Wine Spectator’s annual Grand Tour is coming soon, with evening tastings in Hollywood, Fla. (April 15), Chicago (April 22), and Las Vegas (April 29). With more than 200 wines being poured, and all of them scoring 90 points or higher on our 100-point scale, we thought you might need a little help deciding how to spend your night.
Five of our senior editors volunteered to each share five of the wines they plan on tasting while there. They also offered a bit of advice: Every Grand Tour offers a chance to taste some of the world’s best wines, but it’s also an opportunity to meet many of the people behind those wines and learn their stories. So don’t rush through. (Also: Don’t forget to drink water often—and get a bite to eat!) Whether you try to sample all 25 of our picks, take just one person’s advice or follow your own palate, you’re sure to drink well!
See the full list of participating wineries, the wines they are pouring and the floorplan at each venue at grandtour.winespectator.com.
Don’t have tickets yet? Get them here!
Take a cue from a classic jazz song and “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” at this year’s Grand Tour. Call me a contrarian but who needs an agenda? Go with the flow. Take time to talk to winemakers or exchange tasting notes with fellow guests. Allow the evening and the wines to reveal themselves.
That’s my advice after attending two decades of Wine Spectator walkaround tastings. Don’t be overwhelmed: Be Zen. Target a few gems to taste and go from there. Here’s a short list of wines I aim to try.
I don’t recommend tasting Vintage Port first thing but don’t wait long to try the Dow 2016 ($150 on release) before it’s gone. My colleague James Molesworth rated it 98 points, or “classic,” on our 100-point scale. The Symington family has made Port in the Douro since 1882. Over the holidays I opened a 1991 Dow, which I had cellared for my daughter’s birth year. It was perfection.
Another gem is Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2009 (96, $120 on release), which we reviewed when it came out in 2012. A benchmark winery of the Southern Rhône Valley, Beaucastel has been stewarded by the Perrin family for more than a century, and its wines are known for their longevity. I still remember opening a 1989 Beaucastel (rated 97 points in 1991) after 20 years in the cellar; it was provocatively gamy but I loved it.
While the Grand Tour allows me to try wines like Beaucastel and Dow, which are outside my tasting beats, it also gives me a chance to catch up with winemakers and revisit wines I review regularly. One of those is Résonance Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton Résonance Vineyard 2019 (96, $65). Résonance Vineyard was originally planted in 1981, but when Maison Louis Jadot bought it in 2013, the Burgundy firm built a brand around the Oregon vineyard. Former Jadot wine director Jacques Lardière sets the tone while winemaker Guillaume Large handles the day-to-day.
Another wine I’ve followed for years is Seghesio Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Cortina; the 2019 bottling (93, $40) is one of the best yet. Chen’s Vineyard, planted in 1972 by fourth-generation Ted Seghesio and his father Ed, is the core of the always dynamic Cortina bottling, named for the gravelly loam soils found along the creek there.
While Napa draws most of the attention for Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington state continues to challenge that status quo. Case in point is Klipsun Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2019 (94, $165), a wine with finesse and structure. First planted in 1984, the 120-acre Klipsun Vineyard is among the premier vineyards in the Red Mountain AVA and in Washington overall. After the Terlato family bought the vineyard in 2016, they launched a new label devoted to it.
When the doors to the Grand Tour tasting open, I know I’m not the only one making a beeline to the Champagne section, where you’ll find famous names such as Louis Roederer and Rare. But I’m particularly interested in tasting a sparkler from a producer I’ve never tried before: Alfred Gratien. This family-run Champagne house has a long history in Épernay, following old-school traditions. But, perhaps most exciting, the Alfred Gratien Brut NV (93) delivers the goods at just $60.
Sticking with French wines, one of my next tastes will be the Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne 2019 (94, $340). I remember trying the 2018, which was Wine Spectator’s No. 6 Wine of 2021, and thinking I had a new reference point for outstanding Chardonnay. So it will be interesting to see how the 2019 stacks up, coming from a hot and dry, but excellent vintage.
For the record, I've been drinking Sicilian wine long before The White Lotus came around. I’m a sucker for vibrant, fresh reds like the Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2020 (92). Oh, and did I mention this bottling clocks in at just $24? This blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato is the kind of wine that should be in everyone’s collection, and you can feel good about opening and sharing it any night of the week.
A friend of mine has a wealth of knowledge about Spanish wines, and as a result, I’ve found myself exploring the country’s offerings more of late. Muga’s Rioja White is one of my go-to white wines, especially considering its reasonable $22 price tag. The winery is pouring its Bodegas Muga Rioja Selección Especial 2014 (90, $49), a wine only produced in outstanding vintages. It will be fun to see how this has aged since we first reviewed it in 2019.
Lastly, for Argentine wine lovers, Bodega Mil Suelos is a name to keep an eye on. American expat Jeff Mausbach and winemaker Alejandro Sejanovich, who both worked at leading Argentina winery Bodega Catena Zapata before starting Manos Negras, are behind the brand. The winery owns several estate vineyards in prime areas, including one in Paraje Altamira in southern Uco Valley, source of the Mil Suelos Malbec Paraje Altamira Finca La Escuela 2019 (91, $25). The vineyard includes a unique tapestry of soils, including silt and sand, gravel and stone, as well as calcareous outcroppings, which lend minerally acidity to the brightly flavored core of fruit.
As the lead reviewer for wines of the Rhône, I’m a firm believer that everyone should be drinking more white wines from this red-dominated region. If you need convincing, head straight to Château La Nerthe’s booth to taste their Châteauneuf-du-Pape White 2021 (93, $77), a beguiling wine with loads of fresh fruit purity, smoke and refreshing savory character.
It’s no longer a secret that the wines of Gigondas can rival those of its more famous neighbor, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The best will showcase a signature mineral spine, such as the extremely well-crafted Famille Perrin Gigondas La Gille 2019 (92, $39) made by the family behind iconic Château Beaucastel. It’s a treat to have the chance to taste a version with some age, so don’t miss the Gabriel Meffre Gigondas Laurus 2017 (93, $39) a seductive wine we reviewed over three years ago—and which I’m betting has benefited from the extra cellar time.
Speaking of age, most of us don’t often get to taste older vintages of Barolo, so I’m beelining to the Damilano table to taste their 2013 Cannubi Riserva 1752 (96, $350 on release), from one of the most famous crus in Barolo. My colleague Bruce Sanderson, who reviewed this wine more than two-and-a-half years ago, predicted it would enter its prime drinking window in 2023, so I’m curious to see how it has evolved.
Many delicious nightcap options are being poured. But if there is an underrated unicorn wine, it may be ice wine (or eiswein). Because of climate change, the rare dessert wine, which is made by harvesting grapes that have frozen on the vine, is disappearing—especially in Germany, where it originated. Canada’s Niagara Peninsula is one of the few places where winters are still reliably cold enough to produce them, and Inniskillin makes excellent examples of these liquid-heaven nectars. They are pouring the 2019 Cabernet Franc Ice Wine (91, $101/375ml), a rare red version with a beautiful cherry and floral profile.
Like many of my colleagues, I enjoy starting the evening with bubbly. A few decades ago, when leading Champagne houses starting opening California wineries, most opted for Napa or Sonoma. Louis Roederer opted for … Mendocino? One executive told me people asked if they were going there to grow cannabis. Today, Mendocino is known as a prime spot for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and the gorgeous Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley L'Ermitage 2015 (94, $68) proved the Champagne house knew what it was doing.
Bodegas Avancia Godello Valdeorras Old Vines 2021 (92, $37) is a great example of what makes Spanish wine so dynamic today. Valdeorras lies in Galicia, which is full of old vineyards planted with almost-forgotten grape varieties. Godello was nearly extinct before some passionate winemakers showed what it can do. And Bodegas Avancia is a project of Jorge Ordóñez, a Spanish-American importer who has introduced a lot of great Spanish wines to U.S. consumers.
Piedmont’s Langhe region is one of my favorites, and Vietti makes some of its best wines. The winery is entering a transition. In 2016, American Kyle Krause and his family bought Vietti, and while longtime winemaker Luca Currado and his wife and partner, Elena Penna, stayed on board for a few years, they resigned this January to pursue other projects. I will raise a glass of their Vietti Barolo Lazzarito 2018 (94, $226) to their incredible work and hope that the winery’s greatness continues.
My colleague Bruce Sanderson has written eloquently about the fantastic improvement in Chianti Classico in recent years, and there are many prime examples I love at the Grand Tour, from wineries such as Castello di Ama, Fontodi and Volpaia. But I’m eager to try the Vallepicciola Toscana Migliorè 2018 (91, $125). Winemaker Alessandro Cellai has made fantastic wines at nearby Castellare di Castellina, and he recently started working at Vallepicciola, so I’m curious to learn what he’s up to. This is a super Tuscan blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Last year, I got the chance to profile screenwriter and vintner Robert Kamen, whose namesake winery is just uphill from the town of Sonoma in the Moon Mountain District. I have been to Sonoma numerous times, but had never been up in that area and was blown away by the rugged landscape, volcanic soils and gorgeous, sunlit views. The Hamel Family Nuns Canyon Vineyard Moon Mountain District 2018 (93, $160) is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and I am intrigued to learn more about Moon Mountain terroir from another producer.
Going to the Grand Tour is a great opportunity to meet vintners, especially those who come from far-away locations that you’re less likely to visit in person. So one of my first stops will definitely be at the booth for New Zealand’s Allan Scott winery. While Allan Scott winemaker Josh Scott was at the New York Wine Experience last year to celebrate our first-ever Wine Value of the Year, I found out that his sister and managing director, Sara Stocker, and mother and co-founder, Catherine Scott, will be at the Grand Tours. Be sure to stop by and congratulate them, and find out why the Allan Scott Family Winemakers Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2022 (93, $20) is such an exciting example of what New Zealand has to offer.
Also from New Zealand is a first-time appearance from Otu, named after the Otuwhero River, which runs through the Marlborough Valley. Winemaker Jeff Clarke took over in 2020, and the wines have been simply stunning of late, as exemplified by the Otu Estate Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough Limited Release 2021 (92, $29). Kia ora (a traditional Māori greeting) to both of these brands!
While diving deeper into our coverage of California Chardonnay, I was recently down in Santa Barbara County and met Ashley Parker of Fess Parker for the first time. I can’t wait to see her again—she’s fun and sharp and makes great wine. Fess Parker was a huge figure in establishing Santa Barbara as a wine region, and Ashley is doing an incredible job following her father’s vision. Plus, she’s pouring a wine named after herself, the Fess Parker Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills Ashley's 2020 (92, $60), which has got to be a huge honor.
And on a recent trip to Monterey County, I explored the magical subappellation of Santa Lucia Highlands, where stunning Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs thrive. On the edges of “America’s Salad Bowl” near Salinas, where a huge amount of the country’s lettuce is grown, the Santa Lucia Highlands hug the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountain range. The Talbott Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands Sleepy Hollow Vineyard 2019 (90, $42) is one to check out to get a glimpse of what this region can do.
Have you ever had a friend who was always spot on when they suggested something? And you find yourself always ordering what they recommend or reading the same book they just finished? That friend for me is Alison Napjus, who reviews Champagne (among other regions) for the magazine. When I saw that she scored the Rare Brut Champagne Rare 2008 ($215, formerly listed under the Piper-Heidsieck label) a whopping 97 points, I knew I had to see what she’s so excited about! No doubt, given Alison’s track record, I’m going to love it.