of those rare wines that comes from a rich, not poor, soil. We recommended cellaring a few bottles till 2025 or so, but 2020 drinkers found a rich, dark plum in this wine with pepper on the nose, smoke on the palate, and pleasing tannins.

Says Diego: It was a very well-balanced example of Australian Shiraz; that’s why it made it into our collection. But the great surprise was when I had it with dinner one night, while I was cooking with friends and family. It went so well with my lamb chops, that I had to open another bottle by popular demand. 

Matt: Tie between Sunal Ilógico and Mahi Sauvignon Blanc

Though they may come from opposite ends of the earth, and two different grape varietals, the Sunal and Mahi (New Zealand – aka “the best sauvignon blanc in the world”), are, after a fashion, kindred spirits. Both come from vineyards ensconced in rugged mountain landscapes. Both come from winemakers who opt for a hands-off approach. Both were fermented with indigenous rather than commercial yeast.

Says Matt: The Mahi’s arrival was perfect timing as the weather had begun to warm up in Maryland. Easy and refreshing drinking for any summer seafood dinner (of which there were many). Just enough fruitiness to please your taste buds but not overpowering. I took this to a socially distanced wine tasting with friends and it was a big hit.

Lucy: Beelgara Shiraz (aka the most Australian wine...ever)

The perfect pairing recommendation for Beelgara’s shiraz is barbequed kangaroo steak. With aromas of paprika and leather; and fresh peppercorn on the palate; it’s about as Australian as you get. The winemaker is none other than Aussie legend Rod Hooper (a man whose credits include Penfolds, Australia’s most acclaimed winery).

Says Lucy: Beelgara was one of the first Partnership wines I tasted and I'm still thinking about it. The unfolding over time is what really shocked me; it moved from super fruity to earth and smoke, to mint and peppery spice, with tons of flavors layered over each other, every sip tasting different than the last. Very exciting but very drinkable for a novice. 

Barry: Still stuck on 2019’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape...

In fairness to Barry, we imported the Télégramme Châteauneuf-du-Pape at the very end of 2019. Still, even with four shipments in between – and hundreds of wines tasted over the course of the year – Barry still pines for 96-point Télégramme like a long lost love. He simply can’t let go of the memory of its rich layers of wild fruit, herbs, and silky tannins.

Says Barry: a goes-with-anything wine, it delivers a lot of fruit but with finesse – not a 2 x 4 that hits you over the head. A real pleasure to drink, silky all the way through. It is no wonder that Le Vieux Telegraph/Telegramme is a very time honored brand.

Yours Truly: Ruby Vineyard Laurelwood Blend (aka the pepper and dust pinot)

Gosh, now that we think about it… that Télégramme really was pretty good. We opened our own bottle on Easter after a month of lockdown and Lenten abstinence. But let’s not get lost in the past. Our number one pick for 2020 was the Ruby Vineyard Laurelwood Blend.

If we remember 2020 for one thing – beyond the pandemic, the election, the deaths of multiple beloved celebrities, and more – it will be as the year we finally gave in and began to love pinot noir. For many years, we were unwilling to give it a chance, mostly due to the movie Sideways. Through no fault of its own (Sideways is excellent), the movie caused big, sunburnt California pinot noirs to become so insufferably popular, we became hesitant to order pinots entirely lest our waiter think us a turtleneck wearing, Great Neck, Long Island living goober.

A shame, because cool weather pinots – like the Laurelwood Blend we sourced earlier this year – are excellent. The ripe fruit cedes to a subtle earthiness, like a barnyard after a rain. We were already teetering on the edge of fully embracing pinot after the Helen and Joey from our Australian collection. This Ruby Vineyard, made from Wädenswil clones planted in the rare Laurelwood terroir at the foot of Oregon’s Chehalem Mountains, pushed us over with a force that made us wish the vineyard had pumped out more than just 900 cases.

And you? What was your favorite wine of 2020?

We’ll leave it there for 2020. But we’d like to hear from you. What was your favorite of 2020? What bottle are you just itching to open for Christmas dinner? New Years?

Email us at contact@bonnerprivatewines.com with your favorite...

Eagerly awaiting your response,

The Wine Explorer

Bonner Private Wine Partnership