- The Underground Wine Letter - http://www.undergroundwineletter.com -


Ridge Monte Bello Vineyard [1]

Recently The Daily Meal [2]  published a list of the 101 Best Wineries in America (to read that article click here [3]). The Underground is linked to The Daily Meal and is a contributor. The list was compiled from selections made by sommeliers, chefs, restaurateurs, and wine writers based on quality, consistency, and value.
The list was very interesting from many perspectives. One that stood out was that I did not see any of the Napa Valley cult wines that are over extracted, over manipulated, over hyped and over priced. And while Napa Valley had about 25% of the top wineries on the list, over half were legacy wineries such as Diamond Creek Vineyards, Chateau Montelena, Dunn Vineyards, Corison Winery, and Mayacamas Vineyards. (Mayacamas is certainly deserving but a strange selection at this point since Mayacamas Vineyards was sold late last year and Bob Travers, the owner and winemaker from the wineries inception in the late 60s, is no longer involved. I first visited Mayacamas in the early 70s shortly after Bob arrived. He maintained consistent wine making practices for decades and made beautifully balanced, long lived wines. In fact, I still have 1970 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon in my cellar and it is one of the all time great California Cabernets. Whether or not the new owners choose to follow in his footsteps or move toward the more extracted wines that many in Napa have adopted remains to be seen. To read my article on Mayacamas Vineyards click here [4]).

But, for me, the major finding of the survey was that the relative newcomer to the California fine wine scene, the Central Coast, had nearly as many wines on the list as Napa Valley. I began visiting Central Coast wineries in the early 70s and The Underground Wineletter was the first publication to write about many of the early Central Coast wineries. Earlier this year I published an article entitled World Class Central Coast Wineries (to read that article which also has links to articles on all the wineries click here [5]) where I listed 12 Central Coast wineries that I have written extensively about. They are also wineries that I have known for a long time; and, I have wines in my cellar from these wineries that I drink regularly.  Here are two quotes from that article:

In the 1960s and 70s the number of wineries began to increase and included Chalone, Mount Eden Vineyards, Ridge Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard and Calera in the north. Further south in the 1970s Au Bon Climat and Qupé were established. And, since that time new wineries have expanded rapidly. I have followed this development from the beginning. Today there is no question in my mind that the best wines from California’s Central Coast are indeed world class wines. 

They are wines that represent real value in today’s wine world. The wines are made in a traditional, food friendly style and are balanced and very easy to drink. You can drink them now and many will repay extended aging in the cellar.

Eight of the wineries in my article appear on The Daily Meal list including the top four names on the list – Tablas Creek Vineyard, Ridge Vineyards, Au Bon Climat, and Calera Vineyards. This is a phenomenal showing!  Make no mistake; the Central Coast is producing many great food friendly wines. I have other Central Coast wineries that I am very familiar with and hope to visit soon. That will result with even more Central Coast wineries on my list. For now, if you are not familiar with the great Central Coast wineries, it is time to get in the game. Forget the big numbers and the hype. The great wines from the Central Coast are sure continue to gain more followers as American consumers continue to look for balanced, food friendly wines.

In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson