Wine Enthusiast mag’s annual list of the year’s Top 100 Best Buys has just been published. Understandably this is one of the year’s most widely-read issues. There have been some changes since my reviews were among those listed; most importantly the magazine’s guidelines for inclusion are now wines priced $20 or under and scored 90 points or over.
This is a major change from years gone by. The old rules limited price to $15 and under, while scores were on a sliding scale according to price, so a $7 or $8 wine that got a score in the high 80s had a chance to make the list. This is no longer likely, though the new list does have quite a few wines under $15 and one – Bogle 2020 Old Vine Zinfandel – at $11.
I am always curious to see how Pacific NW wines fare on this list, as the region has usually been at a bit of a disadvantage for a couple of reasons. First of all, very few Washington wines and even fewer from Oregon qualified at the old $15 or below cut-off point. Beyond that, there were just a handful of NW wineries with the volume of production to merit inclusion at all. Although I am unaware of any specific production volume requirements, there is no point in recommending wines that no one can realistically find.
This year the reviews of my successor Michael Alberty covered all the entries from the Pacific Northwest, as well as a few from Canada. Alberty turns out to be a one-man Best Buy machine, having placed no fewer than nine NW wines on the list, including six in the top third. Plus another two or three from Canada. A remarkable achievement. The complete list will be published on the magazine website. Here is a preview peek at the NW winners:
Ponzi 2021 Pinot Gris (#9)
Long Shadows 2021 Poet’s Leap Riesling (#19)
Cana’s Feast 2022 Vaso Bianco (#24)
Wine by Joe 2022 Rosé of Pinot Noir (#26)
Dowsett Family 2022 Georgia Rose Pinot Noir Rosé (#30)
Charles & Charles 2020 Bolt Cabernet Sauvignon ((#36)
L’Ecole No. 41 2022 Ole Vines Chenin Blanc (#40)
A to Z Wineworks 2022 Pinot Gris (#60)
DeLille 2022 Métier Sauvignon Blanc (#84)
I’ve reviewed and written about all but one of these wines on this Substack and/or my website, so you’ve had fair notice. Consider this a last chance to score a few of these gems before the word leaks out and they’re gone.
But wait, there’s even better news. Last week The New York Times published their third annual “The Restaurant List – The 50 places in the United States that we’re most excited about right now”. Half of the acclaimed restaurants are brand new, including our own wonderful Bar Bacetto here in Waitsburg.
The list is inclusive and egalitarian, with many winners seeming to be small hole-in-the-wall, family-owned operations. Organized by state, Oregon gets three awards and Washington just two. Bar Bacetto, which opened in my home town of Waitsburg about one year ago, is the home of Mike and Erin Easton. They purchased the old jimgermanbar a couple of years ago, moved lock stock and barrel from Seattle, did massive renovations to the buildings (which include not only the restaurant but their living quarters and studios), got married! and opened the restaurant, all in a whirlwind of creative activity.
The Times calls Easton a “pasta savant” (which he certainly is) but he is also a man of many other creative talents – craftsman, musician, producer, photographer to name a few. Erin is a savant of a different kind – organized to a fault, welcoming, generous and able to make every guest feel special. And she whips up some remarkable cocktails along the way. “On a warm spring night,” Times reviewer Brian Gallagher concludes, “with Mr. Easton’s wife and business partner, Erin, pouring a lightly chilled Italian Freisa from the list she tends, you might start to wonder if you haven’t found a perfect restaurant.”
My wife and I have had the great pleasure of getting to know the Eastons and dining at Bar Bacetto on several occasions. It deserves every bit of this praise. And yes, it’s not going to get any easier to get a reservation, but the contribution that their talents are making to this hard scrabble town of 1200 is enormous. Along with several other new businesses that have opened in the recent past, notably American 35 Pizza, the Royal Block wine bar and hotel, the re-invigorated Waitsburg Times, the Ten Ton Coffee shop, the Gaudy Gals, the Waitsburg Art Garden and… well I am sure I’m missing some others but suffice it to say there are even more on the way – it’s a true renaissance. Congratulations one and all!