Alder’s Wines of 2023

It’s been, as they say, something of a year for me. One that I’m going to be very happy to put in the rear-view mirror. The exercise of considering which wines stood out for me most this year very quickly became an exercise not necessarily in recalling the superstar bottles I was lucky enough to taste, but the wines that brought solace and comfort in the face of adversity, grief and loss – wines that, in the midst of everything, offered a good reminder of why I persist in my exploration of the wine world even when the rest of the world crumbles a bit at the edges.

My family began the year with a pretty serious Stage III cancer diagnosis for my wife, Ruth. Almost immediately, wine disappeared from our dinner table, both because the doctors discouraged Ruth from drinking, and because she quickly lost her sense of taste completely. For the next six months, as Ruth persevered through round after round of both chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and we also both survived unscathed from a car accident that totalled our vehicle, wine, like so many things, seemed much less important than it had only a few months prior.

During this time, Coravin provided me the opportunity to occasionally have a glass of something good when the mood struck me, and I dutifully kept up my tasting habits for my columns here (including a quick weekend tasting in Santa Barbara) as well as my tasting of samples for Vinography. But getting excited about wine wasn’t always easy, even on the select few occasions when I managed to break away from being caregiver to have a much-needed meal and a couple of bottles with close friends.

Mostly I was exhausted, and often wine seemed more like an unnecessary soporific than a source of pleasure.

In August, my wife blessedly received a clean bill of health following the completion of her treatment. While side-effects from treatment kept her (and sadly still prevent her) from enjoying wine, I excitedly resumed my wine-related travel after a hiatus of nearly a year, getting in a trip to Sicily (mostly Etna with a jaunt over to Vittoria) and a quick visit to New York’s Finger Lakes, before receiving the entirely unexpected news that my mother had passed away quite suddenly.

That announcement was certainly something that felt as though it required, or even deserved, wine in response but, as many have discovered, there’s only so much consolation to be found in a bottle, even an excellent one.

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