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Notes and Selections from the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting

There are good public wine tastings and there are bad public wine tastings. The difference between the good ones and the bad ones can be quite dramatic. The bad ones are in crappy locations, are poorly organized, offer no food, and only mediocre wines. The good ones are, well, just the opposite -- nicely organized, well catered, and offer great wstop100.jpgwines.

And the best ones? Well, they start with a red carpet and get better from there: all-you-can-eat eat oyster bars, cheeses, constantly refilled platters of hors d'oeuvres, and wines that sometimes retail for hundreds of dollars, if you can find them.

Welcome to the annual Wine and Spirits Top 100 Winery tasting.

Like many of their peers in the magazine world, Wine & Spirits publishes an annual award issue, in which they celebrate what they say are the Top 100 wineries around the world, based on the quality of their wines. Regular readers know that I'm no fan of such lists, which I generally find to be meaningless. Thankfully the Wine & Spirits list doesn't actually rank these wineries from 1 to 100, which is one of the most ridiculous parts of such lists. Instead, they just publish an issue with profiles of each winery and list their high scoring wines (which presumably got them on the list to begin with).

But more to the point, the magazine also puts on a tasting every year where all 100 of these wineries are invited to pour the wines that were rated highly by the magazine, and it ends up being one hell of a tasting, even if all 100 don't show up.

This year the event was held at the historic San Francisco Mint, which some savvy events person managed to wrangle for the evening. The tasting was the first public event held at the building, which is a surprise considering how nice a venue it was (brought camera, forgot to pull it out -- sorry). The tasting was spread among various rooms and the central courtyard of the building, which had the nice effect of breaking up the crowd. Unfortunately some of the rooms were rather cramped and rather hot, which had somewhat the opposite effect. These issues aside, the food was excellent and the wines were too.

Most wineries brought only 2 wines apiece, at least one of which was their top scoring wine from the magazine's ratings this year.

I decided to relax a little this year and not make a serious attempt to taste every wine, especially as I was unable to stay for the length of the event. So I spent an hour or so wandering, snacking, and trying wines that I mostly knew would be good. Of course, I skipped a lot of wines I also knew would be good, too.

I've divided my scores into white (including sparkling and rosé wines) and red, as usual.


White and Sparkling Wines

1998 Taittinger Champagne Brut Comtes de Champagne, France. $125. Where to buy?
2005 Lucien Le Moine Meursault Premier Cru Perrieres, France. $130. Where to buy?

1997 Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs, France. $80. Where to buy?
2006 Movia Goriska Brda Lunar, Slovenia. $45. Where to buy?
2006 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Clavoillon, France. $130. Where to buy?
2002 Gravner Venezia Giulia Bianco Breg Anfora, Italy. $90. Where to buy?
2005 Albert Bichot Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots, France.
2007 E. Guigal Condrieu La Doriane, France. $80. Where to buy?

NV Champagne Krug Brut Grande Cuvée, France
NV Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs, France
NV Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Premier, France
NV Movia Goriska Brda Puro Brut Rosé, Slovenia
NV Taittinger Champagne Brut Prelude, France
2006 August Kesseler Rheingau Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Auslese, Germany
2006 Domaine Weinbach Alsace Schlossberg Cuvée Ste-Catherine L'Inédit Riesling, Alsace
2006 Domaine Weinbach Alsace Altenbourg Cuvée Lawrence Gewurztraminer, Alsace
2006 Peay Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, CA

2000 Louis Roederer Champagne Blanc de Blancs, France
1988 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rare, France
2002 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé, France
2005 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Pucelles, France
2005 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, CA
2005 Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune du Château Blanc, France
2004 Marcel Deiss Alsace Beblenheim Pinot Gris, Alsace
2007 Abbazia di Novacella Alto Adige Kerner, Italy

2003 Iron Horse Green Valley Classic Vintage Brut, CA
2007 Henschke Eden Valley Julius Riesling, Australia

Red Wines

2006 Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune-Grèves Premier Cru Vigne de l'Enfant Jesus, France. $150. Where to buy?
2004 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Château d'Ampuis, France. $140.Where to buy?

2005 Albert Bichot Domaine du Clos Frantin Vosne-Romanée Grand Cru Echézeaux, France.
2005 Flowers Sonoma Coast Frances Thompson Vineyard Pinot Noir, CA. $52. Where to buy?
2004 Lucien Le Moine Pommard Premier Cru Les Epenots, France. $71. Where to buy?
2006 Peay Sonoma Coast Scallop Shelf Pinot Noir, CA. $55. Where to buy?
2005 Williams Selyem Sonoma Coast Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir, CA. $90. Where to buy?
2005 Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso, Italy. $36. Where to buy?
2005 Le Macchiole Bolgheri Paleo, Italy. $135. Where to buy?
2001 Tenimenti Fontanafredda Barolo Lazzarito, Italy. $95. Where to buy?
2005 Vall Llach Priorat, Spain. $80. Where to buy?
2004 Henschke Eden Valley Hill of Grace Shiraz, Australia.

2002 Marcel Deiss Alsace Burlenburg Pinot Noir, Alsace
2004 Louis Jadot Corton-Pougets Grand Cru, France
2005 Peay Sonoma Coast Les Titans Syrah, CA
2005 Vincent Girardin Chambertin Grand Cru, France
2006 Zepaltas Suacci Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, CA
2004 Tenimenti Fontanafredda Barolo La Rosa, Italy
2005 Feiler-Artinger Burgenland "Solitaire" Red Blend, Austria
2004 Quinta do Noval Douro Red, Portugal
2005 Vall Llach Priorat Embruix de Vall Llach, Spain
2004 Henschke Eden Valley Mount Edelstone Shiraz, Australia
2006 Perrin et Fils Vacqueyras Les Christins, France
2005 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France
2005 Vina Pérez Cruz Maipo Valley Liguai, Chile
2006 Williams Selyem Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, CA

2006 Zepaltas Sonoma Coast La Cruz Vineyard Pinot Noir, CA
2006 Bodega Noemia Noemia Malbec Patagonia-Rio Negro Valley, Argentina
2005 Craggy Range Hawkes Bay Gimblett Gravels Sophia, New Zealand
2004 Santa Rita Maipo Valley Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile
2004 Vasse Felix Margaret River Heytesbury Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia
2005 Vina Pérez Cruz Maipo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile
2005 Bernard Baudry Chinon Le Clos Guillot, France

2005 Louis Jadot Moulin-a-Vent Château des Jacques Clos de Rochegres, France
2006 Santa Rita Maipo Valley Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile
2003 Vasse Felix Margaret River Shiraz, Australia
2006 Bernard Baudry Chinon, France

Comments (43)

Jack Everitt wrote:
10.21.08 at 9:20 AM

Except for the 2005 Bernard Baudry Chinon Le Clos Guillot, which Joanne and I liked a lot more than you, we're pretty in-sync on the wines we liked best.

Lisa wrote:
10.21.08 at 9:32 AM

Totally agree. W&S Top 100 is one of the best events in the industry. Sorry I missed you there.

Tish wrote:
10.22.08 at 5:18 AM

I wish W&S had one of these on the East Coast too. I admire the way W&S bases this tasting squarely on their Top 100 wineries of the year, and the wineries are not compelled to pour only one wine. By contrast, Spectator's policy of inviting wineries and approving which single 90+ point wine they pour at the Experience makes that event more about the magazine's power trip than about the wineries and attendees. Not surprisingly, the Experience catalog each year reads like a Cabernet retreat while the W&S one clearly offers great diversity. Chinon? Slovenia? Hooray!

James Barton wrote:
10.23.08 at 2:08 PM


I saw that you had the opportunity to taste the Sophia produced by Craggy Range. My girlfriend and I were over in NZ and had a chance to visit the winery--spectacular place. In any event, I share your sentiments abou the Sophia; it was my favorite wine that Craggy Range produced. Quite young but had aging potential. Later on our trip we tried a back vintage ('00?) of the Sophia and WOW. Let's just say my girlfriend stopped scrutinizing my wine purchases the rest of our vacation. While I am not ready to proclaim that the Gimblett Gravels will produce wines to challange the heralded "Right-Bank," I will say that the wines produced in Hawke's Bay are some of the best in New Zealand; too bad there isn't more selection state-side.

Alder wrote:
10.23.08 at 2:12 PM


I visited Craggy Range while I was in NZ as well. I was very impressed with their wines.

Alder wrote:
10.29.08 at 10:00 PM

Those interested in purchasing any of the top 100 wines I haven't linked above will find this link useful: http://www.wine-searcher.com/wine-and-spirits-2008.lml

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