SF Chron Crowns Monterey Pinot King–Top 100 Wines

The San Francisco Chronicle listed their Top 100 Wines of the year this weekend.

MontereywineFirst, let’s congratulate the San Francisco Chronicle. Theirs is the only only "wine section" in any daily paper in America. Most, or at least many, Daily papers include a wine column or wine story in their food section. Yet, none but the Chronicle offer an entire section devoted to the wine. Linda Murphy, with the help of Lynn Char Bennett, edits the section. W. Blake Grey is the lead writer/reporter.

More than anything else, the list of Top 100 Wines points to the emergence of the Santa Lucia Highlands and Monterey County as a source for Pinot Noir every bit as important as California’s other Pinot regions. Nine of the twenty-two Pinot Noirs in the top 100 came from Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands. This is really an amazing emergence by a single region that not more than five years ago was only on the "watch" list of many Pinot lovers.

And the real amazing thing is that Monterey is just getting started. Most of the attention is usually shone upon three Monterey vineyards: Gary’s, Rosella’s and Pisoni. Yet, there are a number of other outstanding vineyards in the region that have not yet garnered the attention of the Pinot fanatic. But they will. Add to this the fact that Monterey is attracting many artisan-minded winemakers to the region. We are going to see a blossoming of Monterey Pinot, Chardonnay and Syrah for some time to come.

The other interesting highlight of the list is that of the 8 Cabernets that mad the list, Napa pulled in 7 of the spots. This surprised me a bit on two levels. It’s surprising that only eight cabs made the list. And I’m surprised that other regions didn’t have cabs represented. Confirmation that no region compares to Napa Valley for Cabernet Sauvignon or that Napa probably sent in more cabs than any other region for review? Probably both.

Finally, some thoughts on the Chronicles wine reviews.  The Chronicle wine tasting panel, a somewhat changing array of local wine buyers and retailers along with Chronicle staff, does not include ratings in their listings of the week’s top wines. Instead, they offer short written reviews such at this one:

2002 Michel-Schlumberger Dry Creek Valley Maison Rouge ($20)
A red blend
that offers perfumed violet and black fruit aromas and flavors of blueberry,
blackberry, pomegranate, mocha and French vanilla. Inky, rich and ripe, with an
almost gritty texture.

It’s pretty economical, complete and well written. I get it.

However, I’d like to see ratings alongside the reviews. I’m sure this has been talked about a few times among the wine section’s staff. And I’m sure the suggestion resulted in spirited discussion. Robert Parker and representatives of the Wine Spectator have always insisted that their ratings only compliment their written reviews of the wine and should not stand alone. And they are right. Personally, I like the review/rating combination. Much of the fun when tasting an array of wines of the same category is to offer a hierarchy among them. It results in contemplation and discussion.

I wouldn’t recommend they take up the 100 point rating scale. "Why" is for another post. However, a five star system with half points seems reasonable. These are not amateurs reviewing wine at the Chronicle. These are professionals who taste wine every day and taste it critically. I trust them to rank their weekly wines.

Posted In: Rating Wine


One Response

  1. tom merle - December 11, 2005

    You are spot on supporting the five star (=10 pt) rating system compared to the 30 point(=70-1000)Spectator/ Parker/ Connoisseur etc. system which is just too precise for the nature of the activity.
    In effect four stars=90/91 pts; four 1/2=92/93; three stars=85/86; three 1/2= 87/88. So no 94s, 89s or 84s. It is downright cruel of Spectator to award 89s. Either 88 or 90. Get off the fence Jim Laube.
    T O M

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