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by Fred McMillin
for May 2002

Wine

 

Battle of the Big Boys. . .
NAPA versus SONOMA

Prologue

Sonoma County today has its fair share of imposing and prestigious wineries... that are a match for any grand estate in Napa Valley.
          Steven Brook
          THE WINES OF CALIFORNIA

The Rest of the Story

On the supermarket shelf I see two 1998 $18 Merlots, one from Sonoma and one from Napa. Naturally, I take the NAPA bottle... but wait. Maybe I'm getting a $16 wine and paying $2 for prestige. At a given price, are the Sonoma wines better? To get an answer, we paired 10 Sonoma County wines with 10 Napas of the same price, vintage, and varietal. Here is the winner of each match, with the highest-rated wine listed last. That is, the further you read, the better the wine.

The Winners

10th - NAPA '98 $17 Merlot, Beaulieu
 
9th - NAPA '98 $16 Sangiovese, Flora Springs
 
8th - SONOMA '97 $14 Old Vine-Old Clone Zinfandel, Alderbrook
 
7th - NAPA '99 $25 Pinot Noir, Acacia
 
6th - SONOMA '98 $20 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Chateau Souverain
 
5th - SONOMA '98 $l5 Pinot Noir, Kenwood, Russian River Valley
 
4th - SONOMA '97 $20 Cabernet Sauvignon, Belvedere, Dry Creek Valley
 
3rd - NAPA '97 $22 Merlot, Sattui
 
2nd - NAPA '97 $16 Merlot, Charles Krug
 
1st - SONOMA '97 $21 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake Sonoma, Alexander Valley
 

So what did the tasting tell us?

* The Napa Answer—We won half of the equal-price matches. You don't pay extra for having the words NAPA VALLEY on the label.

* The Sonoma Answer—Wait a minute. The median Napa wine was ranked 7th, while the median Sonoma was 5th. Our winners are better than your winners!

* Conclusion—Steven Brook is right. Sonoma is getting VERY competitive.

 
 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

 


 

 
 

This page created May 2002

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