Tasting Highlights from the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Event

I attend a lot of public tasting events for the same reason I tell my readers to attend them. They are simply the best way to educate the palate, and often the only way to get a chance to taste certain wines that you might not otherwise have a chance to afford. Such tastings can be quite exhausting and by the end of the event, I’m usually ready to take a nap.

At the end of the annual Wine & Spirits Top 100 tasting every year, however, I find myself wishing I had another couple of hours to wander around and taste wine. Perhaps this is partly because of the bottomless oyster bar with fresh kumamoto oysters, a welcome respite from rounds of tasting, but mostly the wines on offer are generally of such high quality that I simply would like to taste them all.

Put on by Wine & Spirits Magazine, the tasting is a showcase of (most, but not all) the wineries that have made the magazine’s annual list of Top 100 Wineries around the world. Such annual lists have only marginal value from my perspective, and often contain the same players over and over again, but it’s certainly hard to deny the quality of the wines on offer at this particular tasting, which inevitably, is one of the best public wine tastings all year in San Francisco.

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Held at the City View event space at the Metreon building in San Francisco, this event is great, especially when the weather is nice, as it was a few weeks ago when the tasting was held.

Per the usual, the tasting was jam packed with fantastic wines from around the world, as well as tasty bites from the magazine’s top 25 San Francisco restaurants. I found myself socializing a lot at the tasting, and consequently didn’t make it to nearly as many of the tables as I would like, but I’ve offered my top rated wines from the event below, with some brief notes on each.

But before I get there, I have to say that one of the best things I tasted all evening wasn’t a wine at all, but a cider. Made by one of my favorite producers, Jason Drew of Drew Wines out near the coast in Mendocino, this little sip was a bit of a revelation. Here’s what I wrote about it in the moment: “one of the best ciders I’ve ever tasted in my life. Totally phenomenal. Crisp apple, pear, mulling spices, and herbs but clean and crisp like riverwater. Killer stuff.” I have no idea how anyone would get their hands on some, but it presumably involves bugging the heck out of Jason, who you can reach through his web site.

In any case, on with the wines.

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 10
NV Krug Brut Rosé Champagne Blend, Champagne, France $280
What does one say when all you really want to do is drink this wine all night long. Whiffs of berry, buttered brioche, sea air, and white flowers make for picture perfect pink pleasure. click to buy.

2006 Rocca di Montegrossi Vin Santo del Chianti Classico White Blend, Chianti Classico, Italy $110
Carmel colored in the glass, this wine smells and tastes of coffee with milk and a technicolor toffee and pastry cream undercurrent. It isn’t nearly as sweet as you’d think. Great acidity, long finish. Totally amazing. click to buy.

WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
2013 Joh. Jos. Prum “Wehlener Sonnenuhr” Riesling Auslese, Mosel, Germany $45
Stony and weightless, this wine smells and tasts of honey and citrus peel. Astonishing acidity and length. click to buy.

2010 Joh. Jos. Prum “Graacher Himmelreich” Riesling Auslese, Mosel, Germany $50
Oh how I love this vintage. Steely and stony to its core with phenomenal acidity, this wine is all liquid stone and honeysuckle backed by asian pear and mandarin orange juice. Mouthwatering and perfectly balanced. click to buy.

NV Krug Brut “Grande Cuvée” Champagne Blend, Champagne, France $139
Its usual blend of toasty brioche, lemon rind, seawater, and citrus oil. A blend of 37% Pinot Noir, 32% Chardonnay, and 31% Pinot Meunier. A blend of 183 different wines from 12 years, the oldest being 1990 the youngest being 2007. Disgorged winter 1995. click to buy.

2005 Diamond Creek “Gravelly Meadow” Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District, Napa, California $180
Still garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth and cherry, and tastes of gorgeous cherry and herbs and dusty roads in the Autumn. Fantastically bright and long on the palate. click to buy.

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2012 Au Bon Climat “Bien Nacido Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California $45
Medium garnet in the glass leaning towards ruby, this wine smells of red apple skin and tastes of raspberry, leather and herbs. Gorgeously balanced and smooth. click to buy.

2014 C. von Schubert “Maximin Gr¨nhäuser Herrenberg” Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany $32
Pale and perfumed, this wine has an ethereal honey and floral character that gives way to a stony, stony core of melted snow. click to buy.

2013 Cobb “Rice-Spivak Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California $70
Pale garnet in the glass, this wine smells of crushed herbs. In the mouth, juicy herbal raspberry and raspberry leaf flavors are almost salty in their tangy brightness. click to buy.

2013 Domaine de la Vougeraie “Monopole Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot” Chardonnay, Clos Vougeot Premier Cru, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy, France $150
Gorgeously silky and bright, with lemon and vanilla dancing on the palate for minutes. Fantastic acidity. click to buy.

2012 Domdechant Werner “Hochheimer Kirchenstück Grosses Gewächs” Riesling Trocken, Rheingau, Germany $30
Fantastically crisp and dry, this pale wine tastes of liquid stone, pear, and leaves citrus pith flavors lingering in the finish.

2014 Drew “Valenti Ranch” Syrah, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino, California $48
White pepper and cassis fuse in this gorgeous tangy herbal wine. click to buy.

2005 Egly-Ouriet Brut Grand Cru Champagne Blend, Champagne, France $140
Wonderfully balanced between stony apple flavors and the deep saline notes that mark a well aged champagne. Fine bubbles. Beautiful. click to buy.

2011 El Enemigo Mendoza “Gran Enemigo” Bordeaux Blend, Mendoza, Argentina $100
Really juicy and smooth blueberry and black cherry flavors have gorgeously supple tannins. click to buy.

2014 Hermann J. Wiemer “Reserve Dry” Riesling, Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, New York
When you filter honeysuckle nectar through crushed stones with a dash of rainwater this is what you get. Killer stuff. Beautifully long finish.

2013 Joh. Jos. Prum “Graacher Himmelreich” Riesling Auslese, Mosel, Germany $45
Crushed stones, mandarin oranges, honey, and weightless charm. Fantastic. click to buy.

2009 Joh. Jos. Prum “Graacher Himmelreich” Riesling Auslese, Mosel, Germany $42
Asian pear, mandarin oranges, a hint of pith, honeysuckle and a touch of patina shining through. click to buy.

2012 Le Macchiole “Messorio” Merlot, Tuscany IGT, Italy $170
Fantastically smooth, lovely cherry and plummy fruit touched with vanilla and toasted oak, but mostly just gobs of gorgeous fruit that is perfectly ripe. click to buy.

2013 Thomas Fogarty “Razorback Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains, California $75
A contender for my new favorite California Pinot Noir, this pale wine is gorgeously herbal and floral, with fine tannins, and a raspberry redcurrant character that is persistent for minutes. click to buy.

1995 C. von Schubert “Maximin Grünhäuser Herrenberg” Riesling Auslese, Mosel, Germany $70
Sweet stony lemon and petrol give way to honey and crushed stones. Fantastic acidity makes the mouth water. click to buy.

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There were a lot more great wines on offer, of course. Here are my rough scores for a bunch more wines on which I took no notes.

WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 and 9.5
2013 Anita & Hans Nittnaus “Kalk und Schiefer” Blaufrankisch, Burgenland, Austria
2012 Au Bon Climat “Bien Nacido Vineyard” Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
2013 Banshee Wines “Coastlands Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
2014 Banshee Wines “Marine Layer” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
2013 Chanin “Sanford and Benedict” Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, California
2013 Chanin “Bien Nacido Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, California
2013 Cobb “Jack Hill” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
2013 Domaine de la Vougeraie “Monopole Clos de Thorey” Nuits-St-George 1er Cru, Burgundy, France
2014 Domaine du Pélican “Trois Cépages” Red Blend, Arbois, France
2014 Dr. Konstantin Frank “Semi-Dry” Riesling, Finger Lakes, New York
2014 Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer, Finger Lakes, New York
NV Egly-Ouriet “Brut Tradition Grand Cru” Champagne Blend, Champagne, France
2012 El Enemigo “Gualtallary Gran Enemigo Single Vineyard” Cabernet Franc, Mendoza, Argentina
2010 Elvio Cogno “Bricco Pernice” Nebbiolo, Barolo, Italy
2012 Elvio Cogno “Ravera” Nebbiolo, Barolo, Italy
NV Fleury “Extra Brut Sonate No 9 Opus 10” Champagne Blend, Champagne, France
2012 Fritz Haag “Mosel Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Spätlese” Riesling, Mosel, Germany
2012 García Figuero “Ribera del Duero Viñas Viejas” Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero, Spain
2014 Hermann J. Wiemer “Seneca Lake Late Harvest” Riesling, Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, New York
2011 Joh. Jos. Prum “Mosel Graacher Himmelreich” Riesling Auslese, Mosel, Germany
2013 Johann Donabaum “Smaragd Limitierte Edition” Riesling, Wachau, Austria
2013 Johann Donabaum “Smaragd Setzberg” Riesling, Wachau, Austria
2010 Louis Roederer “Champagne Brut Rosé” Champagne Blend, Champagne, France
2014 Ochota Barrels “The Fugazi Vineyard” Grenache, McLaren Vale, South Australia,
2015 Ochota Barrels “The Shellac Vineyard” Syrah, Marananga, Australia
2012 Pago de los Capellanes “Crianza” Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero, Spain
NV Pascal Doquet “Brut Grand Cru Diaparon” Champagne Blend, Champagne, France
2005 Pascal Doquet “Brut Vertus Coeur de Terroir” Champagne Blend, , France
NV Pierre Paillard “Brut Blanc de Noirs Les Maillerettes” Pinot Noir, Champagne, France
2010 Pierre Paillard “Les Maillerettes” Blanc de Noirs, Champagne, France
2010 Rocca di Montegrossi “Geremia” Tuscany IGT, Italy
2014 Sandhi “Rita’s Crown” Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
2013 Thomas Fogarty “Langley Hill Vineyard ” Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
2014 Vadiaperti “Aipierti” Fiano di Avellino, Campania, Italy
2008 Niepoort “Charme” Red Blend, Douro, Portugal
2003 Ridge “Lytton Springs” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
2000 E. Guigal “Château d’Ampuis” Rhone Blend, Côte-Rôtie, Rhone Valley, France
1995 Penfolds “Grange” Shiraz, South Australia

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2013 Anita & Hans Nittnaus Blaufrankisch, Leithaberg, Burgenland, Austria
2014 Banshee Wines “Heinz” Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California
2014 Domaine du Pélican Chardonnay, Arbois, France
2012 Dominus “Napanook” Cabernet, Napa, California
2014 Drew “Estate Field Selections” Pinot Noir, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino, California
2002 Fleury “Extra Brut” Champagne Blend, Champagne, France
2012 García Figuero “Crianza” Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain
2014 Henschke “Henry’s Seven” Shiraz, Barossa, South Australia
2010 Iron Horse “Classic Brut” Champagne Blend, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
2009 Iron Horse ” Blanc de Blancs” Chardonnay, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
2010 Pago de los Capellanes “Parcela El Picón” Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero, Spain
NV Pierre Paillard “Brut Rosé Grand Cru” Champagne Blend, Champagne, France
2013 Tenuta Petrolo “Galatrona” Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy
2013 Tenuta Petrolo “Bòggina” Red Blend, Val d’Arno di Sopra, Tuscany, Italy
2007 Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen “Eroica” Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington
2007 Catena Zapata “Gualtallary Adrianna Vineyard” Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
1996 Concha y Toro “Don Melchor Private Reserve Puente Alto Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo, Chile