Magazine article Sunset

Wine Bests

Magazine article Sunset

Wine Bests

Article excerpt

* In keeping with this issue's Best of the West theme, here we bring you some vinous superlatives. After all, wine is one of the best things about the West.

Best winemaker

Steve Edmunds. Once a Berkeley hippie-intellectual, a postman, and a poet-musician, Edmunds found his true calling in life when he scraped together enough money to found Edmunds St. John. From this winery, located in a nondescript Berkeley warehouse, come the very best Syrahs and other Rh6ne wines made in the West. Edmunds, shy and soulful, uses no fancy equipment or raz le-dazzle techniques, just lightning-rod instincts for finding stellar vineyards, then coaxing from them sensational grapes that will become even more sensational wines. (510) 981-1510.

Best trend

Relatively inexpensive Chardonnays that don't have huge oak flavors. (What's the point of buying a wine that tastes like a 2-by-4?) A number of Washington wineries in particular are coming out with Chardonnays that are anything but oak monsters. Try Bookwalter (about $10) or Hogue (about $9).

Best advice

Try wines you don't know. After all, the best way to learn nothing about wine is to continue to drink what you know you already like.

Best rambling

Santa Barbara County. just 2 1/2 hours north of Los Angeles, serene rolling hills and vast vine-covered mesas compose the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez Valleys. This is wine country at its most gorgeous (and least tourist-ridden). Best of all, in the last five years, Santa Barbara County has experienced nothing short of a wine revolution. Dozens upon dozens of sensational wines are now being made here, and the wineries, B&Bs, spas, and good local restaurants make wandering a pleasure. Don't miss tasting at Zaca Mesa, Cambria, and Byron. The Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association can provide you with maps and a complete list of wineries. (800) 218-0881.

Best seduction wine

I know Valentine's Day is over, but a good seduction wine should come in handy more than once a year. Our vote: Roederer Estate Brut (about $20) from California's Anderson Valleysleek and sophisticated with a fine, tingling bead of bubbles, yet creamy enough to be thoroughly hedonistic.

Best wine getaway

The Yosemite Vintners' Holidays program at the Ahwahnee hotel in Yosemite National Park. Hike in the snow-draped forest, then return to a blazing fire and glasses of some of the Golden State's best wines. This fall will be the 20th year the Ahwahnee has invited renowned California vintners-more than 20 this time-to pour and talk about their wines. Seminars are capped by a banquet (and more great wines) in the historic hotel's candlelit dining room. …

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