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by Fred McMillin
for Jaunary 4, 2001

Gary Farrell

Gary Farrell made two winners


Best Chardonnay? Best Merlot?
Here are...

Our Best Wines
of the Year 2000

The Quest for the Best

We rate over 1,000 wines a year in our quest to find the best. Here is the finest of each varietal, followed by our Best Buy of that variety. The highest-rated wine is listed last.

White Wines and Sparklers

9th - Gewürztraminer, Handley, Anderson Valley,Mendocino County '98, $13
($8 Gewurz, Meridian)
8th - Johannisberg Riesling, Sattui, Napa Valley, '98, $13.75
($9 J. Riesling, Jekel)
7th - Viognier, Joseph Phelps, Napa Valley, '98, $30
(none below $10 so no Best Buy)
6th - Sauvignon Blanc, Yorkville Winery, Randall Hill Vineyard, '97, $1O
($7 Sauvignon Blanc, Parducci)...both in Mendocino County.
5th - Symphony, (or "Obsession"), Ironstone Vineyards, California, '99, $7
("Obsession" is also the Best Buy at $7.)
4th - Pinot Gris Reserve, King Estate, Oregon, '98, $18
($9 Pinot Gris, Duck Pond)
3rd - (dessert) Icewine, Inniskillin, Niagara Peninsula, Canada, '97, $75—375 ml.
($5 Muscato—dessert—Sutter Home)
2nd - Sparkler, Rosé Brut Reserve Champagne, Clicquot, Reims, France, 1988, $65
($8 Barefoot Bubbly)
1st - Chardonnay, "Ovation," Joseph Phelps, Napa Valley, '97, $40
($6 Chardonnay, Rivefort de France—Beringer)

Red Wines

9th - Pink (Nebbiolo Rosato), Montevina, Amador County, '99, $16
($6 White Merlot, Beringer)
8th - Sangiovese Reserve, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley, '97, $30
(No Best Buy)
7th - Dessert (Late-Harvest Zinfandel), Rosenblum, California, '95, $15—375 ml.
(No Best Buy)
6th - Merlot, Peju Province, Napa Valley, '97, $35
($10 Merlot Farallon)
5th - Shiraz (Syrah), Wolf Blass Presidents Selection, Australia, '96, $18
($9 Carramar Shiraz, Australia)
4th - Zinfandel, Gary Farrell, Maple Vineyard, Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley, '97, $30
($9 Ironstone Zin)
3rd - Meritage red Bordeaux varietal blend, Oroppas, St. Clement, Napa Valley 1998, $45
(No Best Buy)
2nd - Pinot Noir, Gary Farrell, Rochioli Vineyard, Sonoma's Russian River Valley, '97, $50
($7, Pinot Noir, Monterey Vineyard)
1st - Cabernet Sauvignon, Beaulieu, Georges De Latour Private Reserve, Napa Valley, '96, $75
($7 Monterey Vineyard Cab)

Donald Ziraldo

Donald Ziraldo makes sensational new Icewines.

Comments About The Best

  • Only two winneries garnered two Best Varietal wins, Joseph Phelps (both white) and Gary Farrell (both red).
  • As for wines under $10, Ironstone, Beringer and Monterey Vineyards each had two.
  • A number of winners confirmed the reputations of their regions, such as...
      Oregon makes the U.S.A.'s best Pinot Gris.

      A French Champagne beat a large number of California sparklers.

      Australia has done much more work with Shiraz (alias, Syrah) than has California. Hence, it's no suprise that the Aussies won both Best Shiraz, and Best Buy Shiraz.

      Canadian Icewine has quickly become one of the planet's best dessert wines. Among the white wines, my tasters rated it above everything but Chardonnay and Champagne.

  • Finally, this confirms what many of we consumers already know about the most prestigious wine district in the Western Hemisphere, California's Napa Valley. It provided about 40% of the best wines, but when it came to bottles under $10, Napa didn't dominate. Only Napa's Beringer had two inexpensive wines on the list, and one of those, the $6 Chardonnay, was imported from France.

    Conclusion: Napa makes great wines, but they ain't cheap.


    About the Writer

    Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.


    This page created January 2001