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100 Point Wines
by Scott Clemens

Wine glasses

White buffaloes, coelacanths, and unicorns are all exceedingly rare, but none more so than the perfect wine.

Prior to this issue, in 23 years of evaluating wines for publication I had only given five perfect scores. It’s not that I’m stingy; it’s just that there is almost always room for improvement, no matter how good the wine. I used to count the number of wines I tasted each year. I stopped counting in 1996, when I surpassed 30,000. So wines I’ve rated as perfect represent a minuscule fraction of all the wines I’ve tasted. In previous years I have only given perfect scores to a 1955 Krug Champagne; a 1993 Ridge Vineyards, Pagnani Ranch Zinfandel; a 1994 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Fay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; a 1937 Quinto do Noval Port, and a Domaine de Romanee Conti La Tache whose vintage is lost in memory. A couple of well-aged 1967 and 1971 Sauternes came close, as did the 1986 Chateau Latour.

Then last spring I had two extraordinary wines that I simply could not discount in any measure. The random combination of human genetics only on rare occasions produces a person of exquisite beauty and grace. It’s even more rare to find a perfect confluence of all of the elements in a wine. If you’re lucky enough to obtain either of these wines, set aside an evening for rapt appreciation – they’re that good.

100 Navarro Vineyards 1998, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, Late Harvest Sweet Gewüztraminer
In my pantheon of California "First Growths" Navarro is at the top of the heap for the best New World Gewürztraminer, and in this case one of the best late harvest wines ever produced anywhere in the world. My powers of description are sadly inadequate: Aromatic apricot and lychee, sisal rope and honey, sweet, amazingly spicy and perfectly balanced by crisp acidity and a hint of bitterness, this is a wine that simply has no peers. This is AS GOOD AS IT GETS. You’ll only find this at the winery. Phone: 800-537-9463.
100 1997 Andrus Reserve, Napa Valley
One of the most extraordinary wines ever produced in California. A wine so complex that it defies description: Cigar box, cinnamon, briar, leather, wild berries, cassis, tobacco leaf, and a finish that never quits. The empty glass releases the spirit of the bouquet for hours. A titan now, it can only improve over the next 5 to 10 years. Unbelievably fine.
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