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The Top 100 Wines of 2002: 41-55

Posted: December 4, 2002

Top 100 Overview | Wine of the Year | 2-10 | 11-25 | 26-40 | 41-55 | 56-70 | 71-85 | 86-100

Click on each wine's name to see its original tasting note.

41. LEONILDO PIEROPAN Soave Classico Superiore 2000  91 points, $13

Run by owners Nino and Teresita Pieropan, this estate typically produces outstanding wines from this often lackluster Veneto appellation. The wine is made from a blend of 90 percent Garganega and 10 percent Trebbiano grapes grown in hillside vineyards with volcanic soils. 20,000 cases made.

42. VINCENT GIRARDIN Corton-Charlemagne 2000  96 points, $98

This grower-négociant from Santenay recently moved into a new state-of-the-art winery facility in Meursault. This grand cru comes from grapes harvested from 10 different parcels, mostly on the Pernand-Vergelesses side of the appellation. Sixty percent of the blend is made from purchased grapes, while 40 percent is from purchased must made with fruit from vines averaging 45 years of age. 1,300 cases made.

43. JOSEPH PHELPS Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1999  92 points, $42

The basic Phelps Napa Cabernet is a solid performer and always a good value. This vintage is a blend of 78 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 22 percent Merlot. The grapes were fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged 20 months in 2-year-old French and new American oak barrels. 10,000 cases made.

44. VIADER Napa Valley 1999  94 points, $75

Against her father's advice, Argentina-born Delia Viader planted a steep, densely spaced 23-acre Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc vineyard at a 1,200-foot elevation on Howell Mountain in 1987. Since the debut of her St.-Emilion-inspired blend in 1989, she has elevated Viader to one of the most sought-after California wines. 3,500 cases made.

45. BRANCOTT Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough Reserve 2001  91 points, $18

Montana, which opened in 1977, was a pioneer in the Marlborough region, planting vineyards there in 1973. Brancott is the brand name for Montana wines in the United States and is also the name of the producer's main vineyard, located on the northern side of Marlborough's Wairau Valley. 12,000 cases imported.

46. PINE RIDGE Chardonnay Napa Valley Carneros Dijon Clones 2000  91 points, $25

Winemaker Stacy Clark calls this a Burgundy-influenced Chardonnay. High-density estate vineyards in the Carneros appellation are planted with French Dijon clones. After hand-harvesting and hand-sorting, the grapes are whole-cluster pressed into new, 1-year-old and 2-year-old French oak barrels for fermentation. 15,000 cases made.

47. PIPER-HEIDSIECK Brut Champagne NV  91 points, $30

This enticing blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier undergoes malolactic fermentation and a minimum of three years aging to soften its attack, resulting in an appealing roundness and harmony. Piper-Heidsieck's winemaker Daniel Thibault died earlier this year; Régis Camus, his longtime assistant, is now winemaker. 50,000 cases imported.

48. SHAFER Chardonnay Napa Valley Carneros Red Shoulder Ranch 2000  92 points, $37

Named for the red-shouldered hawks that soar over the cool Carneros vineyard (and keep vine-damaging rodents at bay), this wine benefits from the five different small-clustered clones of Chardonnay planted there. Fermented in French and American oak barrels, using wild yeast, the wine is not subjected to malolactic fermentation. 7,000 cases made.

49. CHIMNEY ROCK Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District 1999  92 points, $45

In 1980, former Pepsi International executive Sheldon "Hack" Wilson and his wife, Stella, bought the Chimney Rock Golf Course in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. They turned nine holes into 75 acres of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Now in partnership with Paterno's Terlato family, Chimney Rock has wisely kept winemaker Doug Fletcher to continue crafting elegant Stags Leap Cabernets. 9,200 cases made.

50. AVIGNONESI Toscana Toro Desiderio 1999  93 points, $48

The Falvo brothers -- Alberto, Ettore and Leonardo -- first produced this wine in the 1988 vintage. Pure Merlot until the 1997 harvest, when the present blend of Merlot and 15 percent Cabernet Sauvignon was created, it comes from two of the four estates Avignonesi owns: La Selva and La Lombarda. 3,750 cases made.

51. CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE Merlot Columbia Valley Canoe Ridge Estate Vineyard 1999  91 points, $23

The Canoe Ridge Estate Vineyard is a south-facing ridge that rises 950 feet above sea level. Mild winters and early budbreak in spring give this vineyard an extended growing season. In 1999, the weather pattern in the Columbia Valley accentuated these favorable aspects, resulting in a ripe, complex wine. 10,000 cases made.

52. ISABEL Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2001  91 points, $18

Originally used for contract grapegrowing, the Isabel estate vineyard located in the Wairau Valley of Marlborough now produces under its own label. Owner Michael Tiller and his winemaking team employ wild yeasts in the fermentation, unusual for New World Sauvignon Blanc. This is Isabel's debut in the Top 100. 10,000 cases made.

53. SEGHESIO Zinfandel Sonoma County Old Vine 2000  91 points, $28

The grapes for this wine come from vineyards in the Alexander and Dry Creek valleys, where low-yielding, 90-year-old vines produce very concentrated fruit flavors. While many Zinfandel producers struggled with the cool conditions of the 2000 vintage, winemaker Ted Seghesio crafted a big and expressive Zinfandel with well-integrated tannins. 4,000 cases made.

54. CLOUDY BAY Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2001  91 points, $26

Viticulturist Ivan Sutherland and chief winemaker Kevin Judd oversee production at this celebrated winery, which was founded in 1985. Cloudy Bay owns 240-plus acres of vineyards in the Wairau Valley in Marlborough. The Sauvignon Blanc comes partly from its own vineyards, partly from those of other growers. 40,000 cases made.

55. PENFOLDS Chardonnay Adelaide Hills Thomas Hyland 2001  90 points, $14

The Thomas Hyland line is new, introduced by Penfolds this year. This Chardonnay benefits from the know-how Penfolds gained in developing its luxury-level Chardonnay Yattarna, which also uses Adelaide Hills fruit. 14,390 cases imported.

Top 100 Overview | Wine of the Year | 2-10 | 11-25 | 26-40 | 41-55 | 56-70 | 71-85 | 86-100

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