The difference between a good public wine tasting and a bad one 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 wines. And the best ones? Well, they throw in a jazz quartet, and all you can eat oyster bar, a dessert bar, and wines that sometimes retail for hundreds of dollars, if you can find them, at all. And that’s just what you get at the annual Wine and Spirits Top 100 tasting.
Like many of their peers in the magazine world, Wine & Spirits publishes an annual award issue, in which they celebrate what they think 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. They just publish an issue with profiles of each 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 an event 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, and this year was no different.
Keeping the winning formula from last year, this year’s event included food from the magazine’s picks for the top new restaurants in San Francisco.
In any case, on to the wines. Most wineries brought only 2 wines apiece, usually their two top scoring wines of the year. I’ve divided my tasting notes into sparkling, white, and red, and grouped them by score, as usual.
SPARKLING WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
1988 Veuve Clicquot Champagne “Rare Vintage”
Yellow gold in the glass, with nearly invisible bubbles, this wine has a fantastically aromatic nose of marzipan, toasted bread, and roasted nut aromas. In the mouth, the wine has amazing balance and poise, with flavors of roasted hazelnuts, lemon rind, butter crackers, and an incredibly long, fine finish that has a savory, even slightly salty quality. Outstanding. $120. Click to buy.
SPARKLING WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2002 Louis Roederer “Cristal” Brut Champagne
Light gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of lemon juice and toasted sourdough bread. In the mouth the wine has a classic profile of lemon juice, sourdough toast, and Ritz Crackers. Nicely balanced, and utterly delicious. $180. Click to buy.
SPARKLING WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
NV Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Premier. $??
NV Bruno Paillard Champagne Brut Rosé Première Cuvée. $55
1999 Saint-Chamant Champagne Brut Cuvée de Chardonnay. $78
2004 Veuve Clicquot Champagne Vintage Rosé. $80
2002 Movia Goriška Brda Puro Rosé. $47
SPARKLING WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
NV Bruno Paillard Champagne Brut Première Cuvée. $65
2000 Saint-Chamant Champagne Brut Cuvée de Chardonnay. $78
NV Saint-Chamant Champagne Brut “Envy” Blanc de Blancs. $56
2006 Gramona Cava Gran Reserva Imperial. $30
NV Pehu-Simonet Champagne Brut Rosé Grand Cru. $60
SPARKLING WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2003 Roederer Estate Anderson Valley L’Ermitage Brut Rosé. $??
2001 Gramona Cava Brut Gran Reserva Celler Batlle. $80
NV Pehu-Simonet Champagne Brut Sélection Grand Cru. $55
WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
2007 Didier Dagueneau “Pur Sang” Blanc Fumé de Pouilly
Near colorless in the glass, with an incredibly mineral nose of wet limestone and lime zest, this wine conveys a remarkable crystalline delicacy on the palate. Flavors of lime juice, grass or green hay, wet steel and a surprising hint of green melon hang suspended in a weightless, resonant river over the palate. The finish is incredibly long and satisfying. This is sadly the last vintage made by this master of the Loire, and a good reminder of why his premature death in a plane crash is a crushing loss for the wine world. Outstanding. $100. Click to buy.
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2008 Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fumé de Pouilly. $65. Click to buy.
2008 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. $100. Click to buy.
2008 Domaine Faiveley Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru. $400. Click to buy.
2008 J. Hofstätter Alto Adige Kolbenhof Gewurztraminer.
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine has a heady perfume of roses and orange peel aromas, which suffuse the wine from start to finish. The flavors swirl between these two poles atop a bed of rainwater freshness that is disarming and delicious. Wow. $50.
2007 Chateau de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc
Light gold in color, this wine has a phenomenal nose of green olives, dried orange rind, and acacia honey. In the mouth, the wine’s satin texture and weighty presence on the tongue bring to mind the voluptuous curves and invisible brush strokes of nudes in Botticelli paintings. Flavors of orange zest, lemon curd, dried mango and dried pineapple swirl amidst a bright acidity and deep resonant minerality that leans towards the saline end of the spectrum. Both rich as well as light on its feet, this is a wine that begs to be swallowed, especially as it lingers for a long while after the fact. Outstanding. $90 Click to buy.
WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2008 Schloss Gobelsburg Kamptal Gobelsburger Riesling. $70
2008 Schloss Gobelsburg Kamptal Gaisberg Reserve Riesling. $48
2007 Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling “Tradition”. $50
2005 Marcel Deiss Alsace Burg Bergheim Vineyard Premier Cru. $42
2007 Movia Goriška Brda Ribolla. $30
2008 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte Bouguerots. $100
2008 Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru. $250
2008 Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Premier Cru Clos St-Landry. $65
2007 Domaine Leflaive Meursault. $155
2007 Domaine Leflaive Clavoillon Puligny-Montrachet. $145
2008 Domaine Antonin Guyon Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru. $??
2007 Chehalem Dundee Hills Ian’s Reserve Stoller Vineyards Chardonnay. $34
1987 R. López de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva. $100
2007 E. Guigal Condrieu La Doriane. $180
2008 Niepoort Douro Redoma Branco Reserva. $45
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2008 Hermann J. Wiemer Finger Lakes Dry Magdalena Vineyard Riesling. $25
2007 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage Le Chevalier de Sterimberg. $70
2008 Joseph Drouhin Chablis Premier Cru Dom. Drouhin Vaudon. $20
2000 R. López de Heredia Rioja Viña Tondonia Reserva . $40
2009 Casa Silva Colchagua Valley Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc. $22
WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2008 Domaine Gerovassiliou Epanomi Malagousia. $25
2008 Hermann J. Wiemer Finger Lakes Reserve Dry Gewurztraminer. $20
2001 Château Musar Gaston Hochar. $34
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2008 Domaine Gerovassiliou Epanomi Fumé Sauvignon Blanc. $25
RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
2008 Williams Selyem Block 10 – Mass Selection Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir. $68 – Mailing list only
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
1991 R. López de Heredia Rioja Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva
Light ruby in the glss with distinct orange at the rim, this wine has a pungent nose of sandalwood incense and dried cherries. In the mouth it is ethereal in quality, with a lightness on the palate that is remarkable. Faint dusty tannins swirl in a cloud of sandalwood, dried flowers, dried cherries, and as the wine heads for its minutes long finish, a note of cream sherry. $85. Click to buy.
2007 Wind Gap “Griffin’s Lair Vineyard” Syrah, Sonoma Coast
Dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of white pepper, cassis, and macerated blueberries. In the mouth the wine has an unbridled power that is quite extraordinary, strung between a deep resonant mineral undertone, and rich blackberry and cassis fruit. The wine finishes long with a sweet aroma on the finish. Excellent. $45 Click to buy.
2007 Perrin et Fils Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape. $100. Click to buy.
2007 Achával-Ferrer Mendoza Finca Bella Vista Malbec. $90. Click to buy.
2006 Bond Napa Valley Quella. $225. Click to buy.
2006 Bond Napa Valley Pluribus. $225. Click to buy.
2001 Château Musar Red Wine, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Cloudy garnet in the glass, this wine smells of leather, cherry fruit, and a deep rich river mud. In the mouth the wine offers nothing if not fantastic honesty. Impeccably balanced, with great acidity, the flavors of cherry, wet potters clay, and leather swirl with herbal and floral qualities for minutes through the finish. Alive. $49. Click to buy.
RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2007 Flowers Sonoma Frances Thompson Noir. $70
2007 Flowers Sonoma Coast Sea View Ridge Pinot Noir. $70
2008 Williams Selyem Westside Road Neighbors Pinot Noir. $55
2007 J. Hofstätter Alto Adige Barthenau Vigna S. Urbano Pinot Nero. $65
2008 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru. $71
2008 Domaine Faiveley Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Les Cazetiers. $105
2007 Moric Burgenland Neckenmarkt Alte Reben Blaufränkisch. $120
2007 Niepoort Douro Charme. $98
2007 Quinta do Vallado Douro Reserva. $65
2007 Wind Gap Russian River Valley Castelli-Knight Ranch Syrah. $48
2005 E. Guigal Châteauneuf-du-Pape. $43
2005 Yarra Yering Yarra Valley Dry Red Wine No. 1. $95
2002 Yarra Yering Yarra Valley Underhill Shiraz. $95
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2007 Chehalem Oregon Reserve Pinot Noir. $49
2007 Williams Selyem Sonoma Coast Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir. $75
2007 Louis Jadot Pommard Premier Cru Clos de la Commaraine. $50
2007 Moric Burgenland Lutzmannsburg Alte Reben Blaufränkisch. $112
2007 Moric Moric. $50
2005 Stéphane Ogier Père et Fils Côte Rôtie La Belle Hélène Côte Rozier. $100
2007 Stéphane Ogier Père et Fils Côte Rôtie. $100
2006 Catena Zapata Mendoza Gualtallary Adrianna Vineyard Malbec. $120
RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2007 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert. $??
2008 Moric Blaufränkisch. $30
2008 Quinta do Vallado Douro. $25
2006 Catena Zapata Mendoza Altamira Nicasia Vineyard Malbec. $120
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2006 Casa Silva Colchagua Valley Microterroir de los Lingues Carmenère. $39
2007 Quinta do Vesuvio Douro. $70
RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2007 Louis Jadot Pinot Noir. $15