A high score from an influential wine writer like Robert Parker can set a winery’s sales ablaze. But what makes a wine popular may not make it right for you. My advice? Look for articles on what’s considered “best value”—the most expensive wine, and highest rated, isn’t necessarily the best. Try as many wines as you can, to get a basis for comparison.
Here are some I recommend:
Neal Family Vineyards in Napa Valley is not only making a big splash with its recent posting on Robert Parker’s website; in a blind tasting, its 2003 cabernet sauvignon came in just behind mega wines such as Pride, Dunn, Araujo and Harlan Estates. Neal is a third-generation winery and is biodynamic and organic. A great choice is the 2004 cabernet sauvignon.
Gundlach Bundschu in Sonoma is a family-owned winery that’s been producing world-class wines since buffalo roamed the plains—estate-grown chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet-family varietals. Recent praise from some top wine magazines has sparked tremendous interest. My crowd-pleasing choice is their 2004 Sonoma Valley merlot.
Craggy Range, of New Zealand, has been featured in Time Magazine, Decanter, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator. Craggy Range produces single-vineyard pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and Bordeaux varietals. Try the pinot noir from Te Muna Road Vineyard in Martinborough.
Deloach Vineyards’ Greg LaFollette (formerly of Flowers Winery) is leading the charge to perfection, crafting top-notch pinot noir and chardonnay. With prized vineyard holdings in the Russian River, they produce Vineyard-Designate and Russian River Valley wines. Their 2005 Russian River pinot noir is one of the best values in the market.
Rolf Binder has become one of the most famous and sought-after winemakers in South Australia—one of Robert Parker’s favorite Australian wineries. Of particular note is the Heysen Shiraz from the Barossa Valley 2005.
And a few more worthy of mention:
Langtry Estate, Lillie, Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, 2006
Rocca Family Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2004
Girard Winery, Artistry, Napa Valley, 2004
Kilikanoon Winery, K Run, Shiraz, South Australia 2005
Charles Fredy is a sommelier and certified wine specialist with the Society of Wine Educators. A 30-year veteran of the wine and spirits industry, he is vice president of Better Brands, Maui.