Best of 2018: William Kelley

Top 3 Best New Releases of the Year

The utterly profound 2015 Musigny Grand Cru from Domaine Leroy, the crowning achievement to an extraordinary portfolio and a wine that brought tears to my eyes, wafts from the glass with a deep bouquet of black raspberry, cherry, rose petal and spice. On the palate, the wine is bottomless and multidimensional, with satiny tannins and fruit of crystalline purity, so utterly harmonious and structurally complete as to border on the ineffable—and certainly to exhaust any tired superlatives. 

The 2015 Romanée-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru from Domaine Leroy is one of the most magical wines to be found in Burgundy in this vintage, soaring from the glass with a bouquet of kaleidoscopic complexity, featuring notes of rose petal, blood orange, potpourri and bright berry fruit, with only hints of the savory complexity to come with bottle age. On the palate, the wine is deep, full-bodied and extraordinarily multifaceted, with immense concentration, incredible energy and a long, resonating finish. Both more elegant and more reserved than the gloriously dramatic Richebourg that followed it, this is a profound Romanée-Saint-Vivant.

The 2015 Romanée-Conti Grand Cru is one of the pinnacles of this great red Burgundy vintage, opening in the glass to reveal a bouquet of kaleidoscopic complexity, notes of raspberry and red plum mingling with rose petal, peony, blood orange and spice. On the palate, the wine is silky, medium to full-bodied and stunningly complete, its supremely elegant tannins entirely cloaked in pristinely delicate red fruit. Despite its incredible concentration and persistence, this Romanée-Conti is utterly weightless, and its effortless harmony and unremitting finish preclude any argument about its benchmark quality. 

Top 3 Value Releases of the Year

Given its unabashed deliciousness and decidedly modest tariff, this wine must be one of French wine’s greatest values.

It's a terrific Pouilly-Fuissé and gets my nod as Verget's greatest 2017.

This shone from barrel, and it shines just as brightly from bottle.

Top 10 Wines of the Year 
(All drunk, rather than merely tasted.)

1955 Château Cheval Blanc
1923 Clos des Lambrays 
1980 Kalin Cellars Sonoma County Pinot Noir Cuvée JL
1974 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Pignan

Best Dining Experiences of 2018

Aux Terasses, Tournus, France
I first met the immensely talented Jean-Michel Carette in the woods of Mâcon-Cruzeille, where he has gathering wild strawberries for his restaurant and I was exploring the vineyards. His superb restaurant employs the best seasonal products in an innovative way that references the classics, and while my culinary tastes are generally ultraconservative, I bow to Carette’s genius. My lunches and dinners here this year were often enlivened by wines served blind, including Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Montrachet, subject of a forthcoming Hedonist’s Gazette. Diners here can also credit me with having hand delivered the restaurant’s Thierry Allemand allocation. 

Howard’s Gourmet, Beijing
Geographers may disagree, but this meal convinced me that China and France were once contiguous territories, so exciting were the marriages between Chinese cuisine and great wines from Domaine d’Auvenay, Château Rayas and Clos Rougeard. This stunning dinner featured dishes including the best whelk I’ve ever tasted, sharks fin in hairy crab roe and braised wild tortoise. More on this to come. 

Dinner at La Balena, Carmel with Jean-Louis Chave
A memorably evening of old Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie and beyond with one of France’s most interesting winemakers. 

Best Tastings of the Year

The 150th anniversary of Maison Leroy, not only by virtue of the stunning wines, but because of the significance of the occasion. Madame Bize-Leroy is a Burgundian institution and I treasure every moment spent in her company. 

Clos des Lambrays back to 1918 at the domaine, an intimate encounter with some of the greatest Burgundies of yesteryear. Deep, concentrated and seemingly-immortal, these are magical wines. 

A vertical of Jaboulet’s Hermitage La Chapelle, 1969-1990, shared between friends: an opportunity to savor the glory days of one of the Rhône’s greatest wines, this will be the subject of a forthcoming Hedonist’s Gazette, as soon as I have an hour in an airport lounge to write it up.

Coche-Dury’s Corton-Charlemagne 1999-2009 followed by a vertical of Keller’s Riesling G-Max in Beaune.

And lastly, visiting the inimitable Thierry Allemand in Cornas.

Happy New Year! 

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