Ten Years of 100 Wines
Wine & Spirits magazine celebrates its tenth tasting event that features 100 wines. Diablo got the details.
Wine & Spirits magazine is celebrating its tenth "top 100" tasting event on Tuesday, October 15, at City View at METREON in San Francisco. Weekly Dish editor Ethan Fletcher had a chance to chat with editor and publisher Josh Greene about this year’s top-100 wine list. Click here for a list of wineries and ticket information.
Diablo: Tell me a little about the event.
Josh Greene: We’d been doing an education program for a long time before that, and it became really hard to ship all these wines around country, because at that time, shipping laws were changing from state to state. So, we decided to do a subtly educational wine event. This would be a better use of our time and effort. We’d been doing a buying guide before that, awarding 100 wineries a year, and we just decided to pull it all together for one event. We did the first one in the Civic Center area at a big old building, and quickly grew out of that. Now, it’s at the City View [on the top floor of San Francisco’s Metreon], which is great, because it’s connected to this great park and people can hang out eating oysters and tasting wines.
I know it can be hard to maintain an educational focus at these kinds of events, which can sometimes just be all about drinking …
What’s really cool about the event is it’s never devolved into that. We set it up according to wine style. Because, I think as is the case at other events, just having 100 wineries pouring can be overwhelming for consumers. So, we have a sparkling wine section, California wines, crisp whites, rich whites, pinot noirs from Oregon, to some great pinots from Australian and New Zealand. That way, if you want to just taste pinot noir from Mendocino, say, or compare Napa cabs to Washington cabs, you can do that. Or, if you have no idea what you like, it’s easy to discover new things.
How do you narrow down the wineries?
At our San Francisco and New York offices, we invite sommeliers, distributers, retailers into panels of three to 15 people, depending on the category. We won’t give away any information that will give away the wine’s identity, and then the tasters will give their opinion on whether they’d recommend it. If the majority say yes, our critics will taste it, rate it, and write it up for the magazine. This year, we tasted upwards of 12,400 wines between both offices. Then, out of the wines that our critics rate, we’ll select the wineries that performed best, most recommended, and had the highest average scores, within particular regions and categories, and balance out our top 100 as best as possible.
Any major changes over the last ten years?
As far as the kinds of wineries, there aren’t any radical changes. But there has been a huge amount of change in the market itself. The market is growing more niches that people can thrive in. You’ll see people making something like a great moscato, or a really good terroir-driven pinot from Australia that a lot of people don’t know about. The definition of wine has evolved. Some people find that troublesome, but I think at the same time, the quality of wines that would be classified as “traditional” has also continued to improve.
Any favorites this year?
I mentioned that Australia has made good pinots in the past, but this year, there’s a winery called Giant Steps in the Yarra Valley that is making just incredibly brilliant wines, unlike anything you’ve tasted from Australia. Louis Metaireau is making a muscadet that’s a really terroir- and soil-driven wine. Szepsy from Hungary is making dry, fermented wines that are really complex and layered in flavor. Hirsch, from the far coast of Sonoma.
Any interesting trends?
Sonoma has become a major resource for top-level California wines. Meanwhile, Napa Valley has been producing some top zinfandels, wineries like Storybook and Green & Red—it used to be Sonoma County, but now it’s more Napa Valley. Drew in Mendocino is making some very delicate, fragrant, high acid, low alcohol syrahs. Syrahs have been a real challenge to sell in California, but up on the coast, you can find these very beautiful, light bodied, peppery syrahs that anyone would appreciate.
What should people expect at the event?
We’re really pleased to have built this thing for ten years, and I think each year has gotten better. One of the really nice things about this event is the indoor-outdoor nature of the venue. Being able to taste these wines outdoors, I think, is really cool. There are also several restaurants from our new and notable list that have been invited to come serve food, including A16 Rockridge and Tribune Tavern in the East Bay, as well as a bunch of others from Sonoma and Marin and San Francisco. It should be a great event.