California’s Performance on Wine Spectators Top 100 List: Russian River Valley
This is the first part of a series of articles on California’s wines that made Wine Spectators Top 100 list.
Three Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley were awarded coveted spots on the Wine Spectator Top 100 List. The variables used to create this hierarchy include, “quality, value, availability, and excitement.” 13,500 wines were reviewed by the magazine this year.
It’s unfortunate that the these sorts of rankings have as much influence as they do, but the reality is that inclusion in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 brings an incredible amount of exposure and legitimacy to the winery and the region. With this at stake, it’s nice to see that three small producers from one of my favorite regions made the cut.
The Kosta Brown, 2004 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir received an impressive #7 ranking on the list. Wine Spectator scored it 96 and was also clearly impressed with the wine’s $38 price tag. Kosta Browne is a small winery that makes several bottlings of big, extracted Pinot Noir. The grapes were allowed to hang until they developed a very high sugar level (25 – 27 degrees BRIX), while the region’s characteristic fog retained sufficient acidity for balance. As shown on the map below, wind and fog from the Pacific Ocean enters Russian River Valley from the Pacific Ocean.
Their 2004 Russian River Valley Pinot was made with grapes from Amber Ridge, Bly, Cohn, and Koplen Vineyards. Wine Spectator is usually thrilled with massive, fruit forward wines, and with an alcohol level of 15.2%, this wine meets that criterion.
The second Russian River Valley Pinot is Merry Edwards 2003 Russian River Valley Klopp Ranch Methode a Lancienne Pinot Noir, adn at $48 it was ranked #21. Before starting her own winery, Merry Edwards was in high demand as a consultant. She was also the founding winemaker at Matanzas Creek in the Bennett Valley AVA.
Mueller Winery is another small Russian River Valley producer that made the list. The 2003 Emily’s Cuvee Pinot Noir scored a 93 and ranked #54. Like the Kosta Browne, it costs $38. The grapes used to make this wine were grown in gravel soils and a cool, foggy climate. This fog is critical to retaining the acidity that Pinot Noir is known for.