Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk | AspenTimes.com

Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk

Kelly J. HayesAspen Times Weekly

It’s a time-honored tradition for columnists of all stripes.Take a look back at the past year of one’s writings and, for the final column of the year, come up with an encapsulation of all the previous columns. It can be a useful device. After all, you can’t tell where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. And the turning of one year to the next gives one a convenient excuse for reflection or, if you prefer, navel gazing. If you look through the blogosphere, then you’ll find the end-of-year column is one of those things that has not changed as technology has evolved from Gutenberg to Google. So here it goes.We began 2009 in the splendor of the Cayman Islands at the Food & Wine Magazine Cayman Cookout. There we tasted the wines of Planeta from Sicily and Jayson Woodbridge’s Layer Cake Wines. The Layer Cake became a recurring theme as I saw and tasted the wines, especially the Italian varietal Primativo, many more times in ’09. These are affordable, ready-to-drink wines from around the world and are a good addition to the wine landscape.Planeta was a label I encountered just once more this year. I purchased a bottle of the 2006 Planeta Santa Cecilia, a red wine made with Sicily’s signature red varietal, Nero D’ Avola. It was as close as I got to Italian soil in 2009 and, as I sipped it in the summer sun in June, I swore that I would visit Sicily soon. A promise that I intend to keep.Vineyard visits this year were spread throughout the calendar and were the subject of a number of columns. The travel revelation of 2009 came in July, when I drove through the Okanagan Valley of southern British Columbia. “The Best Wines You’ve Never Tasted” was both the title of the column and the story of the wines I found. Terrific, flavorful wines made with care and precision from wineries like Quail’s Gate, CedarCreek and Mission Hill simply don’t make it south of the border because they are sold and consumed almost entirely in western Canada.Lucky for them, but a pity for those of us who love wines that speak of place and location. It’s just one of those places you have to visit.Other trips include a blissful week in the Napa Valley, where we enjoyed fine food and wine and the generous hospitality of both the Duckhorn and Paraduxx wineries. There will be more about their quest for the perfect wine-tasting experience in 2010. A trip through Colorado introduced us to the McElmo Canyon region of the state, a hot, dry dusty gem of a place where Guy Drew and John Sutcliffe are making what I think are the best of the region’s wines.Other Colorado stories revolved around some of the great and passionate professionals here in the Roaring Fork Valley who are making a go of it in the wine and spirits world. Shawn Gallus favored me with an education on Shochu, the Asian liquor for which he has become an evangelist and pours proudly at Matsuhisa. Didier Pariente is importing fine wines made in the French style from Morocco and I am confident that it is just a matter of time before he cracks the American market.JC, formerly of Grape and Grain fame, is busy with a new venture bringing Estate made wines from Argentina to the bodegas of Aspen.This year also saw dinners with Hendry Ranch wines and Avery Brewing at Six89 that showed both products well. And classic cocktails at the Grand Marnier Mixologists Summit in Vail made me think in different ways about how the flavors of South American oranges and vanilla from Madagascar can be enjoyed.And then there was the revelatory education in the value of using the very best ice in cocktails.All in all, this exercise has brought back a lot of great memories of the last 12 months and also brought a smile to my face.Hope the year was as good for you as it was for me.Merry Christmas.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and a black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at malibukj@wineink.com.

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