RAISE A GLASS
Get a jump start on 'Top 100' wines
By Liane Fu
When I lived on the East Coast, spring and fall were my favorite times of the year. I loved it because you could smell the change of seasons in the air, and the weather was neither brutally hot nor painfully cold. Now that I am passionately obsessed with wine, I've come to understand that spring and fall are the times that highly allocated wines are shipped all across the country.
Like me, wine is sensitive to extremes of temperature, so spring and fall are great times for shipping wine as well as tasting it.
Allocated wines that arrive in the spring are what you read about in Wine Spectator's "Top 100" wines issue in December. More than likely, by the time you read about them in December, they will be long gone from retail shelves. Spring wine allocations make for good shopping because perhaps not all of these upper-tier wines have yet been reviewed. So wines that will eventually be top-scoring wines are still available.
Some wineries are even offering some deals right now on wines rated or soon to be rated 90 and above. You just have to know what to shop for. Look for them in your local boutique wine shops.
Here are some suggestions for cult wines coming out of Washington state:
• DeLille Cellars 2005 Grand Ciel Cabernet Sauvignon, $150. The grapes that go into this wine come from a new 18-acre estate vineyard in the Red Mountain American viticultural area in Washington, which is adjacent to the renowned Ciel du Ceval vineyard. This wine was given 95 points in the June 2008 issue of Robert Parker. Only a few bottles are available. It is sold out at the winery. Look out for DeLille's Grand Ciel Syrah 2006, $82, rated 94 points from Wine Advocate; DeLille Chaleur Red 2006, $85, rated 94 points by Stephen Tanzer, is also sold out at the winery.
• Leonetti Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, $110. Leonetti makes some of the most collectable wines coming out of Washington state. Its 2006 cabernet sauvignon is rated 95 points by Wine Advocate. Their Sangiovese 2007 is spanking hot at $73, and their merlot is easily one of the best coming out of Washington at $88. The Leonetti Reserve Red (not yet rated) is stunning and elusive at $160. Last year's reserve got 97 points from Robert Parker.
Some of my favorite limited-production wines coming out of Napa:
• Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red 2006, $105. This earned 95 points from the Wine Advocate. This wine is a knockout, balanced and rich with toasty black fruit and bittersweet cocoa. Yummy. The Pahlmeyer Merlot 2006, $77, with 94 points from the Wine Advocate, is amazing and complex, and sure to put a smile on your face when you taste it. Note: Pahlmeyer's Jayson Pinot Noir 2006, regularly $65, is now on special for $35. Now is the time to take advantage of it.
• Robert Biale Vineyards Black Chicken 2007, $43. Robert Biale Vineyards produces some of the best zinfandel in California. This is the wine that got them so popular. Their flagship Biale Rosso Zinfandel, $58, has very limited production. Less than 600 cases are produced to share with the world.
• Orin Swift Mercury Head Cabernet 2007, $83. I love this bottle. A Mercury Head dime serves as its front label. Though the bottle itself looks classically spartan, there is nothing spartan about its entry on your palate. It is huge, with layers of blackberry and red raspberry. It is richly textured with solid acid structure and a lingering finish. It is an unforgettable experience, with a really cool bottle as a memento of the evening.
If you are interested in getting some of Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines, now is the time to do it. The best wines are almost always small-production wines, and they typically are sold out by December. This is just a small preview of the top wines of 2010.
Right now, you have a jump on the people who wait for the Top 100 issue to come out before they start looking. So, after reading this article, you are officially ahead of the curve!