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100 Tastes from the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting

For those in the wine trade, one of the characteristics of Spring has long been the proliferation of wine tasting events. These events, which often have a public component as well, begin in February and by April, an ambitious wine taster can easily be going to three or four per week.

Now, of course, nothing of the sort is happening. The last place anyone wants to be is jostling shoulder to shoulder and sharing pours from a communal wine bottle that is often handled by scores of people before it is empty.

But, such tastings are fantastic opportunities to taste wine, and, more importantly, educate one’s palate. They can also be a load of fun.

One of my favorite tastings each year is the Wine & Spirits Top 100 event, which coincides with the publishing of their Top 100 wines of the year. Most of the wineries honored in that annual issue show up to pour their awarded wines as well as whatever else they may have brought along.

At the end of the annual tasting, I always 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.

Sitting here now in self-isolation with time to finally compile my notes and scores for these wines, such a tasting seems like an incomparable luxury — a hallmark of a different time and place, far removed from current circumstances. Reviewing the wines I tasted offers something of a reverie of flavor and pleasure that after only a few months already has a tinge of nostalgia for me.

If you’re stuck at home (and who isn’t?) looking for wines to buy, this might be an interesting list to explore. There are wines here to fit any price point, and pretty much every one of these wines will deliver pleasure and personality in equal measure.

I can only hope that events such as this will be held once again as we emerge from the strictures that mark this current battle against our invisible foe.

Here are my roughly 100 scores from the 2019 Top 100 tasting held this past Autumn in San Francisco. For those unfamiliar with my approach at such tastings, suffice it to say that they are far from the best environment to carefully and thoughtfully evaluate wines. Instead of taking detailed tasting notes, I jot down initial impressions and offer a score, all of which you may choose to take with a requisite grain of salt given the circumstances of the tasting.

Tasting Notes

SPARKLING WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2004 Bollinger Brut R.D., Champagne, France. Biscuit, brioche seaweed, shells and crushed rocks to infinity and beyond. Killer. $165 – Buy.
2011 Roederer Brut Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, France. Perfect balance fruity biscuit, seaweed and crushed shells. Wowza. $70 – Buy.

SPARKLING WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
NV Bollinger Brut Special Cuvée, Champagne, France. $50 – Buy.
NV Paillard Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, France. Bright balanced, juicy, chalky with sea air. $80 – Buy.
NV Paillard Extra Brut Première Cuvée RosÉ, Champagne, France. Hint of funk, bright berry and lanolin. $60 – Buy.
2009 Roederer Brut Nature Philippe Starck, Champagne, France. Lean, crisp, mineral and bright. $95 – Buy.

SPARKLING WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2014 Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery Brut, Finger Lakes, New York. Bright and juicy. $25 – Buy.
2014 Pere Ventura Gran Reserva Brut Rosé, Cava, Spain. Tangy citrus and apple, unusual, herbal. $59 – Buy.
2016 Pere Ventura Tresor Reserva Brut, Cava, Spain. Smooth, mellow but bright. $18 – Buy.
2008 Vesselle Grand Cru Brut Prestige, Champagne, France.

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2016 Donnafugata Ben Rye, Passito di Pantelleria, Italy. Honey, apricot nutty goodness, citrus peel with a finish forever. $43 – Buy.

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2017 Antinori Cervaro della Sala Chardonnay, Umbria, Italy. Smoky flinty, juicy, bright, lemon and grapefruit. $59 – Buy.
2011 Argyros 4 Years Barrel Aged Vinsanto, Santorini, Greece. $60 – Buy.
2018 Argyros Estate Assyrtiko, Santorini, Greece. $29 – Buy.
2017 Brooks Ara Riesling, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Chalky, bright, lean and juicy. $26 – Buy.
2015 Chanin Wine Co. Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California. $39 – Buy.
2017 Cobb Wines Doc’s Ranch Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California. Sappy, bright, juicy lemony gorgeousness. $70 – Buy.
2015 Domaine Matrot Charmes, Meursault Premier Cru, Burgundy, France. Bright sappy, lemon, grapefruit. $100 – Buy.
2017 Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery Gewürztraminer, Finger Lakes, New York. Gorgeous, juicy, floral, orange peel, crisp. $16 – Buy.
2017 Lingua Franca Estate Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamettte Valley, Oregon. Juicy, sappy, lemon curd and mineral. $50 – Buy.
2005 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco, Rioja, Spain. Nutty, lemon peel, nut skin. $46 – Buy.
2017 Schloss Gobelsburg Gaisberg Riesling, Kamptal, Austria. $43 – Buy.
2017 Suertes del Marques Valle de la Orotava Vidonia Listán Blanco, Tenerife, Canary Islands. Salty flinty, bright citrus bang. $45 – Buy.

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2017 Brooks, Estate Riesling, Willamettte Valley, Oregon. $34 – Buy.
2017 Deovlet Wines Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, California. Apple, lemon, bright. $32 – Buy.
2017 Guigal La Doriane, Condrieu, Rhone Valley, France. $115 – Buy.
2016 Meroi Zitelle Pesarin Friulano, Friuli Colli Orientali, Italy.
2017 Patz & Hall Goldrock Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California. $70 – Buy.
2018 Ridge Vineyards Adelaida Vineyard Grenache Blanc, Paso Robles, California. Salty and bright, juicy, citrus, and greengage plum. $35 – Buy.
2013 Rodriguez Vazquez Escolma White, Ribeiro, Galicia, Spain. Nutty, oxidative, bright and salty. $65 – Buy.
2017 Schloss Gobelsburg Renner Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria. $48 – Buy.
2017 Tablas Creek Vineyard Grenache Blanc, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, Central Coast, California. $33 – Buy.
2017 Zorah Wines Voski, Rind, Armenia. Crisp, citrus peel, apple. $40 – Buy.

RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
2013 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy. Elegant bright, sandalwood, cherry, hint of barnyard, long finish. Exquisite. $315 – Buy.
2016 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Juicy and bright, with that coconut and cherry. Polished, elegant and deeply resonant. $200 – Buy.
2015 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia, Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy. Juicy bright, long, tasty and sour cherry. Perhaps the best I’ve tasted it. $250 – Buy.

RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2013 Fratelli Alessandria Monvigliero, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy. Stunning. Suede-like tannins, lovely fruit and gorgeous balance. Wow. $85 – Buy.
2017 Big Table Farm Earth Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Smooth, juicy, herbal, juicy, excellent.
2016 Chanin Wine Co. Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California. Stunning, bright, juicy, floral, crystalline, wizardly. $59 – Buy.
2016 Cobb Wines Diane Cobb Coastlands Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California. Sappy juicy, crystalline, bright, raspberry gorgeousness. $119 – Buy.
2013 Elvio Cogno Ravera Bricco Pernice, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy. Gorgeous, bright supple, juicy, long, long long. Delicious. $139 – Buy.
2013 Conterno Fantino Castelleto Vigna Pressenda, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy. Gorgeous supple, lovely tannins. Stunning fruit and balance. $80 – Buy.
2016 Corison Winery Sunbasket Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa, California. Gorgeous cassis, cherry. Amazing acidity, Stunner. $195 – Buy.
2017 Deovlet Wines Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California. Floral, fantastic, berry brightness and mouthwatering acidity. $60 – Buy.
2015 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District, Napa, California. Gorgeous, bright, hint of oak, great acidity. Killer bottle of Cabernet. $169 – Buy.
2015 Moric Neckenmarkt Blaufrankisch, Burgenland, Austria. Gorgeous, sour cherry mulberry, fantastic acid. Super. $85 – Buy.
2015 Moric Lutzmannsburg Blaufrankisch, Burgenland, Austria. Bright cherry mulberry, bright, great acidity, long. Stunner. $110 – Buy.
2007 Moric Lutzmannsburg Blaufrankisch, Burgenland, Austria. Gorgeous, red apple skin, bright, plush tannins. Aging beautifully.
2014 Penfolds Grange Shiraz South Australia. Oak, cherry, balanced and bright, long finish. Effortless. Smooth operator. $570 – Buy.
2017 Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto, Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy. Bright, with tight tannins, long juicy, sandalwood and cherry. Excellent. $45 – Buy.
2016 W.T. Vintners Damavian Blocks 30 & 31 Les Collines Vineyard Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Washington. Incredibly floral, profound, bright, juicy, gorgeous. $49 – Buy.

RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2016 Antinori Tignanello, Tuscany, Italy. Cherry berry, cola, and all juicy. $120 – Buy.
2016 Brooks Sunny Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamettte Valley, Oregon. Gorgeous earthy – berries and wet dirt $50 – Buy.
2016 Calera Reed Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mt. Harlan, Central Coast, California. Sweet, juicy, smooth and gorgeous. $75 – Buy.
2014 Chevalerie Cuvée Chevalerie, Bourgueil, Loire Valley, France. Gorgeous, supple, tangy, berry, fine tannins, mineral.
2014 Elvio Cogno Ravera Barolo, Piedmont, Italy. Citrusy, bright, with leathery tannins. Delicious. $69 – Buy.
2017 Conterno Fantino Vignota, Barbera D’Alba, Piedmont, Italy. $48 – Buy.
2002 Corison Winery Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California. Ruby brick, miso, red apple skin.
2016 Cristom Vineyards Marjorie Vineyard Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamettte Valley, Oregon $75 – Buy.
2015 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District, California. Bluer, black fruit, juicy bright. $150 – Buy.
2015 Grattamacco, Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy. Bright juicy, long, cherry, with its share of oak. $75 – Buy.
2015 Guigal, Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone Valley, France. $30 – Buy.
2017 Lingua Franca The Plow Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamettte Valley, Oregon. Bright, with raspberry floral notes. $65 – Buy.
2007 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Tinto, Rioja, Spain. Bright juicy, tight and bright. $35 – Buy.
2016 Mullineux Schist Syrah, Swartland, South Africa. Gorgeous fine tannins, great acid. $120 – Buy.
2013 Rocca di Montegrossi Gran Selezione Vigneto San Marcellino, Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy. Great. $49 – Buy.
2015 Terre Rouge DTR Ranch Syrah, Sierra Foothills, California.
2014 Vega-Sicilia Valbuena 5°, Ribera del Duero, Spain. Oak influenced, elegant. $170 – Buy.
2016 Zorah Wines Karasi, Rind, Armenia. Berry, juicy, bright, herbs and flowers. $39 – Buy.

RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2016 Alessandria Priora Barbera Superiore, Verduno, Piedmont, Italy. $18 – Buy.
2017 Big Table Farm Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Juicy, herbal. $45 – Buy.
2014 Burlotto Monvigliero, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy. $199 – Buy.
2018 Burlotto Pelaverga, Verduno, Piedmont, Italy $30 – Buy.
2015 Calera Selleck Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mt. Harlan, Central Coast, California. More citrusy, evolved, red apple skin. $60 – Buy.
2016 Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard River Stones Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina. Juicy bright, supple, blue and black fruit $150 Buy.
2014 Chevalerie Cuvée Galichets, Bourgueil, Loire Valley, France. $23 – Buy.
2016 Domaine Matrot La Pièce Sous Le Bois Rouge, Blagny Premier Cru, Burgundy, France. $77 – Buy.
2016 Grattamacco L’Alberello, Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy. Oaky, tannic, but earthy smooth. $65 – Buy.
2016 J. Christopher Winery Abbey Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamettte Valley, Oregon. $65 – Buy.
2010 López de Heredia Cubillo, Rioja, Spain. $25 – Buy.
2016 Moric Blaufrankisch, Burgenland, Austria. Juicy, bright and tangy. $35 – Buy.
2017 Moric Blaufrankisch, Burgenland, Austria. Beautiful mulberry fruit, supple tannins. $27 – Buy.
2016 Penfolds Bin 389 Shiraz, South Australia. Juicy cherry, blackberry. $50 – Buy.
2016 Rocca di Montegrossi, Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy. Juicy and bright. $20 – Buy.
2015 Rocca di Montegrossi Geremia, Tuscany, Italy. $40 – Buy.
2017 Suertes del Marques Viñas Viejas El Chibirique Listán Negro, Tenerife Valle de la Orotava, Canary Islands. Struck match, mineral, bright, juicy berry, smoky. $26 – Buy.
2016 Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Tablas, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, Central Coast, California $60 – Buy.
2016 Terre Rouge L’Autre Grenache, Sierra Foothills, California. $30 – Buy.
2009 Vega-Sicilia Unico, Ribera del Duero, Spain. Barnyard, with a bit of VA, but still compelling. $500 – Buy.
2016 W.T. Vintners Boushey Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley, Washington. $40 – Buy.

RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2017 Catena Zapata, Malbec, Argentina. $17 – Buy.
2016 J. Christopher Winery Basalte Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, Willamettte Valley, Oregon. $30 – Buy.
2016 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California. $40 – Buy.
2015 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Foothills in the Sun Vineyard Reserve Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Washington. Savory, green lively herbs, earth. $75 – Buy.
2015 Rodriguez Vazquez A Torna Dos Pasas Tinto, Ribeiro, Galicia, Spain. Juicy, tangy, sour cherry. $30 – Buy.