The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines)

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D@vid Bu3ker
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#51 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » May 9th, 2019, 5:29 pm

Lack of track record is a disqualifier, unless the exercise is a complete joke.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#52 Post by AlexO » May 9th, 2019, 5:31 pm

D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 5:29 pm
Lack of track record is a disqualifier, unless the exercise is a complete joke.
If you read the OP, you'll notice I also created the opportunity for a modern list for wines that don't quite have the 10+ year track record. Hence, I tried to classify them as Modern Cults
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#53 Post by Bill Tex Landreth » May 9th, 2019, 5:55 pm

AlexO wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 5:21 pm
I would argue that for cult status, MacDonald checks all the boxes that Screaming Eagle / Harlan / Maya / Bryant / Grace / etc... all checked 15-20 years ago.
Nope.

The previous 50 years gets rolled into To Kalon’s fame and stature.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#54 Post by Scott Brunson » May 9th, 2019, 6:04 pm

So, another price increase for 'Crow? [snort.gif]
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#55 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » May 9th, 2019, 6:11 pm

AlexO wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 5:31 pm
D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 5:29 pm
Lack of track record is a disqualifier, unless the exercise is a complete joke.
If you read the OP, you'll notice I also created the opportunity for a modern list for wines that don't quite have the 10+ year track record. Hence, I tried to classify them as Modern Cults
Cult and first growth are very different things. Fads don’t interest me.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#56 Post by Bill Tex Landreth » May 9th, 2019, 6:15 pm

D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 6:11 pm
AlexO wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 5:31 pm
D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 5:29 pm
Lack of track record is a disqualifier, unless the exercise is a complete joke.
If you read the OP, you'll notice I also created the opportunity for a modern list for wines that don't quite have the 10+ year track record. Hence, I tried to classify them as Modern Cults
Cult and first growth are very different things. Fads don’t interest me.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#57 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » May 9th, 2019, 6:46 pm

Always good to be on the opposite side of Tex.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#58 Post by GregT » May 9th, 2019, 7:46 pm

Nope. Not even close. There are a lot of pricey wines today. Those were more expensive relative to other wines and more importantly, they were awarded 97, 98, 99 or 100 points by Parker himself, in addition to being made by some of his favorite wine makers like Helen Turley. And he was consistently effusive in his praise for those wines. He'd say that a wine will be redefining Cabernet, or will be the envy of anyone in Bordeaux, etc.

Nobody in Napa is competing with Bordeaux any more. And nobody today has the influence Parker had, so no matter how many 99 or 100 point scores the wine gets from all the writing rabble these days, there's not going to be the same demand.

Not that it's a bad thing - the MacDonald is good wine and doesn't need to be priced at those levels.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#59 Post by S. Rash » May 9th, 2019, 7:51 pm

This is very interesting. What if they were classified by QPR?
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#60 Post by Roy Piper » May 9th, 2019, 8:52 pm

This is an awesome topic and I have some thoughts to consider.

1. Let's not forget how Bordeaux came up with their rankings.

From most accounts, the Growths were determined simply by the powerful merchants roughly rank-ordering them (often by price) at what would today be called a "World's Fair." Voila! They did not spend much time thinking about vineyards or winemaking or raw materials. At the date of the ranking, they did not even know how malolactic fermentation occurred and much of winemaking was either tradition or myth or trial and error. They probably simply assumed that the most expensive wines were the best (they still do this to some degree) and this probably meant they had the best sites. So to some degree the whole process when applied to Napa is wholly unrelated to BDX. If we rank them simply by price, I doubt most of us would be satisfied.

2. The most predictive relationship to quality in Cab is neither soil nor price, but winemakers.

I read an article many years ago that pointed out the best predictor of wine scores (a proxy for quality for many) is not terroir, but simply who the winemaker is. And therefore the best way to rank "Growths" is to apply it to winemakers and not brands or vineyards. This may seem silly but if you look at scores, it's actually the most accurate method. Who would First Growth Winemakers be if we went this route? The data would be easily sortable... First Growth: Thomas Brown, Brad Grimes, Phillipe Melka, Paul Hobbs, Paul Draper. That was easy! The fact it is so easy points to a truth many might find uncomfortable, and that is that great winemakers seem to make great wines and do from from various sources and various brands. Much of that success is their demand that they use great grapes. But Chris Carpenter (Lokoya) makes epic wine from every AVA he touches. His record is almost 100%. The record for even a great vineyard like ToKalon is probably just 50%, at most. So, what should we be ranking if accuracy and predictability of a classification is paramount? Shouldn't it work for the everyday consumer?

3. Not all vineyard blocks are created equal, even in great vineyards.

We all know this. It has always been true in Bordeaux too. When a First Growth buys the vineyard land of a neighbor and integrates it into their wine, that block becomes a First Growth by nature of the wine being such. That shows some theoretical shortfalls of having the wine be the item that is classified. This is currently also causing headaches in Napa. What is ToKalon? It is already much larger than the original Crabb ToKalon. Although it is a truly great site, if you add up the portions owned by Beckstoffer, Constellation, MacDonald, Detert, Opus and UC Davis, it probably approaches 700 acres, or more than a square mile. The variations within that mass of vines range from First to Fifth Growth in my opinion, yet anyone using the ToKalon name immediately commands $200+. Conversely, some people get bigger scores and charge more money from "good" blocks than others with perhaps the best blocks, due to name, packaging, oak treatment, scores or sheer force of will.

4. How does one define "great?"

Scores and price are objective data. But "quality" is not. For example, very few would argue that Paul Draper is not one of the great winemakers ever in the USA. Yet he has far less scores over 98 than at least ten winemakers I can think of even though he has been at it for decades. But because he has been at it for decades and because his wines age so well and he has accomplished so much not just with Cab but also with Zin, he would always be on such a list. Tony Soter's is on my list of the all-time greats even though his own Etude Wines rarely exceeded 94-points in his time here. Certain Cab styles grate some the wrong way despite their popularity and scores. Of course, this problem is true in BDX too. No system will keep everyone happy.

My General Thoughts

I am pretty much in-line with Segui's thoughts.... the Vineyard Cru system would probably work better than a Classified Growth system where wines themselves are grouped. And since Napa is actually fairly small, I think it could be organized as such with enough effort. It's something I have said before I might consider doing, someday. That was before I was married and now I wonder where I would find that time!

In my own winemaking experience, I find that the better the vineyards I use and the better vineyard management, the better my wines get. My own growth as a winemaker (and understanding of vineyards and viticulture) also help. But I simply cannot get better than my raw materials. I may cook a great steak, but if I use a Green Egg to perfection on a Safeway steak, it simply can't be as good as a quick pan-cooked Flannery. The same is true for wines. So I think underneath great wines are... great vineyards. And thus if we really want to get to the core of the inherent greatness, I think Burgundy is a strong model to consider.

This would face serious pushback, of course. I broached the subject with a legendary winemaker a few months ago at a formal dinner party and it got a bit heated. My first step, I claimed, was I would declassify the majority of Napa, itself. I feel Napa starts where Carneros ends in the south, is between the Mayacamas and Vaca Range and ends where Calistoga ends in the north. Yet Wild Horse Valley, Chiles Valley and Conn Valley get to use the Napa moniker. My obvious question is... "Why should they be called Napa Valley when they are not.... Napa Valley? Especially when their fruit goes for much less per ton than Napa, in general? Shouldn't we start by just getting the valley itself, straightened out?" Welllllll.... this person has decades of winemaking experience and his family had over a century in the valley and his response was "If you do that, many of those families and people who helped build the Napa name will be cast out forever from something they built. Is that right?"

He may have a point. Although I feel my argument is also valid, there might be more at stake. I think Pontet Canet is a legit Second Growth since Vintage 2000, but is languishes as 5th Growth status no matter how hard it works. Because a bunch of people who might have no more legitimacy than judges at a regional fair might have handing out "gold medals" made a decision in 1855. Meanwhile, there are Marguax estates with Second and Third Growth status that can't touch Pontet. So putting anything in stone may have adverse consequences that last longer than its utility. Historical tidbit... I believe Thomas Jefferson was the first person to rank BDX growth and he did it in 1787.

If the SHTF just for trying to decide what "Napa" should be, wait until people try to classify vineyards and wines themselves. That does not mean it might not be worth doing, though.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#61 Post by Jim Clary » May 9th, 2019, 9:15 pm

Don’t forget about Ovid. Short production history but strong throughout.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#62 Post by R. Gaston » May 9th, 2019, 9:26 pm

A fun topic! I will keep it simple.

Napa’s 5 first growths:

Screagle
Harlan
Martha’s
Opus
Dunn

I like tradition, but can’t figure out why such little love for Opus. Not my favorite, but track record is great and commands a high $$.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#63 Post by Steve Crawford » May 10th, 2019, 7:17 am

not always a strong correlation between vineyard quality and producer quality, see Backus.

some funny posts in here, as usual. and this thread probably needs to be subdivided for the AFWE crowd. to include dominus and hundred acre in the same discussion is humorous.

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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#64 Post by Gabe Berk » May 10th, 2019, 8:40 am

K John Joseph wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 3:45 pm
This is fascinating. First Growths are First Growths in Bordeaux because of an 1855 ranking (with an amendment for Mouton). We're ranking these today, right? If we looked at Napa today and said, let's take the past 20-30 years because many have changed hands and many up and comers have since established themselves as lions, what do we have? Heitz, BV, Mondavi, Montelena, and Stags Leap wouldn't have a chance in hell at being considered Tier 1 Napa wines. Maybe they were from 1960-1989, but not since. Lafite, Margaux, Latour et al. are still famous for producing the best wines of Bordeaux in each vintage. Those others aren't doing anything close to that in Napa. So the list would, in my opinion, need to balance past performance with current performance.

This does get really tough. The top bottling's from BV, Mondavi, Montelena, Stag's Leap and Heitz garner reviews from many publications in the 95+ range the same as up and coming lions. The before mentioned are some of the pioneers in Napa and continue to make classic world class Cab/Cab Blends. Without missing a beat on their top bottling's they inherantly could be preceived as Napa First Growth. Just had a 2013 Stag's Leap Cask 23 who Mr. Parker himself reviewed 99 points who's fruit comes from the very first plantings of Cabernet in the area of Napa Valley for which they named the AVA after called Stag's Leap AVA. The old hat still fits...

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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#65 Post by Joshua Kates » May 10th, 2019, 8:49 am

Gabe Berk wrote:
May 10th, 2019, 8:40 am
Just had a 2013 Stag's Leap Cask 23 who Mr. Parker himself reviewed 99 points who's fruit comes from the very first plantings of Cabernet in the area of Napa Valley for which they named the AVA after called Stag's Leap AVA. The old hat still fits...
Gabe,
I've had some Cask 23 bottled by the "new people," not sure what year. That one did not stand up to the ones I had when Warren was still at the helm. Regardless of RP, do you find them the same?

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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#66 Post by Gabe Berk » May 10th, 2019, 9:26 am

Joshua Kates wrote:
May 10th, 2019, 8:49 am
Gabe Berk wrote:
May 10th, 2019, 8:40 am
Just had a 2013 Stag's Leap Cask 23 who Mr. Parker himself reviewed 99 points who's fruit comes from the very first plantings of Cabernet in the area of Napa Valley for which they named the AVA after called Stag's Leap AVA. The old hat still fits...
Gabe,
I've had some Cask 23 bottled by the "new people," not sure what year. That one did not stand up to the ones I had when Warren was still at the helm. Regardless of RP, do you find them the same?
I've been lucky to have had Cask 23 throughout the years-new and old. There is a similarity to them all by virtue of the fruit source. One could agree that wine making and grape growing in Napa and around the world, including BDX has changed some from yesteryear due to a myriad of reasons. The 2013 Cask 23 I had would hold its own against any current ultra premium Cabernet based wine in Napa. It was an incredibly good wine.

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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#67 Post by Steve Crawford » May 10th, 2019, 12:24 pm

Gabe Berk wrote:
May 10th, 2019, 9:26 am
Joshua Kates wrote:
May 10th, 2019, 8:49 am
Gabe Berk wrote:
May 10th, 2019, 8:40 am
Just had a 2013 Stag's Leap Cask 23 who Mr. Parker himself reviewed 99 points who's fruit comes from the very first plantings of Cabernet in the area of Napa Valley for which they named the AVA after called Stag's Leap AVA. The old hat still fits...
Gabe,
I've had some Cask 23 bottled by the "new people," not sure what year. That one did not stand up to the ones I had when Warren was still at the helm. Regardless of RP, do you find them the same?
I've been lucky to have had Cask 23 throughout the years-new and old. There is a similarity to them all by virtue of the fruit source. One could agree that wine making and grape growing in Napa and around the world, including BDX has changed some from yesteryear due to a myriad of reasons. The 2013 Cask 23 I had would hold its own against any current ultra premium Cabernet based wine in Napa. It was an incredibly good wine.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#68 Post by Jim Cowan » May 10th, 2019, 12:55 pm

I’m with Roy in preferring a Cru based system.
That way there is room for more than just Cab. based wines. But his point about winemakers is well-taken, so maybe this exercise is best left to what sells best.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#69 Post by Anton D » May 10th, 2019, 1:34 pm

Opus is worthy of mention, I agree.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#70 Post by Kris Patten » May 10th, 2019, 7:03 pm

I would put below in category of First Growth:

Heitz Martha's
Dalla Valle Maya
Screaming Eagle
Shafer Hillside Select
Lokoya Mt. Veeder
Harlan
Mondavi Reserve
Beringer PR
Dunn HM

All have been consistently good for decades.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#71 Post by PeterH » May 10th, 2019, 9:22 pm

You take Mary, I'll take Sue, Ain't much difference between the two...
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#72 Post by Jim Clary » May 10th, 2019, 9:37 pm

Steve Crawford wrote:
May 10th, 2019, 7:17 am
to include dominus and hundred acre in the same discussion is humorous.
Why? I buy and enjoy both wines and their respective styles. I don’t think that makes me unique in any regard. It is possible to appreciate both styles.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#73 Post by Craig G » May 10th, 2019, 10:05 pm

Anton D wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 9:49 am
A. So wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 9:34 am
Ridge MB is not Napa
D’oh!

I skipped that part!
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#74 Post by d_sharp » May 11th, 2019, 12:19 am

Great wines have been coming from Eisele vineyard for well over 40 years, despite what "Winery name" or winemaker has made the wine. Although I am partial to the wines of Francoise Peschon. I don't understand the lack of recognition/respect this vineyard receives. My two cents. [cheers.gif]
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#75 Post by Kris Patten » May 11th, 2019, 8:05 am

d_sharp wrote:
May 11th, 2019, 12:19 am
Great wines have been coming from Eisele vineyard for well over 40 years, despite what "Winery name" or winemaker has made the wine. Although I am partial to the wines of Francoise Peschon. I don't understand the lack of recognition/respect this vineyard receives. My two cents. [cheers.gif]
Problem isn't vineyard it's that Villa Mt Eden (or was it Conn Creek) had it, then Joseph Phelps, the Araujo, now Eisele Vineyards with quite a few winemakers impressions rendered over that time.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#76 Post by d_sharp » May 11th, 2019, 9:52 am

Hi Kris,

According to the OP "should be no more than 5 specific wines, not wineries. This is why I chose Eisele, no matter who has made wine from this patch of "dirt" Ridge in 1971, Conn Creek in 1974, Phelps thru out the 70's and 80's, Araujo from 91 to 2014?, now the owners of Latour. Eisele has always been excellent.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#77 Post by Steve Crawford » May 11th, 2019, 12:22 pm

Jim Clary wrote:
May 10th, 2019, 9:37 pm
Steve Crawford wrote:
May 10th, 2019, 7:17 am
to include dominus and hundred acre in the same discussion is humorous.
Why? I buy and enjoy both wines and their respective styles. I don’t think that makes me unique in any regard. It is possible to appreciate both styles.
i couldnt agree more that both are high quality wines.
i just think grouping them together so as to compare is a fools errand because they are so far apart.

i think having separate lists with vineyards, winemakers, and wines is the most logical, with the latter dividing by for the afwe and those that like having fun wines.

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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#78 Post by dougwilder » May 11th, 2019, 1:58 pm

Anton D wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 9:14 am


First Growth:

Mondavi Reserve


*New Stars* Too short a track record but really fine right now...

MacDonald

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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#79 Post by Jim Clary » May 11th, 2019, 5:50 pm

Steve Crawford wrote:
May 11th, 2019, 12:22 pm
Jim Clary wrote:
May 10th, 2019, 9:37 pm
Steve Crawford wrote:
May 10th, 2019, 7:17 am
to include dominus and hundred acre in the same discussion is humorous.
Why? I buy and enjoy both wines and their respective styles. I don’t think that makes me unique in any regard. It is possible to appreciate both styles.
i couldnt agree more that both are high quality wines.
i just think grouping them together so as to compare is a fools errand because they are so far apart.

i think having separate lists with vineyards, winemakers, and wines is the most logical, with the latter dividing by for the afwe and those that like having fun wines.
Sorry to be obtuse, but I still don’t see your point, unless in your opinion Hundred Acre isn’t a “serious” wine, in which case we continue to disagree. It might not be your style, but it has plenty of followers among serious-minded wine enthusiasts.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#80 Post by Kris Patten » May 11th, 2019, 6:35 pm

Jim Clary wrote:
May 11th, 2019, 5:50 pm
Steve Crawford wrote:
May 11th, 2019, 12:22 pm
Jim Clary wrote:
May 10th, 2019, 9:37 pm


Why? I buy and enjoy both wines and their respective styles. I don’t think that makes me unique in any regard. It is possible to appreciate both styles.
i couldnt agree more that both are high quality wines.
i just think grouping them together so as to compare is a fools errand because they are so far apart.

i think having separate lists with vineyards, winemakers, and wines is the most logical, with the latter dividing by for the afwe and those that like having fun wines.
Sorry to be obtuse, but I still don’t see your point, unless in your opinion Hundred Acre isn’t a “serious” wine, in which case we continue to disagree. It might not be your style, but it has plenty of followers among serious-minded wine enthusiasts.
You can just agree your two lists would only overlap 1 or 2 wines, as your palates obviously contrast. 1 less person competing for wines you like.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#81 Post by R. Frankel » May 11th, 2019, 8:48 pm

I think JJK’s list is pretty close to what I think makes sense in terms of classified producers. I haven’t tasted them all and would probably move some up and down a bit but the overall approach seems right to me.

But. Schrader owned zero vines before it was bought by Constellation in 2017. Now that same company also owns a lot of To Kalon. Should a pure negociant be a ‘First Growth’? Schrader now is more like Cheval Blanc, owned by a mega corporation. While some of these others have been sold to big companies, haven’t they all owned some or all of their own vineyards?
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#82 Post by AndyK » May 11th, 2019, 11:46 pm

Steve Crawford wrote:
May 10th, 2019, 7:17 am
not always a strong correlation between vineyard quality and producer quality, see Backus.
Because Backus is much better than anything Phelps is making or because Backus could be so much better if in someone else’s hands? [scratch.gif]
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#83 Post by J a y H a c k » May 12th, 2019, 7:32 am

Anton D wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 9:49 am
A. So wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 9:34 am
Ridge MB is not Napa
D’oh!

I skipped that part!
Ridge MonteBello is the Haut Brion of Napa first growths.

First of all, we have to establish rules. Rules? In a knife fight?

.
The original 1855 Bordeaux classification was based upon average selling price over the preceding 40 years. So there is a test of time standard. Since "our"vineyards suffered from the destruction caused by prohibition, followed by The Depression, followed by WWII, 40 years might be a bit much, so let's say 30 years shows staying power. Cultishness, as a characteristic, is too vague. There are plenty of threads on what is and is not a cult, so let's just leave that out and go with price as the market characteristic best suited to measure quality without regard to palate disputes. The problem, of course, is that this leaves out winemakers like some of my favorites Thomas Rivers Brown and Mike Smith, because they are too new and established themselves at new sites, rather than old line vineyards. Les mauvais garcon of Napa. It also leaves out some of my favorite new kids on the block - MacDonald and Scarecrow. Oh well, they will make it in my son's reclassification in 2040.

One other rule - If you have never had it, you can't list it. This means Screaming Eagle is not on my list. It is only 27 years,but even if you average in three years at $0.00 price, it would still be a first growth, but not having had it, it's out.

That leaves me with:

First Growths

Shafer HSS
Diamond Creek (a couple of different cuvees are great so I will just put the winery name.)
Ridge MB
Heitz Martha's
Mondavi Reserve (NOTE: the best grapes are now in MacDonald!)
Opus One pileon
Dominus
Colgin Herb Lamb - * see below
Araujo Eisele - See Colgin and Screagle and Abreu Madronna Ranch

Second Growths

Dunn Howell Mountain
Pahlmeyer Prop Red
Caymus SS pileon pileon
Beringer PR
Heitz Trailside
Dalla Valla Maya
Montelena Estate (extra credit for kicking French ass in 1976)
Spottswood Estate
Togni (not sure which one, I've only had it once or twice).

Honorable Mention

Silver Oak Alexander Valley - Not in Napa and no where near what it once was, but excellent before it became a steakhouse bulk wine
Jordan- See Silver Oak
Abreu Madronna ranch - data unclear on whether it has actually been around for 30 years. If so, it goes in First Growth or Super Second
Beaulieu GdL PR - spotty. I have had some great ones and some really bad ones. I used to hate these but I think that was because they were so tight young, like Dunn HM. Old ones that were well kept seem outstanding.
Phelps Backus.

* OOPS -I made the list above without looking at other posts. I then took a quick look and realized that I did not consider Colgin. Looks like Screagle. Started just after the 30 year window so it did not come up in my CT search for 1989 Cabs. I think it goes in as a First Growth.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#84 Post by J a y H a c k » May 12th, 2019, 7:35 am

dougwilder wrote:
May 11th, 2019, 1:58 pm
. . . If Mondavi Reserve is the Cake, MacDonald is where they used to get their eggs...
FIFY! [cheers.gif]
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#85 Post by Howard Cooper » May 12th, 2019, 7:59 am

Roy Piper wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 8:52 pm
the Vineyard Cru system would probably work better than a Classified Growth system where wines themselves are grouped. And since Napa is actually fairly small, I think it could be organized as such with enough effort.
I am a Burgundy lover, so I agree that a classification of vineyards makes more sense to me than a classification of wineries. But, it seems to be that if one tries to rank a number of the greatest vineyards in Napa or California history, you get to a lot of vineyards that are owned by one producer (more like a Bordeaux model than a Burgundy model) and in a number of cases where the wines coming through the vineyards today are not what they once were.

Being older, I think of some of the great vineyards as being:

Montebello
To-Kalon
BV Home Vineyard (isn't this the name of the vineyard for their Private Reserve)
Napanook
Eisele Vineyard
Martha's Vineyard
the vineyard for Chateau Montelena Estate
the vineyard for Mayacamas

Only To-Kalon (which as you stated is too large) fits the Burgundy model of multiple owners. Don't the others fit more the Bordeaux model where vineyard and producer are more the same (I realize the Eisele and Napanook are a bit of a hybrid as there have been more than one winery using the grapes but it is generally one winery at a time).
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#86 Post by Anton D » May 12th, 2019, 8:14 am

J a y H a c k wrote:
May 12th, 2019, 7:32 am
Anton D wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 9:49 am
A. So wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 9:34 am
Ridge MB is not Napa
D’oh!

I skipped that part!
Ridge MonteBello is the Haut Brion of Napa first growths.

First of all, we have to establish rules. Rules? In a knife fight?

.
The original 1855 Bordeaux classification was based upon average selling price over the preceding 40 years. So there is a test of time standard. Since "our"vineyards suffered from the destruction caused by prohibition, followed by The Depression, followed by WWII, 40 years might be a bit much, so let's say 30 years shows staying power. Cultishness, as a characteristic, is too vague. There are plenty of threads on what is and is not a cult, so let's just leave that out and go with price as the market characteristic best suited to measure quality without regard to palate disputes. The problem, of course, is that this leaves out winemakers like some of my favorites Thomas Rivers Brown and Mike Smith, because they are too new and established themselves at new sites, rather than old line vineyards. Les mauvais garcon of Napa. It also leaves out some of my favorite new kids on the block - MacDonald and Scarecrow. Oh well, they will make it in my son's reclassification in 2040.

One other rule - If you have never had it, you can't list it. This means Screaming Eagle is not on my list. It is only 27 years,but even if you average in three years at $0.00 price, it would still be a first growth, but not having had it, it's out.

That leaves me with:

First Growths

Shafer HSS
Diamond Creek (a couple of different cuvees are great so I will just put the winery name.)
Ridge MB
Heitz Martha's
Mondavi Reserve (NOTE: the best grapes are now in MacDonald!)
Opus One pileon
Dominus
Colgin Herb Lamb - * see below
Araujo Eisele - See Colgin and Screagle and Abreu Madronna Ranch

Second Growths

Dunn Howell Mountain
Pahlmeyer Prop Red
Caymus SS pileon pileon
Beringer PR
Heitz Trailside
Dalla Valla Maya
Montelena Estate (extra credit for kicking French ass in 1976)
Spottswood Estate
Togni (not sure which one, I've only had it once or twice).

Honorable Mention

Silver Oak Alexander Valley - Not in Napa and no where near what it once was, but excellent before it became a steakhouse bulk wine
Jordan- See Silver Oak
Abreu Madronna ranch - data unclear on whether it has actually been around for 30 years. If so, it goes in First Growth or Super Second
Beaulieu GdL PR - spotty. I have had some great ones and some really bad ones. I used to hate these but I think that was because they were so tight young, like Dunn HM. Old ones that were well kept seem outstanding.
Phelps Backus.

* OOPS -I made the list above without looking at other posts. I then took a quick look and realized that I did not consider Colgin. Looks like Screagle. Started just after the 30 year window so it did not come up in my CT search for 1989 Cabs. I think it goes in as a First Growth.
That was wonderful, great post!
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#87 Post by Mark Golodetz » May 12th, 2019, 8:38 am

You guys are tying yourselves into knots trying to get your parameters workable.

But once you go with some arbitrary criteria, particularly age, you are going to lose so many wineries, so that the whole thing becomes meaningless. I would suggest that you should recognize that Napa is an older region but most of its growth is recent, and rather than worry about what the Bordeaux merchants did 163 years ago, take Napa for what it is, and choose accordingly.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#88 Post by Steven Orloff » May 12th, 2019, 9:53 am

I guess I am surprised I am not seeing Spottswoode consistently in that first growth category. They have it all: longevity, great scores and classic profile.

My First Growth would be as follows:

Shafer Hillside
Ridge M
Spottswoode
Colgin
Harlan
Abreu
Dominus

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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#89 Post by Mattstolz » May 12th, 2019, 1:03 pm

NoahR wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 1:14 pm
First Growths:
To Kalon (Mondavi, Macdonald)?
Screagle
Harlan
Scarecrow
Monte Bello (don’t care it’s not in Napa)
I agree with including Monte Bello anyways. just like Haut Brion in 1855. Its too good not to.

you also mentioned GC/PC vs terrior and I think that terrior is almost an impossible way to do it in Napa, where there is just so much in-winery manipulation just as standard practice. in fact, I sometimes think it would be hard to set up the grand cruller system in Burgundy at this point even now for the same reason. (even when discounting the politics of it at this point)

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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#90 Post by James Billy » May 13th, 2019, 1:16 am

Roy Piper wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 8:52 pm
This is an awesome topic and I have some thoughts to consider.

1. Let's not forget how Bordeaux came up with their rankings.

From most accounts, the Growths were determined simply by the powerful merchants roughly rank-ordering them (often by price) at what would today be called a "World's Fair." Voila! They did not spend much time thinking about vineyards or winemaking or raw materials. At the date of the ranking, they did not even know how malolactic fermentation occurred and much of winemaking was either tradition or myth or trial and error. They probably simply assumed that the most expensive wines were the best (they still do this to some degree) and this probably meant they had the best sites. So to some degree the whole process when applied to Napa is wholly unrelated to BDX. If we rank them simply by price, I doubt most of us would be satisfied.

2. The most predictive relationship to quality in Cab is neither soil nor price, but winemakers.

I read an article many years ago that pointed out the best predictor of wine scores (a proxy for quality for many) is not terroir, but simply who the winemaker is. And therefore the best way to rank "Growths" is to apply it to winemakers and not brands or vineyards. This may seem silly but if you look at scores, it's actually the most accurate method. Who would First Growth Winemakers be if we went this route? The data would be easily sortable... First Growth: Thomas Brown, Brad Grimes, Phillipe Melka, Paul Hobbs, Paul Draper. That was easy! The fact it is so easy points to a truth many might find uncomfortable, and that is that great winemakers seem to make great wines and do from from various sources and various brands. Much of that success is their demand that they use great grapes. But Chris Carpenter (Lokoya) makes epic wine from every AVA he touches. His record is almost 100%. The record for even a great vineyard like ToKalon is probably just 50%, at most. So, what should we be ranking if accuracy and predictability of a classification is paramount? Shouldn't it work for the everyday consumer?

3. Not all vineyard blocks are created equal, even in great vineyards.

We all know this. It has always been true in Bordeaux too. When a First Growth buys the vineyard land of a neighbor and integrates it into their wine, that block becomes a First Growth by nature of the wine being such. That shows some theoretical shortfalls of having the wine be the item that is classified. This is currently also causing headaches in Napa. What is ToKalon? It is already much larger than the original Crabb ToKalon. Although it is a truly great site, if you add up the portions owned by Beckstoffer, Constellation, MacDonald, Detert, Opus and UC Davis, it probably approaches 700 acres, or more than a square mile. The variations within that mass of vines range from First to Fifth Growth in my opinion, yet anyone using the ToKalon name immediately commands $200+. Conversely, some people get bigger scores and charge more money from "good" blocks than others with perhaps the best blocks, due to name, packaging, oak treatment, scores or sheer force of will.

4. How does one define "great?"

Scores and price are objective data. But "quality" is not. For example, very few would argue that Paul Draper is not one of the great winemakers ever in the USA. Yet he has far less scores over 98 than at least ten winemakers I can think of even though he has been at it for decades. But because he has been at it for decades and because his wines age so well and he has accomplished so much not just with Cab but also with Zin, he would always be on such a list. Tony Soter's is on my list of the all-time greats even though his own Etude Wines rarely exceeded 94-points in his time here. Certain Cab styles grate some the wrong way despite their popularity and scores. Of course, this problem is true in BDX too. No system will keep everyone happy.

My General Thoughts

I am pretty much in-line with Segui's thoughts.... the Vineyard Cru system would probably work better than a Classified Growth system where wines themselves are grouped. And since Napa is actually fairly small, I think it could be organized as such with enough effort. It's something I have said before I might consider doing, someday. That was before I was married and now I wonder where I would find that time!

In my own winemaking experience, I find that the better the vineyards I use and the better vineyard management, the better my wines get. My own growth as a winemaker (and understanding of vineyards and viticulture) also help. But I simply cannot get better than my raw materials. I may cook a great steak, but if I use a Green Egg to perfection on a Safeway steak, it simply can't be as good as a quick pan-cooked Flannery. The same is true for wines. So I think underneath great wines are... great vineyards. And thus if we really want to get to the core of the inherent greatness, I think Burgundy is a strong model to consider.

This would face serious pushback, of course. I broached the subject with a legendary winemaker a few months ago at a formal dinner party and it got a bit heated. My first step, I claimed, was I would declassify the majority of Napa, itself. I feel Napa starts where Carneros ends in the south, is between the Mayacamas and Vaca Range and ends where Calistoga ends in the north. Yet Wild Horse Valley, Chiles Valley and Conn Valley get to use the Napa moniker. My obvious question is... "Why should they be called Napa Valley when they are not.... Napa Valley? Especially when their fruit goes for much less per ton than Napa, in general? Shouldn't we start by just getting the valley itself, straightened out?" Welllllll.... this person has decades of winemaking experience and his family had over a century in the valley and his response was "If you do that, many of those families and people who helped build the Napa name will be cast out forever from something they built. Is that right?"

He may have a point. Although I feel my argument is also valid, there might be more at stake. I think Pontet Canet is a legit Second Growth since Vintage 2000, but is languishes as 5th Growth status no matter how hard it works. Because a bunch of people who might have no more legitimacy than judges at a regional fair might have handing out "gold medals" made a decision in 1855. Meanwhile, there are Marguax estates with Second and Third Growth status that can't touch Pontet. So putting anything in stone may have adverse consequences that last longer than its utility. Historical tidbit... I believe Thomas Jefferson was the first person to rank BDX growth and he did it in 1787.

If the SHTF just for trying to decide what "Napa" should be, wait until people try to classify vineyards and wines themselves. That does not mean it might not be worth doing, though.
If winemaker is key, can they make great juice from cabernet grown in the Painted Desert, AZ?

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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#91 Post by Scott Brunson » May 13th, 2019, 3:07 am

James Billy wrote:
May 13th, 2019, 1:16 am

If winemaker is key, can they make great juice from cabernet grown in the Painted Desert, AZ?
Absurd
Roy said that winemaker is key, but not the whole equation.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#92 Post by James Billy » May 13th, 2019, 3:35 am

Obviously! Just making a point.

All are key. You need good terroir, good winemaking and (at least) reasonable weather.

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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#93 Post by Steve Crawford » May 13th, 2019, 4:54 am

AndyK wrote:
May 11th, 2019, 11:46 pm
Steve Crawford wrote:
May 10th, 2019, 7:17 am
not always a strong correlation between vineyard quality and producer quality, see Backus.
Because Backus is much better than anything Phelps is making or because Backus could be so much better if in someone else’s hands? [scratch.gif]
the latter.

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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#94 Post by Steve Crawford » May 13th, 2019, 4:55 am

Jim Clary wrote:
May 11th, 2019, 5:50 pm
Steve Crawford wrote:
May 11th, 2019, 12:22 pm
Jim Clary wrote:
May 10th, 2019, 9:37 pm


Why? I buy and enjoy both wines and their respective styles. I don’t think that makes me unique in any regard. It is possible to appreciate both styles.
i couldnt agree more that both are high quality wines.
i just think grouping them together so as to compare is a fools errand because they are so far apart.

i think having separate lists with vineyards, winemakers, and wines is the most logical, with the latter dividing by for the afwe and those that like having fun wines.
Sorry to be obtuse, but I still don’t see your point, unless in your opinion Hundred Acre isn’t a “serious” wine, in which case we continue to disagree. It might not be your style, but it has plenty of followers among serious-minded wine enthusiasts.
more the opposite :). i am a big cheerleader for HA.

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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#95 Post by K John Joseph » May 13th, 2019, 7:31 am

AlexO wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 5:13 pm
No MacDonald?
I don't have adequate experience with it or its reputation other than it's supposed to be great and it's a board darling like no other. But given my lack of experience with it, I wasn't comfortable putting it up there. One could say the same for Screagle, but there we have nearly 30 years of notes, nearly all supremely positive, with a near-consensus that it's phenomenal wine year in and year out, price aside.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#96 Post by Jim Clary » May 13th, 2019, 10:40 am

Steve Crawford wrote:
May 13th, 2019, 4:55 am
Jim Clary wrote:
May 11th, 2019, 5:50 pm
Steve Crawford wrote:
May 11th, 2019, 12:22 pm


i couldnt agree more that both are high quality wines.
i just think grouping them together so as to compare is a fools errand because they are so far apart.

i think having separate lists with vineyards, winemakers, and wines is the most logical, with the latter dividing by for the afwe and those that like having fun wines.
Sorry to be obtuse, but I still don’t see your point, unless in your opinion Hundred Acre isn’t a “serious” wine, in which case we continue to disagree. It might not be your style, but it has plenty of followers among serious-minded wine enthusiasts.
more the opposite :). i am a big cheerleader for HA.
Yeah, me too. I finally dropped off the list because there are just too many alternatives out there, and the price point was getting higher than I cared to pay. By comparison, Dominos (a different animal as we have both agreed and yet equally delicious to me in a different way) is a bargain. Lots of choice out there these days.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#97 Post by Mike Grammer » May 13th, 2019, 12:19 pm

William Segui wrote:
May 9th, 2019, 11:17 am
*I also sense a 10,000 word Piper post coming soon!
Your spidey-senses were clearly in full operational mode, Will [grin.gif]

A terrific thread with the continued discussion. Including the opinions/passionate defences---almost a perfect "sample thread" to show lurkers/would-be-members? [berserker.gif]

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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#98 Post by Erik Miller » May 13th, 2019, 1:12 pm

I recall a time not so long ago when Pride, virtually all the wines - not just the reserves - used to get much praise. I didn't scan every post carefully, but I did not see Pride mentioned. My favorite experiences pre-Tokalon hype (deserved) was with Pride Reserve Cab and Claret and Phelps Insignia. Many other good wines (Montelena, etc.) but these two were transcendent

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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#99 Post by Ian S » May 13th, 2019, 4:46 pm

Not much mention of Maybach in this thread. They certainly fall under "cult" status, therefore would be a Classified Growth by this thread's hypothetical definition, given that their secondary market price is twice or more of release price.
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Re: The Comprehensive Hypothetical Napa Classified Growth Lists (and what we might consider to be the current cult wines

#100 Post by David Crow » May 14th, 2019, 8:07 am

A few years ago I was contemplating a similar question and spent some time going through cellar tracker to compare the average scores of top Napa wines to those of some top bordeaux estates. I figured that a top wine needs to perform well year over year so I took an average of the cellar tracker average scores for 2003-2013 for a bunch of wines. Not every wine had scores for every year and you can argue about the validity of cellar tracker scores to begin with, but I thought it would be an interesting comparison. I also included the appelation as I wanted to see if there were certain areas that had more top scoring wines. It seemed pretty clear that great wines are made from all over Napa.

I've attempted to paste below the list ranked in order of average score and highlighting some of the bordeaux first and second growths for comparison (hopefully the list shows up readable). The listing of wines certainly isn't comprehensive and I'm sure there were many top wines I left out, but I thought it could be interesting for this group to see in the context of this discussion.
  • Schrader Old Sparky Napa Oakville West 97.0
    Schrader CCS Napa Oakville West 96.8
    Abreu Thorevilos Napa 96.7
    Abreu Cappella Napa Howell Mountain 96.3
    Abreu Cappella Napa St. Helena 96.0
    Abreu Madrona Ranch Napa St. Helena 96.0
    Schrader T6 Napa Oakville West 96.0
    Harlan Harlan Napa Oakville West 95.9
    Colgin Tychson Hill Napa St. Helena 95.8
    Scarecrow Scarecrow Napa Rutherford 95.6
    Chateau Latour Chateau Latour Bordeaux Pauillac 95.4
    Chateau Lafitte Chateau Lafitte Bordeaux Pauillac 95.4

    Colgin IX Estate Napa Pritchard Hill 95.3
    Dana Estate Hershey Vineyard Napa Howell Mountain 95.3
    Bond Vecina Napa Oakville West 95.3
    Carter The O.G. Napa Oakville West 95.3
    Chateau Haut-Brion Chateau Haut-Brion Bordeaux Pessac-Leognan 95.2
    Colgin Cariad Napa 95.2
    Carter Three Kings Napa Oakville West 95.1
    Schrader RBS Napa Oakville West 95.1
    Dana Estate Lotus Vineyard Napa St. Helena 95.0
    Shafer Hillside Select Napa Stags Leap 94.9
    Carter The Grand Daddy Napa Oakville West 94.8
    Paul Hobbs Beckstoffer To Kalon Napa Oakville West 94.7
    Tor Tierra Roja Napa Oakville East 94.7
    Chateau Margaux Chateau Margaux Bordeaux Pauillac 94.6
    Dalla Valle Maya Napa Oakville East 94.5
    Realm Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Napa St. Helena 94.5
    Dana Estate Helms Vineyard Napa Rutherford 94.4
    Realm Beckstoffer To Kalon Napa Oakville West 94.3
    Paul Hobbs Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Napa St. Helena 94.3
    Bond St. Eden Napa Oakville East 94.3
    Chateau Mouton Rothschild Chateau Mouton Rothschild Bordeaux Pauillac 94.2
    Bevan EE Napa Oakville East 94.1
    Bond Quella Napa 94.0
    Scarecrow M. Etain Napa Rutherford 93.9
    Tor Beckstoffer To Kalon Napa Oakville West 93.9
    Bond Melbury Napa 93.9
    Dalla Valle Cabernet Napa Oakville East 93.8
    Loeville Las Cases Loeville Las Cases Bordeaux St. Julien 93.8
    Dana Estate Hershey Vineyard Napa Pritchard Hill 93.7
    Bond Quella Napa Spring Mountain 93.6
    Realm The Bard Napa Napa 93.5
    Abreu Rothwell Hyde Napa 93.5
    O'shaughnessy Mount Veeder Napa Mount Veeder 93.2
    Cos D'Estournel Cos D'Estournel Bordeaux St. Estephe 93.1
    Harlan The Maiden Napa Oakville West 93.1
    Realm The Falstaff Napa Napa 93.0
    Realm Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Napa 93.0
    O'shaughnessy Howell Mountain Napa Howell Mountain 92.9
    Paul Hobbs Stagecoach Napa Atlas Peak 92.9
    Bond Matriarch Napa 92.6
    Tor Cimarossa Napa Howell Mountain 92.5
    Realm The Tempest Napa Napa 92.4
    Loeville Poyferre Loeville Poyferre Bordeaux St. Julien 92.1
    Loeville Barton Loeville Barton Bordeaux St. Julien 91.9

    Dominus Dominus Napa Yountville 93.6

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