November 30, 2006

Wine Ratings for the Real World

All of us enjoy drinking wines that are “highly rated” by the various wine gods and goddesses out there. For most wineries, a Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Robert Parker, Janis Robinson, Wine & Food, or other well-known wine rating source is practically a guarantee of a sold-out vintage.

Something you may not know is that wineries submit their wines for ratings. So what? That means that there are many wineries out there that do not submit, and therefore go “unrated” and unrecognized. I learned this from Robert Young Winery. They have a very limited production Merlot that produced just enough for their club members and for limited online sales. Their logic was simple. Why have a wine rated that won’t be easily available for sale? Makes sense to me.

Every now and then you may come across a wine that’s really nice, a good value, or one that you’d like to know more about. No ratings anywhere!! Now what?

How about ratings for the real world? If you haven’t done so yet, you have to go to CellarTracker ( It is a website developed by one of the members of the Mark Squires wine forum ( ) and has been a great success. It allows members/users to track the contents of their cellars. In addition, it has an area for “community tasting notes”; that is, regular folks like us who have enjoyed the wines that you like and have left their own ratings. People have widely different tastes which accounts for some of the wide ranges of scores, however, many of the wines have incredible consistency from taster to taster and the scores reflect that, as well.

For instance, I looked up the ratings on a Sauvignon Blanc that I’d opened, tasted, and felt was pure dreck. It was from a very well-known maker of super high-end reds, but this was more than a shock. I’d paid a little more money for this name and was stunned at the poor quality. A quick look on CellarTracker told me that I wasn’t alone. One of the members recommended that this winery stick with its reds. What was interesting is the feeling that people couldn’t believe that *this winemaker* could make something so incredibly mediocre and they doubted their own palates.

However, it’s not always bad news. I looked up Four Vines Heretic, and saw that the scores were consistently in the 90’s for this big, beautiful Petit Sirah. Glad I have several bottles!

The reviews are interesting, and the people are quite frank about their likes and dislikes. They will tell you what foods paired well, other wines at the occasion (if any), and will sometimes even give you the price if they remember. The abilities of the tasters range from relatively novice to winery owners.

Check out CellarTracker and let me know what you think!

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