Excerpts of the Top 100 Wines

by artfuldiner on February 5, 2021

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Wine

Wine Spec Top 100 2020Yes… it’s that time again. Time for the Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines of the year. The hoopla began with an online countdown of their top ten wines and then the full top 100, both online and in print as the magazine’s cover story of its December 31, 2020 – January 15, 2021 issue.

The top 100 list is a big deal… and it gets bigger every year. The Spectator just loves the top 100… it sells more magazines; retailers sell more wine; and wine lovers are sold a bill of goods – they think they’re getting the best of the best.

But not everyone is so high on “best” lists. In an article as far back as June 1980, former Village Voice restaurant critic Jeff Weinstein was already making his displeasure known in no uncertain terms. “A list is a fundamentally lazy way for a newspaper or magazine to fill space and woo as many advertisers as possible,” he wrote. He was, of course, speaking specifically of restaurants. But his remarks apply equally to oenological utterances like the Wine Spectator annual top 100 wines of the year and ex cathedra pronouncements of similar ilk.  “Lists have a deep, structural connection to fads; lists help create them; they are subject to them,” he goes on. “The same editors lick their chops at both.”

“Rating,” Mr. Weinstein notes, “is usually a search for the best. The best is unattainable, a lie. The best hot dog doesn’t exist, and if it did, you wouldn’t get to it in time, before it was ruined by all the attention.” True enough… But the best is also a matter of opinion. Which is precisely why, when the Wine Enthusiast magazine publishes its own Top 100 Wines of 2020, I guarantee that their list will differ significantly from that of the Wine Spectator. The point being, I believe, that there are numerous wines out there that are just as good – if not a great deal better – than those mentioned in either “best list” just waiting to be discovered.

Be that as it may… noted below (in ascending order) are just a few personal favorites from the Wine Spectator top 100 that are highly recommended and well worth seeking out. Please note that the prices listed are suggested retail and will certainly be less costly from certain sources online or when on sale.

Ridge 2017 Monte BelloRidge Monte Bello Santa Cruz Mountains 2017 (California): Listed at number 77, rated at 96 points, priced at $230… Ridge Monte Bello is one of California’s most iconic Cabernet blends. Expensive to be sure, but a simply fabulous wine that will age exceedingly well. If you’re a Cabernet fan and feeling particularly flush, this wine will make you very, very happy. Save it for that special occasion. If the price is too steep, try Ridge Geyserville, an excellent Zinfandel blend. Three Valleys, their entry-level wine, is a consistent bargain from year to year.

 Jermann Pinot Grigio Friuli 2017 (Italy): Listed as number 74, rated at 91 points, priced at $30… I’ve tasted Jermann Pinot Grigio on numerous occasions, and it remains one of my all-time favorites. Consistently complex and elegant on the palate, it is aged for six months in stainless steel tanks before release. I’ve seen the 2017 on sale online for as low as $18.99.

Starl-Conde Cab 2017Stark-Condé Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch 2017 (South Africa): Listed as number 71, rated 91 points, priced at $27… Hailing from Stellenbosch, the most famous – and most beautiful – wine producing region in South Africa. Petit Verdot, Petite Syrah, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc make up 15% of the blend. Matured in a mix of new and used French oak barrels for 20 months. Available online for as low as $17.95.

Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc Walker Bay 2019 (South Africa): Listed as number 59, rated at 90 points, priced at $16… Founded in 1994 by Anthony Hamilton Russell, who produces world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Southern Right is named after the Southern Right whales that can be seen in Walker Bay, less than two miles away from the vineyards. The wine is barrel-fermented and aged in neutral oak. Available through Pennsylvania State Stores at $15.19 and various other sources. An excellent wine at a bargain price point.

Travaglini Gattinara 2015Travaglini Gattinara 2015 (Italy): Listed as number 54, rated at 92 points, $32… I have sampled this wine many times over the years, and it never fails to impress. The product of a cooler than average spring and exceptional summer; following fermentation, it was aged three years in Slovenian oak casks. The result is a rich, plump wine packed with plum and cherry. A benchmark Nebbiolo… but notoriously difficult to find. Currently available through Solano Cellars in California, which ships directly to Pennsylvania. This is an excellent wine that is well worth the chase.

Trimbach Riesling Alsace 2017 (France): Listed as number 35, rated at 91 points, $25… The Trimbach family has been making wine in France’s Alsace region for 13 generations. This is a concentrated wine, filled with bright zesty citrus that leads to marvelously fresh, dry finish. I originally purchased the wine through Marketview Liquor in Rochester, New York. Unfortunately, I was later informed that they were out of the 2017 but would substitute the 2018. And this is just fine, as the 2018 is actually rated slightly higher than the 2017. A steal at $16.99 per bottle.

Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2013 (Spain): Listed as number 25, rated at 92 points, $18… Produced by one of the oldest wineries in Rioja, I have sampled previous vintages of this wine and have found them to be exceptional in every respect. The 2013 Reserva is a blend of 90% Tempranillo, 7% Mazuelo, and 3% Garnacha. It was aged in French and American oak barrels for 24 months, then bottle-aged for 24 additional months before release. Available online from Gary’s Wine & Marketplace in New Jersey for $15.99 per bottle.

Tolaini Cabernet Sauvignon Toscana Legit 2016 (Italy): Listed as number 13, rated at 95 points, $45… If you think this wine sounds familiar, you’re absolutely right. This is the second release of Legit, a collaboration between jazz great Theolonius Monk’s family and Tolaini. I mentioned the first, the 2013, last year. This, as you will notice is the 2016 vintage. Rated even high than its predecessor, the 2016 Legit is aged three years in 70% new and 30% one-year-old French barriques. This is a stunning wine; absolutely stunning… so don’t expect too many bargains. The lowest price I’ve seen online is $39.99… and worth every penny.

Kistler Chardonnay Russian River Valley Vine Hill Vineyard 2017 (California): Listed as number 6, rated 96 points, $90… I’ve enjoyed Kistler wines for years… when I can afford them! The estate makes 11 vineyard-designated Chardonnays from various sites; and winemaker Jason Kesner admits the Vine Hill Vineyard is his favorite. Intense and complex, the wine was barrel-fermented with native yeast and then aged on the lees for a year before being bottled unfined and ufiltered. A perennial favorite of Chardonnay lovers.

Marques de Murrieta Gran Reserva 2010Bodegas Marquès de Marrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 2010 (Spain): Listed as number 1, rated 96 points, $139… The Marquès de Marrieta winery was established in 1852. In 1983 it was acquired by the Cebrián-Sagarriga family that is founded on a tradition of excellence and innovation. Only the finest vintages from the 741-acre Ygay Estate are used to produce Castillo Ygay. This Gran Reserva Especial is made from a blend of Tempranillo and Mazuelo that has been aged two years in oak, one in concrete and three or four in the bottle. Critics across the board are singing its praises, calling it a wine of fantastic depth and power. I have yet to sample this vintage, but I have tasted 2005 and I can tell you that incredible is the only word to describe it… and I have every reason to believe that the 2010 is every bit its equal. Once again, no bargains to be had, but you owe it to yourself to give it a try.


Be Safe & Stay Well


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