John JuergensVictorious Wines

Well, I'm back from the wine wars and have a bunch of unlikely victors to tell you about. The good news is that there is a flood of really good to great wine on the market, and the better news is that a lot of it is low priced and widely available. I recently attended the annual Dallas Morning News Wine and Food Festival where they announce the award winning wines from the competition held in January. The Dallas Morning News International Wine Competition is the largest of its kind in the country.

Although a lot of the wineries that participate try to stack the deck by submitting some of their finest and most expensive wines just to grab some medals, this year a lot of very modestly priced wines stole the show.

But, before I get into those award winners, I want to tell you about my currently favorite California wine producer, Meridian Vineyards.

Meridian has been around for a long time and has always produced good solid wines, particularly their Chardonnay. However, every now and then everything comes together for a winery, that is, the right winemaker with the right wine making style who finds the right source of grapes. This happened to Kendall Jackson, Napa Ridge, and Rosemount, to name just a few, and now it has happened at Meridian.

Meridian has a national presence with its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, and every one of these wines is great. The bonus is that all of these wines are below $15 and they still deliver well-balanced, rich fruit flavors you would expect to find only in wines at twice the price. Check them out, they currently are all available in town.

Now on to some other notable wines that beat the skins off the big boys' grapes in Dallas. Let's do the red wines first.

Cabernet Sauvignon:
Beringer Founders Estate 1997
Black Opal (Cab/Merlot) 1998
Chateau Ste. Michelle 1997
Caliterra 1998
Forest Glen Barrel Select 1996
Rosemount Estate 1998

Cypress 1997
Forest Glen Barrel Select 1998
Cedar Brook 1997
Columbia Crest 1997
Fetzer Eagle Peak 1998
Hacienda 1998
Meridian 1997

Red Zinfandel:
Pedroncelli Mother Clone 1997
Cline 1997
Deloach 1998
Bogle 1998

Byron 1998
Caliterra 1999
Hardy's Nottage Hill 1999
Bogle 1998
Callaway 1998
Geyser Peak 1998
Lindemans Bin 65 1999
Camelot 1997
Fetzer Sundial 1998
Wolf Blass 1999

Sauvignon Blanc (Fumé Blanc):
Meridian 1998
Chateau Ste. Michelle 1998
Chateau St. Jean 1998
Hogue 1998
Dry Creek 1998

If these aren't enough suggestions to keep you busy for a month or so, you either have a drinking problem or you just don't like really good wine at cheap prices. And these are just a few of the more than nine hundred wines, yes, 9-0-0, that won medals. I have the complete list, so e-mail me at if you want more suggestions, but be specific about the kind of wine you are interested in.

Okay, one final note that really belongs in News of the Weird. You've probably notice that all the wine shops around town have been out of a lot of wines, including the really popular stuff, for about six months now. I mentioned in a previous column that this was largely due to the wizards at the Alcoholic Beverage Control Warehouse down near Jackson installing "new" software, which turned the entire inventory, ordering, delivery, and bookkeeping system inside out.

If that wasn't bad enough, guess who is doing most of the paperwork now in the warehouse? Inmates from Parchman! What a hoot! This is one of the few instances I know of where a metaphor become the reality. Some newspaper needs to do a story on this.

And, by the way, the reason I put the word new in quotes above is that I also learned that the version of software the ABC just installed is three versions behind the times. All the other states that used that software dumped it long ago because it was impossible to get it to work. "Ka-Ching." Ah, yes, that's the sound of your tax dollars ... working on the chain gang.

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