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The Napa/Sonoma All Star Team

by Sara and Monty Preiser

Note: Perhaps not surprisingly, our column last week (What's New-July 26, 2004) regarding our support of the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignons in the face of The Wine Spectator’s doubts garnered many comments. Most came from people within the wine industry who almost universally reinforced our position that a vintage cannot be fairly judged by barrel samples that have only half aged. We regret omitting a mention of the wines we tasted at Provenance, as their samples were also integral to our own conclusion that 2003 will be a strong year.

This week, we thought it might be fun to select our picks as the best from the hundreds of wines we enjoyed in and from Napa and Sonoma during the summer of 2004. Just as sports writers decide, at least for one moment in time, what athletes will be honored as All Stars, here we take the opportunity to honor those individual wines and wineries that most impressed us -- an awards show, of you will. It is, after all, the "American way."

Some of what you see below may be a varietal you usually like, while some may not. A few bottles may be quite inexpensive and remind you of a pesky singles hitter who sparks a team, while the cost of others may remind you of the home run hero. However one defines them, each wine below is absolutely worth seeking out.

2002 Ramey Diamond Mt. ($65); 2002 Ramey Claret ($36); 2001 Del Dotto "The David" ($75); 2000 Quintessa ($110); 2002 Ramey Jericho Canyon ($90); 2002 Turnbull "Old Bull Red" ($17); 1999 Rodney Strong "Symmetry" ($55); 2000 Hop Kiln "Marty Griffin’s Big Red" ($14); 2000 Viader "V" ($80); 2002 Ceja Vino de Casa ($18); 2001 Flora Springs "Trilogy" ($60); 2001 Luna "Amici" ($28).

Cabernet Franc:
2002 Pride Mountain ($56); 2001 Bremer Family ($40); 2001 Peju Province ($35).

Cabernet Sauvignon:
2002 Grace Family Vineyards (N/A); 2001 Revana ($85); 2000 Nickel & Nickel Sullenger Vineyard ($75); 2000 Nickel & Nickel Rock Cairn Vineyard ($75); 2001 Lonen ($60); 2001 Darioush Signature ($64); 2001 Reynolds Reserve Stag’s Leap ($85); 2001 Provenance Oakville ($35); 2001 Tres Sabores "Perspective" ($45); 2000 Flora Springs Wild Boar ($75); 2001 Kathryn Hall Sacrashe Vineyard ($55); 2001 ZD ($40).

2002 Ramey Hyde Vineyard ($56); 2002 Ramey Carneros ($36); 2002 Ramey Ritchie Vineyard ($56); 2002 Nickel & Nickel Truchard Vineyard ($35); 2000 Harrison Reserve ($45); 2002 Rombauer ($29); 2002 L’Angevin ($45); 2002 Frank Family ($28.75); 2001 Falcor ($35); 2002 Aubert Ritchie Vineyard ($45); 2001 Benziger ($15); 2001 Ceja ($30).

Dessert Wines:
-White: 2000 Far Niente "Dolce" ($75 for 375 ml.); 2001 Michel-Schlumberger Semillon ($28 for 375 ml); 2003 Darioush Late Harvest Viognier ($38 for 375 ml.).
-Red: Frank Family Zin Port ($65 for 375ml.); 2001 Milat "Zivio" ($35 for 375ml).

Merlot: 2002 Pride Mountain ($52); 2001 Hall Napa Valley ($28).

Pinot Grigio:

2003 Luna ($18).

Pinot Noir:
2001 Donum Estate ($60); 2002 Merry Edwards Olivet Lane ($51); 2001 Robert Stemmler "Ferguson" ($39); 1999 Adrian Fog Russian River ($75); 2002 Woodenhead Elk Prairie Vineyard ($40); 2002 Patz & Hall Hyde ($49).

2001 Benessere Estate ($27); 2001 Luna ($18); 2001 Frank Family ($32.50); 2001 Steltzner Reserve ($38).

Sauvignon Blanc:
2002 Quivera ($16); 2003 Steltzner ($16); 2002 Flora Springs Soliloquy ($24).

2001 August Briggs ($32).

2003 Darioush ($32); 2003 Pride Mountain ($40); 2000 Turnbull ($25).

2002 Biale Black Chicken ($34); Rombauer Proprietor’s ($40); 2002 Harrison "Zebra" ($27); 2002 Zoom Alexander Valley ($24); 2002 Seghesio "Cortina" ($25); 1999 Gustavo Thrace Signature ($27); 2001 Zahtila Estate ($38); 2001 Collier Falls Private Reserve ($26).

Special Mention (includes excellent varietals outside the mainstream):
2002 Ritchie Creek Blaufrankisch ($28).

We have always felt that the usefulness of giving a particular wine an award is muted a bit unless one knows what other wines were in the competition. For example, a $50 Gold Medal winner in a competition with four $15 wines probably doesn’t mean very much. Thus, besides the 51 producers earning a mention above, we list 49 others that distribute wines we tasted in the past few months. Of course, there are even more wineries we did not go to this summer (many we recently covered and are not included here as we simply did not feel the need to revisit them so soon). You will probably know wines from the group below, and it is just as probable that you love some. In fact, we too enjoyed much of what we drank, but just as only so many athletes make an All Star team in a given year, only so many wines can be a step ahead for us this summer.

Adams Ridge, Amizetta, Bell, Broman, Ceviche, Chase Family Cellars, Chalk Hill, Chimney Rock, Chateau Boswell, Chateau Souverain, Christopher Creek, Cliff Lede, Crichton-Hall, Destino, DuMol, Esquisse, Ferrari-Carano, Fife, Goosecross, Hendry, Hess Collection, Howell Mountain, Keenan, Kistler, Laird Family, Lamborn Family, Lang & Read, Liparita, Mandolin, Markham, Mauritson, Monticello, Napa Cellars, Neiman Cellars, Nicholson Ranch, Oakville Ranch, Passalacqua, Paul Hobbs, Pine Ridge, Roca, Round Hill, Rutherford Grove, Saddleback, Spelletich, Trefethen, Von Strasser, Voss, Waterstone, and Young Ridge.



Wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser divide their time between Palm Beach County, Florida and the Napa Valley in California. They publish the world's most comprehensive guide to Napa Valley wineries and restaurants titled, appropriately, The Preiser Key to Napa Valley.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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