BEST WINES OF THE MILLENNIUM

A retrospective of top quality/value wines from 2000, as selected by a national retailer wine-tasting panel.

For years, StateWays’ sister publication Beverage Dynamics (distributed mainly, but not exclusively, in the licensed states) has been publishing a “Retailer Wine Selections” feature in most issues. A National Retailer Wine Panel has been established, comprised of a few dozen well-informed beverage alcohol store owners, wine buyers and managers from across the country (also including a few from the control states). Periodically, the members of this panel are asked to recommend wines of a particular type that they have recently tasted which deliver top quality and real value. They graciously have agreed to participate in providing a service to our entire readership by alerting them to a cross-section (and by no means an exhaustive list) of quality wines. The selections always include brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’s suggested retail price (which varies from market to market). Indeed, retailers nationwide often use these reviews to help merchandise the wines that are mentioned. With that in mind, we are reprinting a partial selection (only the top-rated, five-star wines) of the wines selected through the end of 2000, to also help inform our StateWays readership about some of the best wines in the market.


Richard Brandes


ZINFANDEL


***** (94) Rosenblum 1997 Paso Robles Richard Sauret Vineyard Zinfandel (California). Flavors of currants, chocolate and ripe blackberries with just the right marriage of oak and spice; a creamy finish; great with game, stews, veal shanks and lamb dishes. ($19)


***** (93) Marietta Cellars 1998 Zinfandel (California). Deep purple color; explosive ripe rich berry fruit; oak and creamy soft tannins in the middle; six years of great drinking. ($16)


***** (93) Rosenblum 1998 Carla’s Reserve Zinfandel (California). Ripe, big and awesome; dark ruby color with a strong nose of spice; sweet cherry with a good balance of acidity and fruit that lingers on the finish; great for the meatiest entrée out there. ($28.50)


***** (93) St. Francis 1997 Old Vines Zinfandel (California). A wine that marries the best of old and new world traditions; combining big brawny flavors — ripe black cherry, raspberry and bittersweet chocolate — that have been aged in American oak to yield a wine that is unctuous and mouth-filling with superb depth and length of flavor and a finish that will keep you coming back glass after glass. ($24)


***** (93) Neyers 1998 Contra Costa Pato Vineyard Zinfandel (California). Lush, big zin with a good-sense of balance; firm and chewy cherry fruits, black pepper and mild tannins; will age well; a wonderful wine. ($28)


***** (93) Terraces 1998 Zinfandel (California). An explosive blend of cassis, plum and spice on the nose; layers of sweet cherry fruit expand in the mouth; impressive finish; even better with a few years of cellaring. ($23)


***** (93) Gundlach-Bundschu Sonoma Valley 1997 Zinfandel (California). Pure zin, from nose to palate to finish; fresh berry flavors and a hint of black pepper. ($21)


***** (93) Van Asperen 1998 Zinfandel (California). Great blend of plum and ripe berries from 90- to 100-year-old vines; notes of black pepper, cherry and chocolate; goes with wild game and spicy foods. ($18)


***** (93) Edgewood Estate 1996 Napa Valley Zinfandel (California). Offers an explosive nose of black plum, cherry and spice, along with dense, powerful flavors of dark fruits and berries; fabulous concentration and an immensely satisfying finish. ($16)


***** (93) Rombauer 1998 Zinfandel (California). Ripe and rich, with an incredibly sweet array of black berry fruits and spices; delicious. ($24)


***** (92) Ravenswood 1998 Barricia Zinfandel (California). Smooth and delicious; a powerful expression of ripe raspberries; exceptionally long finish. ($28.50)


***** (92) Ridge 1998 Lytton Springs Zinfandel (California). A very intense wine; sweet briery nose, mixed minerals and pepper; medium- to full-bodied; one of the top California zinfandels year in and year out; drink now and for up to five or six years. ($27.50)


***** (92) Storybook 1996 Eastern Exposures Zinfandel (California). Traditional zin nose with subtle hints of cherry and black fruits; great structure and length in between moderate length; fully mature. ($25)


***** (92) Biale 1998 Spenker Vineyard Zinfandel (California). A particularly bright and full-bodied zinfandel from a winery that produces several zins, each one with slightly different characteristics. ($26)


***** (92) Beauheuer Vineyards 1997 100th Anniversary Zinfandel (California). Medium deep color; lively berries with vanilla bean bouquet leads to a beautiful balance of flavors; richness and softness dominates. ($16)


***** (92) Edmeades 1996 Mendocino Zinfandel (California). A satisfying wine full of jam, spice and black pepper, with a rich, vanilla finish. ($16)


***** (92) Rabbit Ridge 1997 Sonoma Zinfandel (California). Very rich and complex; jam and berry flavors with nice vanilla overtones. ($18)



CABERNET SAUVIGNON


***** (95) Togni 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon (California). A blockbuster wine; big and bold and built for the long haul; features layers of balanced black fruits and toasty tannins. ($68)


***** (94) Fisher 1997 Coach Insignia Cabernet Sauvignon (California). Powerful, moderately tannic and full-bodied, this cabernet delivers lots of chocolate, black cherry and cassis flavors; will drink well for 12 to 15 years. ($35)


***** (94) Gundlach-Bundschu 1997 Rhine Farm Vineyard Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon (California). An understated wine that delivers lots of punch; deep cabernet flavors; wonderful depth and a lasting finish. ($25)


***** (94) Katnook Estate 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia). Big, forward and rich fruit nose of cherry jam with notes of cassis, vanilla and coffee; luxurious flavors of cherries, cola, herbs and spices with notes of wood toward the back of the palate; balanced and very long on the finish, supported by soft tannins. ($27)


***** (94) Spottswoode 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon (California). A delicious wine with flavors of cherry, plum, currant and black cherry with hints of spice; rich and complex with a finish that goes on and on; enjoyable now and will cellar nicely. ($60)


***** (93) Plaisir de Merle 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon (South Africa). Deep, dark color; exotic nose of spices and smoke; very firm with a great structure. ($25)


***** (93) Markham 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon (California). Rich, ripe and full of fruit; blackberry, cassis and a hint of pepper create a generous fruit-packed mouthful; tremendous length. ($23)


***** (93) Carmenet 1997 Dynamite Cabernet Sauvignon (California). Deep and full-bodied cabernet; a big wine with smoky, black cherry flavors. ($18)


***** (93) Edgewood 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon (California). A dense, rich and concentrated young cabernet, with tiers of currant, black cherry, cedar and spice; the bright, supple flavors expand on the elegant finish; an exceptional wine. ($20)


***** (92) Estancia 1997 California Cabernet Sauvignon (California). Deep ruby color; rich, chocolate texture; a mouthful of cherry and blackberry flavors; easy tannins with a touch of spice; very elegant. ($15)


***** (92) Villa Mt. Eden Signature Series (Michael McGrath/Jed Steele) 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon (California). From Mendocino grapes, this cab has good acids, tannins and depth with complex flavors and a ton of cherry fruit. ($48)


PINOT NOIR


***** (98) Comte Georges de Vogue, Le Musigny Vieilles Vignes, Grand Cru 1997 (France). Enticing, perfumed flower, mineral and berry aromas jump from the glass; this Cote d’Or wine has a medium-bodied palate with vibrant tannins and juicy acidity; explodes with typical Musigny flowery flavors through the long finish; intensely sensual and elegant. ($239)


***** (95) Antonin Rodet Cave Privee 1997 Nuits St. George (France). Very rich and spicy; 100% pinot noir; full body and a plummy, jammy flavor followed by a long finish. ($45)


***** (95) Siduri 1997 Pinot Noir (Oregon). Unfiltered, rich and bold; unfolds to lots of spicy cherry fruit; a touch of oak; try and lay down for one or two years. ($45)


***** (95) David Bruce 1997 Santa Cruz Pinot Noir (California). A monster pinot, nearly ebony in color, with a dense structure; packed with layers of ripe fruits and sweet spices, this wine will improve for another two years. ($24).


***** (94) Acacia 1997 Beckstoffer Las Amigas Vineyard Pinot Noir (California). One of America’s finest pinot noir ever; rich and fully fruit-driven, this wine has it all; long on the palate and true with fine strawberry, toasty flavors. ($50)


***** (94) Mirrassou 1997 Showcase Selection, Harvest Reserve Pinot Noir (California). Profound aromas of cherries with notes of smoke, roasting meat, dried herbs and hints of sweet oak; ripe, lush fruit with peppery/spicy flavors toward the close; balanced, long finish with some tannins; could use several years of aging. ($29)


***** (94) Rochiolli 1998 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (California). Opulent, bright color, rich nose of bing cherry and mushroom; medium tannins; good acidity; needs two years to reach its peak; a glorious wine. ($32)


***** (93) Bouchard Pere et Fils ‘La Vignee” Bourgogne 1997 Pinot Noir (France). Fairly deep and dark in color with perfumed scents of black cherries and spice; superb pinot concentration that carries through to the finish. ($9.50)


***** (92) Faiveley 1997 Nuits-Saint Georges Aux Chaignots (France). Superior structure and deep coloration with rich cassis, plum and smoky oak. ($59)


***** (92) Comtes Lafon, Volnay Santenots, Premier Cru 1998 (France). Very deep, with a ruby purple color; exotic floral and red fruit aromas abound; firm and concentrated with a full-bodied palate and intense tannins, weighty for a Volnay yet very powerful and backwards; will develop beautifully over the near term (2-4 years). (Not yet released)


***** (92) Lynmar 1997 Quail Hill Vineyard Russian River Pinot Noir (California). Lush black raspberry fruit; soft and sonorous, with spicy and earthy notes; firm structure to balance the fruit; a long finish. ($32)


***** (92) Porter Creek 1997 Russian River Pinot Noir (California). Aromas of fresh crushed raspberries and violets; silky smooth with fine acids and tannins under the red berry fruit. ($24)


***** (92) Wild Horse 1997 Pinot Noir (California). Dark ruby in color with nuances of clove, cinnamon, raspberry and cherry. ($21)


***** (92) Byron 1997 Santa Maria Pinot Noir (California). All the flavors you would want in a good pinot noir; ripe plums, boysenberries, clove spiciness and a delicious lingering flavor. ($23)


MERLOT


***** (95) Rutherford Hill 1997 Reserve Merlot (California). Tons of flavors including black cherry, plums, violets, rich oak and cola nuts; soft and round with sweet fruit on the finish; structured enough to have enough weight on the palate to make it work well with grilled meats and pasts dishes. ($69)


***** (94) Beringer 1997 Howell Mountain, Bancroft Ranch Vineyard, Merlot (California). Limited in supply and just released, this wine is worth the extra effort required in hunting down this well-crafted merlot; very concentrated blackberry and blueberry flavors with added layers of anise, licorice, tobacco and sweet, toasty oak; full-bodied and highly extracted with a good dose of fruit and wood tannins on the extremely long finish; stylish and decadent, this effort is consistent with previous vintages. ($75)


***** (94) Dry Creek 1997 Reserve Merlot (California). An outstanding wine, deep in color, with lots of ripe, red fruits and spice; a smooth finish; can be cellared for two to three years. ($32)


***** (94) Temple Breur 1997 Reserve Merlot (Australia). Deep, rich fruit; pretty aromas of mulberry. black cherry, plum and pomegranate; rich medium-to-full-bodied fruit and toasty oak flavsors; long, balanced finish with just enough soft tannin to provide structure; a really fine wine. ($19)


***** (94) Nelson Estate 1997 Sonoma Valley Merlot (California). Very dark, almost opaque; massive weight of plum and currant fruit in the mouth, with anise and pepper overtones; solid acids and firm tannins; a long, dark-fruit finish with gravel-tar notes; a serious California merlot. ($30)


***** (92) Ravenswood 1998 Sangiacomo Vineyard Merot (California). This is a wine of incredible saturation and power; a magnificent wine with tremendous cellaring potential; one of California’s top wines. ($26)


***** (92) St. Francis 1997 Reserve Merlot (California). Powerful with ripe fruit and toasty oak character; black cherry and currant flavors are complemented by spice and cedar; a beatiful, balanced finish. ($40)


***** (92) L’Ecole No. 41 1998 Merlot (Washington State). Rich and intense with beaautiful black cherry and blackberry fruit flavors combining with hints of spice and vanilla; a lengthy, complex finish to this excellent wine. ($28)


***** (92) Barnwood 1997 Reserve Merlot (California). This comes from 100% hand-picked merlot from atop the southern Santa Barbara mountains; aged in small oak barrels, the wine explodes in the mouth; full-bodied; needs some time to age. ($40)


***** (92) Groth 1997 Merlot (California). A very dense, thick and impressive effort, the ’97 Groth Merlot is a blockbuster wine that may be too ripe for some, but not for many; consume with a big juicy steak. ($40)


***** (92) Pride Mountain Vineyards 1998 Merlot (California). Full-bodied and lush, showing several layers of ripe blackberry, black cherry and cassis flavors with ample tannins giving it a core of solid structure. Vibrant right now, with time this merlot will develop more complexity and a richer finish. ($33)


***** (92) J. Lohr 1998 Paso Robles Merlot (California). Deep and intense with aromas of blueberries and violet; good balance; a long finish with a touch of spice and licorice. ($18)


***** (92) Falesco 1999 Merlot (Umbria, Italy). Tasted blind, this Italian gem could easily pass for a great Napa merlot that would certainly cost almost twice as much; luscious and fat with an explosion of black fruit; velvety elegance and a harmonious balance; a long, lingering finish. ($17)


CHARDONNAY


***** (95) Cakebread Cellars 1998 Chardonnay (California). Barrel fermentation lends to this big and rich wine; fruit from whole cluster grapes is lively and pronounced; oaky notes. ($35)


***** (95) 1997 La Chablisienne Bougros (France). Creamy, complex and silky; balanced fruit, oak and acidity; a finish that doesn’t quit. ($45)


***** (93) Ramey 1997 Carneros Chardonnay (California). Elegant with a bouquet of rich butter, subtle oak, ripe apple, hazelnut and vanilla; firm fruit in the mouth with ripe apple and spicy cinnamon; very complex tastes; good balance; a lingering finish; limited production. ($55)


***** (93) Hamilton Russell 1998 Chardonnay (South Africa). A captivating elegance and finesse with layer upon layer of inviting flavors; a finish that lingers on. ($17)


***** (93) Joseph Phelps 1998 Napa Chardonnay (California). Scents of oak, apple butter and spice in a full-bodied, elegant and complex wine; great through ’04. ($23)


***** (92) Beringer 1997 Reserve Chardonnay (California). Full-bodied with oak and ultra-ripe fruit; buttery and spicy with pineapple notes. ($40)


***** (92) Meridian 1997 Reserve Chardonnay (California). Good apricot and citrus flavors; light honey notes; a full, satisfying finish. ($15)


***** (92) Turtle Bay 1998 Chardonnay (Australia). Gold in color, with flavors of peaches and butterscotch; rich and full with nice balance of acidity; great with seafood and chicken dishes. ($9)


***** (92) Rodney Strong 1998 Sonoma Chardonnay (California). A pleasant, easy-drinking, satisfying wine that features clean, fresh fruit; not heavy; easy on the oak; good clean apple flavors and a nice finish. ($10)


SAUVIGNON BLANC


***** (94) Ch. Carbonnieux Blanc 1997 (France). A benchmark producer for elegant white Graves, and the 1997 is exceptional, with a rich, honeyed nose and exuberant melony flavors; finishes with crisp acidity and a hint of toasty oak. ($30)


***** (94) Murphy-Goode 1996 Fumé II “The Deuce” (California). A harmonic blend of well-ripened tropical fruits bonded with an invigorating acidity; amplified with a creamy oak texture. ($27)


***** (94) Adler Fels 1998 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc (California). Lush, intense and bright with lemon-oil aroma, flavors of melon and a touch of oak; crisp on the palate with a lively, tart, lingering finish. ($13)


***** (93) Brancott 1998 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand). Intense, exotic gooseberry and passion fruit nose and flavors that keep growing with a long tail. ($17)


***** (93) Dom. Henry Pellé Menetou-Salon 1998 Sauvignon Blanc (France). Produced entirely from sauvignon blanc, this wine is pure and exuberant, offering fresh citrus aromas and flavors and plenty of vivacious herbal components; delicious. ($15)


***** (93) Villa Maria Private Bin 1999 Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand). Intense citrus and passion fruit nose; explosion of fresh fruit in the mouth with grapefruit flavors and a slightly herbal in the long, lush finish. ($13)


***** (92) Groom 1999 Sauvignon Blanc (Australia). Rich, unctuous flavors with smoky and flinty nuances; superb interwoven acidity; long, supple, complex finish; class and elegance. ($17)


***** (92) Jolivet Sancerre 1998 (France). Herbal citrus nose; shot of fresh lime in the mouth; citrus peel flavors with refreshing acidity; long finish; great seafood wine. ($17)


***** (92) Morgan 1998 Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc (California). Blend of Sonoma and Monterey fruit that has it all; great balance; generous acidity; richly textured flavors of ripe melons and lanolin; superb finish; reminiscent of a fine white Bordeaux; excellent food wine. ($13)


***** (92) Gainey Vineyard 1997 Sauvignon Blanc (California). Complex melon, fig, herb and toast aromatics are a prelude to smooth tropical flavors that linger into a deep satisfying finish. ($20)


***** (92) Husch Mendocino 1998 Sauvignon Blanc (California). A real crisp, dry and tasty sauvignon blanc; tastes as if it should cost twice as much. ($11)


***** (92) Sterling 1998 North Coast Sauvignon Blanc (California). Lean melon and grapefruit with firm acidity, excellent balance; herbal and mineral nuances abound. ($15)


SPARKLING WINE


***** (95) Veuve Clicquot Posardin Rosé Reserve 1993 (France). Lots of yeast, cinnamon and a delicate approach with finesse and superb balance. ($65)


***** (95) Alfred Gratien Brut Rosé Cuvée Paradis, NV (France). Small pinpoint bubbles in a light, delicate pink color; rich, complex nose of berries, with biscuit and chocolate notes; smooth, velvety mouthfeel with flavors of strawberries, currants, coffee and buttery pastry; balanced acidity on a long, complex finish; delightful. ($90)


***** (95) Paul Georg Blanc de Blancs (France). Champagne made from 100% chardonnay from premier cru vineyards of Vertus; lovely perfume of tropical fruit and spice; lush, creamy flavors of citrus, tropical fruits and spice. ($22)


***** (94) Krug Grand Cuvée (France). Aromas of baked bread and spices; a full, creamy plate with incredible fruit; an exceptional non-vintage brut. ($150)


***** (94) Charbaut Et Fils Brut, NV (France). Bright, crisp, lean and elegant with a hint of toast; also hints of apple and citrus; a long finish with endless bubbles. ($25)


***** (93) Bollinger Grand Annee 1990 (France). Deep golden color; aroma of toffee and butterscotch; very intense and thick on the palate; a main course wine. ($70)


***** (93) Roederer Estate Brut (California). One of the best sparkling wines from California; a deeply scented bouquet; fine strands of tiny bubbles with a fairly rich creamy mousse; great depth and concentration with a long, persistent finish. ($23)


***** (92) Domaine Carneros 1993 (California). Slight straw color; frothy, rich pinot nose with yeast; a rich, inviting mouthfeel. ($24)


***** (92) Marquis de Perlade Brut Blanc (France). Delicious and affordable, this French sparkler is elegantly fruity, fresh and well-balanced; the flavors expand on a crisp, harmonious finish. ($12)

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