Top 100 Wines of 2005


Published:

Following our Wine Enthusiast Wine Star Awards (December 15 issue), this is our editors' selection of the bottled superstars of 2005. We have selected 100 wines out of the more than 8,000 we reviewed during the course of the year. They are not necessarily the highest-scoring 100. Numeric rating of quality did play an important part, of course, but we also considered price, availability, newsworthiness and an ineffable sense of excitement and breakthrough.

The list also reflects diversity: We limited each brand to only one representative bottling, and made a concerted effort to include a wide range of styles—you'll find sparkling, dessert and fortified wines in addition to red and white still wines.
If readers regard this list as a shopping guide, we caution them to dial down their expectations: Because these wines were reviewed over the course of the past year, some of these wines' vintages may have changed. For others, prices may vary from the ones cited here due to scarcity. But the list is certainly, and specifically, valuable as a guide to top producers, regions and wine styles—a reliable signpost for discoveries of your own.

  1. 95 Trimbach 2000 Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling (Alsace); $42. This is one of Alsace's greatest Rieslings, a wine from the grand cru vineyard of Osterberg. It is bone dry, a style that remains a passion for the Trimbachs. With its steely, mineral character, and its grapefruit flavors, it can seem too austere. But just wait 10 years—the wine will be transformed. This is superb Riesling by any standard. Imported by Diageo Chateau & Estates.

  2. 98 The Maiden 2001 Red Wine (Napa Valley); $95. This companion wine to the famous Harlan Estate comes from the same Oakville vineyard. Decadent and vastly complex, it opens with cassis, grilled meat, cedar, spicebox, cigar box and cheddar aromas, and then turns medium- to full-bodied in the mouth. Terrific black cherry, blackberry and cassis fruit, pure and refined. Perfect elaboration of oak, char, tannins, acids and fruit, like a symphony orchestra working together. Drink now-2015.

  3. 97 Fonseca 2003 Vintage Port; $92. Fonseca vintage Ports are always among the most attractive and long-lived. This 2003 conforms magnificently to that model. It is structured, rich, powerful and opulent. There are cassis and black fig flavors, as well as sweet tannins. It is delicious already, and will remain delicious throughout its long life. Imported by Kobrand.

  4. 94 Pol NV Roger Extra Cuvée de Réserve (Champagne); $40. One of the great nonvintage Champagnes, this is a wine with considerable bottle age, full of toasty flavors. With its gooseberry and apple fruit flavors, it is still fresh, but its great character comes from its supreme elegance. Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd.

  5. 95 Clarendon Hills 2003 Blewitt Springs (Clarendon) Grenache (McLaren Vale); $80. Made from bush vines that are about 75 years old, this tremendous Grenache is a vibrant pink-purple color and has deep peppery, fruit-sweet aromas. On the palate it's massive but controlled, like a rhinoceros behind a steel wall. Intense plum and cherry fruit warms the palate. Dry tannins persist through the long, minerally finish. Drink after 2010. Imported by Commonwealth Wine & Spirits Inc.

  6. 97 Marchesi de' Frescobaldi 1999 CastelGiocondo Riserva (Brunello di Montalcino); $100. Tight as nails on the nose before it explodes on the palate in a cacophony of cherry, cassis, black plum, tobacco and chocolate. It's like the best cigar and a great red wine rolled into one. Yes, the tannins are hammering and yes, the acidity is forward. But that only means this brilliant Brunello should age for 15 years without batting an eyelash. Imported by Folio.

  7. 93 Château Ste. Michelle 2003 Cold Creek Vineyard (Columbia Valley); $22. Winemaker Bob Bertheau lays back on the new oak and gives this great vineyard its due. A classic spine of juicy acid, with ripe—but not fat—citrus and apricot flavors. Long, balanced and tightly focused.

  8. 96 W. & J. Graham's 2003 Vintage Port; $100. This is a great Port, from a great house. It is packed with solid, structured, rich and intense black fruit flavors. Its tannins show considerable aging potential. It is a big, ripe wine, balanced by a long, lingering dark aftertaste. Imported by Premium Port Wines Inc.

  9. 93 Sandeman NV Royal Ambrosante Aged 20 Years Old Solera Pedro Ximenez (Jerez); $24. Sandeman excels with its reserve-level Sherries, as is exemplified by this stand-out PX. Figs and raisins are front and center throughout, but it never sits heavily on your palate. Just the opposite, there's plow-through acidity that creates a brilliant mouthfeel and the sensation of freshness. Fabulous by itself or on top of vanilla ice cream. Imported by Pernod Ricard.

  10. 97 Quilceda Creek 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon (Washington); $80. Amazing density; the aromas billow up from the glass and weave together sinuously, taking you on a bit of a magic carpet ride before the wine even hits your mouth. This wine has the power of a monster California Cab while retaining the subtlety of a first-growth Bordeaux. It is just a massive blast of dark fruit, incredible viscosity, silky textures and soft herbs, pepper and spice. The oak—all new, all French—is unobtrusive and perfectly integrated.

  11. 93 Tablas Creek 2003 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc (Paso Robles); $35. A fabulous white Rhône blend of enormous complexity and charm. Fills the mouth with butterscotch, crème brûlée, pineapple, stony mineral, vanilla, impossibly ripe white peach and creamy hazelnut flavors, and as sweet as that sounds, the wine is dry and crisp. The greatest Esprit Blanc ever. Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier.

  12. 95 Bodegas LAN 2001 Edición Limitada (Rioja); $38. This is everything a modern-day super red is supposed to be. It's bold, smoky and masculine beyond reproach. The body is sturdy as a brick, yet it's cuddly and smooth. Flavorwise, you won't believe the cascade of cassis, black cherry, vanilla and licorice that flows from the palate. And the finish lasts an eternity. Hold until 2006-07, and then let it rip. Imported by Bodegas LAN.

  13. 94 Foley 2003 Rancho Santa Rosa Chardonnay (Santa Rita Hills); $30. Brilliant in acids, with tremendous, explosive fruit flavors, this Chard can easily handle its coating of toasty new oak. Pineapple custard, mango, nectarine, peach pie, lime zest, vanilla and Asian spice flavors come together in a deliciously creamy texture. This massive, magnificent wine showcases the proven terroir of its appellation for Chardonnay.

  14. 95 Vine Cliff 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $45. This blend of Oakville and Calistoga fruit is marked by intensely ripe cherry, cassis, cocoa and oak flavors and fabulous balance. Superbly rich and massive, with rich, smooth tannins, this lovely Cab maintains elegance and structural integrity through the long, polished finish. It's better than most Napa Cabs that cost far more, making it a fantastic value.

  15. 95 Jacquesson et Fils NV Cuvée 729 (Champagne); $45. This Champagne, full of richness and fresh acidity, is a wine designed for food. With its weight and intensity of flavor, along with the low dosage, it is still full-bodied, leaving a toasty character. This is the 729th nonvintage blending produced by Jacquesson since 1898 (when the house was 100 years old), hence the number. Imported by Winebow.

  16. 96 Freemark Abbey 2001 Bosché Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Rutherford); $65. One of the best Cabs of the vintage. It's still a young wine, all primary black currant and plum fruit flavors and toasted oak, with complex notes of coffee and mocha. This wine is extraordinarily rich and finely balanced, displaying power, elegance and finesse, and an unreal depth of fruit along with great length. Drink now through 2015.

  17. 94 Château Kirwan 2001 Margaux; $40. To call Kirwan a rising star is no longer true, since this property, owned by the Schyler family, and with Michel Rolland as consultant, is now firmly back in its right quality place among classed growths. It is modern in style, as is expected, but the dark, black currant, extracted fruits, new wood and structure don't detract from its elegance. Multiple Importers.

  18. 93 Truchard 2002 Syrah (Carneros); $28. Boasts the ideal combination of fruit and spice—a lively blend of blackberry and black pepper aromas that comes across as brandied spicecake with dried fruit on the palate, yet without any excess alcohol. The full-bodied, lush mouthfeel moves seamlessly into a long, peppery finish. Bravo!

  19. 92 Greenwood Ridge 2004 Sauvignon Blanc (Anderson Valley); $16. Hard to imagine a zestier, more refreshing dry white wine than this. It's brilliant in zingy acids, with richly textured flavors of lemons and limes, gooseberries and pineapples. A little oak adds enough smoky vanilla and buttery wood spice to round this wine off.

  20. 92 Yangarra Estate Vineyard 2003 Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvèdre (McLaren Vale); $20. An abyss of black pepper on the nose, with some whiffs of white cotton. Imagine strapping an eight-cylinder engine to a basket full of berries and black peppercorns and watching it go: That's what this wine tastes like. It's full-throttle and fruit-ripe, with lifted fruit, spice and black pepper on the finish. Imported by Yangarra Estate Vineyard.

  21. 96 Morgan 2002 Hat Trick Double L Vineyard Chardonnay (Santa Lucia Highlands); $50. This low-production barrel selection from Morgan's Double L vineyard is one of the best Chards of the vintage. Has everything Double L has, but more. Fabulous weight and density, and tiers of flavors ranging from pineapples through peaches, crème brûlée and butterscotch. Fat, almost meaty, yet dry, elegant and refined.

  22. 93 Langmeil 2002 The Blacksmith Cabernet Sauvignon (Barossa Valley); $20. Certainly appropriately named, but so terribly charming, irresistible and unusual. Smoldering, dark, briary, stably aromas are streaked with aromatic eucalyptus. On the palate, it's incredibly concentrated, with more smoldering aromas: black soil, black fruit, smoke, even walnut and hazelnut. Still, there's a shining core of red fruit deep in there, like a glowing ember in the forge. Not slammed with oak (only 20% is new); feel is dense, but not heavy. Imported by Epicurean Wines.

  23. 93 L'Ecole No. 41 2003 Fries Vineyard Semillon (Washington); $20. Another classic edition of L'Ecole's best Sémillon. Big, fresh, and bursting with ripe and delicious fruit. Green apples and pears and bright, toasty tropical flavors are perfectly meshed, and the wine fills out in the mid-palate; then sails into a thoroughly satisfying, lingering finish.

  24. 95 Domaine Marcel Deiss 2001 Rotenberg (Alsace); $47. The 12-acre Rotenberg vineyard in Wintzenheim produces vibrant, racy wines, like this blend of Riesling and Pinot Gris. It is fresh and intense, with concentrated flavors of sweet white currants. Imported by New Castle Imports.

  25. 94 Belle Glos 2003 Clark & Telephone Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley); $38. Following on the heels of the last vintage, this Pinot is right up there in complexity and deliciousness. It's a big, young wine, dark and full-bodied, with complex fruit, herb, spice and oak flavors that are impressive for their length and depth. It's also very dry. Fine now despite its youthfulness, it should gain in power and subtlety through 2008.

  26. 94 Fort Ross 2001 Fort Ross Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast); $39. Riper and sexier than the regular '01 Pinot, offering a blast of red cherry compote, smoky oak, nutmeg, cinnamon, dry cocoa. Just fabulous quality, dry, complex, all taffeta and silk. Delicate but potent, with great complexity. Has a slight earthiness that should melt away in a few years.

  27. 95 Quinta do Portal 2003 Vintage Port; $60. Potentially one of the best wines of the vintage, this is an extraordinary performance from a producer not previously noted for making such high-quality vintage Ports. The wine—a special selection that at this stage, has no name—has great ripe fruit and huge tannins combined to make a dense, intense wine. It is dark, brooding and rich. There are also layers of dryness which shows the aging potential of this great wine. Imported by MHW, Ltd.

  28. 94 Domaine de la Janasse 2003 Châteauneuf-du-Pape; $45. The Sabons have carved out a great reputation for their wines over the past 20 years, and this wine continues that in fine style. Rich and perfumed, it manages to combine weight with a finesse that belies the hugeness of the 2003 vintage. There are fine tannins, ripe black fruits, hints of wood and a great sense of ageworthiness. A wine to savor in 10 years. Imported by European Cellars.

  29. 94 Roederer Estate 1999 L'Ermitage (Anderson Valley); $45. Extraordinarily fine for its smoothness and finesse, and the way the wine glides over the palate with a yeasty creaminess that turns smoky and spicy on the finish. The dosage stands out, yet this bubbly is also very acidic now. It should age well for at least 10 years.

  30. 95 Donatella Cinelli Colombini 1999 Riserva (Brunello di Montalcino); $65. Saturated to the max, with a violet/ruby tint that shows no breaks. If it looks like an extracted bruiser, it is. The tannins are big and precise, however, they aren't aggressive or mean. In a fine-tuned cellar this will come around in about five years to show amazing black cherry and plum fruit, and lots of style. Imported by Supreme Wines & Spirits.

  31. 92 Laetitia 2004 Chardonnay (Arroyo Grande Valley); $16. This Chard shows the boldly ripe flavors of tropical fruits, roasted hazelnuts, buttercream, Asian spices and toast that many California Chards have, but also a distinctively high acidity that pushes those flavors out and makes them sing.

  32. 96 Rudd 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville); $90. Bursts open with scads of fine French oak, cedar and char, with a rôti quality riding high over the cherries, cassis and white chocolate. So good, it's scary. Rich, long, powerful in cassis and cherry fruit, yet wonderfully firm and tannic. This wine is fabulous now, but will easily improve through 2015 and possibly beyond.

  33. 94 Sanford 2002 La Rinconada Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills); $46. This superior Pinot Noir gives everything the appellation is famous for. Lively acidity makes the wine bright and clean. The flavors are deep and complex, suggesting black cherries, cola, rhubarb, dried leaves, crushed spices and smoky oak. There's a dusting of fine tannins, the texture is pure silk and velvet, and the finish is dry.

  34. 93 Ravenswood 2002 Dickerson Zinfandel (Napa Valley); $30. Another great success from this famous old vineyard. Rich, dense and complex, yet dry and balanced, this Zin has a marvelous melange of flavors: blackberries, wild blueberries, black cherries, pepper, cocoa and oak, and a spicy hint of raisins. The finish is amazingly long and vibrant in fresh fruit.

  35. 94 Mt. Billy 2002 Liqueur Shiraz (Barossa Valley); $26/375ml. So thick and so delicious. It is a deep, almost glowing, red-garnet color, and smells like fresh whipping cream and black pepper. Despite its almost 18% alcohol, this fortified Shiraz is very well balanced. It floods the palate with sweet cassis and vanilla, then settles down to reveal smoky, charred wood flavors, smooth, gripping tannins, and a nutty, long finish. Torbreck winemaker Dave Powell is behind this sexy, must-try "late-night" dessert wine. Imported by Australian Wine Connection.

  36. 94 Duckhorn 2002 25th Harvest Merlot (Napa Valley); $48. This is a Merlot for the cellar. Rich, dramatic and creamy, it throws a thick carpet of tannins across the palate that spread the ripest cherries and blackberries, assisted by scads of toasty oak. Fully dry, perfectly balanced, sensual and satisfying, it should improve for at least five years.

  37. 96 Il Palazzone 1999 Riserva (Brunello di Montalcino); $95. A gorgeous wine with amazing texture and integration. The nose and feel are so soft and silky, and the fruit is as expressive as Sangiovese gets. Plush and royal, with perfect tannic structure, smiling acidity and smoky shadings. A dream in the glass, with meters of depth. Imported by Domaine Select Wine Estates.

  38. 95 Whitehall Lane 2001 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $70. A sensational Cab that exhibits power and opulence in the ripe black currant, cherry, cocoa and new oak flavors, yet is subtlely balanced and harmonious. Showcases preternaturally gorgeous tannins, soft and sweet. The more you sip, the greater the impression.

  39. 94 Bollinger NV Special Cuvée Brut (Champagne); $50. The Bollinger style is always rich, food friendly and impressive. This wine is all of those things, with power and intensity of flavor along with ripe fruit, a layer of toastiness and a dry aftertaste. This is a style of wine that can take even more bottle aging. Imported by Paterno Wines International.

  40. 93 Musella 1999 Amarone della Valpolicella; $32. Finely textured with exemplary aromatics. The bouquet is graced by cola, black licorice, marzipan, pipe tobacco and other alluring smells in addition to pure, dark fruit notes. Flashy and smooth in the mouth, where the berry and prune notes are touched up by leather and spice. Just right, with more potential if given a few more years of cellar time. Imported by Selected Estates of Europe Ltd.

  41. 95 Talbott 2002 Cuvée Cynthia Chardonnay (Monterey County); $55. Anyone can get ripe flavors from Chardonnay grapes these days, and this barrel selection, from the famous Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, is bold in kiwi, pear and nectarine fruit, with toasty oak and lees seasoning. What makes it spectacular is the acidity, which gashes the palate like a bolt of lightning. Endlessly complex, this is a Chardonnay to linger over. Let it warm up in the glass and watch it change.

  42. 96 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht 2002 Heimbourg Gewürztraminer Vendange Tardive (Alsace); $86. It may be vendange tardive, but the sweetness is the least of this wine's qualities. It is more to do with how it relates to the terroir of the Heimbourg vineyard, with its mineral character, and its fine structure and texture. The fruit is still young, and would benefit from 5-10 years aging. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

  43. 97 Ridge 2001 Monte Bello (Santa Cruz Mountains); $120. Without doubt this is a wine to cellar. It's massive in flavor, with the purest black currant and cassis fruit you can imagine, and the huge plaster of sweet oak is perfectly balanced. Then there are the tannins. They're fine and complex, but gritty. There's an astringency throughout that a great steak will cut through, but it would be infanticide to open this before, say, 2010. Should improve through 2020 and beyond.

  44. 93 Mariah 2001 Zinfandel (Mendocino Ridge); $30. A marvelously ripe, cheerful Zin. It totally turns you on. The flavors range from sweet cherries to a baked blackberry tart dusted with cinnamon and cocoa, and finish with a bite of fig. Soft, unctuous tannins, rich acids, total balance. Released simultaneously with the '00, but so much better at the same price.

  45. 94 Matthews 2002 Red Wine (Columbia Valley); $50. This young, dense, saturated, complex and extremely tight wine is sappy and packed with myriad berries and red/blue fruits. It is wrapped in stiff, hard, thick, dark tannins that add tight layers of moist earth, black tea, roots and bitter chocolate. This baby needs time.

  46. 97 Valdicava 1999 Madonna del Piano Riserva (Brunello di Montalcino); $130. Fresh asphalt, burning timber, bitter chocolate, and anything else that connotes "darkness" is what this heavyweight is about. And as rough as that may sound aromatically, on the palate it's polished like a gemstone, with just enough grit and guts to push it forward. The fruit, meanwhile, is sensational, a panoply of black plums and cherries infused with cocoa and vanilla. This offers a clear look into 21st-century Brunello, and the picture is breathtaking. Imported by Vinifera Imports.

  47. 94 Paloma 2002 Merlot (Spring Mountain); $51. This is a pretty tannic wine. It pours inky black, and reveals nothing in the aroma, save for grapes and oak. Yet there are powerful signs of a magnificent future, especially the long, sweet finish of blackberry syrup. Great now with robust fare, but should hold through the decade.

  48. 93 Brundlmayer 2003 Langenloiser Steinmassel Riesling (Kamptal); $34. A crisp, green wine, with flavors of grapefruit peel, and a lively character. Rieslings from the thin soil of the Steinmassel vineyard live indefinitely, and this wine, with its tannins and high minerality, is a baby. It could be enjoyed now for its freshness, but really 10 years of age would be a better starting point. Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines.

  49. 93 Château La Louvière 2002 Pessac-Léognan; $34. One of the great estates of the Graves, this vintage of La Louvière certainly fits into the classic whites of Bordeaux, packing impressive complexity into a wine dominated by Sauvignon Blanc. Intensity has been increased by the use of lees stirring following the Burgundy methods introduced by Denis Dubordieu. Imported by W. J. Deutsch & Sons.

  50. 97 Staglin 2002 20th Anniversary Selection Cabernet Sauvignon (Rutherford); $125. Starts with an extraordinarily complex, refined aroma, detailed and inviting in cassis, tobacco, anise, cocoa and smoky oak. In the mouth, there's fantastic depth and complexity. The wine is rich, profound, a star even in its Rutherford stable of thoroughbreds. It has enormous power and authority, with finely ground, sweet tannins. Absolutely gorgeous now, with the stuffing and balance for improvement. Drink now through 2017.

  51. 94 L'Aventure 2002 Optimus (Paso Robles); $50. This complex Syrah (with a little Zin) showcases both varieties at their western Paso Robles best. The Syrah is rich in dark berry-cherry and mocha flavors, while the Cabernet adds cassis and a nice tannic structure. I'm not sure what the 4% of Zin brings, maybe a wild, peppery note. The final impression is of real class and distinction. Drink now and for the next few years.

  52. 94 San Vicente 2001 Tempranillo (Rioja); $51. Smoky and rich, with hints of raisin, black cherry and chocolate scurrying about the nose. Meaty plum, cherry and blackberry flavors form a seamless palate that slides easily onto the coffee-filled finish. Everything evolves beautifully here, and it will satisfy anyone with an unbridled craving for chocolaty hedonism. Imported by Jorge Ordoñez/Fine Estates From Spain.

  53. 93 Robert Mondavi 2002 To Kalon Vineyard Reserve Fumé Blanc (Napa Valley); $35. Fairly oaky, but in between the wood grain are aromas of stone-encrusted peach and pungent citrus. A model fumé-style wine that will suit grilled shrimp or lobster like a fine-fitting suit. The flavors of lemon curd, grapefruit and pineapple are rock solid, while the feel from front to back is ideal.

  54. 93 Havens 2001 Bourriquot (Carneros); $35. This is a Bordeaux blend, but it's feminine and delicate, almost evanescent. There's no Cabernet Sauvignon to weigh down the Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and the tannins are light and airy. Yet it's complex and nuanced, with cherry, pomegranate, crème de cassis and coffee flavors leading to a dry, smooth finish.

  55. 92 Tolosa 2003 Edna Ranch Chardonnay (Edna Valley); $20. There's something about certain Central Coast Chards that's delicious, bright, pure in tangerine, papaya and honey, brilliant in acidity, and just so drinkable. This is one. It's quite a wine, and at this price, a comparative value.

  56. 94 Saxum 2003 Bone Rock Syrah (Paso Robles); $56. Here's a young wine that opens with a blast of white pepper, then airs slowly to reveal layers of cassis, grilled meat, chocolate, anise, tar and toasty oak. In the mouth, it's flamboyant and full-bodied, a little soft, but decadent. This wine is so rich in fruit, you could pour it over vanilla ice cream. It will be fabulous with a charbroiled steak.

  57. 93 Dievole 2000 Novecento Riserva (Chianti Classico); $37. Exotic, luxurious, superripe and intense, but cuddly and lush, with a splendid texture. Aromas of smoked meats, cinnamon and coffee are more savory than sweet. Tastes generous, with black fruit floating on ripe tannins. Finishes very long. Imported by Lauber Imports.

  58. 95 Niepoort 2003 Vintage Port; $84. A great wine from master winemaker Dirk van der Niepoort. It is big, solid, chunky and packed with ripe fruit flavors. It also has fine acidity and a layer of dry, woodsy tannins. To finish, there are good bitter chocolate flavors. Imported by Martine's Wines.

  59. 92 Château Lagrange 2002 Les Arums de Lagrange (Bordeaux); $21. Lagrange, now well at the top among the estates of Saint-Julien, started making a white wine in 1997 again after a 25-year break. This 2002, from an 8-acre parcel, spent 11 months in wood, and is therefore layered in vanilla flavors. But it is the rich fruit and the balancing acidity that has the last word. Imported by David Milligan Selections.

  60. 94 Altaïr 2003 Red Wine (Cachapoal Valley); $59. Terrific Chilean red wine; seductive and succulent, with a beautiful burgundy hue matched by pure, ripe Bordeaux-like flavors. Deep and satisfying, and smooth as silk. If ever a Chilean red ranked as world class, this is it. Imported by Vincor.

  61. 94 Inniskillin 2003 Icewine Vidal Blanc (Niagara Peninsula); $59. Brilliant stuff that shows not all hybrids deserve to be scoffed at. Flamboyant aromas of dried pineapple combine with fresh apricots and honey in this rich, unctuous wine that's incredibly sweet yet not cloying, thanks to vibrant acidity. Imported by Vincor.

  62. 95 Hanzell 2001 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Valley); $85. At four years of age, this Pinot is just hitting its stride. It has a youthful side in the still-fresh cherry and raspberry fruit and vibrant acidity. But it's turning mellow, as the oak melts into the alcohol, lending a soft, creamy infusion of vanilla bean. It's so good now, it will be hard to keep your hands off it, but it should hold for another three to five years.

  63. 93 San Fabiano Calcinaia 2001 Cellole Riserva (Chianti Classico); $38. Gorgeous stuff; the real deal in terms of meaty, modern Chianti. And from an excellent year, which explains why it's so saturated and rich. For lovers of hefty, fruity reds that have tannin and structure but can still be enjoyed now, this is your ticket. It is deep, full-bodied and packed with tobacco, chocolate and Tuscan sunshine. Imported by Banville & Jones Wine Merchants.

  64. 92 Joseph Phelps 2003 Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley); $22. This is dynamite Sauvignon Blanc. It's strongly flavored in citrus, fig, melon and vanilla flavors, with a fresh cut of green grass and compelling acidity, and is also dramatically tense and vibrant. Accomplishes that balancing act that most of the competition cannot.

  65. 92 Cuvaison 2003 Chardonnay (Carneros); $22. From a winery that's excelled at Chardonnay for many years comes this impressive wine. It's explosive in tangerines, mangoes, pineapples, cinnamon, vanilla, buttercream and toast, with a long finish of roasted hazelnuts and smoky honey. Absolutely delicious.

  66. 92 Selene 2003 Hyde Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc (Carneros); $22. Plenty going on here. The nose is more oblique than fruity, with herb, anise, vanilla bean and baked apple. Unexpectedly crisp and stony on the palate, with bright, full-force pineapple, yellow apple and stone fruits. Not heavy, and finishes clean. A lively, balanced wine. Excellent for the region.

  67. 92 Baileyana 2002 Firepeak Vineyard Pinot Noir (Edna Valley); $23. Varietally correct, in the silky mouthfeel, crisp acids, delicate mouthfeel and cherry flavors, but goes the extra mile in achieving real complexity. Addictively drinkable, one of those wines whose pleasure is accentuated by a slight resistance, due to a sprinkling of dusty tannins.

  68. 95 Brokenwood 2002 Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz (Hunter Valley); $100. A gorgeous wine that defies the modern idea that wines have to be big and brash to be excellent. This one feels simultaneously fresh and old as the hills, with a meaty, merdey appeal. Red fruit aromas and flavors are concentrated and sprinkled in black pepper; the tannins are manageable now, but still substantial enough to age. A modest 13.5% alcohol, and, bless 'em, sealed with a screwcap. Tastes good now, but will probably be even better around 2009. Imported by Click Wine Group.

  69. 95 Bouchard Père & Fils 2003 Le Corton; $100. This is a peacock of a wine, all show and panache. But underneath the fine aromas and flavors there is something more serious: power, generous juicy fruits and layers of tannin and acidity. The structure says long life—wait at least 5 years before even thinking about it. Imported by Moët Hennessy USA.

  70. 92 Gritsch Mauritiushof 2003 1000 Eimerberg Smaragd Riesling (Wachau); $25. Terrific nearly-dry Riesling. Fruit-filled yet not simple at all, boasting a harmonious mix of apple, pear and peach fruit, accented by honey and a hint of anise. It's large-scaled, unctuous on the palate, yet never seems heavy. A blend of botrytized and clean fruit. Imported by Winemonger.com.

  71. 95 Aalto 2001 PS (Ribera del Duero); $105. Aalto is one of several smaller projects being led by former Vega Sicilia head winemaker Mariano García, and we think this 2001 Pagos Seliccionados (PS) is his best effort to date. The wine is dark, with charcoal, lemon and pure black-fruit aromas. It features a brilliant luster and deep, rich, syrupy flavors of maple, boysenberry and black cherry. Shows a beautiful finish and amazing depth. Hold until 2006-07. Imported by European Cellars.

  72. 93 Deutz NV Brut Classic (Champagne); $49. Though it has mature, slightly toasty aromas, this wine also has great flavors of grapefruit, some lemon peel and a vibrant white fruit character. It is dry, with the clean, fresh acidity going right through to the finish. Imported by Maisons Marques & Domaines USA.

  73. 92 Cantina Santadi 2001 Rocca Rubia Riserva (Carignano del Sulcis); $28. Who knew Carignan could be this nice? After an initial blast of earth and alcohol subside, what's left is a model Sardinian red with intoxicating cola, lemon peel, herb and deep-fruit aromas. The mouthfeel is ideal and the flavor profile is like a dynamite keg full of blackberry, chocolate and vanilla. Intense and interwoven. Imported by Empson (USA) Ltd.

  74. 92 Fattoria Rodano 1999 Riserva Viacoste (Chianti Classico); $28. Talk about the perfect mouthfeel; this baby has it. But first you get a bouquet of fine herbs, molasses, forest floor and meaty black fruit. Back to the mouth, there's pure, developed fruit, tobacco and earth notes; overall it's exactly what you want from a middle-aged wine: minerality, smoothness and deep flavors. Imported by Enotec Imports, Inc.

  75. 92 Taz 2003 Goat Rock Syrah (Santa Maria Valley); $28. This cool-climate Syrah has Hermitage in its sights, and is well worth the price. Bone dry, full-bodied and distinguished, the wine opens with white pepper and cassis aromas, and turns deliciously complex in the mouth, offering waves of black currants, grilled meat and oak that finish tannic. Drink now through 2010.

  76. 93 Dominio de Pingus 2001 Flor de Pingus (Ribera del Duero); $50. Barely a step down from the more rare and pricey Pingus, the '01 Flor should fly off store shelves and restaurant wine lists. It's that good, starting with the intoxicating nose and moving through the pure palate and onto the marvelous finish. A wine that goes all the way, with spice, leather and mounds of rich, ripe fruit. Imported by Rare Wine Company.

  77. 94 Ferraton Père et Fils 1999 Le Méal (Hermitage); $80. This is a great, generous wine, packed with dark fruit and tannins. It comes from a well-drained vineyard on the slopes of the hill of Hermitage. There's dry tannins, but they are overwhelmed by the huge spice, herbal, and blackberry jelly flavors. It should age well over 10-20 years. Imported by Louis Glunz Wines.

  78. 93 Rockford 2002 Rifle Range Cabernet Sauvignon (Barossa Valley); $53. This Cabernet is a youthful wine, with tannins that are still grabby. There's a lot to like here—briary, earthy aromas; taut, tightly wound fruit and a fresh eucalyptus bite on the finish. Best to wait a couple of years to see it at its best. Imported by The Grateful Palate.

  79. 92 Montenisa NV Brut (Franciacorta); $30. Nice and smooth, with pure green apple, citrus and rosemary aromas. Bold in the mouth, with melon, pineapple and subtle spice flavors. Finishes seductively dry, with stylish mushroom and toast flavors, almost like a good dry Sherry. Imported by Remy Cointreau USA.

  80. 92 Sebastiani 2002 Secolo (Sonoma County); $30. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel. The Bordeaux varieties make for a balanced claret, rich in black currant flavors. The Zin is way in the background, but seems to add spice and a brambly edge. Oak brings cigar box and cedar complexities. Drink now.

  81. 97 Salon 1995 Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut (Champagne); $225. A thorough classic, with soda and mineral on the nose along with pineapple, apple and other white fruits. The flavor profile is as pure and ethereal as it comes, with luscious apple, melon and citrus. Lively and persistent on the finish, with a touch of toast. Feels just right; has great purity; will age nicely for another decade. Imported by Wilson Daniels Ltd.

  82. 93 Escarpment 2003 Kupe Pinot Noir (Martinborough); $60. Impressively big, rich and well extracted, with bold black cherry flavors, but also complex hints of cinnamon and other spices, floral notes and a pleasant herbal tinge to the softly tannic finish. Approachable now, but probably better in 3-4 years. Just 500 cases produced. Imported by Meadowbank Estates.

  83. 91 Clos de los Siete 2003 Malbec (Mendoza); $16. Pure and inky. The nose offers graphite, earth and a huge amount of blackberry. The ripe palate is deep and defined, with a layer or two of complexity. Finishes with oak shadings, a splash of mint, and chocolate. Because the vineyards that yield this wine are still young, expect only better things in the future. Congratulations to Clos leader Michel Rolland and his gang of seven. Imported by Dourthe USA.

  84. 95 Louis Jadot 2003 Corton-Charlemagne; $145. A hugely powerful wine that exudes dense, packed tropical fruit flavors. Yet, it is surprisingly delicate, its power tempered by a cocktail of green fruits, nuts, spice and toasty new wood. Almost in balance already, it should still age well over many years. Imported by Kobrand.

  85. 94 Joseph Drouhin 2003 Grands-Echezeaux; $110. A wonderful, perfumed , black fruitball of a wine, with intense flavors that has a balance of dense red fruits and dark, structured tannins. The purity of the fruit is a reflection of the organic vineyard practices by the Drouhin family, and the tannins show that this is a wine that will age. Imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.

  86. 91 Montevina 2002 Terra d'Oro Zinfandel (Amador County); $18. Picture- perfect Sierra Zin, rich, ripe and powerful. Showing strong blackberry, cherry, coffee, cocoa and spice flavors, wrapped in sturdy but soft tannins. High in alcohol, but dry and perfectly balanced, with no overripe notes.

  87. 93 Cheval des Andes 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon-Malbec (Mendoza); $75. A serious wine for serious wine drinkers. It's 60% Cabernet and the rest Malbec. Deep, deep and deeper is how to best describe the chewy, fruit-saturated palate, but even better, this wine has guts, balance and aging capacity. Best to hold this joint-venture red from Château Cheval Blanc and Terrazas de Los Andes for at least three years. Imported by Moët Hennessy USA.

  88. 91 Pikes 2004 Dry Riesling (Clare Valley); $19. Great for a noodle or pasta-based salad, or spicy ethnic dishes. The more sips you take of this Clare Riesling, the more intense it seems to get. It starts off slow, with muted minerality, and blossoms in the glass to reveal peach, nectarine and pink grapefruit flavors. Dry, but still unctuous, with a lingering, dusty mouthfeel. Imported by USA Wine West.

  89. 91 Carl Loewen 2004 Leiwener Klostergarten Riesling Kabinett (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer); $19. In what could prove to be a breakout vintage for Loewen, the Leiwener Klostergarten Kabinett is a star. Heavily mineral on the nose, with some characteristic leesy notes, it then bursts on the palate with concentrated flavors of apple, pear and lime, all underscored by cool minerality. Finishes long and citrusy. Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines.

  90. 96 Château Haut-Brion 2002 Pessac-Léognan; $240. Surprisingly lively and fresh, this is still a seriously impressive wine. The high proportion of Sémillon is now coming to dominate the Sauvignon, to give a wine that is finely shaped, full of creamy flavors of wood and some white peach. In 10 years, this will still be fresh, in 15 just mature. Imported by Diageo Chateau & Estates.

  91. 91 Bodegas Dios Baco S.L. NV Amontillado (Jerez); $20. Pristine aromas of caramel, orange peel and leather are both powerful and pure. Flavors of toffee, cinnamon, cheddar cheese and raisin are first-rate, while the sum of the parts is brightened and heightened by perfect acidity. A fine Amontillado that should please anyone with a fondness for good Sherry. Imported by CIV/USA.

  92. 91 Tramin 2003 Sauvignon (Alto Adige); $20. Slightly gold in color, with pungent, pure aromas of grapefruit and pine touched up by a whiff of flinty smoke. Round yet minerally in the mouth, with pink grapefruit and bright lime flavors. Long and tangy on the finish, with a crystalline aftertaste. Imported by Winebow.

  93. 98 Alvaro Palacios 2003 L'Ermita (Priorat); $440. Super pricey, but this is a knock-your-socks-off wine with a gorgeous bouquet that shows not even a hint of syrup or jam. The palate is like a nova; it bursts with plum, blackberry and cinnamon. No harshness, not too tannic, and splendid on the finish, where toast and chocolate appear and stick around for a long time. It's 80% old-vine Garnacha and 20% Cabernet, and there just aren't enough superlatives to describe it. Only 300 cases made. Imported by Rare Wine Company.

  94. 91 William Hill 2001 Merlot (Napa Valley); $22. Wow, is this a good wine. It's filled with succulent blackberry and cherry flavors, and the oak is just right. It's dry, balanced and harmonious, with exquisitely soft, sweet tannins.

  95. 91 Montes 2003 Alpha Syrah (Colchagua Valley); $23. Rock solid and impressive in a very New World way. Prime aromas of earth, dark fruit, smoke and more stir intrigue, and the palate delivers what it should: plump berry fruit, a good amount of oak, spice and full but manageable tannins. The finish of toast and pepper is textured and full. A high-octane wine that hits you with the kitchen sink. Imported by T.G.I.C. Importers.

  96. 90 Beaulieu Vineyard 2001 Merlot (Napa Valley); $17. This wonderfully supple and rewarding Merlot offers satisfaction throughout. It's richly colored, with a velvety texture that carries waves of currant, olive, chocolate and sweet oak flavors wrapped in soft tannins.

  97. 90 José Maria da Fonseca 2001 Periquita Classico (Terras do Sado); $19. This limited production version of the multimillion-bottle Periquita brand was aged for 24 months in American oak. Made from the Castelão grape, it is rich and velvety with flavors of dark figs. This is a wine that can certainly age—keep it for 5 years or more. 1,000 cases produced. Imported by Palm Bay Imports.

  98. 91 Masi 1999 Serego Alighieri Vaio Amaron (Amarone della Valpolicella); $75. One whiff is all it takes to draw you in, and subsequent sniffs bring you back for more. Cherry liqueur, toasted wheat bread and leather are all convincing, attractive aromas, while the palate is snappy and racy, with no dead weight at all. This is a tight, structured wine with textbook flavors and a long, chocolate-laden finish. Imported by Remy Cointreau USA.

  99. 95 Fielding Hills 2003 Merlot (Columbia Valley); $28. A phenomenally brilliant effort from this emerging superstar winery. The Merlot is enhanced with 17% Cabernet, 5% Syrah and 2% Cab Franc. You won't find Merlot from anywhere else in the country that shows so much supple power and structure. Vibrant fruit is polished to a fine luster with perfectly applied oak "seasoning" that adds toast, butter, coconut, cedar and smoke, lifted with scents of tobacco, citrus and leaf. You run out of superlatives for this wine.

  100. 93 Raptor Ridge Winery 2003 Meredith Mitchell Vineyard Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley); $29. Extremely intense, ripe, almost (yet not) hot at 15.1% alcohol. Juicy and fruit-driven, this full-tilt, jammy wine packs lots of punch with its overflowing bowl of cherries and berries, but keeps itself on track with a zippy spine and dense, concentrated finish.

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