Magazine article Sunset

The Wine to Buy This Year

Magazine article Sunset

The Wine to Buy This Year

Article excerpt

Recently, I dipped into my local BevMo on a mission to find a specific bottle. As I zeroed in on the right aisle, a woman hovering there looked to me and said, "Any chance you could help me find a good bottle of red wine?"

The complexity of her seemingly simple problem stopped me in my tracks. There's no easy answer, even for me, Sunset's wine editor. A series of questions ("What's the occasion? What are you eating with the wine?") and investigations ("What's on the shelf here today? What's a good value?") are required to get from "good red wine" to a specific brand, varietal, region, and year. Pretty daunting.

My hat is off to those skillful sommeliers and wine-shop clerks who navigate that path for their clients every day. But most often, folks find themselves with wine decisions to make sans expert at elbow. No matter where you are on the knowledge scale, given the dizzying range of choices available, that can be a challenge. And that is exactly why Sunset holds an annual wine competition-to do the work for you. To taste and compare a huge number of wines in the marketplace, so you can be sure you're getting great wines in every price range.

The work itself is done by about SO of the West's best wine tasters: sommeliers and retailers, wine writers, educators, and makers (learn about the process on page 100). From the results, trends emerge that represent smart buying opportunities of the moment. I've pulled together a few collections of gold medal winners that are especially promising. You can consider it-along with our full list of gold and silver medalists starting on page 102-your no-fail wine-shopping guide for the year.

BE A SMART CABERNET SHOPPER

The king of reds still reigns (we drink more Cabernet Sauvignon than any other red)-and Napa Valley holds court. But other regions in California and Washington are going head-tohead with Napa's high-scoring Cabs, and many are great values. Our judges also discovered that, even in Napa, you don't have to empty your wallet to taste a gold medal winner.

Black Stallion 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley; $30)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Horse Heaven Hills; $28)

Frei Brothers Reserve 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley; $27)

Katherine Goldschmidt 2013 Crazy Creek Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley; $22)

Laurel Glen 2013 "Counterpoint" Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma Mountain; $40)

L'Ecole No 41 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Walla Walla Valley; $40)

Louis M. Martini 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley; $34)

Mettler Family 2013 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon (Lodi; $25)

Obsidian Ridge 2013 Obsidian Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Red Hills, Lake County; $30)

Rodney Strong 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County; $20)

UPGRADE YOUR CHARDONNAY

Chardonnay is easy to come by-it's our most popular wine by a wide margin. But don't say, "I'll have a glass of Chardonnay," unless you mean it-and make sure that glass earned gold. Life's too short to dip into a sea of unremarkable Chard.

Bouchaine 2014 Bacchus Collection "Chene d'Argent" Estate Chardonnay (Carneros, Napa Valley; $30)

Dancin 2015 "Chaine" Chardonnay (Southern Oregon; $29)

Dutcher Crossing 2014 Chenoweth Vineyard Chardonnay (Russian River Valley; $36)

Graton Ridge 2014 Chardonnay (Russian River Valley; $34)

Hughes Family 2014 Chardonnay (Sonoma Mountain; $40)

Hungry Blonde 2014 Chardonnay (Carneros, Napa Valley; $30)

La Chertosa 2014 Reserve Chardonnay (Sonoma Valley; $25)

Lynmar 2014 Chardonnay (Russian River Valley; $35)

MacMurray 2014 Chardonnay (Russian River Valley; $20)

McKahn Family 2014 Chardonnay (Knights Valley; $27)

Scott Family 2014 Dijon Clone Chardonnay (Arroyo Seco, Monterey; $25)

Trione 2014 River Road Ranch Chardonnay (Russian River Valley, Sonoma County; $36)

Virginia Dare 2014 "American" Chardonnay (Russian River Valley; $25)

White Oak Vineyards 2014 Estate Grown Chardonnay (Russian River Valley, Sonoma County; $26)

MIX IT UP WITH SOME IMPORTS

Understatement of the year: The West Coast delivers no shortage of great bottles. …

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