CALIFORNIA CHARDONNAY:Searching for Gold

Our tasting panel sampled 300 wines in the $15-$30 price range to see what's hot and where it comes from.


Published:

Finding great Chardonnay in the $15-$30 range can be as hard as finding nuggets in "them thar hills," our panel concludes—after tasting 300.


In 1849, gold fever hit hard. Frenzied prospectors headed west to pan the streams of the territory now known as California. Over the past few decades, and especially the past ten years, California has hosted another kind of gold rush, this one over a particular gold-skinned grape—Chardonnay.

America's love for California Chardonnay has led to incredible growth in its cultivation. A look at the figures is eye-opening. Chardonnay is by far the most prolific grape in California, with over 458,000 tons crushed in 1999, pushing it past the most-produced red—Zinfandel—by more than 40 percent. While the total crush of California winegrapes increased by about 22 percent over the last decade, Chardonnay tonnage increased by a whopping 180 percent. For whatever reasons, Americans really have a thing for Chardonnay, and the wine industry continues to respond to what it perceives as insatiable consumer demand. The number of California Chardonnays on the market is huge, and growing daily.

The segment of the market we've focused on is those wines in the $15-$30 price range. For many consumers, this is the price point above everyday, but not yet at the special-occasion level—the price range in which most wine drinkers shop when they entertain guests or prepare a nice white-wine-friendly meal, and which after markup is at the midrange of many restaurant wine lists. Even restricting our tasting to this price range, we still received a staggering 300 wines.

Chardonnays came to us from all regions of California—from Mendocino to San Diego County, from the Sierra Foothills to a huge length of the Pacific shoreline that stretches from Santa Barbara to the North Coast.

Almost all of the wines were from the 1997 and 1998 vintages. While not poor vintages, both years presented somewhat challenging situations for growers and winemakers. For starters, 1997 was a harvest of record quantity, and in some cases excessive yields may have lessened fruit intensity and quality. Many grape varieties ripened all at once, creating tough decisions for many winemakers and vineyard managers as they struggled to cope with full fermenters and, sometimes, more grapes than they could handle.

By contrast, 1998 was a cool, small-crop year—the El Niño harvest—and the challenge was to achieve full ripening. Several of the wines we tasted showed evidence of this in their green fruit flavors and sharp acids. Notwithstanding these limitations, many very good wines—and a few outstanding ones—were made in both vintages.

Top performers
Among the 23 top-rated wines (those scoring 90 points or above), nearly every major California wine region is represented. The Santa Barbara region had the greatest number of high-scoring wines (eight), labeled variously as Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, and simply Santa Barbara County. Napa Valley placed four wines in this top group, while Sonoma's Russian River Valley and the Carneros district, which straddles the southern end of Napa and Sonoma counties, each had three.

Foxen, the only producer in the tasting to land two wines in the top 23, is situated in Santa Maria Valley. A laid-back and limited-scale producer with a winery in a barn on a sleepy road, Foxen has quietly established itself as a noteworthy quality-oriented winery (see also our October '99 Pinot Noir tasting).

 

Dick Dore (pronounced "DOR-ay"), co-owner and co-winemaker at Foxen along with Bill Wathen, reflects on the winery's philosophy and practice: "We've learned to pursue balance—the balance of fruit richness and the fine natural acidity we get, and the balance of fruit and oak. To us, great fruit and achieving these balances define fine wine." Dore would be the first to admit that both Foxen Chardonnays benefit from excellent fruit sources. The Tinaquaic comes from an eponymous Santa Maria Valley vineyard, while the regular Chardonnay (for the first time in 1998) also contains a sizable amount (about 40 percent) of Tinaquaic fruit, with most of the remaining 60 percent coming from the well-known Bien Nacido Vineyard, and a small amount from the Gold Coast Vineyard. "Positive fruit is the foundation of great wine," Dore says.

Other excellent wines from the South Central Coast came from Gainey (1997 Limited Selection, 91 points), Beckmen (1998 Santa Barbara County, 91 points) and Kendall-Jackson (1998 Camelot Vineyard, 90 points). Chards from relative newcomers Lafond (1997 Lafond Vineyard, 90 points) and Rusack (1997 Reserve, 90 points) also stood out.

As expected, Russian River Valley turned in a fairly strong performance, accounting for three of the top wines: Baystone's 1998 Saralee's Vineyard, Davis Bynum's 1998 Limited Edition, and La Crema's 1997 Reserve. All the top Napa wines were from 1998, indicating that the cooler weather of that year helped control Napa's propensity for overripe Chardonnays. Burgess led the way (91 points), followed by Franciscan Oakville Estate, St. Supéry, and M. Trinchero Founder's Estate, each of which garnered 90 points.

From Carneros, Joseph Phelps (1998), Roche (1997) and Truchard (1998) all turned in 90-point efforts. And in Alexander Valley, a warmer section of Sonoma with a good reputation for Cabernet Sauvignon, Chateau St. Jean's Robert Young Vineyard Chardonnay was one of the tasting's top scorers (the 1997 at 90 points; the '96 Reserve at 88 points). Among Sonoma Chardonnays, this vineyard-designated bottling has been a respected performer for years. Winemaker Steve Reeder attributes this to the fruit source and a long, positive relationship between the winery and grower. (Chateau St. Jean does not own the vineyard.) "The quality starts in the soil and setting, and the Robert Young vineyard has some unique attributes that seem to consistently deliver good Chardonnay fruit," says Reeder. "We've come to understand what the French call the 'typicité' of the site, having worked with the Youngs for a quarter-century now. We will also gamble now and then, and I guess I have made some smart and/or lucky calls about harvesting times that have worked out well."

  At what price goodness?
Overall we found an abundance of good to very good wines, and more than a few excellent ones. But at $15-30, true greatness is hard to find. This is not intended to slight the growing number of Chardonnay producers. The fact is that during the latter half of the '90s, wine prices skyrocketed, and today's $30 wine was 1995's $20 wine, while today's $18 wine probably topped out at $12 five or six years ago. Although there is a swarm of Chardonnay priced below $15, including some solid wines worthy of case purchases, the hard truth is that there is an expanding class of Chardonnays priced well above $30 a bottle, and it's in this tier that the overwhelming majority of potentially stunning wines dwell.

Still, 46 percent of the rated field (117 of the 257 wines that scored at least 80 points) received ratings of 87, 88 or 89 points. These are solid performers, wines we confidently recommend. In the quest for excellence, though, the odds drop off sharply. Less than 10 percent of the wines we tasted scored 90 points or above, proving that a willingness to pay $20 or more for a bottle of Chardonnay does not guarantee great wine. Midpriced California Chardonnay has grown into a very large market, one in which caveat emptor applies.

Probably the greatest disappointment we encountered in the course of such a large-scale tasting was a déjà-vu sameness in too many wines. A lack of significant individual character in many offerings left us a bit downcast. It makes us wonder whether too many wines are being tailored in response to focus group results or according to some misconceived sense of what the public wants, as opposed to wineries pursuing the best wine made from the finest fruit the land has to offer. Producers should be able to find a way to facilitate expression of fruit and emphasize the character of individual regions and vineyards without suffering negative consumer fallout.

We did note a positive trend toward a more judicious use of oak. This does not always mean less wood, but rather achieving balance between fruit and oak components. In this tasting we were most impressed by the wines that possessed an innate honesty, a natural sense of self, poise and balance.

The last word on value
Our Top Values Box, featuring strong performers in the $15-$18 range, highlights the most affordable, highest-rated wines in our survey. But if you look closely at the full listing, you will see that 72 wines costing $20 or less scored 87 or above.

There is liquid gold in California—Chardonnay that provides enjoyable drinking. However, such liquid is precious, and consumers should adjust their sensibilities to the current price realities. The upper end of the Chardonnay spectrum has definitely moved above the $30 mark. In the $15-30 range, there are a healthy number of very good wines, but only a small fraction are excellent. The smart consumer will check out our recommendations, shop, taste, and identify those with the most personal appeal.

CHARDONNAY

92 Foxen 1998 Santa Maria Valley $20
Full and elegant. Bouquet of apple and pear, with pine
needle, tropical fruit, and an almost Alsatian touch of petrol. Butterscotch, cinnamon/clove, and herb notes grace the core
of pear-flavored fruit. From the start to the strong finish, it's
an interesting blend of sweet and tart elements.

91 Beckmen 1998 Santa Barbara County $16
Inviting nose of apple, pear and caramel. Smooth, ripe pear and tropical-fruit flavors and a well-balanced mouthfeel.
Delicious finish with spicy notes. Shows power, but remains
elegant and even a touch reserved. Very well crafted.

91 Burgess 1998 Napa Valley $18
Understated, but powerful, with deep apple-pear fruit
and very seductive spice notes. Smooth mouthfeel, with
classy dried-fruit, herb and vanilla flavors. Long finish.
Well-defined flavors, with a sophisticated feel.

91 Thomas Fogarty 1997 Estate Reserve $30
(Santa Cruz Mountains)
This golden wine even looks rich. There's lots of piercing, toasty oak in support of crisp green-apple and cantaloupe
flavors. It's big, toasty and oaky, with just the right acidic
tang set off against crème brûlée silk and density.

91 Gainey 1997 Limited Selection (Santa Barbara County) $28
Lush nose of apple fruit, butterscotch and toast. Rich and
ripe fruit with flavors bordering on candy-apple or butterscotch sweet. Long toasty finish with spices and caramel.
Very lovable, in a very forward style.

90 Baystone 1998 Saralee's Vineyard (Russian River Valley) $20
Very clean, bright pineapple and citrus nose. Very ripe,
delicious fruit, and the mouthfeel is well defined and not overly sappy. Long, almost juicy, mouthwatering finish.
This wine displays very good balance from stem to stern.

90 Davis Bynum 1998 Limited Edition (Russian River Valley) $25
Ripe in the nose, with an aromatic range of fruits ranging
from pineapple through pears, apples and even some
mint. Sweet it is, yet it's also bright and clean, with a long
butterscotch finish. It's a fine wine—slick and precise.

90 Chateau St. Jean 1997 Robert Young Vineyard $24
(Alexander Valley)
Handsomely integrated fruit and oak on the nose open
to a rich mouth full of pear and smoke flavors. Full, well-
balanced mouthfeel and a long fade of cinematic length
on the apple and oak finish. Elegant.

90 Foxen 1997 Tinaquaic Vineyard (Santa Maria Valley) $30
Offers a complex nose with a smoky, popcorn-like veil and bright citrus notes hinting at the depth of fruit. The fruit shines on the palate, with clean apple, lime and pineapple
prevailing, and an interesting herb/spice element. Long
toasty finish with a buttery feel.

90 Franciscan Oakville Estate 1998 Napa Valley $18
Nicely integrated apple and butter aromas on the nose.
Clean, full-spectrum fruit shines, with apple and citrus
prevailing. Good fruit-to-acid balance. Finishes long and
tangy. Solid and stylish.

90 Keegan 1997 Knights Valley $28
Rich and round, with dense crème-brûlée and soft apple
aromas accented by vanilla notes. Similar flavors prevail
on the full palate, which has a well-balanced feel. Long
toasty, butterscotch finish. A complex, appealing wine.

90 Kendall-Jackson 1998 Camelot Vineyard $17
(Santa Maria Valley)
Engaging nose of spices, toasted almonds, apples and honey. Slightly exotic, with pear, melon, and butterscotch flavors,
and a chalky-mineral note. The ripe, almost candied fruit
works against the relatively high acidity. Lengthy finish.

90 La Crema 1997 Reserve (Russian River Valley) $27
Rich aromas of apple fruit with toasty vanillin oak and
earthy notes. Fat and full on the palate, with creamy
butterscotch flavors and smoky edges. Long, crème
brûlée finish.

90 Lafond 1997 Lafond Vineyard (Santa Ynez Valley) $28
Attractive nose of spice, pear, cinnamon and even anise. Understated and elegant, this wine is appealing for its restraint. The palate displays good mouthfeel marked by sweet-tart pear flavors and fine balance. Long, dry finish;
not flashy, rather a very stylish and subtly seductive wine.

90 Morgan 1998 Reserve (Monterey) $30
Sly and appealing apple and tropical-fruit aromas pull you
in. The palate shows some caramel sweetness, but a nice
tangy edge keeps it from being cloying. Spicy finish of
good length, with butterscotch and toast notes. Delicious
and thoroughly enjoyable.

90 Mount Eden Vineyards 1998 Cottonwood $18
Canyon Vineyard (Santa Maria Valley)
Hickory smoke and toast mark the nose, but underneath there's solid peach, pear and apple fruit, which carry the
oak effortlessly through the long finish.

90 Joseph Phelps 1998 Los Carneros $22
Buttery, almost honeyed aromas give the impression
of movie popcorn. Rich, round apple fruit is
balanced by a squirt of lemony acidity on the long finish.

90 Roche 1997 Carneros $19
Complex nose, with earthy, leesy notes over tangerine
aromas. Loads of pineapple on the palate, with a nice,
slightly tangy mouthfeel. Long toasty finish, with pineapple, spice and mineral elements. Complex and engaging.

90 Rusack 1997 Reserve (Santa Maria Valley) $30
Deep gold color. Caramel and smoke mark the nose. The palate displays apple, spice, caramelized pear and a rich mouthfeel. Medium to long finish with appealing spicy oak notes. Satisfying and feels like it's just coming into balance.

90 St. Supéry 1998 Napa Valley $16
Very pretty, with a delicious bouquet of pear, flowers and
tangerine. Flavorful, with apple/pineapple flavors and
toasty accents. The wine achieves a fine overall balance of
crisp and buttery elements. Long finish. Very attractive.

90 Steele 1998 Steele Cuvée (California) $18
All the pear, apple, mineral and butter of a front-
line Cal Chard. Mildly spicy in the mouth, with plenty of
citrus fruit offset by a pleasant touch of mint. Fairly com-
plex and elegant, this one comes close to the bull's eye.

90 M. Trinchero 1998 Founder's Estate (Napa Valley) $25
Full aromas of apple, herb and smoke. Ripe apple fruit,
lots of toasty oak, and earthy accents. Full mouthfeel and a lengthy, spicy finish. Elegant and not at all sweet. A very
classy, satisfying Chardonnay.

90 Truchard 1998 Carneros $28
Features appealing aromas of musk and golden delicious apples. Apple and vanilla cream flavors with a soft, plump mouthfeel. The finish shows good length and ties all of
the flavor elements together in an expansive package.

89 Alderbrook 1998 Dry Creek Valley $15
89 Au Bon Climat 1998 Talley Vineyard Rincon $25
(Arroyo Grande)
89 Lawrence J. Bargetto 1998 Santa Cruz Mountains $20
89 Belvedere 1998 Alexander Valley $18
89 Belvedere 1998 Russian River Valley $18
89 Bouchaine 1998 Carneros $20
89 Buena Vista 1997 Carneros $15
89 Buena Vista 1997 Grand Reserve (Carneros) $28
89 Chappellet 1998 Napa Valley $20
89 Costa De Oro 1998 Reserva Dorado Gold Coast Vineyard $30
(Santa Maria Valley)
89 De Loach 1998 Olivet Ranch (Russian River Valley) $20
89 Dry Creek Vineyard 1998 Reserve (Dry Creek Valley) $22
89 Gary Farrell 1998 Bien Nacido Vineyard $28
(Santa Barbara County)
89 Kendall-Jackson 1998 Grand Reserve (California) $25
89 Lambert Bridge 1998 Sonoma County $18
89 Meridian 1998 Coastal Reserve (Edna Valley) $15
89 Merryvale 1998 Starmont (Napa Valley) $20
89 Murphy-Goode 1998 Sonoma County $15
89 Qupé 1998 Bien Nacido Vineyard Reserve $25
(Santa Barbara County)
89 Ridge 1997 Santa Cruz Mountains $28
89 Rochioli 1998 Russian River Valley $29
89 Rutherford Hill 1997 Reserve (Carneros) $29
89 Santa Barbara Winery 1998 Santa Barbara County $16
89 Sonoma-Cutrer 1997 The Cutrer (Russian River Valley) $30
89 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 1998 Napa Valley $26
89 Sterling 1998 North Coast $17
89 Villa Mt. Eden 1997 Bien Nacido Grand Reserve $18
(Santa Maria Valley)
89 Whitehall Lane 1998 Carneros $20
88 Alderbrook 1997 Dorothy's Vineyard (Dry Creek Valley) $22
88 Artesa 1997 Reserve (Carneros) $30
88 Atlas Peak 1998 Atlas Peak $16
88 Barnett 1998 Napa Valley $25
88 Cale 1998 Sangiacomo Vineyards (Carneros) $24
88 Castle 1998 Carneros $22
88 Chateau St. Jean 1996 Robert Young Vineyard Reserve $24
(Alexander Valley)
88 Chateau Souverain 1997 Reserve (Russian River Valley) $25
88 Clos Du Val 1998 Single Vineyard (Carneros) $21
88 Clos LaChance 1998 Napa Valley $18
88 B. R. Cohn 1998 Carneros $16
88 Francis Coppola 1998 Diamond Series (California) $15
88 Crichton Hall 1998 Napa Valley $26
88 Cuvaison 1998 Carneros $19
88 Ehlers Grove 1998 Carneros $30
88 Ehlers Grove 1998 Dutton Ranch (Russian River Valley) $25
88 EOS 1998 Paso Robles $15
88 Gloria Ferrer 1998 Carneros $20
88 Fisher 1998 Coach Insignia (Sonoma County) $25
88 Thomas Fogarty 1998 Monterey County $19
88 Goosecross 1998 Signature Style (Napa Valley) $22
88 Greenwood Ridge 1998 Du Pratt Vineyard $24
(Mendocino County)
88 Hawk Crest 1998 Reserve Vineyard Selection (California) $15
88 William Hill 1998 Reserve (Napa Valley) $22
88 Iron Horse 1998 Green Valley $24
88 Justin 1998 Paso Robles $19
88 Korbel 1998 Russian River Valley $18
88 Laetitia 1998 Winemaker's Select (Edna Valley) $18
88 Laetitia 1998 Arroyo Grande $18
88 Lake Sonoma 1998 Russian River Valley $17
88 Logan 1998 Sleepy Hollow Vineyard (Monterey County) $17
88 J. Lohr 1998 Riverstone (Monterey County) $15
88 Longoria 1998 Sanford & Benedict (Santa Maria Valley) $28
88 Marcelina 1997 Napa Valley $22
88 Martin & Weyrich 1998 Reserve (Edna Valley) $28
88 Mirassou 1998 Harvest Reserve (Monterey County) $16
88 Mirassou 1998 San Vicente Vineyard (Monterey County) $24
88 Robert Mondavi 1997 Carneros $23
88 Monticello 1997 Corley Reserve (Napa Valley) $30
88 Newlan 1998 Napa Valley $16
88 Pine Ridge 1998 Dijon Clones (Carneros) $25
88 Rosenblum 1998 Lone Oak Vineyard Reserve $24
(Russian River Valley)
88 San Saba 1998 Central Coast $20
88 Schug 1998 Heritage Reserve (Carneros) $25
88 Taft Street 1998 Russian River Valley $15
88 Windsor 1997 Preston Ranch (Russian River Valley) $15
88 Zaca Mesa 1998 Zaca Vineyards (Santa Barbara County) $15
87 Acacia 1998 Carneros $21
87 Alexander Valley Vineyards 1997 Wetzel Family $24
Reserve (Alexander Valley)
87 Beaucanon 1998 Reserve (Napa Valley) $15
87 Beaulieu Vineyard 1997 Reserve (Carneros) $25
87 Byington 1998 Santa Cruz Mountains $20
87 Byron 1998 Santa Maria Valley $20
87 Clos du Bois 1998 Calcaire Vineyard (Alexander Valley) $20
87 Clos LaChance 1998 Santa Cruz Mountains $19
87 Cobblestone 1997 Arroyo Seco $23
87 B. R. Cohn 1998 Joseph Herman Vineyard $28
Reserve (Carneros)
87 Dry Creek Vineyard 1998 Sonoma County $16
87 Estancia 1998 Single Vineyard Reserve (Monterey County) $20
87 Ferrari-Carano 1998 Alexander Valley $25
87 Grgich Hills 1997 Napa Valley $30
87 Guenoc 1998 North Coast $16
87 Gundlach-Bundschu 1998 Sangiacomo Ranch $16
(Sonoma Valley)
87 Indian Springs 1998 Nevada County $15
87 Jekel 1997 F.O.S. Reserve (Monterey County) $22
87 Justin 1998 Reserve (Paso Robles) $23
87 Kendall-Jackson 1998 Paradise Vineyard (Arroyo Seco) $17
87 Lafond 1997 Sweeney Canyon Vineyard $28
(Santa Ynez Valley)
87 Longoria 1998 Santa Rita Cuvée (Santa Ynez Valley) $25
87 Cathy MacGregor 1997 MacGregor Vineyard (Edna Valley) $30
87 Mayo 1998 Barrel Select (Sonoma Valley) $25
87 Miner 1998 Napa Valley $28
87 Robert Mondavi 1997 Napa Valley $20
87 Morgan 1998 Monterey County $20
87 Mount Eden Vyds. 1998 MacGregor Vineyard (Edna Valley) $18
87 Napa Creek 1996 Barrel Select (Napa Valley) $16
87 Orfila 1997 Ambassador's Reserve (San Diego County) $15
87 Fess Parker 1998 Santa Barbara County $16
87 Philippe-Lorraine 1998 Napa Valley $18
87 Qupé 1998 Bien Nacido Vineyard (Santa Barbara County) $18
87 Renaissance 1997 Premiere Cuvée (North Yuba) $30
87 Rosenblum 1998 Edna Valley $19
87 Simi 1998 Sonoma County $17
87 Sonoma-Cutrer 1998 Russian River Ranches $18
(Sonoma Coast)
87 Steele 1998 Durell Vineyard (Carneros) $28
87 Sterling 1998 Winery Lake (Carneros) $24
87 Rodney Strong 1998 Chalk Hill Vineyard Reserve $30
(Northern Sonoma)
87 Rodney Strong 1998 Chalk Hill $16
87 Taft Street 1998 Monterey County $15
86 Baileyana 1997 Firepeak Vineyard (Edna Valley) $22
86 Benziger 1998 Yamakawa Vineyard (Carneros) $25
86 Beringer 1998 Napa Valley $16
86 Bogle 1998 Colby Ranch Reserve (Clarksburg) $18
86 Bridlewood 1997 Central Coast $18
86 Carmody McKnight 1998 Millennium Celebration $17
(Paso Robles)
86 Chateau Julien 1998 Private Reserve (Monterey) $20
86 Chateau Montelena 1997 Napa Valley $29
86 Clos du Bois 1997 Flintwood Vineyard $22
(Dry Creek Valley)
86 Clos Pegase 1998 Mitsuko's Vineyard (Carneros) $19
86 Cosentino 1998 California $20
86 Durney 1996 Carmel Valley $23
86 Field Stone 1998 Sonoma County $16
86 Girard 1997 Napa Valley $28
86 Guenoc 1998 Geneviève Magoon Reserve $30
(Guenoc Valley)
86 William Hill 1998 Napa Valley $15
86 Jekel 1998 Gravelstone (Monterey County) $15
86 Jepson 1998 Estate Select (Mendocino) $15
86 Jordan 1998 Sonoma County $25
86 La Crema 1998 Gold Coast Vineyard (Sonoma Coast) $17
86 Lockwood 1998 Monterey County $16
86 Lolonis 1998 Redwood Valley $16
86 Longoria 1998 Clos Pepe (Santa Ynez Valley) $28
86 Macrostie 1998 Carneros $19
86 Martin & Weyrich 1998 Edna Valley $18
86 Newton 1998 Naturally Fermented (Sonoma County) $23
86 Pezzi King 1998 Sonoma County $17
86 Martin Ray 1998 Mariage (California) $18
86 Raymond 1997 Generations (Napa Valley) $28
86 Roche 1998 Reserve (Carneros) $30
86 Royal Oaks 1998 Whitegate Vineyard $20
(Santa Ynez Valley)
86 Sonoma-Cutrer 1997 Les Pierres (Sonoma Valley) $30
86 Stevenot 1997 Shaw Ranch (Calaveras County) $18
86 Talley 1998 Oliver's Vineyard (Edna Valley) $20
86 Trefethen 1997 Napa Valley $21
86 Valley of the Moon 1998 Sonoma County $17
85 Alexander Valley Vineyards 1998 Alexander Valley $15
85 Aliente del Sol 1998 Bien Nacido Vineyard $25
(Santa Maria Valley)
85 Babcock 1998 Santa Barbara County $18
85 Baileyana 1998 Montery/San Luis Obisbo $17
85 Beaucanon 1997 Jacques de Coninck (Napa Valley) $30
85 Benziger 1998 Reserve (Carneros) $25
85 Carmody McKnight 1997 Paso Robles $15
85 Chatfield 1998 Clements Vineyards (California) $15
85 Cinnabar 1998 Central Coast $17
85 Robert Craig 1998 Carneros $24
85 Eberle 1998 Paso Robles $15
85 Echelon 1998 Central Coast $15
85 Flora Springs 1998 Lavender Hill Vineyard (Napa Valley) $30
85 Flora Springs 1998 Reserve (Napa Valley) $23
85 Freemark Abbey 1997 Carpy Ranch (Napa Valley) $26
85 Gundlach-Bundschu 1998 Rhinefarm Vineyards $18
(Sonoma Valley)
85 Handley 1998 Handley Vineyards (Dry Creek Valley) $20
85 Hanna 1998 Russian River Valley $17
85 Kautz 1997 Library Collection (California) $15
85 Kenwood 1998 Reserve (Sonoma County) $25
85 Landmark 1998 Overlook (California) $22
85 Leeward 1998 Reserve (Edna Valley) $16
85 Liparita 1998 Carneros $24
85 Louis M. Martini 1997 Reserve (Russian River Valley) $18
85 Michel-Schlumberger 1997 Dry Creek Valley $20
85 Mirassou 1998 Showcase Selection (Monterey County) $30
85 Raymond 1998 Reserve (Napa Valley) $15
85 Retzlaff 1998 Livermore Valley $16
85 Sebastopol 1998 Dutton Ranch (Russian River Valley) $22
85 Seven Peaks 1997 Reserve (Edna Valley) $21
85 Silver Mountain 1997 Santa Cruz Mountains $18
85 Stag's Leap Winery 1998 Napa Valley $21
85 Steele 1998 Lolonis Vineyard (Mendocino) $28
85 Marimar Torres 1997 Don Miguel Vineyard $25
(Russian River Valley)
85 Wente 1998 Riva Ranch Reserve Vineyard $15
(Arroyo Seco)
84 Audubon 1997 Sangiacomo Vineyard (Carneros) $15
84 Bedford Thompson 1998 Santa Barbara County $18
84 Brutocao 1998 Bliss Vineyard (Mendocino) $15
84 Cambria 1998 Katherine's Vineyard $21
(Santa Maria Valley)
84 Castle 1998 Sonoma Valley $18
84 Cedar Mountain 1998 Blanches Vineyard $18
(Livermore Valley)
84 Cinnabar 1997 Saratoga Vineyard (Santa $25
Cruz Mountains)
84 Douglass Hill 1997 Napa Valley $17
84 Folie à Deux 1997 Napa Valley $18
84 Freemark Abbey 1998 Napa Valley $19
84 Keenan 1998 Napa Valley $18
84 Kenwood 1998 Sonoma County $15
84 Laurier 1996 Sonoma County $19
84 Midnight Cellars 1997 Paso Robles $18
84 Parducci 1998 Largo Ranch Reserve (Mendocino) $20
84 Peju Province 1998 H.B. Vineyard (Napa Valley) $28
84 Peju Province 1998 Napa Valley $22
84 St. Clement 1998 Abbotts Vineyard (Carneros) $20
84 Sanford 1998 Barrel Select (Santa Barbara County) $30
84 Sanford 1998 Sanford & Benedict (Santa Ynez Valley) $27
84 Santa Barbara Winery 1997 Reserve $24
(Santa Barbara County)
84 Sapphire Hill 1998 Russian River Valley $22
84 Sebastopol 1998 Dutton Ranch $22
(Russian River Valley)
84 Sequoia Grove 1997 Carneros/Napa $16
84 Stonegate 1998 Napa Valley $18
83 Concannon 1997 Reserve (Central Coast) $20
83 Thomas Fogarty 1997 Santa Cruz Mountains $20
83 Fox Brook 1998 Ceago Vinegarden (Mendocino) $30
83 Frog's Leap 1998 Napa Valley $22
83 Hess Collection 1997 Napa Valley $18
83 Joullian 1996 Family Reserve (Monterey) $24
83 Napa Cellars 1998 Napa Valley $22
83 Rustridge 1998 Napa Valley $25
83 Sanford 1998 Santa Barbara County $19
83 Silverado 1998 Napa Valley $19
83 Windsor 1997 Barrel Fermented Private Reserve $17
(Russian River Valley)
82 Bell 1998 Aleta's Vineyard (Napa Valley) $24
82 Paradise Ridge 1997 Nagasawa Vineyard Barrel Select $18
(Sonoma County)
82 Renaissance 1998 North Yuba $17
82 Salmon Creek 1997 Bad Dog Ranch (Carneros) $19
81 Carneros Creek 1997 Palombo Vineyard (Carneros) $18
81 Cilurzo 1998 Temecula $16
81 Jory 1998 El Niño (Central Coast) $15
81 Parducci 1998 Reserve (Mendocino) $16
81 San Saba 1997 Monterey County $20
80 Wildhurst 1997 Private Reserve (Sonoma County) $18

 

TOP VALUE WINES

91 Beckmen 1998 Santa Barbara County $16
91 Burgess 1998 Napa Valley $18
90 Franciscan Oakville Estate 1998 Napa Valley $18
90 Kendall-Jackson 1998 Camelot Vineyard (Santa Maria Valley) $17
90 Mount Eden Vineyards 1998 Cottonwood $18
Canyon Vineyard (Santa Maria Valley)
90 St. Supéry 1998 Napa Valley $16
90 Steele 1998 Steele Cuvée (California) $18
89 Alderbrook 1998 Dry Creek Valley $15
89 Buena Vista 1997 Carneros $15
89 Meridian 1998 Coastal Reserve (Edna Valley) $15
89 Murphy-Goode 1998 Sonoma County $15
89 Santa Barbara Winery 1998 Santa Barbara County $16
89 Sterling 1998 North Coast $17
88 Atlas Peak 1998 Atlas Peak $16
88 B. R. Cohn 1998 Carneros $16
88 Francis Coppola 1998 Diamond Series (California) $15
88 EOS 1998 Paso Robles $15
88 Hawk Crest 1998 Reserve Vineyard Select (California) $15
88 J. Lohr 1998 Riverstone (Monterey County) $15
88 Mirassou 1998 Harvest Reserve (Monterey County) $16
88 Newlan 1998 Napa Valley $16
88 Taft Street 1998 Russian River Valley $15
88 Windsor 1997 Preston Ranch (Russian River Valley) $15
88 Zaca Mesa 1998 Zaca Vineyards (Santa Barbara County) $15 full side, like California Pinot Noir rather than streamlined Oregon Pinots.

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