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Should You Be Drinking Parker Bombs or Trendy Reds?

Pitting six bottles from each side to settle the debate.

 

Robert Parker launched the Wine Advocate in 1978 and changed the wine industry with his 100-point scale, pushing California and the rest of the world toward high-alcohol wines with the ripe, oaky, tannic qualities he preferred. But the New York Times recently highlighted a new generation of winemakers rallying to Old-World, pre-Parker styles, setting up a potential tastemakers showdown. So where do you stand? Here are six exemplary Parker bombs and six of the best new school bottles. Pop them open and settle the question for yourself.

 

THE PARKER PERFECTS
One or more vintages of each of these California reds has received a perfect score from the Wine Advocate.

1. Harlan Estate (Napa Valley)
Parker went as far as to say that this giant “might be the single most profound red wine made not just in California, but in the world.”

2. Sine Qua Non (CA)
The red wines that define the “cult” wine experience: rare, obscure, and followed with almost awkward intensity by those who love it.

3. Saxum Estates (Paso Robles)
More affordable but no less potent, critics often rate Saxum wines in the top five from Paso Robles.

4. Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
One of Napa Valley’s most coveted wines—there's a staggering waiting list to buy, with thousands of names ahead of yours. A 12-liter bottle sold for $500,000 at Auction Napa Valley in June 2015, but in Screaming Eagle terms that barely qualifies as a surprise.

5. Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
"One of the New World’s most profound Cabernet Sauvignons" according to the Wine Advocate.

6. Vérité (Sonoma)
Parker gave the winery’s red blends seven perfect scores, more than any other Sonoma County wine has ever received.

 
THE NEW CALIFORNIA REDS
Wine writers John Vankat and Jonathan Cristaldi helped us select these wines, which probably aren't going to net any 100-point scores but were crafted with drinkability in mind.

1. Frog’s Leap Cabernet (Napa Valley)
This winery has a long history of organic farming and down-to-earth winemaking. Their cabernet is subtle and immediately drinkable, with great depth and earthy flavor.

2. Domaine de la Côte Pinot (Lompoc)
The Times featured this wine as the antithesis of the Parker style. Owner and winemaker Rajat Parr has made a name for himself with his expansive knowledge.

3. JaM Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (California)
Rich and ready, jammy and bold but quite smooth, this wine has some of the qualities that Parker loves but is definitely designed for easy drinking and affordability.

4. Heibel Family Lappa’s Red (Napa)
Bright, with a touch of sage and savoy vanilla oak, this wine can definitely be cellared, but we suggest opening it right away and drinking it with a steak or barbecue.

5. Mazzocco Zinfandel (Sonoma)
One of Vankat’s top picks for a great wine not to Parker's taste. Vankat, a respected, down-to-earth critic living in Arizona, loved "its smooth texture, modest tannins, integration, complexity, balance and finish."

6. Lieu Dit (Santa Barbara)
Prolific wine writer and wine educator Jonathan Cristaldi names this wine his own top pick to shake up the Parker status quo. Lieu Dit only makes around 2,500 cases. And while it makes six very different wines, they are all well-balanced and drinkable.

 

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