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The Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings Revisited

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I published the inaugural version of the Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings last November. My intent was to rank domestic wineries based on buzz, “it” factor, excitement and the intrigue generated among wine collectors and consumers.

I’ve ranked the wineries below and indicated whether they’ve moved up the list or down. I’ve also highlighted wineries new to the list and those that have been dropped from the list.

Without further ado here is the 2013 version of the Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

  1. Screaming Eagle – Hotter than hot. The last of the original cult wines, it’s still widely sought by collectors and label chasers. This spot is secure as long as the wine continues to sell at a premium to the $750 mailing list price. No change from 2012.
  2. Sine Qua Non – The mailing list is virtually impenetrable. The wines are exquisite. Even their “second label” Next of Kyn commands a premium on the aftermarket. Not even the recession could dampen demand for these wines. No change from 2012.
  3. Carlisle – Mike Officer could write a book on how to start a winery. Great wines, great prices, great customer service. Oh… and second-to-none grape sources. Up 5 spots from 2012.
  4. Saxum – 100 points and Wine of the year for the 2007 James Berry. Hard to create more buzz than that. Up 1 spot from 2012.
  5. Rivers-Marie – The winery owned by perhaps the hottest winemaker in all of California, Thomas Rivers-Brown. Once again… great wines and great prices. The flagship Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for $55 is impossible to beat. Up 5 spots from 2012.
  6. Cayuse – Exceptionally well-made, priced right and a flagship label called Bionic Frog. Christophe Baron has it dialed in. One only needs to visit Walla Walla the first weekend in April to see the impact of Cayuse. No change from 2012.
  7. Schrader – It started with the only wine to ever receive 100 points from both the Wine Spectator and the Wine Advocate, the 2007 CCS Cabernet, and never looked back. Down 3 spots from 2012.
  8. Kosta Browne – Consistently some of the highest Pinot Noir scores from the Wine Spectator year-in and year-out. A Wine Spectator wine of the year with the 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Beg, borrow or steal for a tasting appointment at the new facility in The Barlow. Down 1 spot from 2012.
  9. Bedrock – Almost overnight Morgan Twain-Peterson has consumers clamoring to secure his wines. Familiar recipe here…great wines, fair prices and access to some of California’s most treasured vineyards. The big winner this year up 10 spots from 2012.
  10. Quilceda Creek – The blueprint at Quilceda Creek: 100 point wines in ’02, ’03, ’05 and ’07. End of story. Down 1 spot from 2012.
  11. Rochioli – Simply some of the best Pinot Noir in the world. Great Chardonnay as well. And they actually have a tasting room open to the public! The best spot for a picnic in the Russian River Valley. No change from 2012.
  12. Rhys – Old world Pinot Noir that generates more conversation on wine boards than just about any winery. The founder, Kevin Harvey, is very accessible. Not even marginal scores from the Wine Spectator can derail Rhys. No change from 2012.
  13. Dehlinger – To the benefit of those on the mailing list, Tom Dehlinger seems to be increasing the offerings from Dehlinger. Been at it for decades and better than ever. No change from 2012.
  14. Williams Selyem – Bob Cabral makes single vineyard Pinot Noir like no other. Second to none Chardonnay and Zinfandel as well. Visit the new facility at all costs. Even Burt Williams fans have grown to appreciate these wines. No change from 2012.
  15. Turley – You can make an argument that these are the best Zinfandels in California. Impeccable vineyard sources. The wines are better than ever. No change from 2012.
  16. Scarecrow – Whether it is the flagship Scarecrow, the second wine M. Etain, or the bottling made exclusively for Premier Napa Valley (Totos Opiate Dream), these wines always are sought after. In desperate need of a high score from the Wine Advocate. Down 13 spots from 2012.
  17. Corison – Old world wines that are back in style and Cathy Corison has an early adaptor advantage with social media. Up 1 spot from 2012.
  18. Arnot Roberts – Small lot, single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, as well as several other varieties uncommon in Northern Californian vineyards. As hot as it gets. New to the list in 2013.
  19. Ridge – The Zinfandels have never gone out of style. In a world of $150 Cabernets Montebello is a blue chip that you just have to buy. New to the list in 2013.
  20. FIGGINS/Leonetti – A 100 point score from the Wine Advocate for the 2010 Leonetti Reserve. These are simply some of the most compelling wines coming out of the state of Washington. New to the list in 2013.

Dropped off the list: Marcassin, Dunn and Lillian.

There you have it! The 2013 version of the Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings. As always, I welcome your feedback.

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14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mark Leyendecker #

    Tom, in my opinion you have totally captured the true essence of great domestic producers on this list. Outstanding job!

    August 20, 2013
  2. jordan #

    I am a huge fan of Arnot Roberts. They have a side Pinot project called RPM. It is the first release and I bought some, but haven’t tried it. I was wondering if you have had it, or read any reviews?
    I can’t argue too much with the list, other than the value of some. Several are so reasonable in price that they should be higher on the list vs Screaming Eagle which is the ultimate cult wine, but super expensive. I would rather have a case of Saxum than one bottle of screaming eagle

    August 20, 2013
    • I’d not heard of the RPM. Sounds interesting though. Somehow while Colgin, Bryant, etc have lost their luster, Screaming Eagle still is in demand. That being said I’d rather have the case of Saxum as well.

      August 20, 2013
  3. David Povlak #

    A very good list. I would mix a few others in and out but overall very little argument.

    August 20, 2013
  4. Rojo #

    Dehlinger is definitely underrated! He is way more balanced and consistent than the other two Pinot Noir producers rated higher.

    August 20, 2013
  5. Matt #

    Great work, as always. Have to agree with the Bedrock and Arnot rise in particular. Great wines plus great people will create great success. RPM released a Gamay last year which I enjoyed but I think will be much better with a year or two cellar time.

    August 20, 2013
  6. Anonymous #

    Myriad

    January 8, 2014
    • Agreed. It was probably 21st on my list.

      January 13, 2014
  7. Kevin #

    Tom, have you tried Corliss? I think it is a sleeper winery when talking about top Washington wineries.

    January 13, 2014
    • Yes. Super wines and I agree they still fly a little under the radar.

      January 13, 2014
  8. Early returns from mailers this winter makes me think Schrader is as hot as ever. I think many were waiting on the release of the 12’s. Carlisle and Rivers-Marie look to be going strong as well.

    January 26, 2014
  9. Jay #

    Why did marcassin fall off the list?

    July 16, 2014
    • This is totally subjective. Great wines but it is my perception that they don’t generate the excitement they once did.

      July 16, 2014

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