© 1997 JDM Enterprises
BEST SELLING BOOKby Jerry D. Mead
It's an annual thing! The publication of the best selling little book titled California Wine Winners and "yours truly" getting the exclusive right to preview the book.
The thing about CWW is that it is a book of information, and if I tell too much you won't want to buy the book. So my deal with the publisher is that I can reveal some of the important information, but not all of it. I have to tease a little so you'll still need to buy a copy.
What CWW does is gather all the information from nine of America's most important wine competitions. Considering that many of the competition's awards books cost $6 apiece, CWW is a bargain at $8.95. Especially when you consider that it crunches all those results and then in a series of charts tells you all of the following:
The medal-winningest wines of every variety. At a glance you can see every Chardonnay (or Cabernet or Zinfandel) that won nine medals (or eight, or seven, etc) and exactly which medal at which competition.
The highest scoring wines of each variety based on assigning points to medal levels, as in 7pts for a sweepstakes, double gold or best of class; 5pts for a gold, 3pts for a silver and 1pt for a bronze medal. Very often the highest scoring wine is different than the wine with the most medals.
Then all the medal winners are cross-referenced by brand. So you can look up Geyser Peak, or Kendall-Jackson, or Robert Mondavi, and see a total list of medals that producer won. This is a great feature if you're visiting wineries, or even if you're just considering buying a particular wine at your local wine shop. Whip out your copy of CWW and see if the wine is a medal winner.
There are also charts for each variety to tell you which growing region contributed the most winning wines to a given category. For example, the newly popular variety, Viognier, saw the South Coast of California as the top region, while for Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County won by a mile. And you can satisfy your curiosity about the winningest appellations for Chardonnay, White Zin and Pinot Noir, along with all the other varieties.
California Wine Winners 1998 (Results of the 1997 Wine Judgings), will begin to show up in book stores and wine shops about November 1, or you can order it by mail for $11.45 (includes shipping) to: Wine Winners 98, Box 1598, Carson City, NV 89702 (800) 845-9463.
If you're really into this tracking wine competition results thing, you should also know about a newsletter titled California Grapevine, which publishes similar information throughout the competition year, updating as each judging is completed and ending with a compilation that approaches the depth of CWW. You can receive a sample copy (and it's excellent on many other levels) by sending $5 to: Grapevine Sample, Box 22152, San Diego, CA 92192.
Let's start out looking at the results with a big tease: The number one Pinot Noir in America, based both on points and the number of medals won sells for $10 or less! Regular readers of this column don't need to be told the brand name. It has been one of our "Best Buys" every year for many years. Amazing, considering the second place wine sells for $40 the bottle.
Tiny Alderbrook Winery in Sonoma County accomplished its own amazing feat, by claiming two first places. Alderbrook had been leading the pack all year with its 1995 "Kunde Vineyard" Merlot ($20), though Rodney Strong 1994 ($16) actually won one more medal. Alderbrook won more golds and racked up five more points.
Alderbrook 1996 "Saralee's" Gewurztraminer ($10) also came in first on points, while tying Beringer 1996 ($8) on medal count. Once again Alderbrook had more golds.
Another tease. The number one Cabernet Sauvignon this year is an "Organically Grown" wine that sells for $12.
The number one White Zinfandel, and the only one to win three gold medals, is Barefoot Cellars at $5 a bottle or less. There is no vintage date.
The Chardonnay results are too strange to completely explain. Using the same statistics, but slightly different ways of figuring, CWW has De Loach 1995 "Russian River" ($27.50) in first place, while Grapevine gives the nod to Kendall-Jackson 1995 "Vintner's Reserve" ($15)...CWW has the K-J in second place.
Chateau Souverain 1995 "Sonoma-Barrel Fermented" ($13) also did well with both compilations and a total of five Chardonnays won eight medals out of nine competitions. Based on CWW's point scores, three of the top five Chardonnays bore the Kendall-Jackson label.
The number one Chenin Blanc (by a mile) is Kosher and sells for $6.50.
Mirassou dominated the Pinot Blanc category both by total medals won and on points, with 1995 "Monterey-Harvest Reserve" ($16), with Imagery Series by Benziger 1995 ($18) very much in the running and the winner of three gold medals.
The number one Meritage Red on points also won a perfect nine medals out of nine competitions entered, and that is Geyser Peak 1994 "Reserve Alexandre" ($28). Please note that this wine takes home the gold, vintage after vintage. Only one other wine batted a perfect nine out of nine in this category, and that was Clos Du Bois 1993 "Marlstone" ($21), though it didn't manage as many golds.
With the holidays coming, this little book is both a wonderful shopping guide for the best wines and a great stocking stuffer. One woman of our acquaintance buys copies of the book all year long to use as house gifts, which she presents along with a bottle of one of the winning wines inside. The recipient gets a book and a bottle, and proof that the bottle is special.
The "Wine of the Week" will be back next week.