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Paso Robles’ Tablas Creek wins top spot on Daily Meal’s list of America’s 101 Best Wineries

Neil Collins, executive winemaker and vineyard manager of Tablas Creek Vineyards on the Central Coast.

Neil Collins, executive winemaker and vineyard manager of Tablas Creek Vineyards on the Central Coast.

(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Today, the Daily Meal publishes its list of America’s 101 Best Wineries. The food and drink lifestyle site does a lot of lists — best hot dogs, best burgers, best restaurants. But they put some extra effort into this one.

To come up with 101 of America’s best wineries, they started, first of all, with last year’s list (their first ever), and then looked at what wineries had been getting some love from the wine press lately, asked their wine writers and esteemed members of Daily Meal’s “council.” Any suggested candidates there were added to voting list and when it came time to vote, there was a space for write-ins.

Wineries were nominated by a panel of sommeliers, wine writers, chefs and restaurateurs, and editors at the Daily Meal. Experts include John Tilson of the Underground Wine Letter; wine writer Keith Beavers; chef-restaurateur Daniel Boulud; Daniel Johannes, corporate wine director for Boulud’s Dinex Group; chef-restaurateur and Daily Meal contributor Norman Van Aken; and Cathy Mantuano, wine director at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Terzo Piano. In all, says editorial director Colman Andrews, they reached out to about 50 experts and heard back from about 40.

Which winery came up on top? Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, known for its Rhone-style wines, both white and red. No. 2 is Ridge Vineyards in Cupertino, a pioneer in that area, and known for its age-worthy reds. Au Bon Climat in Santa Barbara County takes the third spot. That’s Jim Clendennen, who has been a tremendous ambassador for Central Coast wines for many years.

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Among the top 10, eight are in California and two in Washington state. But if you look at the top 15, it gets interesting. Not only is tiny Matthiasson Winery in Napa Valley No. 13, Domaine Drouhin in Oregon comes in at No. 14 and the No. 15 spot goes to Linden Vineyards — in Virginia.

But the surprises for Andrews weren’t those in the top 10 or 15. “Some very small wineries, some that I’d never heard of, showed up on the list and made me want to search them out,” he says. “Wineries like Black Ankle Vineyards in Maryland or Andrew Will Winery on Vashon Island in Washington state. Or a Riesling-only winery in New York called Boundary Breaks Vineyard in New York’s Finger Lakes.

Some of the positions weren’t what he expected either. “I might have thought that Stony Hill or Ojai vineyards might have been higher on the list. But there’s so much competition now,” says Andrews. “I was pleased to see Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyard on the list at No. 100. I was one of the people who voted for the Malibu winery and did a story on them three years ago.”

About two-thirds of the wineries on the list are in California. “Wine is made in every state now, even Alaska,” says Andrews. “And quite rightly people in Texas or Virginia or Colorado or Idaho could say, what about us?” The list does include some wines from other states. But in reality, says Andrews, you could answer, “It’s great you’re producing wine, but does it actually stack up to what people are doing in California?”

He’s personally had a good sampling of Texas wines and there are two Lone State wineries on the list. Texas might have eight or ten pretty good wineries, in fact, “but there are probably a couple of hundred wineries in California that could be on this list.“ It’s the same with restaurant lists, he points out. The greatest number are concentrated in a handful of cities.

The Central Coast did remarkably well, though. Sandhi Wines from Santa Barbara, Jaffurs Wine Cellars from Santa Barbara, Beckmen Vineyards in Los Olivos, Foxen Winery in Santa Ynez Valley, Andrew Murray Vineyards in Los Olivos, Tensley Wines in Santa Barbara County, Saxum in Paso Robles, Peachy Canyon Winery in Paso Robles, Domaine de la Côte in Lompoc, Talley Vineyards in Arroyo Grande, Qupé Winery in Los Olivos. That makes 13 in all.

Well done.

Follow @sirenevirbila for more on food and wine.


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