Best wine list for 2003

Best wine list for 2003

As 2003 rolls into 2004, I, once again, offer a year-end best list. Moving beyond my usual lists of 10 wines under $10, this list suggests the best wines in various price points and categories. The trouble with regularly recommending value vino is that there is so much excellent wine at higher price points that is worth the urge to splurge. So here is a parsimonious list that not only provides some stars of the past year (bearing bargains in mind) but also integrates some of the key words and phrases from 2003. Of course the major theme for 2003 was war, so I use military ranks as grades for the different price categories. Bargain hounds can remember to shop at sale times to expand their wine dollar and rise in the ranks. Cheers! -Dr. Vino
Also see the 2004 best wine list and 2002

Best wine, Privates
In the movies, Privates may be for "saving" (e.g. Ryan) but in this schema they are for drinking. ASAP. Great wines in this category are two wines from Spain: the Osborne Solaz ($5.50), a flavorful red, and the Cuvee RS ($6), a refreshing white, perfect for sipping under the summer (or desert) sun.

Best wine, Sergeants
Sergeants have many choices. From Spain, the Higueruela 2001 ($7) a great value with rich, dark fruit is an excellent choice, as is the Chateau Pesquié Les Terrasses 2001 ($10). But the Castano Solanera 2001 ($10.46) is the clear winner in this category with its complexity and long finish—and an almost unheard of ability at this price point to remain excellent the next day without even being corked. Sergeants who prefer whites can take comfort in the chardonnay from Alamos ($10)—who can forget that?

Best wine, Colonels
Colonels can benefit from nay choices for their expanded, officer’s budget but the best colonel wine this year as a group came from Australia (appropriately enough, a member of the coalition of the swilling). The 2002 vintage produced some gems, not only for fans of "big reds" but also those looking for some refinement as well. Torbreck Woodcutter’s Red, Mitolo Jester, Thorne-Clarke Shotfire Shiraz, D’Arenberg’s Footbolt, are all strong examples of syrah’s adaptation to the southern hemisphere. To score some exotic points, those colonels wishing to impress with the breadth of their knowledge rather than pure firepower should look to the floral notes of Crios Torrontes 2001 ($13) from Argentina. Those looking for a food friendly white should turn to the Maison Rijckaert, Macon Villages 2001 ($16).

Best wines, Generals
Those with the dough have been picking up Bordeaux 2000 but those in the know have been buying the 1999s and futures on the 2002s, both overlooked vintages. The Léoville Barton 1999 ($40), for example, has sufficient flash and finesse to impress 4 star generals. Those more inclined for fruits of the American vine can demonstrate their savvy with the L’Ecole no. 41, Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 ($30) from Washington’s Columbia Valley or the excellent Beaux Freres Pinot Noir ($60) from Oregon. American wineries with French names will show much needed rapprochement. Gruner Veltliner from Austria is the white of the year since at this higher end its voluptuousness approaches Chardonnay but without all the excessive oaking that is unfortunately so common. Weingut Prager has a very food-friendly "Gru V," the Smarags 1998 Weissenkirchner Weitenberg ($38).

Best wine for shock and awe
What better than the "hedonistic fruit bomb" that is Turley Juvenile 2000? Clocking in at 16% alcohol, this Hummer will crush your palate—and leave you and your dining companions in shock and awe at how this American Zinfandel made you forget your meal.

Best wine for the spider-hole
1982 Léoville Las Cases ($260). It’s drinking beautifully right now and doesn’t need any more cellaring (although the spider hole would make a good cellar). Live it up and pull a cork while you’re six feet under.

Best wine for Metrosexuals
Riesling. Pampered, massaged, and waxed urban males have undoubtedly discovered Rieslings (especially the excellent 2001 vintage from Germany), which are not only openly discussed in polite wine society now but actually desired by the cognoscenti. I’m surprised Riesling hasn’t appeared on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. (Why are the wines recommended on the show always terrible?)

Best wine for LOL (internet parlance for "laughing out loud")
Any new Napa winery that attempts to charge over $100 a bottle.

Best wine for the bling-bling lifestyle
Clearly, Cristal 1996 is the ne plus ultra for those dressed to impress. But the rest of us can be quite satisfied with the same Champagne house’s Louis Roederer NV or even the vintage l’Ermitage from their Lake County California arm.

Best wine for "Mission accomplished"
Gibson’s BarossaVale, sparkling merlot ($24). For a celebration, tradition dictates that the wine must be sparkling. But for this (premature) celebration, move beyond Champagne and impress with this double-fermented red wine from down under that has
a "dosage" of port added at the last minute. A wine for contemplation….

Best wine that is a weapon of mass destruction (WMD)
Charles Shaw ($2). Although "Two Buck Chuck" can easily be found, with 5 million cases sold, how many wine palates have been ruined?

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