Well folks, it’s that time of year again. Time when the annual Top 100 lists start rolling out and time to take a swing at guessing what Washington wines will be in Wine Spectator’s annual Top 100 list.
First though, for those who haven’t seen them already, check out Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Cellar selections here and Top 100 Best Buys here where Northwest wines are well represented. Also check out Paul Gregutt’s Top 100 Northwest wines in the Seattle Times here.
Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list comes out on November 19th this year with free access to all through November 27th. As in past years, the magazine used the following criteria to create 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
Let’s start with the background. Washington had 347 wines that scored 90 points or above – 49% of all wines sampled – that would be eligible for this list. Over the last 10 years, Washington has had between 2 and 9 wines represented in the Top 100 each year.
The 2011 Wine Spectator Top 100 list for Washington featured a tightly grouped list of wines on score (93-95 points) and price ($24-$37 with Andrew Will’s Sorella an outlier at $75) with all of the wines appearing in the top fifty. My belief is that we will see more dispersion in score, price, and rank this year.
As in recent years, I’ll take a stab at guessing the number of Washington wines that will be represented on the list; the highest position; and what the specific wines might be. Feel free to play along with your guesses in the comments below.
My guess is that Washington will have six wines in the Top 100 in 2012. I believe that the highest spot will be in the top 15. In terms of specific wines, the picks are a bit murkier this year than last when there was a strong set of highly scored wines at low relatively prices. This year, the field is more tightly clumped making the selections more challenging. With that caveat, here are some wines to keep an eye out for on the list.
Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot Columbia Valley 2009
The Specs: $55, 95 points, 1,994 cases produced.
The Argument: This is one of two varietally designated Merlots that the magazine scored 95 points or higher in 2012 (!). Carter Hossfeld Coliseum Napa Valley 2009 was the other. Long Shadows has not yet been featured in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list. It’s time to shine a light on this superstar winery, and this is the right wine to do it with.
Dunham Riesling Columbia Valley Late Harvest Lewis Estate Vineyard 2009<
The Specs: $19 (375ml), 96 points, 172 cases produced.
The Argument: The nano-production argues strongly against this wine but consider this – of the 46 dessert wines that scored 95 points or higher in WS in 2012, the prices ranged from a low of $34 to a high of $800 with an average of price of over $200. This wine retailed at $19 (and don’t even bother, it’s long gone). Dunham’s 2009 Trutina, 2008 Columbia Valley Syrah, and 2009 Three Legged Red would also have consideration.
J Bookwalter Foreshadow Merlot Columbia Valley 2009
The Specs: $40, 93 points, 1,104 cases produced.
The Argument: Sticking with a renewed emphasis on Washington Merlot from the earlier pick, how about this wine from Bookwalter? The winery has several other wines that would also have consideration. This would be a first Top 100 for Bookwalter.
K Vintners The Deal Sundance Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009
The Specs: $35, 93 points, 360 cases produced.
The Argument: Given all of the high scores over the years, it is remarkable that winemaker Charles Smith has never landed a wine in the magazine’s Top 100. Alas, the limited production and, at times (such as the Royal City) higher prices, have kept K and Charles Smith off the list. Could this be the year?
Saviah Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2009
The Specs: $28, 92 points, 1,200 cases produced.
The Argument: Saviah Cellars has been quietly producing high quality wines at affordable prices for many years. An appearance on the Top 100 list would be a huge feather in the cap of this Walla Walla Valley producer.
Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills 2010
The Specs: $15, 90 points, 145,000 cases produced.
The Argument: Of the more than 1,200 Cabernet Sauvignon and blends reviewed by Wine Spectator in 2012, only four of them received scores of 90 points or above and were $15 or less – and all of these wines came from Washington. Each of these four wines – Milbrandt Traditions Cabernet 2009 and 2010; Waterbrook Cabernet Sauvignon 2009; and this wine – stand a chance of being on this year’s list with the H3’s high production putting it over the top.
Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills 2009
Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Columbia Crest Les Chevaux Red Wine Horse Heaven Hills 2010
Distefano Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2007
Januik Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
Milbrandt Traditions Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009/2010
Milbrandt Riesling Columbia Valley 2011
Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
Sparkman Preposterous Malbec Red Mountain 2009
Sparkman Ruckus Syrah Red Mountain 2009
Treveri Brut Blanc de Blanc Columbia Valley NV
Waterbrook Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
Abeja Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2010
Cayuse Cailloux Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2009
Gorman The Pixie Red Mountain 2009
Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
Reynvaan The Contender Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2009
No WA State WS love in the top ten, so far your batting 1000 Sean. Hoping to see a bunch on Monday when the entire list comes out.