When Wine Spectator unveiled the Top 100 Wines of 2017, the publication invited online readers to enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win one bottle each of the Top 10 wines from 2016. Nearly 43,000 wine lovers responded.
In a case of “coals to Newcastle,” the winner is a sommelier.
Eric Quezada, 37, grew up in California and went to work for Disneyland in 1999. He started as a cook, then moved to the front of the house. In 2006, he was working at Club 33, a restaurant there, and signed up for a wine class. That ignited a passion for wine, and he is now sommelier and manager at Napa Rose, one of the Anaheim resort’s signature fine-dining restaurants, which holds Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence for its wine program.
“Now my wife, Beth, and I are wine crazy,” Quezada says. “I’m one of the buyers for the restaurant. We collect wine at home. Our dog is named Pinot.”
For work and pleasure, Quezada reads Wine Spectator regularly. “I keep old copies in a bookshelf. I read it mostly for ratings; I like to see what’s coming out. But I also like the food aspect. Beth and I cook some of the recipes.”
Every year, he follows the Top 100 when it is revealed on Wine Spectator’s website. “This year, I saw the sweepstakes. I was thinking, ‘Why not? I’ll do it. I’ll never win.’”
Then he won. And he knows the value of his prize.
“I’m a big California Cabernet and Pinot Noir fan, so I’m excited about the Ridge Monte Bello (No. 7). I have one bottle in my cellar. Now I can try one a little earlier than I anticipated. Beaux Freres (No. 3) sounds awesome too. I’ve had a few bottlings, but not that one. My wife loves Sauvignon Blanc, so I’m curious about the Smith-Haut-Lafitte (No. 9).”
Under Quezada’s leadership, Napa Rose was promoted from Award of Excellence to Best of Award of Excellence in 2017; the list now carries more than 1,000 selections based on a cellar of 13,600 bottles.
“People come from all around the world, and they know the [Napa] name, so they want to try California. That’s why our list is California-driven. Our customers are a mix, from novice to expert. The novices want us to talk about the wines and explain. The advanced people also want to talk about wine—what’s just come in, what’s new. I like these conversations. People know us as a wine-centric restaurant, so there’s lots of interest and conversation.”
Quezada was in the restaurant when he got the email informing him that he had won. “I was busy and almost deleted it!” he said. “But then I read it and was talking to the servers, and some of them were jealous. Some simply didn’t believe me.”
Will he share a bottle or two with his colleagues, to prove he actually did win?
Quezada chuckled. “I think I’ll just show them a photo of all 10 bottles.”
1. Lewis Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2013 (95 points, $90)
2. Domaine Serene Chardonnay Dundee Hills Evenstad Reserve 2014 (95, $55)
3. Beaux Frères Pinot Noir Ribbon Ridge The Beaux Frères Vineyard 2014 (95, $90)
4. Château Climens Barsac 2013 (97, $68)
5. Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Asili Riserva 2011 (96, $59)
6. Orin Swift Machete California 2014 (94, $48)
7. Ridge Monte Bello Santa Cruz Mountains 2012 (94, $175)
8. Antinori Toscana Tignanello 2013 (94, $105)
9. Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte Pessac-Léognan White 2013 (96, $106)
10. Hartford Family Zinfandel Russian River Valley Old Vine 2014 (93, $38)