Washington has already been well represented on two of Wine Enthusiast’s three annual Top 100 lists, Cellar Selections and Best Buys, even commanding the top spot on the latter with the 2010 Pacific Rim Riesling.
Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list comes out on November 21st. As in past years, the magazine used the following criteria for its list:
Quality – represented by score
Value – reflected by release price
Availability – measured by cases made or imported
The “X-factor” – the excitement generated by a rising-star producer, a benchmark wine or a significant milestone for a wine region
This year I’ll again take a stab at guessing the number of Washington wines represented in the Top 100, the highest position for a Washington wine, and what the specific wines might be. Feel free to do the same in the comments below.
First, some considerations. Washington had 359 wines in 2011 that scored 90 points or higher. Over the last ten years, the state has had between 2 and 9 wines represented in the Top 100.
Making our task somewhat easier, Wine Spectator released numbers 10 through 6 yesterday. One of those wines was a Washington wine – the Baer Ursa 2008, which came in at number 6. This wine was more or less a lock for the Top 100 the moment its 95 point score was published, given its $35 price point and 1,000+ case production.
With Washington’s high quality-to-price ratios and the continuing poor economy, I’m guessing the state will be well represented again this year with 7 wines in the Top 100. I would expect the Ursa would keep the highest spot at Number 6. Here are some other wines to keep an eye out for:
Januik Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008
The Specs: $30, 94 points, 1,553 cases produced
The Argument: This wine hits all the right notes in Wine Spectator’s criteria, and the winery is one of Washington’s finest.
Owen Roe Syrah Ex Umbris Columbia Valley 2009
The Specs: $24, 93 points, 4,982 cases produced
The Argument: This is an outrageous score for a wine at this price point and the production level is there.
Spring Valley Uriah Walla Walla Valley 2008
The Specs: $50, 93 points, 2,200 cases produced
The Argument: This wine has been a well-deserved frequent flier on the Top 100 list. It makes a return in 2011.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon Indian Wells Columbia Valley 2009
The Specs: $18, 90 points, 70,000 cases produced
The Argument: Take it to the bank that Chateau Ste. Michelle and/or Columbia Crest will be on the Top 100 list. The wines are consistently high quality and high production. The only question is, which wine(s)?
Columbia Crest H3 Merlot Horse Heaven Hills 2008
The Specs: $15, 90 points, 40,000 cases produced
The Argument: Columbia Crest makes another value-priced winner with this 2008 Merlot. This wine might get edged out by the Cabernet but not in my book.
Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling Evergreen Vineyard 2010
The Specs: $12, 90 points, 64,000 cases produced
The Argument: Charles Smith and K Vintners have been shut out of the Top 100 lists in the past due to the micro production of many of the most heralded wines. The Kung Fu Riesling (note the big jump in production in 2010) does not have that issue. This is like Hemingway winning the Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man and the Sea or Denzel Washington winning an Academy Award for Training Day. There are obviously better, more highly rated wines from Smith out there, but with this level of production, the Kung Fu Girl – and Smith – get some much deserved recognition.
Here are a few other wines I wouldn’t be surprised to see on the list:
Amavi Cellars Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2008
Cougar Crest Cabernet Franc Walla Walla Valley 2007
Doyenne Signature Syrah Yakima Valley 2008
Dunham Syrah Columbia Valley 2007
Gordon Brothers Syrah Columbia Valley 2007
L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2008
Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008
Tamarack Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007
Finally, here are a few wines that are low on production but received high scores and should have high X-factors. These wines are more than long shots…but everyone loves an underdog.
Reynvaan Syrah Walla Walla Valley The Unnamed Syrah 2008
Gramercy Cellars Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2009
Gorman Winery The Evil Twin Red Mountain 2008
Okay, now it’s your turn. Feel free to comment below on how many Washington wines you think will be on the list; what number the highest ranked Washington wine will be; and specific wines/wineries that will be represented. The winner receives something money can’t buy: bragging rights until next year’s Top 100 list gets posted.
Readers who are not currently Wine Spectator subscribers should note that there is free access through November 27th. The full Top 100 list goes up November 21st.