Stan's selections as the best wines from the Year 2000
Jan. 3, 2001
If this newspaper in company with others is going to look backward at the Year 2000 for "Best and Worst of the Year" lists, why shouldn't we do the same in the world of wine?
We've been writing this column again since last May or so. There have been monthly tastings since June attended by large and receptive groups. During this period, we have offered nearly 50 different wines at those tastings. I have enjoyed perhaps an equal amount of personally purchased wines, both red and white, as well as those offered at the homes of fellow wine lovers.
There have been several tastings in New Orleans as well. I have critiqued a number of wines at the request of the state warehouse and written reviews for distribution to restaurants and package stores.
This, then, was the world of wine in the Year 2000 as it looked to me:
Best white wines. The chardonnay of the year was the Far Niente 1997, tasted just recently. A mammoth wine, packed with flavor yet so balanced no particular aspect of the flavor overpowers you. Somewhat expensive, about $40, but available from your favorite package store through the state warehouse.
Only a step behind for half the money. Landmark Overlook and the Clos Pegase. Landmark Overlook is also a blockbuster flavorwise. A leading wine publication called it the 20th best wine released anywhere in 1999. The Clos Pegase is a more subtle chardonnay but a wonderful wine for sipping or with food.
Other white wines of note include the new Greg Norman Chardonnay (put out by the famous Australian golfer) and the Benzinger Fume Blanc. The fume blanc is at its best with seafood such as oysters, crabmeat or shrimp.
Best red wines. Unfortunately, the best red wines are difficult or impossible to get in Mississippi. Difficult to find is the Ridge Geyserville. Ridge of Sonoma County is one of the hottest wineries in California. They produce several different red zinfandels and numerous other wines. Their Geyserville is a red zinfandel blend that was listed as 16th best release on the Top 100 list of 1999. Anytime you see the Ridge label at your favorite wine store, try a bottle. Everything this winery produces is first class.
Equally great, but impossible to buy here, is a red zinfandel with the strange name of Cigar. It is made by a small California winery in Napa Valley named Consentino. They produce a sister wine called The Zin which is also great. Unfortunately, Cigar's production is limited to 2,200 cases and I have been able to buy it only in New Orleans.
Rosemount Coonawarra Show Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a stunning cabernet, but don't confuse it with their regular $12 cabernet. You'll pay in the $20 range for this premium wine, but it is worth it. Look for the white label and be sure it says Coonawarra Show Reserve. It is available here.
Robert Mondavi Napa Valley. Their 1997 version of this wine needs another year or two in the bottle but someday it will be great. If you can find an earlier vintage buy it. Do not confuse it with Mondavi's Coastal label. The Coastal is a very ho hum wine and priced that way at about $13.
Greg Norman's blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot is outstanding at $16. The wine is 90 percent cabernet and 10 percent merlot. The merlot smooths it out and gives it a velvety quality, quite unlike a straight cabernet. This wine has become a local favorite and is in demand.
Monsanto Chianti is one of the best Italian wines available in Meridian. Fruity, as all really good chiantis should be, it is marvelous with Italian food or for sipping with cheese. It is priced at about $16 and your package store may have to order it for you.
Karly Buck's 10 Point Red Zinfandel. A newcomer on the Meridian scene, Karly is medium priced and a wonderful companion with red meat. Some package stores tell me it flies off their shelf once the consumers taste it. An outstanding red wine but still relatively unknown. Great value.
Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon is a bargain, outstanding quality at a low price. Recommended.
Champagne. At our recent champagne tasting, the audience voted France's Moe&Chandon White Star their No. 1 choice. It is very good, but if you're watching your pocketbook try the Roederer Anderson Valley from California. Also very good, but only around $20 about half of the White Star price.
Most consistent wineries. The following labels are all to be trusted. Most of these producers make a wide variety of very tasty wines, both white and red. Meridian, Columbia Crest, Geyser Peak, Benzinger, Rosemount (Australian), Kendall-Jackson, Georges Duboeuf (French), Ridge, Beringer, Antinori (Italian), Santa Rita but only the reserve (Chile), Wolf Blass (Australian), Gallo of Sonoma (but not their Ecco Domani label).
The majority of these wines are in the middle price range which would be $10 to $20. These are not the only quality-for-the-dollar wines, of course, but they are readily available in most stores. This is not to say everyone will like every wine, but if you're just learning to enjoy the pleasures of wine with food, the above wines are a good place to start
Stan Torgerson, a longtime Meridian resident, has written a wine column for several years.