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.
This year’s Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting threw in all that, and a stellar night view of the Museum of Modern art and downtown San Francisco.
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. This year was no different.
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 WITH A SCORE AROUND 10
2002 Bollinger Brut La Grand Année Rosé, Champagne, France
Pale peachy in color with very fine bubbles, this wine has a mind-blowing nose of wet leaves, exotic dried fruits,and spices. In the mouth the mousse of bubbles is gorgeously fine and silky, making the flavors of orange peel, rose hip, and wet stones feel weightless as the pass across the palate. Beautifully mineral, the wine takes on a light aromatic sweetness in the finish that demands another sip. Perfectly balanced and delicate with a commanding presence that oozes sensuality at the same time. Heaven help us all, this is a bottle of total wow. $200. Click to buy.
SPARKLING WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
1997 Iron Horse Blanc de Blancs Joy!, Green Valley, Sonoma County, California
Light gold in the glass with aromas of wet stones, lemon, and roasted nuts, this wine tastes of bright apple, lemon, and wet stones. Herbal and savory buttered toast flavors shift towards nut skin through the long finish. Wonderful acidity, this recently disgorged 1997 sparkling wine has clearly become one of the finest made in California. $180. Click to buy.
2002 Dom Pérignon Brut, Champagne, France
Pale gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine has a wonderfully delicate lemon and wet stone aroma with just a hint of sourdough bread. In the mouth the delicate, smooth foam of bubbles carries flavors of saltines, lemon zest, and wet stones that all have a supernatural crispness to them that is lip-smacking. A hint of saline lingers in the finish and makes the mouth water, along with the crackling acidity. $130. Click to buy.
SPARKLING WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 and 9.5
2004 Movia Puro Brut Rosé, Goriska Brda, Slovenia
Pale orange in the glass with very fine bubbles, this unique wine (which must be disgorged underwater as it has not been by its maker) smells of orange peel, pears, and wet stones. In the mouth a fine foam mousse carries bright flavors that fall somewhere between citrus tea and a Creamsicle take on a waxy beautiful mineral characteristic with a nice savory herbal overtone. Long finish. Utterly unique and quite pleasurable to drink. $50. Click to buy.
2004 Louis Roederer Brut Cristal, Champagne, France
Palest gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of oyster shells, sea air, and dried lemon peels. In the mouth the wine has a very fine mousse of bubbles and a beautiful laser-focused quality that delivers bright searing lemon zest, wet stones and lightly savory white bread flavors. Nice finish. $190. Click to buy.
NV Fleury Père & Fils Brut Fleur de l’Europe, Champagne, France. $55
SPARKLING WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
NV Bollinger Brut Special Cuvée, Champagne, France. $60
1995 Fleury Père & Fils Extra Brut, Champagne, France. $95
SPARKLING WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
1998 Gramona Brut Cellar Batlle, Cava, Spain. $??
NV Louis Roederer Brut Premier, Champagne, France. $32
WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
1993 R. López de Heredia Reserva Viña Tondonia Blanco, Rioja, Spain
Light gold in the glass, this wine has a fantastic nose of dried lemon peel, roasted nuts, and deep metallic mineral aromas. In the mouth, bright flavors of lemon burst with juicy, if austere crackling acidity. This citrus is enclosed in a stony, deeply mineral matrix and studded with nutty and herbal flavors that linger through a long finish. Amazing, as this wine tends to be in nearly every vintage, and like all the others, quite ageless. Exquisitely unique and pleasurable. $50. Click to buy.
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2009 E. Guigal La Doriane, Condrieu, Rhone Valley, France
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of beautiful peaches and candied lemons. In the mouth juicy lemon and honey flavors hang suspended in a thick satin stream of texture on the palate. After peach is added to the mix the wine turns decidedly spicy as it lingers through a long finish that gives the impression, if nothing else, that this is what gold would taste like if it were possible. $110. Click to buy.
2008 Domaine Leflaive Premier Cru Les Pucelles, Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon zest, lemon curd, and nut skin. In the mouth, the wine has an electrically bright mineral and lemon quality, equally matched by a saline savory herbal goodness. Neon lemon essence reigns through the finish. Stunning. $260. Click to buy.
2009 Philippe Colin Grand Cru, Chevalier-Montrachet, Burgundy, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine has a bright piney nose of cold cream and lemon aromas. In the mouth, the wine is a bottomless pool of clear shining lemon and winter icicles. Cold cream and wet stone combine with a touch of pink grapefruit that lingers in the finish with a touch of sweet oak. Fantastically balanced and, like the best white Burgundies, both rich and delicate at the same time. Wow. $300. Click to buy.
2010 Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Gewurztraminer, Finger Lakes, New York
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of a wonderful fusion between wet slate and rose petals. In the mouth it offers that same explosion of both minerality and floral components, as if rose quartz actually smelled like its name. Fantastic. $25. Click to buy.
2008 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of petrol and freshly opened tangerine. In the mouth the wine offers a hint of sweetness amidst a bright floral, tangerine, and honeyed flavor profile that hangs crystalline in the mouth for a long time. Yum!. $30. Click to buy.
1994 Quinta das Bageiras Branco, Bairrada, Portugal
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this unusual wine smells of raw pine sap and wet stones. In the mouth flavors of kumquat zest, mineral, even metallic stony qualities mix with a lightly herbal quality that turns towards parchment in the finish. A humble white table wine has turned to something else entirely with 18 years of age on it. I only wish you could actually buy it. Remarkable and unique. $NA
2009 Hermann J. Wiemer Late Harvest Riesling, Finger Lakes, New York
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine has a disarmingly bright smell of pears and wet stones. In the mouth the wine is quite explosive in its quartz and pear electricity. Crackling with bright acidity and hints of citrus underneath the pear and appleness, this wine is fantastic, and not quite as sweet as its late harvest designation might lead you to believe. $23. Click to buy.
2009 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese, Mosel, Germany
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of apple, pear and a hint of paraffin. In the mouth a mildly sweet fusion reaction of wet stones, green apple, pear, and lemon juice comes alive and stays nuclear across the palate, lingering with mouth puckering juiciness long after you’ve swallowed. Killer. $36. Click to buy.
2008 Domaine Leflaive Sous le Dos d’Ane, Meursault, Burgundy, France. $160. Click to buy.
WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2007 Cantina Terlano Nova Domus Riserva Terlaner, Alto Adige, Italy
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of cucumber and stony minerality. IN the mouth it offers flavors of cold cream, green apple, bright lemon, and a surprising peachiness as the wine moves across the palate. Wonderful minerality, even a waxiness linger in the finish. Nicely balanced. $75
2008 Philippe Colin Premier Cru Les Chaumes, Chassagne-Montrachet, Burgundy, France
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of cold cream and lemon curd with hints of some herbs. In the mouth electric lemon minerality mixed with cold cream and custard take a decidedly stony, nutty turn through a long finish. Beautifully balanced and delicious. $70
2009 Schloss Gobelsburg Heiligenstein Riesling, Kamptal, Austria
Palest gold, to near colorless in the glass, this wine has a fantastically floral aroma, smelling of jasmine and honeysuckle. In the mouth, bright apple, Juicyfruit™ and lychee flavors ripple with stony minerality and a hint of sweetness. Beautiful, clean, and delicious. $60
2009 Red Newt Davis Farms Vineyard Riesling, Finger Lakes, New York
Palest green-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon and wet stones with a hint of petrol pungency. In the mouth the wine is neon lemon and wet stones vibrating like something off the Vegas strip. Petrol notes and a very pretty texture round out a mouthwatering package. Fantastic acidity and excellent balance. Yum! . $25
2010 Tahbilk Marsanne, Nagambie Lakes, South Australia
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones and lemon zest. In the mouth the wine is one of the purest expressions of lemongrass I have ever tasted in a wine, spicy and citrus all at the same time with a wonderful stony bass note that is quite disarming. Beautiful acidity, quite tasty. $13
2009 C. von Schubert Maximin Grunhauser Riesling Trocken, Mosel, Germany. $40
2010 Matetic Vineyards EQ Sauvignon Blanc, San Antonio, Chile. $25
2008 Domaine de Bellivière L’Effraie, Coteaux du Loire, France. $32
2010 Loimer Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria. $23
2007 Maison Louis Jadot Premier Cru Les Combettes, Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France. $110
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2008 Cantina Terlano Vorberg Reserva Pinot Bianco, Alto Adige, Italy
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of apples and pears. In the mouth bright, silky flavors of pear, apple and chamomile linger with a lemon brightness through a long finish. Excellent. $40
2004 La Castellada Sauvignon, Collio, Italy
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine has a very interesting smell of caramelized nuts and crème anglais. In the mouth flavors of lemon, parchment, and a custard creaminess mix with bright acidity and an unusually silky texture for a Sauvignon. Unique and wonderful. . $70
2010 Aveleda Quinta da Aveleda, Vinho Verde, Portugal. $9
2010 Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford Napa Valley, California. $18
2010 Luis A. Rodríguez Vázquez Os Pasás Blanco, Ribeiro, Spain. $37
2010 Sparkman Cellars Pearl Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington. $22
2009 Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Grand Cru La Cabotte, Chevalier-Montrachet, Burgundy, France. $210
2009 Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Premier Cru, Meursault Genevrières, Burgundy, France. $70
2008 Domaine de Bellivière Les Rosiers, Jasnieres, Loire Valley, France. $32
2009 Evening Land Vineyards Seven Springs Vineyard Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. $60
NV Kante NV Vino da Tavola Rex Apum Selezione Moscato Momiano, Friuli, Italy. $??
2006 La Castellada Ribolla Gialla, Collio, Italy. $70
2009 Loimer Langenlois Steinmassl Reserve Riesling, Kamptal, Austria. $60
2009 Boutari Santorini, Santorini, Greece. $20
WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2010 Aveleda Minho Alvarinho, Vinho Regional, Portugal. $11
2009 King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Gris, Oregon. $15
2009 Tselepos Melissopetra Gewurztraminer, Arcadia, Greece. $24
2009 Amalie Robert Heirloom Cameo Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon. $50
2006 Brokenwood ILR Reserve Semillon, Hunter Valley, Australia. $32
2009 Kante Malvasia, Venezia Giulia, Italy. $50
2009 Schloss Gobelsburg Lamm Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria. $60
2008 Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes Blanc, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France. $63
2008 Tardieu-Laurent Vieille Vignes, Saint Peray, Rhone Valley, France. $36
2009 Tselepos Gewurztraminer, Greece. $24
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2010 Boutari Moschofilero, Mantinia, Greece. $17
2010 Red Newt “Circle” Label Riesling, Finger Lakes, New York. $13
2007 Arkenstone Sauvignon Blanc, Howell Mountain Napa Valley, California. $40
2009 Robert Weil Estate Dry Riesling, Rheingau, Germany. $30
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2009 Achaval-Ferrer Finca Mirador Malbec, Medrano, Mendoza, Argentina
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis and blueberry fruit. In the mouth the wine offers fantastic, bright cherry flavors mixed with wet stones and forest floor. Velvety tannins and slate minerality give way to a bright sour cherry finish. Fantastic and compelling. $110. Click to buy.
2008 Achaval-Ferrer Finca Altamira Malbec, La Consulta Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of beautifully bright, juicy cassis and more savory burnt match heads. In the mouth bright juicy flavors of cherry and wet stones mix with deeper hints of earth and tobacco. Fantastic acidity lifts the wine and makes it resonant, as velvety tannins gently caress the palate. An extremely long, airy finish seals the deal. A knockout of a wine. $110. Click to buy.
2007 Calera Reed Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mt. Harlan, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine has an unusual aroma of sandalwood and raspberry fruit that has a distinct sweetness to it. In the mouth smooth, silky raspberry flavors are enclosed with velvety tannins that give way to flavors of leather and a hint of wet bark. The finish leaves behind a hint of aromatic sweetness that is perceived as a faint echo. Beautiful, lithe, and long. Yowza. $50. Click to buy.
2005 Elvio Cogno Bricco Pernice, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a nose of dried berries and dried flower petals. In the mouth bright, juicy flavors of mulberries and cherry swirl amidst the grabbing fists of aggressive tannins which will no doubt mellow with time. Wonderful acidity carries the wine through a fantastically long finish. Regal and poised. Gorgeous. $80. Click to buy.
2005 Jasper Hill Cornella Grenache, Heathcote, Australia
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of ripe raspberry jam and eucalyptus. In the mouth the very rich wine offers dusty flavors of juicy bright raspberry, leather, and cocoa on a bed of thick satin. Eucalyptus notes creep into the finish. This is not a delicate wine, to be sure, but a powerful expression of fruit that is quite amazing. $45. Click to buy.
RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2009 Santadi Grotta Rossa, Carignano del Sulcis, Sardinia
Light garnet in the glass, this 100% old-vine Carignane has a nose of spices and intense bright cherry fruit. IN the mouth flavors of cherry exotic woods, and mixed berries burst forth thanks to bright acidity. Suede-like tannins linger with sour cherry notes in the finish. I usually refrain from noting pricing in my reviews, letting everyone make up their own mind what “value” means, but at $12-15 this wine is an unbelievable bargain. $15. Click to buy.
2009 Evening Land Vineyards Seven Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of flowers and raspberry with a hint of greenness that often is associated in my mind with whole cluster fermentation, but this wine is made from grapes that have been fully destemmed. In the mouth, bright raspberry, tart, sour cherry, and a hint of green willow bark are wrapped in supple but muscular tannins. Incredible acidity and a very long finish. This is a young wine, yet. $120
2008 Raúl Pérez El Pecado Mencia, Ribeira Sacra, Spain
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells deliciously floral, and then quite spicy with notes of green peppercorn. In the mouth cassis, mulberry, and earthy flavors carry a bit of the peppercorn spiciness along with the scent of leather. A suede glove of tannins envelops the wine and lingers with the fruit and earth in a long finish. Soulful and honest. $73
2009 Raúl Pérez Ultreia Cova de la Raposa Mencia, Bierzo, Spain
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has an otherworldly nose of violets and cassis aromas. In the mouth the wine offers beautifully cool cassis flavors tinged with dark earth and leather. Soft leathery tannins envelop the tongue while bright acidity makes the cassis and floral flavors sing. Gorgeous, and quite distinctive. $23. Click to buy.
2009 Sparkman Ruckus, Red Mountain, Washington
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a nose of bright cherry and white pepper aromas. In the mouth flavors of cherry and cassis are made lively with bright acidity and cradled in a handful of leathery tannins. $38
2008 Maison Louis Jadot, Chapelle Chambertin, Burgundy, France
Pale garnet in the glass, this wine has a wonderfully floral nose of bright earthy raspberry aromas. In the mouth it is delicately floral, too, with flavors that mirror its initial aromas: juicy raspberry overlaying earthier forest floor, and leathery tannins that hang back a while before sneaking out as the wine finishes long. $120
2008 Arkenstone Obsidian, Howell Mountain Napa Valley, California. $120
2008 Quinta do Noval, Douro, Portugal. $80
2009 Anthill Farms Campbell Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California. $42
2009 Anthill Farms Peters Vineyard Syrah, Sonoma Coast, California. $29
2008 Gramercy Cellars Lagniappe Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington. $45
2008 Jasper Hill Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz, Heathcote, Australia. $85
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2007 Elvio Cogno Ravera, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a nose of bright flower petals and juicy berries. In the mouth bright berry flavors mix with leather and fine grained tannins and fantastic acidity. Flavors of clove and orange peel linger through the finish. Delicate. $65
2008 Bernard Baudry Les Grezeaux, Chinon, Loire Valley, France. $28
2008 Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Washington. $85
2006 Viña Sastre Pesus, Ribera del Duero, Spain. $120
2006 Le Macchiole Scrio, Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy. $140
2007 Santadi Rocca Rubia Riserva, Carignano del Sulcis, Sardinia. $32
2004 Tenimenti Angelini Val di Suga, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy. $63
2007 Amalie Robert Amalie’s Cuvée Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon. $50
2008 Calera Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mt. Harlan, California. $35
2006 E. Guigal Vignes de l’Hospice, Saint-Joseph, Rhone Valley, France. $100
2008 Gramercy Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Washington. $45
2008 Matetic Vineyards EQ Syrah, San Antonio, Chile. $43
2007 Unti Grenache, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California. $30
RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2008 Bernard Baudry Le Clos Guillot, Chinon, France. $32
2009 Leonetti Cellar Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Washington. $70
2008 Niepoort Charme, Douro, Portugal. $75
1999 Viña Sastre Gran Reserva Pago de Santa Cruz, Ribera del Duero, Spain. $750
2006 Tenimenti Angelini Tre Rose, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Italy. $25
2009 Unti Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley, California. $35
2008 Kingston Family Vineyards Bayo Oscuro Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley, Chile. $30
2008 Kingston Family Vineyards Bayo Oscuro Syrah, Casablanca Valley, Chile. $28
2008 Sparkman Cellars Darkness Syrah, Yakima Valley, Washington. $56
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2007 Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso, Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy. $125
2007 Tselepos, Nemea, Greece. $25
2009 King Estate Acrobat Pinot Noir, Oregon. $18