The rules were simple: name your best wine, best value wine and worst wine of the year accompanied by a pithy one-sentence conclusion on each. The best could come from the basement and didn't have to be available in the market. The best value had better be available, and of course, the worst wine never seems to go away. Prices given are approximate retail in our area.
Tom Colli, bar and wine manager, The Melting Pot:
Best Wine: Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages, 1999, Sonoma, Calif., $80. "This was my favorite wine of the year because the Sonoma fruit makes it a perfect companion to any style of cuisine." What Tom didn't mention was that it was voted the No. 2 wine in the world by the Wine Spectator magazine. Cinq Cepages refers to the use of the five traditional grapes of a Bordeaux blend.
Best Value: Rosemount Shiraz, 2000, Australia, $12.50. This soft, plumy red is, according to Tom, "a perennial award winner and continues to impress for the price."
Worst Wine: Rosemount Chardonnay-Semillon, 2001, Australia, $10. "The taste is flat and is easily overcome by the many textures of food."
Bob Talcott, beverage manager, Buckhead's:
Best Wine: Luce, Toscano, 1999, $75, by the Marchese di Frescobaldi and Robert Mondavi families, in Tuscany, Italy. "They nailed it in 1999. For years, they were criticized for making a wine of New World bigness and ripeness. This one has the Italian flavor of place and natural acidity to accompany food."
Best Value: Thabani Sauvignon Blanc, 2002, South Africa, $13. "Everything you could want from a sauvignon blanc without oak. Rich and lovely. A fabulous wine."
Worst Wine: Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages, 1999, Sonoma, Calif., $80. "This wine has been too hyped up. It has risen in price too much and is only for trophy-wine drinkers. It is too ripe. Ripe, ripe, ripe. No excitement with food."
Andy Howell, owner,
Best Wine: Banfi Brunello di Montalcino, 1997, Tuscany, $55. "Huge fruit with a finish that lasts for an hour."
Best Value: Kempton Clark Mad Zin, 1999, California, $10. "Big fruit, with a mighty cheap price."
Worst Wine: Santa Anastasia Nero d' Avola, 2000, Sicily, $12. "It tasted like pot liquor and cooked-down greens with bacon."
Dan Todd, beverage director,
The Old Original Bookbinders:
Best Wine: Jabolet La Chapelle, 1994, Hermitage, France, $100. "This is a wine that I dug out of my basement and is an extremely fine example of what a French Rhone Valley wine should be."
Best Value: Tattachilla Breakneck Shiraz, Australia, $10. "It is lovely, complex and not the one-dimensional wine that some Australian shiraz can be."
Worst Wine: Williamsburg Winery Governor's White, 2000, $7.50. "It was thin, insipid like chewing on a sweet tart."
John Van Peppen, director of restaurant and catering services, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts:
Best Wine: Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon "Marthas Vineyard," 1985, Napa, $200. "It was gorgeous with all of its mint and eucalyptus flavors." John failed to mention that this is also a basement wine.
Best Value: Firesteed Pinot Gris,2000, Oregon, $12. "The concentration of the wine's fruit with food is great. This is the Thai and Asian food wine supreme."
Worst Wine: Corton Charlemagne, Girardet, 1997, France, $75. "There was just this lemon and eggy flavor."
Michelle Williams, owner, Europa:
Best Wine: Billecart Salmon N.V. Rosé Champagne, $75. "The ultimate in luxury."
Best Value: Zardetto Prosecco, n.v., Italy, $12. "It is easy drinking, with slightly sweet bubbles and much fun."
Worst Wine: Adelsheim Pinot Noir, 2000, Oregon, $25. "This wine has always been an excitement. The last bottle was not there."