There were 24 different labels in our large blind tasting of lesser-known wines, and here are the 12 voted best. The top wine is listed last, that is, they get better and better as you read on.
4th—Vina Tarapaca La Isla Sauvignon Blanc
Maipo Valley, Chile, '00, $13.50
Contact—Suzanne Carreiro, FX (707) 963-1735
Winemaker Sergio Correa fermented half the La Isla in French oak to add punch.
3rd—Falling Star Chardonnay
Mendoza, Argentina, '00, $5
Contact—Amy Mironov, FX (212) 355-4719, Wildman Imp.
Made by the Trapiche winery, this 100% Chardonnay was voted Best Buy of the entire tasting.
2nd—Rancho Zabaco Pinot Gris
Sonoma Coast, '00, $16
Contact—Carmen Castorina, FX (972) 788-2328
If you don't know the "gray" Pinot, this Zabaco provides a fine introduction with the Gris flavors easily discernable.
Harvest started in January of year 2000! Winemaking
included using American oak staves inside stainless steel
tanks, blasting oxygen into unfermented juice, etc. What's
happening? It's Australia breaking traditions right and
left, successfully! This winner is a seven
dollar 100% Chardonnay, year 2000, imported by Brown-Forman.
Contact—Sid Goldstein, FX (415) 444-7483.
8th—Fleur du Cap Merlot South Africa, '99,
The Dutch brought the first wine vines to South Africa, but it was the French who arrived later and greatly upgraded the winegrowing. Hence, France's Merlot varietal should feel right at home there by now.
Tasting note—See if you can detect the effect of an uncommon fermentation feature...like many white wines, this Merlot was fermented below 60 F. for 14 days to affect the fruit flavors.
Contact—Michelle Armour, FX (510) 286-2010
7th—Indigo Hills Pinot Noir
Central Coast, California, '99, $14
A Gallo enterprise. Good price.
6th—Baron Philippe de Rothschild Cabernet Sauvignon, $11
A 100% Cabernet Sauvignon not from Bordeaux but from southeastern France. To learn more about this new Rothschild venture, contact Lorraine Raguseo, Caravelle Wines, FX (212) 765-7303.
5th—Turning Leaf Pinot Noir '99, 10 North Coast, California.
Contact—Carmen Castorina, FX (972) 788-2328. We find very few $10 Pinots that score as well as this one.
4th—Tapiz Cabernet Sauvignon
Mendoza, Argentina, '99, $8
Contact—James Caudill's office, FX (707) 569-0105
10,000 cases so you should be able to find this good-value, 100% Cab.
3rd—Trinity Oaks Merlot '98, $10
A new California Merlot from the phenomonally-successful Sutter Home folks.
Contact—Stan Hock, FX (707) 963-2381. (The team always emphasizes making wines that are ready to drink when you buy them; this one is!).
2nd—Canoe Ridge Vineyard Merlot
Valley, WA, '99, $25
Winery—Ph. (509) 527-0885, FX (509) 527-0886
Winemaker John Abbot says this is the best Merlot he's made from this decade-old vineyard. So, it's no surprise that half of my large panel rated it over ninety!
1st—Show Reserve Shiraz by Rosemount
South Australia, '98, $24.
Contact—FX. (415) 989-2908. Ask for Sam.
The Shiraz (Syrah) arrived in Australia 170 years ago. It
was first planted in the McLaren Vale (valley) twenty years
later. The 100 to 150 year old vines still are major contributors
to this wine. They help award-winning winemaker Philip Shaw
make his Shiraz "more plummy and riper" than much of the
competition. California has no commercial vines of this
age, so you must try this one, rated Best of the
About the Writer
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.