Once again, I had both the pleasure and the honor of judging at the annual Critics Challenge wine competition, held in (stay classy!) San Diego and helmed by WineReviewOnline.com‘s Robert Whitley. This year, I was paired up with talented author Linda Murphy (whose book American Wine you should absolutely check out, because it kicks all kinds of ass).
Critics Challenge is top-notch, with excellent, experienced judges and a killer-good volunteer crew (yeah, I don’t understand why they keep inviting me back, either). So the results should, I’d argue, be taken seriously, and you can check out the full list of 2018 medal winners right now at http://www.criticschallenge.com/results.htm.
I wanted to highlight the wines that Linda and I collectively awarded Platinum, as there are some fantastic wines – several of which are surprising bargains – in that lineup of winners. This is why we judge them blind, folks! Fortunately for all of us, picking up many of these wines won’t make the bank account seem appreciably lighter…
Banfi Belnero 2014, Toscana $29 (100% Sangiovese)
Brancaia TRE 2014, Rosso di Toscana IGT (Sangiovese 80%; with Merlot; Cabernet Sauvignon)
Due Mari Maremma Toscana 2015, $35 (Sangiovese 60%; Merlot 20%; Cabernet Sauvignon 10%; Other Reds 10%)
Falkner Winery Chardonnay 2017, Temecula Valley $30
Kim Crawford Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Marlborough $18
Line 39 Pinot Noir 2016, California $11 (!!!)
McWilliams Evans & Tate “Bright As Day” Chardonnay 2015, Australia $10 (!!!)
Navarro Vineyards Estate Bottled Dry Muscat Blanc 2017, Anderson Valley $22
Très Chic Pays d’Oc Rosé 2017, $17 (Grenache and Cinsault, baby!)
White Oak Vineyards & Winery “Mighty Oak” Proprietary Red 2014, Sonoma County $19 (28% Cabernet Sauvignon; 16% Cabernet Franc; 56% Merlot, in case you cared)
Windsor Vineyards Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2016, North Coast $16
And, for sh*ts & giggles, an added bonus:
Moët & Chandon NV MCIII Brut 001.14 Champagne, $650/magnum (ok, so that’s not that much of a bargain… but we had it twice at dinners and it’s the kind of heady, floral, yeasty opulence that’s just a total treat, provided that you have the available cash).