Wine Talk

Snooth User: deconut

Wine Spectator's Top 10 2009

Posted by deconut, Nov 24, 2009.

Just a little curious as to why noone has been on the boards mentioning the top 10 list - any thoughts?? suprises?? disappointments???

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Reply by dmcker, Nov 24, 2009.

Perhaps we're not placing as great an emphasis on the spectacle these days....

Here're a couple of individual posts on the subject from another thread:

*Reply by dmcker, Nov 19*

The quote below is from Jon Rimmerman at Garagiste. I often find him a bit long-winded, but enjoy his provocation. In this case, my sentiments match his almost exactly:

"I’ve had so many emails asking for my opinion on the recent Wine Spectator Top 100 that I can’t answer all of them individually. I will say this: Washington State is basking in the glow of a decidedly provocative choice as the #1 wine, one the editors knew would cause controversy but they had no problem making the selection. Do I believe the wine is worthy of the #1 spot? Of course not - it’s not even worthy of the #1 spot in Washington State, let alone the world. My guess is that most wine aficionados agree with me except (of course) Harvey Steiman, Marvin Shanken and Thomas Matthews - senior editors of the Wine Spectator, who undoubtedly forced the issue against the better judgment of the other WS editors (namely, those that focus on European wines). Why would they make such a bold selection? Advertising revenue aside (that was not the motivation) they chose Columbia Crest to spread light on a region that has come of age - it was not about a single wine. In my opinion, this award was for how far Washington State’s entire wine industry has come - Columbia Crest was simply a torchbearer for the hundreds of other wineries in Walla Walla, the Columbia Valley and beyond. Certainly, there are many in our state that wish the editors chose a more progressive or representative choice than Columbia Crest, but they didn’t. As far as Washington State is concerned, any light is a good light - just ask Clos Apalta, last year’s #1.

"With that said, I promise not to make mention of the Top 100 list, attempt to use it as a “sales” tool or other - it has little merit in my opinion. In fact, I would be wary of those that attempt to do so as their motivation may lie more in turning units than in turning you on to the finest wines of the world."

*Reply by GregT, Nov 20*

Ah yes, Rimmerman - "In my opinion, this award was for how far Washington State’s entire wine industry has come"

Um, but didn't they themselves explain why they made the selection?

People make too big a deal of it. A few years ago WS announced grandly that Washington has arrived! Then Pierre Rovani announced that Washington has arrived! Then Jay Miller announced that Washington has arrived! Then WS announced again that Washington has arrived!

And here's an interesting article from more than a year ago on the WS machinery. Though the piece is more about the rag's selection process for Award of Excellence to individual restaurants, than it's Top 100 wines of the year, it indicates several pertinent things about culture and practices at the organization.

Reply by qipengart, Nov 24, 2009.

I can't seem to find the Columbia Crest Reserve!

Reply by deconut, Nov 24, 2009.

@dmcker - thanks for the reminder - I knew I saw that but could not find it! You and have lots of great insights and I respect your opinion - thanks!

Reply by John Andrews, Nov 25, 2009.

I found it very interesting that the Top Ten definitely had a value feel to it this year as did the entire list. The Top Ten had an average price of $48 I think.

Reply by dmcker, Nov 25, 2009.

Well, John, how many North American winemakers aim at putting out great wines for $25 or less? You can still find stunning bottles in Europe for that price....

Reply by John Andrews, Nov 25, 2009.

@dmcker ... sorry, I wasn't clear ... I wasn't trying to state anything about the quality of the wines on the list. I was simply pointing out that the top ten seems to reflect more the current economic situation. In the past the top ten include wines that were extremely pricey.

And, I do work part time for a wine maker that does try to put out great wines for a decent price. The average price of a bottle we retail is in the $26 dollar range. :-)

Reply by zufrieden, Nov 25, 2009.

The boutique wine (with boutique high-end price) is the product of California - forget North America. Washington State and other high-wage economies just followed suit. Since the collapse of certain key industries, the days when bored Hollywood directors and actors finance their oenological fantasies with over-priced fruit-bombs and chase their unseemly dreams of the manor-born might just be past. At least now, they may have to pay homage to efficiency and reasonable prices.

The one good thing about the brutal recession in California is that the 75 dollar wine just might become the 25 dollar wine of the next decade. So your 26 dollar range might just get a long lease on life HondaJohn!

This may also lend some insight into the drop in mean price for the top 10...

Reply by WineForNewbies2, Nov 25, 2009.

I've found it's interesting to look over a Top 10 or Top 100 list, but WS's list is nothing special. They picked the wines they found to be most interesting for the year. Any of us could compile a similar list if we wanted. But the bottom line is that the list is simply the opinion of a group of people. I might agree with the list or I might not. Unfortunately, I think the list is becoming used far more as a marketing tool for producers and retailers.

Reply by dmcker, Nov 26, 2009.

Deconut, thank you.

John, yes I did misread what you wrote, but I still stand by my comments. I've had many California wines in the 20 to 30 dollar price range this decade that are good, but none that aim at being the absolute best that, say, Napa can produce. One of the things I find sad, if inevitable in the US economy, is that when I first started drinking Napa and Sonoma (and later other areas) wines, back in the '70s and '80s, they were absolutely great quality and value at relatively low prices, even the supremos, when compared against the best of Europe from whatever region. Not so much the case anymore, at the upper end, particularly.

Zufrieden, a lot of comment is being made currently about how this readjustment of the economy will bring a sea change in consumer habits and practices. Would be nice to think that $75 will equate to $25 in the future, but why am I cynical about that? ;-)

Reply by zufrieden, Nov 26, 2009.

Of course, a return to the halcyon days of the high quality, high value 1970's and 80's products from California (Napa included) is likely a personal pipe-dream of mine. Nevertheless, there is some indication of change on the horizon. Many prices from around the world have declined noticeably - a little at first, but then by larger percentages. We can only hope.

I also agree that, in the trivial sense at least, most "best of something" lists are indeed arbitrary...

Reply by dmcker, Nov 26, 2009.

So, I guess we'll see over the next year or two whether current discounts are merely an effort to deplete perishable inventory, or something more fundamental in the marketplace regarding value and price positioning. I, too, have long been unzufrieden regarding California (and Bordeaux and Burgundy and Rhone) pricing, so having wished for lower prices am in the position of one of those warned about wishing for what I want because I might actually get it. In this case getting it comes with an economic crash and crisis and major shift in economic leverage and balance on a global scale...

Reply by zufrieden, Nov 27, 2009.

Yes, un-zufrieden is a good way to put it with respect to pricing. At one time (say 20 years ago) Rhone wines were veritable bargains compared (say) to Bordeaux. Not any longer.

And yes, we have to be cautious about what we wish for. But like all conditions in the world past, present and future there are advantages and disadvantages to change. We can only hope that lower prices for quality wine will be one of the advantages...

Reply by GregT, Nov 27, 2009.

Actually there have been plenty of posts about the WS list, but not necessarily on this forum. However, what is different this year seems to be the way it was released. They released it to e-suscribers and then they did a countdown to build suspense. I suppose the idea was to generate more internet chatter and interest but it ended up diffusing the impact entirely and making the "official" release a non-event. If it were me, I'd not repeat that next year.

And then of course, the CC Reserve was sold out within weeks of receiving the score initially. So by the end of the year, it wasn't going to be found anywhere. And once again, I applaud CC. They let it out before it was rated and first come, first served. People who knew the wine and liked it bought it anyway, regardless of the score it was destined to get. When Chateau St Jean received the award a few years ago, it was released in 2 tranches. The first came out around $28, which was still kind of pricey back then. After the first place award came out, there suddenly was a lot more product on the market, but it was around $70. I have no inside info regarding that and I'm not suggesting that somehow they knew that they were going to be first place, or even top 10, but plenty of people made those assumptions.

CC isn't the best wine made in the state and as I posted elsewhere, it's almost ludicrous to imagine that WS is somehow making a newsworthy announcement about WA wine by this selection, but it's a well-made wine, widely available, and fairly priced and consistently good. It shouldn't be a problem to make 300 cases of a brilliant wine that goes for $260 a bottle. In fact, if the wine is less than brilliant, shame on everyone involved. For a big company like CC to produce larger quantities of consistently good wine is rarer and IMHO, laudable. I hate the idea that wine should be something to be enjoyed for special occasions and only by people of means. In that sense, I like the choice of CC.

Of course, in a larger sense, I couldn't care less. I'm not going to make any decision for myself based on their score or anyone else's. But for people who do, and I understand the reasoning, this is a good opportunity to taste a wine that an influential magazine felt was outstanding, and to do so without mortgaging the house.

Reply by VegasOenophile, Nov 28, 2009.

I believe WS stated it's not just about the best wine period, but the best wine for the value and many points are involved. I have had that Columbia Crest and still have one waiting for me. It is a great wine. The Chappellet Signature is also a fantastic cab at around $45. The $65+ range doesn't always make the best wine and I believe Spectator was remarking not only on the extremely good quality that WA has been releasing, but their usually far reasonable prices for such lush and magnificent wines.

Reply by GregT, Nov 28, 2009.

Well then you should try the Chappellet Mountain Cuvee. One of the best value wines in Napa and priced comparably to the CC. I can buy them both for less than $25, usually less than $20. There aren't many Napa cab-based wines in that category - Steltzner, Chappellet, Monticello, BV Rutherford, and that about sums it up.

The CC isn't quite in the league of many $65 wines, but then again, most of those aren't either. I'm a big fan of the CC Reserve, I have a couple cases dating back to 1994, and I'm a fan of Washington wines in general, but if I'm not mistaken, even back in the 1990s, WS was heralding the "arrival" of Washington as a wine producing state. Unfortunately, the Stimson Lane group is where you find the "reasonable" prices. Well, maybe Cadence and Woodward Canyon, both of which are miniscule in comparison. But Leonetti, Quilceda Creek, Cayuse, and others are moving up in price very quickly.

Reply by dmcker, Nov 28, 2009.

Second the vote on the Chappellet Mountain Cuvee. Also surprisingly good in that price range (just under $20) is the Waterstone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Have had the 2005 most recently.

Reply by amour, Dec 4, 2009.

LET US LOOK AT IT THIS WAY....they have worked hard for many years and are producing QUALITY.
Many like me are slightly reluctant to witness the old world order give way to the emergence of the new world order but we must accept change!

Reply by GregT, Dec 5, 2009.

So there's a postscript to this.

People are selling the 2005 CC Reserve for $125.


Reply by dmcker, Dec 6, 2009.

What will the prices be for the CC Reserve 2006, do you think?

And what kind of price changes for the other top 10?

So WS does have some clout in the marketplace. Not like RP, though, who can raise whole vintages and regions to unheard of levels. 2007 Southern Rhone? Can't wait to see what he does to the 2009 Bordeaux marketplace... ;-(

Reply by VegasOenophile, Jan 1, 2010.

The Columbia Crest and Chappellet that made the top ten were offered at regular price, until they both made that list and became scarce. The issue is, you just can't find them anymore, so the few retailers that have some, can charge pretty much whatever they want and I am sure someone will pay it for a taste of the "wine of the year". Crazy eh?

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