Reviewers’ Favorites 2022: Anthony Mueller

2022 marks the first year that I was able to get back to Washington State and South Africa since the COVID-19 pandemic first hit here in 2020. And in April 2022, the Robert Parker Wine Advocate reviewers met in Zurich, Switzerland, for our first Matter of Taste event with in-person attendance since the beginning of the pandemic. As the reviewer for the wines of Washington and South Africa, I can attest that there is never a shortage of amazing stories and fantastic wines that are often misunderstood in certain places around the world. It is a privilege to have access to so many icons of the industry, and at times, it’s difficult to choose just a single wine as a favorite for any particular category. So, among my selections for 2022, I’ve actually highlighted a group of producers as my “favorites” for one of the categories, because they are all deserving of the title. 

Nevertheless, here are my top picks for 2022.

A Wine for the Cellar:
2019 Upchurch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Hero Twins (USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley, Red Mountain)
(Photo courtesy of Upchurch Vineyard)

Coming from iconic Washington winemaker Chris Upchurch, the Cabernet Sauvignon Hero Twins honors and respects quality Cabernet making on Red Mountain with the added bonus of Mayan mythology and folklore. Made from a barrel selection of the best two barrels of clone two Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine comes together and expresses the vintage with precision and finesse. Its firm yet elegantly layered nose sways with a broad-shouldered and generously framed structure and mouthfeel, making this wine absolutely deserving of a spot in your cellar next to the first growths of Bordeaux. At present, it's still tightly wound and will benefit from additional years in the cellar and should drink fantastically from the middle of this decade through the middle of the 2040s. Your patience will be rewarded!

A Producer That's Under the Radar:
Valo Cellars (USA, Washington, Columbia Valley)
(Photo courtesy of Valo Cellars)

With winemaker Matías Kúsulas at the helm of Valo Cellars and Massalto, both brands are gaining traction and notoriety in the Washington wine landscape. Possessing multiple master's degrees in enology, Kúsulas has been on the rise in Washington for years. While a newcomer to the Robert Parker Wine Advocate database this year, Valo Cellars and Massalto both will be on next year's roster to taste through current and soon-to-be-released wines. These wines are thoughtful, smartly made and have a uniqueness and sincerity of expression with a sense of place that is rewarding to the drinker. I'm keeping my eye on Valo Cellars and Massalto.

A Wine for Tonight:
2021 Canvasback Yakima Valley White Wine (USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley)
Canvasback winemaker Brian Rudin and wine-dog Brett in the vineyards (Photos courtesy of Canvasback)

This one is a no-brainer. Canvasback, from the Duckhorn portfolio, makes fantastic and lovely wine. Earlier this year, I sat down with winemaker Brian Rudin in Walla Walla, Washington. While Canvasback is known for its quality-driven, terroir-focused red wines, they also produce succulent and expressive white wines that possess grace and elegance. The 2021 Yakima Valley white wine comes from the well-known Boushey Vineyard and is a blend of Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne. It's incredibly food-friendly, floral bright and lively and is sure to brighten up any holiday season or gathering of friends and family.

A Few Wines from Producers That Exemplify Sustainability:
(Photo courtesy of Cape Winemakers Guild)

Yes, I know. I am breaking the rules here by selecting multiple producers instead of just one, but hear me out... Most of the producers in the Cape Winemakers Guild, all of which were carefully selected by the invitation-only process, have environmental and socio-economical programs of their own, working toward a better tomorrow. Sustainability is hot-topic word buzzing around the mainstream, yet it has a multifaceted meaning. The men and women of the Cape Winemakers Guild come together each year to create and offer gorgeous wines at auction to benefit the South African wine industry. Empowerment projects like the Protégé Programme—which uplifts, mentors and sustains the next generation of winemakers of tomorrow—are integral to the wine community at large and ultimately drive wine quality. This year's Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction, hosted by Strauss & Co, broke the previous auction sales record, totaling R13,985,500 (or ~$800,000 USD.) These producers are helping to keep the South African wine industry sustainable for the next generation.

A Wine That's Especially Good Value:
2020 Warwick Estate The White Lady Chardonnay (South Africa, Western Cape, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch)
(Photo courtesy of Warwick Estate)

Who doesn't love a good Chardonnay? The White Lady Chardonnay is magnificently balanced and offers a gorgeous array of sweet citrus, fresh pomaceous character and hints of tropical and stone fruit aromas. Made with about 25% new French oak, this Chardonnay is sure to entice and captivate the savviest of Chardonnay lovers. I am always on the lookout for a good value when it comes to buying and consuming wine. In the US, these bottles should retail for about $50, and when you take a bottle for a test spin, you'll wish you had bought a whole case. If Chardonnay doesn't do it for you, then try the Warwick Estate The Blue Lady Cabernet Sauvignon instead. Regardless, you'll be in great hands with Warwick cellarmaster JD Pretorius.

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