Want to know about some high-quality affordable wines that would be right at home on your wine list? Hey, who doesn’t. So check out the list of winners from the Ultimate Wine Challenge we’re printing below—and then hustle to get your allotment of them lined up while the getting is good.
Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way first. We’re usually a little leery when a group of self-appointed experts creates a competition, charges people a stiff fee to enter, and then anoints the winners. This one, the Ultimate Wine Challenge, cost $145 apiece per entry; nearly 500 wines participated in the contest.
But in this case, the self-appointed experts really were experts. The judging panel included the likes of Steve Olson, Nick Passmore and other wine industry heavyweights. And the contest methodology was rigorous and fair, precluding “pay-to-play” concerns.
So who won? The good news for full-service restaurant operators is that a fair number of the wines chosen as Chairman’s Trophy winners have a price point that should make them a comfortable fit on many restaurant wine lists. As always, be careful when you make additions or deletions to your wine list. But it’s helpful to know what some of the best palates in the industry think are good wines right now.
The winners of the Chairman’s Trophy in the 2010 Ultimate Wine Challenge are:
• Champagne: Piper-Heidsieck Rare 1999, $275.00
• Sparkling Wine: Domaine Carneros Cuvee la Pompadour Rose NV, $36.00
• Chardonnay: Carpe Diem Cellars Chardonnay Firepeak Vineyard 2007, $24.00
• Pinot Grigio: Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio 2009, $9.99
• Sauvignon Blanc: Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc Regional Collection 2009, $14.00
• Riesling: Hogue Cellars Genesis Riesling 2008, $15.99
• Viognier: d’Arenberg The Last Ditch 2008, $25.00
• White – International: Peter Lehmann Layers 2009, $15.99
• White – Italian: Fontana Candida Frascati NV, $10.00
• Cabernet Sauvignon: Simi Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, $24.00
• Pinot Noir: Clos du Bois Pinot Noir 2007, $24.00
• Merlot: Shafer Vineyards Merlot 2007, $48.00
• Shiraz: Peter Lehmann Eight Songs Shiraz 2004, $38.00
• Zinfandel: Ravenswood Napa Valley Zinfandel 2007, $18.00
• Red – International: Marques de Caceres Reserva 2004, $25.00
• Best Red – Italian: Sartori Regolo 2005, $21.00
• Red – Assorted US: Pietra Santa Sangiovese 2006, $18.00
• Red Blend: Chateau Julien La Conviviance 2006, $90.00
• Dessert Wine: St. Nicholas Commandaria 2000, $18.99
• Vermouth/Aromatized Wine: Martini & Rossi Rosso, $7.99
• Port: Croft 10 Year Old Tawny NV, $32.00
• Sherry: Gonzalez Byass Apostoles Very Old Rare Sherry Palo Cortado NV, $44.49
• Sake: Shimizu-No-Mai Pure Dusk NV, $42.00
As you can see, the winners in many of the categories that account for much of the dollar volume on full-service wine lists are popularly priced. What are you waiting for?