Chron wine guy Jon Bonné unleashed his picks for the Top 100 Wines to come out of California (and Oregon and Washington) this year, and allow us to quickly break it down for you: There are a whopping 28 Pinot Noirs on this list, which Bonné insists shouldn’t be surprising “if you consider how big a role Pinot Noir now plays on this coast” in the post-Sideways era. Compare this to a mere fourteen Cabernets making the cut, and one lone, token Merlot (the 2006 Mayacamas Vineyards Mt. Veeder Merlot, $35). Below, a few more stats, and some slightly biased summary.
Sparkling: There is great California bubbly out there, and Bonné picks out six reps for this category in a mid-range of prices, loving the $40 étoile Brut and the 2007 Schramsberg North Coast Brut Rosé ($41), and giving best value status to the Scharffenberger Mendocino County Brut Rosé ($23).
Chardonnay: Skipping over the “oceans of overwrought, overproduced, slightly sweet plonk, sold by the palletful and subject to endless derision,” Bonné finds ten standouts worth mention, with the best value being the 2008 Artesa Carneros Chardonnay ($18).
Sauvignon Blanc: A tight list of six, with special attention given to the 2009 Grgich Fumé Blanc ($30), and the 2009 Selene Hyde Vineyards Carneros Sauvignon Blanc ($27 - “an opulent, exotic, stony presence with sage, apricot, coriander and Meyer lemon, wonderfully precise and yet thoroughly lush”).
Other Whites and Rosé: It’s the biggest non-red category, with fourteen bottles featured, as well as a few of the lowest priced bottles of the whole 100. You’ve got a $14 bottle of Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier, a $16 bottle of 2009 Brandborg Riesling, and the sole rosé of the group (Bonné must not be too huge a fan): a $20 Breggo Mendocino County Rosé of Syrah that he calls “refined.”
Pinot Noir: Clearly his favorite category, and he whittles his list down to dominate almost a third of the whole 100. He name-drops most of the biggies, leaving off a couple local stars like Williams Selyem, and gives special attention to the 2008 Cobb Coastlands Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which weighs in at $68, and which he calls “a thinker’s Pinot.” We prefer a drinker’s Pinot, but anyway…
Syrah/Rhone: Among winemakers and wine nerds, Syrah is well known now as the grape that everyone planted and no one bought. Bonné says “if it’s not likely to be the next big hit, its finest practitioners have never been making better wines,” and he especially says to seek out a 2007 Qupé ($30) and a 2007 Three Saints ($18).
Cabernet Sauvignon: He notes that he tasted “way too many mediocre $100+ Cabernets,” confirming our general opinion about expensive Cabernets, but for the big spenders out there he does give props to the 2007 Dominus Napa Valley Red Wine ($135 - “a stupendous vintage”), Ridge’s perennial fave 2007 Monte Bello ($145), and the 2007 Spottswoode St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon ($130).
Zinfandel and Other Reds: Zin has gotten a bad rep in recent years. Once named by Thomas Keller as his favorite food wine, it’s now scorned as too high-alcohol and trashy by many a sommelier. Bonné finds seven that still pass muster, including the 2008 Ancient Peaks Paso Robles Zinfandel ($16) and the 2008 Seghesio Home Ranch Alexander Valley Zinfandel ($36 - “Zin that’s both powerful and graceful”).
Top 100 Wines 2010 [Chron]
Earlier: Times Confirms It’s Cool to Drink Sonoma Zin Again [Grub Street]
Sommeliers and Wine Geeks Alike Sing Praises of Low-Alcohol Wines [Grub Street]