The Wine Spectator Top 10 Wines of 2016 have been unveiled online over the past few days, with suspense and bit of media glitz and glamour. The full list—the magazine’s Top 100 wines chosen annually—will be available on Dec. 5. While many people admonish wine media and ratings, we all seem to huddle around in anticipation of this annual list, which sparks sales and often creates trends.
What does this Top 10 list mean for us—collectors, picky palate consumers, or daily imbibers? First, they assist in our quest for great wine. But if you don’t already own these wines, it may be a challenge to secure them. Wine collectors investigate and try to guess them before the unveiling so they can fill their online shopping carts ahead of time. Other than the bottles from Machete and Ridge, case quantities aren’t big for an international wine audience. But, if the wines match your price point and palate, call your local wine shop and check their quantities. Here are the Top 10, with my comments.
- Hartford Family Zinfandel Russian River Valley Old Vine 2014. 93 points, $38, 2,200 cases made. I love a hearty Sonoma zinfandel and especially one that is priced south of $50. Look for other Russian River Valley values from the 2014 vintage.
- Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafite Pessac-Leognan White 2013. 96 points, $106, 2,500 cases made. Mistakenly, the word “Chateau” often invokes visions of a $500 wine, but it is great to see a white Bordeaux (sauvignon blanc and semillon) on the list for a palatable price.
- Antinori Toscana Tignanello 2013. 94 points, $105, 2,500 cases imported. I love the character of a Super Tuscan. This Antinori is a blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc.
- Ridge Monte Bello Santa Cruz Mountains 2012. 94 points, $175, 5,243 cases made. Ridge is a California cult. Its winemaker Paul Draper just stepped down in recent months, evoking praise and articles across the globe. Ridge makes a number of varietals for many vintages, so there’s definitely a Ridge wine out there for you.
- Orin Swift Machete California 2014. 94 points, $48, 15,500 cases made. Dave Phinney, winemaker of Machete, was the mastermind behind The Prisoner. With 15,500 cases, this wine seems accessible!
- Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Asili Riserva 2011. 96 points, $59, 1,100 cases made. An Italian Nebbiolo for south of $100 is a coup nowadays.
- Chateau Climens Barsac 2013. 97 points, $68, 1,417 cases made. Dessert or sweet wines showcase the art of botrytis. Note another white Bordeaux wine from the 2013 vintage!
- Beaux Freres Pinot Noir Ribbon Ridge The Beau Freres Vineyard 2014. 95 points, $90, 2,405 cases made. Oregon, Oregon, Oregon 2014 is a fabulous and delicious vintage across the Willamette Valley, in many price ranges.
- Domaine Serene Chardonnay Dundee Hills Evenstad Reserve 2014. 95 points, $55, 2,000 cases made. Oregon, Oregon, Oregon. This state is getting its chardonnay on after years of pinot noir success.
- Lewis Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2013. 95 points, $90, 1,600 cases made. Napa Valley is famed for cabernet, so this number-one choice will further boost its New World spotlight—but unfortunately, it may also continue to boost the price.
California reigns supreme with four wines, including the number-one spot, two French whites, two Italian reds, and Oregon nabbing two spots with a red wine and a white. I’m surprised there are no wines on the list from the Andes or Spain, given their spotlight the past few years. On the other hand, we can still buy them at a great value!