My list of best wines from 2004 is up on DrVino.com. Find out not only which wines I thought were great values last year but also which made great pairings with top news stories.
Which wines do you think deserve gold medals?
From the United States to the Ukraine, the leaders of one billion people were up for grabs in 2004. With voting a hot topic, elected officials serve as the lens for this year’s best wine list. While my usual lists focus on wines under $10, this year-end list gives me a chance to recommend some more expensive selections still bearing in mind good values (or QPR as it is known in wine geek parlance: quality to price
|Best wines, mayors
Mayors have limited budgets and provide lots of services aimed at making voters happy-all while keeping an eye on the price. Fortunately, many wines are available in this category. For American mayors, an excellent choice is the House Wine 2002 from Magnificent Wine Co ($10) a big red blend from Washington State. For those foreign or cosmopolitan mayors the I Portali, Basilicata, Aglianico del Vulture, 2002 ($10) represents great value from the boot of Italy, the Las Rocas de San Alejandro, 2002 ($9) of old vine Grenache from Spain, and the Duboeuf Julienas Flower Label
2003 ($10) all have a refinement and delicacy well above their price point (read: they drink like $30+ wines). More specifics on these wines are available in my lists of best wines under $10.
Best wine, governors
With prices rising faster than the hilly countryside in Priorat, savvy buyers are turning to Montsant. L’Alleu,
you can call me gov
Best wines, presidents
Check out my interactive map of NYC wine shops
Best wine for the Defense Department
2001. ($55) A blend of Syrah and Petite Sirah, this profound and indefatigable wine comes from Shafer’s prime hillside vineyard. Although it’s expensive, with a budget such as theirs, no one will notice.
Best wine for Red Sox fans
Chateau d’Yquem, 1918 ($1,029). This bottle is from the vintage of their last World Series victory. How sweet it is!
Best wine for Howard Dean
Any grands crus Bordeaux from the 2000 vintage. The quality—and the prices!—would
make anyone scream.
Best wine for ousted corporate executives who have to give back bonuses
Three Thieves, Zinfandel, NV, 1L jug ($9.99)
Best wine for Martha Stewart
During the trial: Turley,
Old Vines 1997 ($50). The 16% alcohol helps the trial.
In jail: Big House Red, 2002, $8 (or 20 packs of cigarettes)
Upon release: Louis Roederer, Cristal, 1990, ($150) by the case!
Best wine for Kobe Bryant
Chardonnay. Feeling the pressure from the ABC (anything but Chardonnay) crowd, Chardonnay’s popularity has declined. But not as precipitously as Kobe’s whose jersey used to be the top seller and now has dropped to 90th.
|Best wine for owners of an iPod
Pinot Noir. The hottest product in consumer electronics needs the new "hot wine." And thanks to the movie
Sideways, Pinot Noir is the new darling of California. Move over Merlot! Here comes something better! (and more difficult to do well)
Best ‘wine’ when Donald Trump declares "you’re fired"
Boone’s Farm, NV, Sun Pink Peach, ($2.49). Very affordable while in bankruptcy (like Trump’s Taj Mahal casino).
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
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
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?
Succumbing to the pressure for year-end lists, and in keeping with the background theme of academia on the site, I decided to compile a list of top wines of the year. I use academic references to situate my favorites of the year. Of course these picks are not restricted to those in the Ivory Tower—just insert yourself where you think you fit. As ever, value (price to quality) considerations played a large role in the selection.
Best wine, graduate students (or interns)
The insecurity and poor pay of the exploited and hard-working grad student makes them want good bang for their buck. Borsao 2001 ($5) fits the bill nicely. This red wine from Spain is a great bargain that is packed with flavor and is sure to make whoever brings it the star of grad student parties. Château Cheval-Blanc Signé 2001 ($5) is a great Sauvignon Blanc that not only tastes fresh and clean but also has a nice label and the Bordeaux name to impress others at first glance.
Best wine, assistant professors (or junior sales executive)
Besides enjoying amenities like an office (with a window), a research and (gasp) telephone budget, the regularity of the paycheck is a welcome relief from the depravity of the grad student days. However, all the responsibilities of the new job and the new demands on the paycheck may spell a desire for the wine to flow in quantity over quality. The Castell del Remei Gotim Bru 1999 ($9) from Catalonia and the Mas de Guiot 2001 Grenache-Syrah ($9) from Languedoc are two excellent reds that are guaranteed to knock the socks off the department chair. Silverado Sauvignon Blanc 2001 ($9.99) has a sleek design and a crisp, clean taste that has converted several associate professors to this varietal.
Best wine for associate professors (or Vice-President for Something)
There are lots of good wines to choose from at the associate professor level-getting tenure has its perks. From the Barossa Valley in Australia, Cimicky Signature Shiraz 1999 ($23) is among the best shiraz I have had from Australia. More refined in style than the burly low-end Shiraz from Oz, this one is worthy of Cimicky’s John Hancock. Also eligible in this category are the Edna Valley Chardonnay 2000, which is a good value (now $12 although it used to be under $10 not so long ago) and the Loimer Spiegel Grüner Veltliner 2000 ($18), a crisp white wine that is very flattering to seafood.
Best wine for full professors (head honcho)
Having made major contributions to your field, the worldwide recognition and royalty checks are rolling in. Time to crank up those wine purchases a bit-you never know when the Dean my drop by. Sadly, excellent Chardonnays only start at $25: at this price, the Dehlinger Chardonnay 2000 from Sonoma represents an excellent price to quality ratio. With its multiple layers, notes of butterscotch, and a textured long finish this wine has turned many heads. In the reds, why not impress the Dean with the massive Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2000 ($45) from Chile. With Michel Rolland—one of several “flying winemakers” in Chile—consulting on the winemaking, this wine is a blockbuster that probably needs some more cellar time but that has wonderful complexity of dark fruits. Many retailers are trying to clear out the late 1990s vintages of Bordeaux so some good values can be found among them. Consider the 1999 Pichon le Baron de Langueville ($36), a great Bordeaux château now selling for a great price.
Best wine after finishing grading all those exams (or closing a deal)
Abadia Retuerta, Rivola, 2001 ($10.80). This lively Spanish wine with an earthy nose and a long finish definitely punches above its weight in price and is just what the Dr. ordered after all the grading is done.
Best wine for celebrating the acceptance of an article for publication (or meeting a big deadline)
Franus, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1998. ($21). Smooth and complex, this wine sells for about a 40% discount to the succeeding vintages from this Napa winemaker.
Best wine for curing the mid-semester (or mid-winter) blues
The cure is a little Zin as the big, red wine from California is known. Turley Old Vine Zinfandel, 2000 ($22), one of the best Zinfandels made and therefore one of the most difficult to find, but it packs a punch with its spicy nose and bonanza of flavors (and nearly 16% alcohol). Otherwise for zinfandels, in the words of Jay MacInerney, “almost anything that starts with R is good” (the producers here are Ridge, Renwood, Rafanelli, etc) and often easier to find. Hartford Court makes several excellent Zins but these too are hard to find (their phone is 800-588-0234).
Best wine to celebrate getting tenure (or a promotion and a raise)
Pol Roger Rosé, 1995 ($60). A favorite of Winston Churchill’s and a favorite of mine this year. Light bubbles and lively mouthfeel make this a good pick for a major celebration.
Best “wine” for not getting tenure (or shareholders of bankrupt companies)
Mad Dog 20/20.
Best wine to give to somebody you don’t really like/cooking wine
Charles Shaw Merlot or Chardonnay, $1.99 at Trader Joe’s grocery store. So this is where all those surplus grapes have gone-into the million cases that Franzia (as in wine-in-a-box) is selling exclusively through Trader Joe’s. Don’t be surprised if this “Two Buck Chuck,” as it is colloquially known, costs three bucks at Trader Joe’s outside of California. Within the state, the producer negotiates directly with the retailer whereas outside the state, a distributor must intervene thanks to entrenched state monopolies.