Wine Enthusiast Releases Their Top 100 List

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Not to be outdone by Wine Spectator Magazine (who released their Top 100 list a few weeks ago), Wine Enthusiast Magazine released their Top 100 list today. Click here to have a look.

I took note of the following wines in Wine Enthusiast's list (along with Wine Spectator and my WWP ratings alongside if possible):

  • 2006 Alma Rosa Chardonnay Santa Barbara County WE 94/$20 (WS 89)

    I picked up a bottle of the 2007 vintage of this same wine at the Hingham Wine Merchant's Holiday Show. I liked it very much at the tasting -and- when I spent some quality time with it the other night. I gave it 90 points in this Corkd review. I'll definitely keep an eye out for more from this producer- especially their Pinot Noir if I see it.

  • 2006 Kendall-Jackson Highland Estates Camelot Highlands Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley WE 94/$25 (WS NR, WWP 92)

    I totally agreed with Wine Enthusiast and Boston wine blogger Ken's Wine Guide on this one. This is a phenomenal Chardonnay- I crowned it my favorite white wine of the summer in my very first blog post here on the Wellesley Wine Press.

  • 2005 Boudreaux Cellars Merlot WE 94/$40 (WS NR, WWP 88)

    I really wanted to love this wine, but I just didn't. That said, it was a good effort and one of the few wines I've tried that I could easily see getting better with age. It was just a little wild at this stage. Boudreaux Cellars was prominently featured in Gary Vaynerchuk's first book: 101 Wines. I'm looking forward to trying their Cab, but I'll let it rest a few years.
It's interesting for me to look through other wine magazines after being such a Wine Spectator "homer". For me, Spectator is the Beckett Baseball Card Monthly/Car Audio Magazine/Martha Stewart Living of the wine world. If you read any one source for too long without looking at other ratings it's easy to begin to think that a certain wine *is* 90 points. Wines aren't ratings- they've each got their own characteristics and we've each got our own preferences. That said, I do have my mind calibrated to Wine Spectator's rating scale. As I've said before: "In Laube We Trust." Even though Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and the Wine Advocate all rate on the same 100-point scale there does seem to be differing levels of discretion from each publication in terms of how scarce a 90 or 95 point rating is. I *think* Spectator is the "stingiest" of the 3, but I don't have data to back that up at this point. It's just a hunch.

At any rate, what I like about Spectator is the clarity they provide into their tasting procedure. From any Wine Spectator Magazine:

"Wines are always tasted blind, in flights organized by varietal, appellation or region. Bottles are bagged and coded. Each tasting begins with a wine previously rated, which is tasted non-blind as a reference point. Other already-rated wines are inserted into the blind tasting to ensure consistency."

From Wine Enthusiast:

"Tastings are conducted individually or in a group setting and performed blind or in accordance with accepted industry practices."

It's this last part that concerns me about Wine Enthusiast. Saying that wines are tasted blind or not technically leaves the door open for 100% of the wines being tasted non-blind! It's like when a store has a sign in the window saying "Up to 60% Off!": Technically there could be *nothing* on sale in the store at all.

Maybe I'm believing in Santa Claus to think that Spectator does all of its tasting blind. If they do taste 100% blind I'm extremely impressed with either Spectator's tasting consistency -or- Caymus (for example) for producing so consistently. Caymus Cab has scored between 91 and 93 every year for the past 10. That's amazing to me.

Question of the Day: What is your most trusted source of wine reviews? Why?

5 comments:

Tom Diederich said...

Hey Bob,

My wife picked up the 2006 Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay last summer. I usually stick to red wine but it was perfect during a back yard BBQ we had. Nice call on this one!
-Tom

Bob said...

Hey Tom!

Nice to hear from you- thanks for checking in. Yeah- that Chard is a great one. Glad to hear you liked it too.

I miss working with you- hope you're doing well in your new job!

Take care,
Bob

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a thoughtful post about wine tasting and critics. Your approach -- using critics to develop and confirm your own preferences -- is exactly what we believe in. And yes -- all Wine Spectator reviews result from blind tastings. If not, we let you know explicitly in the tasting note.

Thomas Matthews
Executive editor
Wine Spectator

Bob said...

Hello Mr. Matthews!

Wow- I'm humbled by your checking in on my blog. It's really rewarding to know that my opinions are being read by folks like you, and I'm pleased that you're talking the time to reach out to connect directly with readers. Very cool.

On the off chance you might check back in on these comments, I thought I might ask you a couple of questions!

1) What is Wine Spectator's policy on web sites, wineries and retailers (online and in-store) re-publishing your ratings? I don't want to get in trouble "revealing" a score a wine has received in your magazine. I always wrap the rating within a broader story, so I feel I'm appropriately citing and discussing your ratings, but I'd be interested in your position on this.

2) Is there a Wine Spectator policy on your editors providing interviews on other web sites? Like, for example, this one? Not that it would be easy convincing them to take the time, but if there's a policy against publishing their thoughts in other venues it would be good to know ahead of time.

Thanks again for your comments!
-Bob

Anonymous said...

Bob,

The Internet is a big place, but I try to keep an eye on as many thoughtful wine bloggers as I can. It was nice to find your site.

To answer your questions:

1. Wine Spectator reviews: We permit the wine trade to reproduce our reviews of wines they are offering to their consumers, in the interest of providing independent information to wine drinkers. We also recognize that journalists may cite reviews under "fair use" doctrine. We only ask that citations of scores and tasting notes be accurate and contextual.

2. Wine Spectator editors rarely give interviews to other journalists. We are not the story; the wines and winemakers are the story.

Thanks for your interest.

Thomas Matthews
Executive editor
Wine Spectator

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