A few years ago in reaction to other 'wines of the year' I decided to strike back. I mean if the WS can do it why not me? Of course I couldn't compile 100 wines of the year. Maybe if I jumbled it all up with memorable moments, but 100 wines that I can swear by seem like a lot. Then I read their selections and out of a hundred, there are maybe five I'd drink, but I've gone over that territory before. But still, the wine of the year, the wine of the year? The most user friendly? The most delicious? (impossible) The wine I could go to every night of the year and could make me smile? Or was it, given the fact that once again it seems as if I've absolutely no future as a writer, the wine I can afford. Or is the wine I wish I could afford? Or was it the wine that made me laugh the hardest? Or was it the worst wine. You see the worst wine could as well be the wine of the year, why not if it was the most memorable. The worst wine. Now that's a concept. But oddly, I can't remember a bad experience this year and that is mostly because I've been very careful, perhaps too careful about what I put in my mouth. Actually, now that I flip through my pix, I see there was a horrible wine and it was so awful, I can't mention the name. I'll give you a hint. Diamond Mountain cabernet in several vintages and from the very tippy top of the mount. So unfortunate because up there above the clouds, on the reddish soil I know that something lovely can be squeezed out of the vines. But not these to remain unnamed. The most surprising wines of the year were the ones I had from Smith Madrone. This was just one of the outcomes of this touching dinner Tom Wark staged for me in Sonoma this past August at the Girl & The Fig. I don't know what I did to deserve such an event, but I remain grateful for it. At that dinner I finally got to meet John Williams of Frog's Leap, (thanks for the 1964 Charbono!) and I can't wait to taste the cheese he's been making. It was also at the dinner where I finally overcame my resistance to Smith Madrone of Spring Mountain. If you get to taste their older vintage releases--such as the 2001 riesling? Don't be shy. Waxy and complex, andi invigratinly lovely. That evening as the Sonoma temperature started to chill down, Stu Smith and I hammered away at each other. He was expecting a rabid supporter of biodynamics and I was expecting a hit the wine with all you can get. Neither one of us had pegged the other accurately. I had to visit. And I did. It was Stu and his brother Charlie who made me remember what Napa mountain fruit can produce and it won my praise. Yes, those cabernets were the most surprising wines I've had this year. I suppose I could also add another wine that made me stand up and listen. Terroir is part of man and man is part of terroir and if you don't believe me, go and order some of the wines from Hank Beckmeyer and his I go to visit them every time I'm in town. Best California trend? Concrete tanks! Thanks Steve Edmunds! The best meal was in the Loire, with Pat de Griottes and Ben Courault etal with fresh caught mackeral. The Loire wine I wish would come to the US Domaine Saurigny I forgot to tell you that lovers of Chinato need to check out from the Jurassic Jean Bourdy I forgot to mention David Lillie's star turn performance renewing Joe and Denyse's vows at Ten Bells--using a stack of Chauvet as a bible. I forgot to talk about the technique that drove me most crazy this year: will someone PLEASE stop winemakers from obsessively stirring their lees? I am tired of the interfering cream and creaminess! The most profound find at the Millisieme Bio fair last January? Andrea Calek, the wildest man in the Ardeche. I can tell you the most blow out wine experience I had that made me feel like Cinderella, after all it was post midnight, was being part of the clean up crew with Slate's Mike Steinberger, and Michael Rockefeller after last Spring's La Paulee. I can tell you that I am still in love with gamay and all of my other benchmark wines; Clos Roche Blanche gamay and cot.