Sunset Wine Awards 2009

If you thought the Oscar race was competitive, check out the Western wine scene. Here’s your indispensable guide to the true stars

The top ten bottles in Sunset's Wine Awards

Jeffery Cross

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How the best was won: Our panel of wine pros nominated more than 200 wines, tasted them blind, and found a red and a white winner in each of our five categories, with 40 runners-up.

Steals // $15 or less (our people’s choice awards, tasted by Sunset wine club members) 

White:  Edna Valley Vineyard Paragon Chardonnay 2007 (San Luis Obispo County; $12) Why we chose it: All the apple, spice, and lemon brûlée a good Chard needs. Runners up: Bogle Chardonnay 2007 (Clarksburg and Monterey County; $9) // Evesham Wood Chardonnay 2008 (Willamette Valley; $13) // Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (California; $12) // Justin Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Paso Robles; $15) // Sokol Blosser “Evolution” White Blend Nonvintage (United States; $15) // Uvaggio Vermentino 2008 (Lodi; $14)

Red:  Cycles Gladiator Syrah 2007 (Central Coast; $9.99) Why we chose it: Juicy blueberries spiked with white pepper make your mouth water. Runners up: Big Ass Zin 2006 (Sonoma County; $15) // Columbia Crest “H3” Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Horse Heaven Hills; $15) // Easton “H” House Red Blend 2005 (California; $10) // Four Vines “Old Vine Cuvee” Zinfandel 2006 (California; $14)

Good Values // $16 to $30

White:  Geyser Peak “Block Collection” River Ranches Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Russian River Valley; $19) Why we chose it: Fresh herbs and pink grapefruit add up to a vibrant sip.Runners up: Anne Amie Pinot Gris 2008 (Willamette Valley; $19) // Chateau Ste. Michelle “Indian Wells” Chardonnay 2007 (Columbia Valley; $18) // Morgan “Metallico” Unoaked Chardonnay 2007 (Monterey; $20) // Schramsberg “Mirabelle” Brut Multivintage (North Coast; $23) // Tsillan Cellars Estate Riesling 2007 (Columbia Valley; $22)

Red:  Hahn Meritage 2007 (Central Coast; $16) Why we chose it: Sweet black cherry and cedar with a touch of espresso. Runners up: Brandborg “Bench Lands” Pinot Noir 2006 (Umpqua Valley; $22) // Cadence “Coda” Cabernet Blend 2006 (Columbia Valley; $25) // Monte Volpe Sangiovese 2005 (Mendocino County; $17) // Pellegrini Family Cloverdale Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Alexander Valley; $28) // Siduri Pinot Noir 2007 (Willamette Valley; $20)

Special occasion bottles // $31 to $50

White:  Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2005 (North Coast; $36) Why we chose it: Complex toast and tart apple with tiny lemon-honey bubbles. Runners up: Landmark “Damaris Reserve” Chardonnay 2006 (Sonoma County; $40) // Rusack Reserve Chardonnay 2007 (Santa Maria Valley; $32) // St. Supéry Dollarhide Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Napa Valley; $35)

Red:  Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Columbia Valley; $42) Why we chose it: Rich, long black- berry fruit over velvety tannins. Runners up: Cadaretta Syrah 2006 (Columbia Valley; $35) // JC Cellars Caldwell Vineyards Syrah 2005 (Napa Valley; $45) // Kutch McDougall Ranch Pinot Noir 2007 (Sonoma Coast; $48) // Morgan “Twelve Clones” Pinot Noir 2007 (Santa Lucia Highlands; $32) // Neyers Old Lakeville Road Syrah 2007 (Sonoma Coast; $33) // Snows Lake “Two” Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc 2005 (Red Hills, Lake County; $45) // Tantara Bien Nacido Vineyard–Adobe Pinot Noir 2006 (Santa Maria Valley; $48)

Deep Pocket Wines // More than $50

White:  Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay 2006 (Santa Cruz Mountains; $60) Why we chose it: Lively citrus brightens classic golden apple. Runners up: Lynmar “La Sereinité” Chardonnay 2006 (Russian River Valley; $70) // Schramsberg “J. Schram” Brut Rosé 2000 (North Coast; $130)

Red:  Continuum Cabernet Sauvignon blend 2006 (Oakville, Napa Valley; $134) Why we chose it: Ripe black cherries, a hint of licorice, and great structure. Runners up: Boudreaux Cellars Champoux and Loess Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Washington; $100) // Kapcsándy State Lane Vineyard “Estate Cuvée” Cabernet/Merlot Blend 2006 (Yountville; $135) // Mazzocco Maple Vineyard Reserve Zinfandel 2006 (Dry Creek Valley; $60) // O’Shaughnessy Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Howell Mountain; $75) // Quintessa Cabernet Blend 2005 (Rutherford; $145) // Realm Cellars Farella Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Napa Valley; $85) // Shafer “One Point Five” Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Stags Leap District; $70) // Testarossa “Cuvée Niclaire” Pinot Noir 2005 (California; $75)

Critics’ Choice Award // Hard to FIND, but our judges were impressed

White:  J. Rochioli Rachael’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 (Russian River Valley; $70; limited release) Why we chose it: Perfect balance of bright apple and lemon cream.

Red: Evening Land “Celebration” Gamay Noir 2007 (Eola-Amity Hills; $20) Why we chose it: Unusual, spicy red with minerals and dried flowers.

Next: Best Wine Region and Bar


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