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Thomas Keller’s Per Se and The French Laundry Drop Off the S. Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants List


Thomas Keller disappears from World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, as Per Se drops to number 52 and The French Laundry to 85

It’s a new era for the world’s best restaurants.

The S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants is perhaps the most highly anticipated international culinary accolade. Although the official announcement won’t happen until next week, we already have the list of the runners-up, aka the top 51-100 restaurants in the world. While being in the top 100 is nothing to sneeze at, it should be noted that both of Thomas Keller’s restaurants fell out of the top 50 list this year for the first time, with Per Se coming in at number 52 and The French Laundry dropping to number 85. Last year, The French Laundry barely made the top 50 and Per Se was number 40.

Thomas Keller is not having a great couple of years. Per Se was given a grade pending from the New York City Health Department (which he later contested) in 2014, and two of the restaurant’s stars were taken away by Pete Wells of The New York Times. Meanwhile, The French Laundry was closed for the better part of 2015 for extensive renovations.

Other notable changes to the list this year include Daniel Boulud’s Daniel, which was lifted nine spots from 80 to 71. Cosme beat out David Chang’s Momofuku Ko by one spot this year. Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare — Brooklyn’s only three Michelin-starred restaurant — came in at 81 and California’s Manresa at 83, considerably better than its low number 100 spot last year. Notable missing restaurants that could still appear in the top 50 include Coi in San Francisco which placed 75 last year, and Heston Blumenthal’s critical darling, The Fat Duck, which was number 73 in 2015.

Tune in next week for the unveiling of the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants final list.


Top Wine Stories of 2014

In recent years, light-hearted and even encouraging news about celebrity wine successes, newly discovered wine-and-health benefits and cool wine innovations proved the biggest stories of the year. Alas, not so in 2014, which seemed to knock around the wine world with news of a disaster, crime of unprecedented damage or the deaths of beloved figures.

According to our most-viewed stories of the year, 2014 was a difficult vintage. A 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit Napa and Sonoma in August, injuring some 200 people and causing at least $80 million in damage to wineries in the region. In crime, while notorious counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years behind bars, an American collector sued a London wine merchant for $25 million for allegedly selling fakes. And, among others, we lost Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and pioneering Walla Walla winemaker Eric Dunham.

But there were bright spots as well. The number of states allowing winery direct-to-consumer shipping rose, Yankee readers could cheer that the United States became the No. 1 wine-consuming nation in the world and Portugal made a dramatic mark on the world wine scene with the incredible 2011 vintage. Three of its wines earned spots on our Top 10 of 2014—as always, our top draw of the year. And of course, there were thousands of excellent wines available from around the world. When it came to our readers’ favorite categories of wine reviews, the perennial favorites of Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and California Pinot Noir dueled for the top spots, while Beaujolais Nouveau reprised its strong showing in 2013.

Here are the most-read WineSpectator.com news and features of 2014, as well as your favorite tasting reports published this year.

Top News and Features

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Napa and Sonoma in the early hours of Sunday, Aug. 24, the strongest to hit the San Francisco Bay area since 1989. At least 200 people were injured, and, by October, it was estimated that the cost to the wine industry in the region would exceed $80 million. The timing—when most were not at work and harvest had not yet begun in earnest—was the only silver lining of the disaster. Silver Oak president David Duncan was among the first vintners to report from the ground, painting a picture that would emerge all over the Bay Area. Silver Oak lost hundreds of bottles from a rare collection of single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. “The collection of bottles is literally priceless. I cleaned that up myself with a shovel,” Duncan said. For others, the damage to vinifying wine was more pressing: At The Hess Collection on Mt. Veeder, two 10,000-gallon tanks ruptured and leaked almost 15,000 cases worth of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon into the surrounding meadow and courtyard, dying the grass purple, and some Napa winery employees were left homeless. Sebastiani, Robert Biale, B.R. Cohn and the historic McIntyre building at Trefethen Vineyards were all among the facilities to take on damage. Costs are still being assessed, but the resilient community pushed on with the 2014 harvest.

Not so long ago, attempting to buy wine online to ship directly to your home was a bureaucratic nightmare, but despite some snaggles, it has by and large become easier, though the picture remains complicated. The number of states that permit out-of-state wineries to ship directly to consumers has risen from 27 in 2005 to 40 as of January 2015, when Massachusetts' winery direct-shipping law will go into effect. (The District of Columbia permits both out-of-district winery and retailer shipping as well). In that same time, the number of states permitting out-of-state retailer direct-to-consumer shipping has fallen, from 18 states in 2005 to just 14 today. In July 2014, Wine Spectator updated its maps and listings for states that allow out-of-state winery-to-consumer and retailer-to-consumer shipping. Caveats, ambiguities and restrictions remain, but look here to see what your state allows today in terms of letting wine get to your doorstep.

Collector Julian LeCraw Jr. sued a merchant over several questionable Bordeauxs.

In April, Atlanta wine collector and real-estate investor Julian LeCraw, Jr., sued London wine merchant Antique Wine Company for more than $25 million for fraud and racketeering, alleging that the dealer sold him 15 bottles of fake rare Bordeauxs ranging from 1908 back to 1787. Beginning in 2006, LeCraw bought a bottle of Château d'Yquem 1787, Yquem 1847, a 6-liter bottle of Château Margaux 1908 and 12 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild, ranging in vintage from 1784 to 1906, from the company. Then in 2013, with the intention of selling, LeCraw consulted several authentication experts who doubted the legitimate provenance of his wines among them was Charles Chevallier, director of domaines for Domaines Barons de Rothschild. The suit, for breach of contract, accused the merchant of peddling "worthless glass containing unknown liquids." In May, the London firm fired back, defending the authenticity of the bottles, but representatives formerly of Château d’Yquem and the Bordeaux mercantile Cruse family, which actively traded the mid-19th century Sauternes, cast doubt on AWC’s claims in interviews with Wine Spectator .

Beloved Walla Walla wine pioneer Eric Dunham, whose Dunham Cellars consistently earned outstanding ratings for quality, died on Oct. 23 at 44, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police officers who knocked on the door of a motel room in Cannon Beach, Ore., where Dunham was staying after he had been listed as a missing person, heard a gunshot and found Dunham's body there. “He was incredibly creative, and incredibly impulsive,” actor Kyle MacLachlan, who partnered with Dunham on the Pursued By Bear label, said. “He threw himself into any situation with gusto, including the relationship we had with the wine we made together . He had this wonderful, young, impulsive energy.” After a stint in the Navy and apprenticeships at other local wineries, Dunham launched his own label in 1997. Dunham's Cabernets, Syrahs, Chardonnays and Rieslings soon began earning acclaim, but fellow winemakers remembered him foremost as a mentor, artist, animal lover, family man and generous spirit.

Rudy Kurniawan will serve 10 years in a federal prison.

What has been perhaps the most damaging and far-reaching scandal in the world of fine wine in recent years has drawn to a close, for now: Rudy Kurniawan, the mysterious collector—and fabricator—of rare wines was sentenced in August by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman to 10 years in prison, $28.4 million in restitution to seven of his victims and a forfeiture of $20 million in property. When FBI agents knocked on Kurniawan’s door in 2012, they found hundreds of bottles, corks, stamps and 18,000 fake wine labels, especially for rare old Burgundies from houses like Domaine Ponsot and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. (Kurniawan was once nicknamed “Dr. Conti” by auction-house pals.) The extent of Kurniawan’s fraud is difficult to assess, because his customers, many wealthy and private, have not all had their collections examined or wished to come forward as victims of swindling. But the Rudy K. saga may not be over: After the sentencing, co-counsel Vincent Verdiramo said, "I've had murderers who got less time. It's practically a guarantee that we will appeal." Indeed, Kurniawan's lawyers plan to file one in the new year.

Matt Kramer put down roots in what he considers the world's most exciting wine region at the moment: Portugal.

It’s an exciting time for up-and-coming wine regions around the world, but one stood out in 2014: Portugal. With the tremendous 2011 vintage in the market, Portugal snagged the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 spots in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2014, not only on the strength of majestic Vintage Ports but world-class dry reds and whites as well. So vivacious is the wine scene in the small Iberian country that longtime Wine Spectator columnist Matt Kramer set off to live there for a few months, chronicling and heralding the developments he found. Before delivering his seminar at the New York Wine Experience on Portuguese wine, Kramer declared Portugal “the most exciting place on the wine planet today” in his most popular online column of 2014. “Something about the culture, the landscape, the people and, not least, the wine, has to exert a siren call, an irresistible pull,” wrote Kramer in March, praising the wines for their “originality, flavor distinction, character, depth and finesse.” While posted in the country, Kramer tasted the best “house white” he’d ever had, pondered the possibilities of cru terroir in the country’s nascent dry wine scene and extolled the mysteries of Madeira. Elsewhere in his twice-monthly Drinking Out Loud column, the ever-thought-provoking Kramer cautioned readers about expert analyses of aged old wines and took a close look at what he considers the most powerful force in fine wine today.

Few in the wine world cut a figure as dramatic as Mouton-Rothschild owner and grande dame of Bordeaux Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who died following complications from surgery on Aug. 22 at age 80. After a successful early career as an actress, the baroness joined the family business of making world-class Bordeaux at Mouton in the early 1980s, following in her father’s footsteps. A natural in the world of wine brokering, she was instrumental in setting up and maintaining partnerships around the globe, including continuing one with Robert Mondavi at Opus One in Napa and starting one with Concha y Toro at Almaviva in Chile. All the while, her focus remained on the legendary Mouton, working with general director Philippe Dhalluin to make subtle shifts in the winemaking to emphasize more purity rather than brute power in the wine and overseeing the construction of a new chai, completed in time for the 2013 harvest. Philippine's involvement in the art world also led her to vigorously further the long-standing Mouton tradition of commissioning a different esteemed artist's work on each vintage's label. In September, Baroness Philippine was laid to rest next to her father with 1,200 mourners in attendance, including family members from many branches of the Rothschild clan. Earlier this year, executive editor Thomas Matthews interviewed the baroness and highlighted her inimitable Bordeaux legacy.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild's funeral service, held at Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac, France, drew 1,200 mourners. Pictured in the front row, from left, are her husband, Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais, and her three children, Camille Ögren, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais.

Jacqueline from Weingut Haider is the Jungwinzerinnen Kalender 2015's Frau Oktober.

The story was not without controversy—one reader humorously commented “I was caught reading Unfiltered”—but the 2015 Young Female Winemakers Calendar of Austria picked up so many views in late December that we didn’t have time to count it among the top Unfiltered stories of the year. Yet the women of Austrian wine, in comely poses amidst the vats and vines, earned their place among the most-read items of the year on WineSpectator.com, for whatever reasons. Since 2004, Ellen Ledermüller-Reiner has been assembling the playful black-and-white calendar to promote the wines of her home country, and you readers viewed her latest efforts with great interest.

At Nice Matin, a family-friendly French bistro, wine director Aviram Turgeman oversees a list that spans 2,485 selections, with a focus on mature bottles from classic French wine regions.

The list of Grand Awards in Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards program is the most rarefied club of wine-list excellence in the restaurant world. In 2014, six restaurants were elevated to the honor, reserved for wine lists that generally offer 1,500 or more selections, with superior breadth and depth in many of the world’s classic wine-producing regions. They have also passed a rigorous inspection that evaluates the overall quality of their wine program, cellars, service, ambiance and cuisine. This year, the program's 34th, 3,748 restaurants around the world, representing all 50 states and 81 other countries and territories, earned Restaurant Awards. Joining 68 other Grand Award winners were Clos Maggiore in London La Toque in Napa, Calif. Nice Matin in New York Saison in San Francisco the Stonehouse in Santa Barbara, Calif. and Studio in Laguna Beach, Calif.

A brine of herbs, lemons and garlic, and judicious seasoning in the coating, all add up to a perfect fried chicken recipe.

As always, exclusive recipe features were a big hit on WineSpectator.com, whether in the form of tips for seasonal entertaining, easy weeknight meals or glimpses at what esteemed pro chefs like to cook off-hours. This year's top recipe came courtesy of one of the preeminent kitchen professionals in America, Thomas Keller, of Napa's The French Laundry and New York's Per Se. While Keller is known for his intricate, high-wire cuisine, this recipe, adapted from Fried & True: More Than 50 Recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken and Sides by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman, is a straightforward and delicious take on—you guessed it—fried chicken. Of course, we believe food should be paired with delicious wine, so we provided a list of recommended American sparklers to match, including scores and tasting notes.

Plenty of ink has been spilled on the importance of emerging export markets like China and India, but this year the facts spoke for themselves: No one drank more wine than Americans. Americans consumed 329 million cases in 2013—a 1 percent increase over 2012, and 18 percent, or 51 million cases, over 2005—making the U.S. now the world's top wine market by volume, according to data from our sister publication Impact Databank. While a younger generation of Americans is embracing wine, powering especially strong growth in segments like imported wine, sweet wine, sparkling wine and dry rosé, their young counterparts in traditional wine cultures like France and Italy are less enthusiastic, making U.S. wine-drinking superiority a good bet for the near future.

Dennis Rosen, chairman of the NYSLA, says he's creating a fair playing field. Critics say he's vindictive.

Business is getting tougher for wine merchants in one of America’s biggest markets, and consumers may pay the price. The New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) is taking a dramatic new tack in its role as regulator of alcohol sales in the state. Large retailers, who often have a nation-wide clientele, are now being forced to cut back on the allocations of certain fine wines they can offer so that smaller players can have access to rare stocks. New Jersey merchants that once serviced the city are being told to cease and desist. And in one high-profile case, in August 2014, the NYSLA charged Albany retailer Empire Wine with 16 counts of improperly shipping wine to out-of-state customers. In September, Empire fired back with a lawsuit in state court challenging the NYSLA’s authority to regulate interstate shipping, declaring its rules “unconstitutionally vague” and challenging its authority over out-of-state sales. Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers, snarked, "I'm sure the people of New York feel relieved and safer knowing that [the NYSLA] is so enthusiastically working on their behalf to hamper legitimate commerce, hinder New York businesses and prevent out-of-state wine lovers from obtaining the wines they desire."

Top Tasting Reports

1. 2013 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting
Our early spring visits to Bordeaux to evaluate the newest vintage aging in barrels are perennial favorites, regardless of expectations for the vintage, as collectors seek tips on which of the unfinished wines are worth buying as futures, when they expect to pay the lowest prices. But 2013—possibly the toughest vintage for reds in a generation, and a significant drop in quality from the uneven 2012, outstanding 2011 and stellar 2010 and 2009 vintage—did not look like one for speculation. To find out what was really going on, James Molesworth visited many châteaus to talk with the winemakers and blind-tasted hundreds of reds, whites and sweet wines from the top estates and lesser-known names, at all price points, across the spectrum of appellations. Fortunately, the dry whites and sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac fared extremely well, and Molesworth found that experience, technology and green farming techniques saved the reds from what could have been a disaster. His scores and tasting notes are broken out by type, name, appellation and top-scoring wines.

2. Beaujolais Nouveau 2014
Following up its surprise appearance as the most popular tasting report of 2013, our annual release-day tasting of the newest vintage from Beaujolais demonstrated that this category of wines has staying power. Is that due to the resurgence of quality and interest in cru Beaujolais, for which Nouveau provides something of a preview of the vintage character? Or is it just that these food-friendly wines, released on the third Thursday of November, are so popular for Thanksgiving and the following holidays? At any rate, our blind tasting of eight 2014 wines turned up good to very good quality among these light- to medium-bodied, easy-drinking reds. Coming from an unusually cool and rainy summer (faced by much of Europe), the wines benefited from fantastic weather in September, resulting in lively acidity and lots of bright fruit.

3. Tasting Highlights: 9 Outstanding Napa Cabernets
As the bulk of the 2011 California Cabernets started to arrive on the market, this set of summer reviews provided an initial look at how the grape fared in a tricky growing season for Napa, followed by another 10 Bold Napa Cabernets from reliable names such as Chappellet and Neyers, along with a new bargain label from two friends stepping out from the shadows of their prominent winemaking families. With cool weather, botrytis and rain during the 2011 harvest, there are compelling wines from the vintage, just fewer to be had.

4. Tasting Highlights: 11 Hot California Pinot Noir Values
It’s difficult to find large-volume, inexpensive Pinot Noirs that are truly exciting, but this list highlighted nearly a dozen wines, most from the 2012 vintage, worth considering. Hailing from some of California’s prime Pinot-growing regions, not only are these wines complex, with true Pinot character, they are available for $25 or less. Another diverse set of 10 Enticing California Pinot Noirs—a mix from 2012, 2011 and 2010—came in at less than $40.

5. Tasting Highlights: 10 Lively California Zinfandels
Zinfandel has been in and out of our top five over the years, but in 2014, readers were paying attention all year long, looking for the standouts from the cool, challenging 2011 vintage to the power of the easy 2012 vintage found in the 10 Knockout California Zinfandels beginning to be released in the fall. Keep your eyes out for many more 2012 reviews in the coming months.

6. Tasting Highlights: 11 Stunning California Sauvignon Blancs
Though white wines don't usually crack the top five, it's worth noting that one set came close to the mark—and it wasn’t Chardonnay. Amid the heat of summer, refreshing, juicy, fragrant Sauvignon Blanc from the strong 2012 and 2013 vintages were particularly appealing. These were no innocuous summer quaffs, but complex, high-end bottlings showing all the grape can do when given full attention.


Top Wine Stories of 2014

In recent years, light-hearted and even encouraging news about celebrity wine successes, newly discovered wine-and-health benefits and cool wine innovations proved the biggest stories of the year. Alas, not so in 2014, which seemed to knock around the wine world with news of a disaster, crime of unprecedented damage or the deaths of beloved figures.

According to our most-viewed stories of the year, 2014 was a difficult vintage. A 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit Napa and Sonoma in August, injuring some 200 people and causing at least $80 million in damage to wineries in the region. In crime, while notorious counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years behind bars, an American collector sued a London wine merchant for $25 million for allegedly selling fakes. And, among others, we lost Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and pioneering Walla Walla winemaker Eric Dunham.

But there were bright spots as well. The number of states allowing winery direct-to-consumer shipping rose, Yankee readers could cheer that the United States became the No. 1 wine-consuming nation in the world and Portugal made a dramatic mark on the world wine scene with the incredible 2011 vintage. Three of its wines earned spots on our Top 10 of 2014—as always, our top draw of the year. And of course, there were thousands of excellent wines available from around the world. When it came to our readers’ favorite categories of wine reviews, the perennial favorites of Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and California Pinot Noir dueled for the top spots, while Beaujolais Nouveau reprised its strong showing in 2013.

Here are the most-read WineSpectator.com news and features of 2014, as well as your favorite tasting reports published this year.

Top News and Features

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Napa and Sonoma in the early hours of Sunday, Aug. 24, the strongest to hit the San Francisco Bay area since 1989. At least 200 people were injured, and, by October, it was estimated that the cost to the wine industry in the region would exceed $80 million. The timing—when most were not at work and harvest had not yet begun in earnest—was the only silver lining of the disaster. Silver Oak president David Duncan was among the first vintners to report from the ground, painting a picture that would emerge all over the Bay Area. Silver Oak lost hundreds of bottles from a rare collection of single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. “The collection of bottles is literally priceless. I cleaned that up myself with a shovel,” Duncan said. For others, the damage to vinifying wine was more pressing: At The Hess Collection on Mt. Veeder, two 10,000-gallon tanks ruptured and leaked almost 15,000 cases worth of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon into the surrounding meadow and courtyard, dying the grass purple, and some Napa winery employees were left homeless. Sebastiani, Robert Biale, B.R. Cohn and the historic McIntyre building at Trefethen Vineyards were all among the facilities to take on damage. Costs are still being assessed, but the resilient community pushed on with the 2014 harvest.

Not so long ago, attempting to buy wine online to ship directly to your home was a bureaucratic nightmare, but despite some snaggles, it has by and large become easier, though the picture remains complicated. The number of states that permit out-of-state wineries to ship directly to consumers has risen from 27 in 2005 to 40 as of January 2015, when Massachusetts' winery direct-shipping law will go into effect. (The District of Columbia permits both out-of-district winery and retailer shipping as well). In that same time, the number of states permitting out-of-state retailer direct-to-consumer shipping has fallen, from 18 states in 2005 to just 14 today. In July 2014, Wine Spectator updated its maps and listings for states that allow out-of-state winery-to-consumer and retailer-to-consumer shipping. Caveats, ambiguities and restrictions remain, but look here to see what your state allows today in terms of letting wine get to your doorstep.

Collector Julian LeCraw Jr. sued a merchant over several questionable Bordeauxs.

In April, Atlanta wine collector and real-estate investor Julian LeCraw, Jr., sued London wine merchant Antique Wine Company for more than $25 million for fraud and racketeering, alleging that the dealer sold him 15 bottles of fake rare Bordeauxs ranging from 1908 back to 1787. Beginning in 2006, LeCraw bought a bottle of Château d'Yquem 1787, Yquem 1847, a 6-liter bottle of Château Margaux 1908 and 12 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild, ranging in vintage from 1784 to 1906, from the company. Then in 2013, with the intention of selling, LeCraw consulted several authentication experts who doubted the legitimate provenance of his wines among them was Charles Chevallier, director of domaines for Domaines Barons de Rothschild. The suit, for breach of contract, accused the merchant of peddling "worthless glass containing unknown liquids." In May, the London firm fired back, defending the authenticity of the bottles, but representatives formerly of Château d’Yquem and the Bordeaux mercantile Cruse family, which actively traded the mid-19th century Sauternes, cast doubt on AWC’s claims in interviews with Wine Spectator .

Beloved Walla Walla wine pioneer Eric Dunham, whose Dunham Cellars consistently earned outstanding ratings for quality, died on Oct. 23 at 44, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police officers who knocked on the door of a motel room in Cannon Beach, Ore., where Dunham was staying after he had been listed as a missing person, heard a gunshot and found Dunham's body there. “He was incredibly creative, and incredibly impulsive,” actor Kyle MacLachlan, who partnered with Dunham on the Pursued By Bear label, said. “He threw himself into any situation with gusto, including the relationship we had with the wine we made together . He had this wonderful, young, impulsive energy.” After a stint in the Navy and apprenticeships at other local wineries, Dunham launched his own label in 1997. Dunham's Cabernets, Syrahs, Chardonnays and Rieslings soon began earning acclaim, but fellow winemakers remembered him foremost as a mentor, artist, animal lover, family man and generous spirit.

Rudy Kurniawan will serve 10 years in a federal prison.

What has been perhaps the most damaging and far-reaching scandal in the world of fine wine in recent years has drawn to a close, for now: Rudy Kurniawan, the mysterious collector—and fabricator—of rare wines was sentenced in August by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman to 10 years in prison, $28.4 million in restitution to seven of his victims and a forfeiture of $20 million in property. When FBI agents knocked on Kurniawan’s door in 2012, they found hundreds of bottles, corks, stamps and 18,000 fake wine labels, especially for rare old Burgundies from houses like Domaine Ponsot and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. (Kurniawan was once nicknamed “Dr. Conti” by auction-house pals.) The extent of Kurniawan’s fraud is difficult to assess, because his customers, many wealthy and private, have not all had their collections examined or wished to come forward as victims of swindling. But the Rudy K. saga may not be over: After the sentencing, co-counsel Vincent Verdiramo said, "I've had murderers who got less time. It's practically a guarantee that we will appeal." Indeed, Kurniawan's lawyers plan to file one in the new year.

Matt Kramer put down roots in what he considers the world's most exciting wine region at the moment: Portugal.

It’s an exciting time for up-and-coming wine regions around the world, but one stood out in 2014: Portugal. With the tremendous 2011 vintage in the market, Portugal snagged the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 spots in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2014, not only on the strength of majestic Vintage Ports but world-class dry reds and whites as well. So vivacious is the wine scene in the small Iberian country that longtime Wine Spectator columnist Matt Kramer set off to live there for a few months, chronicling and heralding the developments he found. Before delivering his seminar at the New York Wine Experience on Portuguese wine, Kramer declared Portugal “the most exciting place on the wine planet today” in his most popular online column of 2014. “Something about the culture, the landscape, the people and, not least, the wine, has to exert a siren call, an irresistible pull,” wrote Kramer in March, praising the wines for their “originality, flavor distinction, character, depth and finesse.” While posted in the country, Kramer tasted the best “house white” he’d ever had, pondered the possibilities of cru terroir in the country’s nascent dry wine scene and extolled the mysteries of Madeira. Elsewhere in his twice-monthly Drinking Out Loud column, the ever-thought-provoking Kramer cautioned readers about expert analyses of aged old wines and took a close look at what he considers the most powerful force in fine wine today.

Few in the wine world cut a figure as dramatic as Mouton-Rothschild owner and grande dame of Bordeaux Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who died following complications from surgery on Aug. 22 at age 80. After a successful early career as an actress, the baroness joined the family business of making world-class Bordeaux at Mouton in the early 1980s, following in her father’s footsteps. A natural in the world of wine brokering, she was instrumental in setting up and maintaining partnerships around the globe, including continuing one with Robert Mondavi at Opus One in Napa and starting one with Concha y Toro at Almaviva in Chile. All the while, her focus remained on the legendary Mouton, working with general director Philippe Dhalluin to make subtle shifts in the winemaking to emphasize more purity rather than brute power in the wine and overseeing the construction of a new chai, completed in time for the 2013 harvest. Philippine's involvement in the art world also led her to vigorously further the long-standing Mouton tradition of commissioning a different esteemed artist's work on each vintage's label. In September, Baroness Philippine was laid to rest next to her father with 1,200 mourners in attendance, including family members from many branches of the Rothschild clan. Earlier this year, executive editor Thomas Matthews interviewed the baroness and highlighted her inimitable Bordeaux legacy.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild's funeral service, held at Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac, France, drew 1,200 mourners. Pictured in the front row, from left, are her husband, Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais, and her three children, Camille Ögren, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais.

Jacqueline from Weingut Haider is the Jungwinzerinnen Kalender 2015's Frau Oktober.

The story was not without controversy—one reader humorously commented “I was caught reading Unfiltered”—but the 2015 Young Female Winemakers Calendar of Austria picked up so many views in late December that we didn’t have time to count it among the top Unfiltered stories of the year. Yet the women of Austrian wine, in comely poses amidst the vats and vines, earned their place among the most-read items of the year on WineSpectator.com, for whatever reasons. Since 2004, Ellen Ledermüller-Reiner has been assembling the playful black-and-white calendar to promote the wines of her home country, and you readers viewed her latest efforts with great interest.

At Nice Matin, a family-friendly French bistro, wine director Aviram Turgeman oversees a list that spans 2,485 selections, with a focus on mature bottles from classic French wine regions.

The list of Grand Awards in Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards program is the most rarefied club of wine-list excellence in the restaurant world. In 2014, six restaurants were elevated to the honor, reserved for wine lists that generally offer 1,500 or more selections, with superior breadth and depth in many of the world’s classic wine-producing regions. They have also passed a rigorous inspection that evaluates the overall quality of their wine program, cellars, service, ambiance and cuisine. This year, the program's 34th, 3,748 restaurants around the world, representing all 50 states and 81 other countries and territories, earned Restaurant Awards. Joining 68 other Grand Award winners were Clos Maggiore in London La Toque in Napa, Calif. Nice Matin in New York Saison in San Francisco the Stonehouse in Santa Barbara, Calif. and Studio in Laguna Beach, Calif.

A brine of herbs, lemons and garlic, and judicious seasoning in the coating, all add up to a perfect fried chicken recipe.

As always, exclusive recipe features were a big hit on WineSpectator.com, whether in the form of tips for seasonal entertaining, easy weeknight meals or glimpses at what esteemed pro chefs like to cook off-hours. This year's top recipe came courtesy of one of the preeminent kitchen professionals in America, Thomas Keller, of Napa's The French Laundry and New York's Per Se. While Keller is known for his intricate, high-wire cuisine, this recipe, adapted from Fried & True: More Than 50 Recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken and Sides by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman, is a straightforward and delicious take on—you guessed it—fried chicken. Of course, we believe food should be paired with delicious wine, so we provided a list of recommended American sparklers to match, including scores and tasting notes.

Plenty of ink has been spilled on the importance of emerging export markets like China and India, but this year the facts spoke for themselves: No one drank more wine than Americans. Americans consumed 329 million cases in 2013—a 1 percent increase over 2012, and 18 percent, or 51 million cases, over 2005—making the U.S. now the world's top wine market by volume, according to data from our sister publication Impact Databank. While a younger generation of Americans is embracing wine, powering especially strong growth in segments like imported wine, sweet wine, sparkling wine and dry rosé, their young counterparts in traditional wine cultures like France and Italy are less enthusiastic, making U.S. wine-drinking superiority a good bet for the near future.

Dennis Rosen, chairman of the NYSLA, says he's creating a fair playing field. Critics say he's vindictive.

Business is getting tougher for wine merchants in one of America’s biggest markets, and consumers may pay the price. The New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) is taking a dramatic new tack in its role as regulator of alcohol sales in the state. Large retailers, who often have a nation-wide clientele, are now being forced to cut back on the allocations of certain fine wines they can offer so that smaller players can have access to rare stocks. New Jersey merchants that once serviced the city are being told to cease and desist. And in one high-profile case, in August 2014, the NYSLA charged Albany retailer Empire Wine with 16 counts of improperly shipping wine to out-of-state customers. In September, Empire fired back with a lawsuit in state court challenging the NYSLA’s authority to regulate interstate shipping, declaring its rules “unconstitutionally vague” and challenging its authority over out-of-state sales. Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers, snarked, "I'm sure the people of New York feel relieved and safer knowing that [the NYSLA] is so enthusiastically working on their behalf to hamper legitimate commerce, hinder New York businesses and prevent out-of-state wine lovers from obtaining the wines they desire."

Top Tasting Reports

1. 2013 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting
Our early spring visits to Bordeaux to evaluate the newest vintage aging in barrels are perennial favorites, regardless of expectations for the vintage, as collectors seek tips on which of the unfinished wines are worth buying as futures, when they expect to pay the lowest prices. But 2013—possibly the toughest vintage for reds in a generation, and a significant drop in quality from the uneven 2012, outstanding 2011 and stellar 2010 and 2009 vintage—did not look like one for speculation. To find out what was really going on, James Molesworth visited many châteaus to talk with the winemakers and blind-tasted hundreds of reds, whites and sweet wines from the top estates and lesser-known names, at all price points, across the spectrum of appellations. Fortunately, the dry whites and sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac fared extremely well, and Molesworth found that experience, technology and green farming techniques saved the reds from what could have been a disaster. His scores and tasting notes are broken out by type, name, appellation and top-scoring wines.

2. Beaujolais Nouveau 2014
Following up its surprise appearance as the most popular tasting report of 2013, our annual release-day tasting of the newest vintage from Beaujolais demonstrated that this category of wines has staying power. Is that due to the resurgence of quality and interest in cru Beaujolais, for which Nouveau provides something of a preview of the vintage character? Or is it just that these food-friendly wines, released on the third Thursday of November, are so popular for Thanksgiving and the following holidays? At any rate, our blind tasting of eight 2014 wines turned up good to very good quality among these light- to medium-bodied, easy-drinking reds. Coming from an unusually cool and rainy summer (faced by much of Europe), the wines benefited from fantastic weather in September, resulting in lively acidity and lots of bright fruit.

3. Tasting Highlights: 9 Outstanding Napa Cabernets
As the bulk of the 2011 California Cabernets started to arrive on the market, this set of summer reviews provided an initial look at how the grape fared in a tricky growing season for Napa, followed by another 10 Bold Napa Cabernets from reliable names such as Chappellet and Neyers, along with a new bargain label from two friends stepping out from the shadows of their prominent winemaking families. With cool weather, botrytis and rain during the 2011 harvest, there are compelling wines from the vintage, just fewer to be had.

4. Tasting Highlights: 11 Hot California Pinot Noir Values
It’s difficult to find large-volume, inexpensive Pinot Noirs that are truly exciting, but this list highlighted nearly a dozen wines, most from the 2012 vintage, worth considering. Hailing from some of California’s prime Pinot-growing regions, not only are these wines complex, with true Pinot character, they are available for $25 or less. Another diverse set of 10 Enticing California Pinot Noirs—a mix from 2012, 2011 and 2010—came in at less than $40.

5. Tasting Highlights: 10 Lively California Zinfandels
Zinfandel has been in and out of our top five over the years, but in 2014, readers were paying attention all year long, looking for the standouts from the cool, challenging 2011 vintage to the power of the easy 2012 vintage found in the 10 Knockout California Zinfandels beginning to be released in the fall. Keep your eyes out for many more 2012 reviews in the coming months.

6. Tasting Highlights: 11 Stunning California Sauvignon Blancs
Though white wines don't usually crack the top five, it's worth noting that one set came close to the mark—and it wasn’t Chardonnay. Amid the heat of summer, refreshing, juicy, fragrant Sauvignon Blanc from the strong 2012 and 2013 vintages were particularly appealing. These were no innocuous summer quaffs, but complex, high-end bottlings showing all the grape can do when given full attention.


Top Wine Stories of 2014

In recent years, light-hearted and even encouraging news about celebrity wine successes, newly discovered wine-and-health benefits and cool wine innovations proved the biggest stories of the year. Alas, not so in 2014, which seemed to knock around the wine world with news of a disaster, crime of unprecedented damage or the deaths of beloved figures.

According to our most-viewed stories of the year, 2014 was a difficult vintage. A 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit Napa and Sonoma in August, injuring some 200 people and causing at least $80 million in damage to wineries in the region. In crime, while notorious counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years behind bars, an American collector sued a London wine merchant for $25 million for allegedly selling fakes. And, among others, we lost Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and pioneering Walla Walla winemaker Eric Dunham.

But there were bright spots as well. The number of states allowing winery direct-to-consumer shipping rose, Yankee readers could cheer that the United States became the No. 1 wine-consuming nation in the world and Portugal made a dramatic mark on the world wine scene with the incredible 2011 vintage. Three of its wines earned spots on our Top 10 of 2014—as always, our top draw of the year. And of course, there were thousands of excellent wines available from around the world. When it came to our readers’ favorite categories of wine reviews, the perennial favorites of Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and California Pinot Noir dueled for the top spots, while Beaujolais Nouveau reprised its strong showing in 2013.

Here are the most-read WineSpectator.com news and features of 2014, as well as your favorite tasting reports published this year.

Top News and Features

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Napa and Sonoma in the early hours of Sunday, Aug. 24, the strongest to hit the San Francisco Bay area since 1989. At least 200 people were injured, and, by October, it was estimated that the cost to the wine industry in the region would exceed $80 million. The timing—when most were not at work and harvest had not yet begun in earnest—was the only silver lining of the disaster. Silver Oak president David Duncan was among the first vintners to report from the ground, painting a picture that would emerge all over the Bay Area. Silver Oak lost hundreds of bottles from a rare collection of single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. “The collection of bottles is literally priceless. I cleaned that up myself with a shovel,” Duncan said. For others, the damage to vinifying wine was more pressing: At The Hess Collection on Mt. Veeder, two 10,000-gallon tanks ruptured and leaked almost 15,000 cases worth of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon into the surrounding meadow and courtyard, dying the grass purple, and some Napa winery employees were left homeless. Sebastiani, Robert Biale, B.R. Cohn and the historic McIntyre building at Trefethen Vineyards were all among the facilities to take on damage. Costs are still being assessed, but the resilient community pushed on with the 2014 harvest.

Not so long ago, attempting to buy wine online to ship directly to your home was a bureaucratic nightmare, but despite some snaggles, it has by and large become easier, though the picture remains complicated. The number of states that permit out-of-state wineries to ship directly to consumers has risen from 27 in 2005 to 40 as of January 2015, when Massachusetts' winery direct-shipping law will go into effect. (The District of Columbia permits both out-of-district winery and retailer shipping as well). In that same time, the number of states permitting out-of-state retailer direct-to-consumer shipping has fallen, from 18 states in 2005 to just 14 today. In July 2014, Wine Spectator updated its maps and listings for states that allow out-of-state winery-to-consumer and retailer-to-consumer shipping. Caveats, ambiguities and restrictions remain, but look here to see what your state allows today in terms of letting wine get to your doorstep.

Collector Julian LeCraw Jr. sued a merchant over several questionable Bordeauxs.

In April, Atlanta wine collector and real-estate investor Julian LeCraw, Jr., sued London wine merchant Antique Wine Company for more than $25 million for fraud and racketeering, alleging that the dealer sold him 15 bottles of fake rare Bordeauxs ranging from 1908 back to 1787. Beginning in 2006, LeCraw bought a bottle of Château d'Yquem 1787, Yquem 1847, a 6-liter bottle of Château Margaux 1908 and 12 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild, ranging in vintage from 1784 to 1906, from the company. Then in 2013, with the intention of selling, LeCraw consulted several authentication experts who doubted the legitimate provenance of his wines among them was Charles Chevallier, director of domaines for Domaines Barons de Rothschild. The suit, for breach of contract, accused the merchant of peddling "worthless glass containing unknown liquids." In May, the London firm fired back, defending the authenticity of the bottles, but representatives formerly of Château d’Yquem and the Bordeaux mercantile Cruse family, which actively traded the mid-19th century Sauternes, cast doubt on AWC’s claims in interviews with Wine Spectator .

Beloved Walla Walla wine pioneer Eric Dunham, whose Dunham Cellars consistently earned outstanding ratings for quality, died on Oct. 23 at 44, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police officers who knocked on the door of a motel room in Cannon Beach, Ore., where Dunham was staying after he had been listed as a missing person, heard a gunshot and found Dunham's body there. “He was incredibly creative, and incredibly impulsive,” actor Kyle MacLachlan, who partnered with Dunham on the Pursued By Bear label, said. “He threw himself into any situation with gusto, including the relationship we had with the wine we made together . He had this wonderful, young, impulsive energy.” After a stint in the Navy and apprenticeships at other local wineries, Dunham launched his own label in 1997. Dunham's Cabernets, Syrahs, Chardonnays and Rieslings soon began earning acclaim, but fellow winemakers remembered him foremost as a mentor, artist, animal lover, family man and generous spirit.

Rudy Kurniawan will serve 10 years in a federal prison.

What has been perhaps the most damaging and far-reaching scandal in the world of fine wine in recent years has drawn to a close, for now: Rudy Kurniawan, the mysterious collector—and fabricator—of rare wines was sentenced in August by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman to 10 years in prison, $28.4 million in restitution to seven of his victims and a forfeiture of $20 million in property. When FBI agents knocked on Kurniawan’s door in 2012, they found hundreds of bottles, corks, stamps and 18,000 fake wine labels, especially for rare old Burgundies from houses like Domaine Ponsot and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. (Kurniawan was once nicknamed “Dr. Conti” by auction-house pals.) The extent of Kurniawan’s fraud is difficult to assess, because his customers, many wealthy and private, have not all had their collections examined or wished to come forward as victims of swindling. But the Rudy K. saga may not be over: After the sentencing, co-counsel Vincent Verdiramo said, "I've had murderers who got less time. It's practically a guarantee that we will appeal." Indeed, Kurniawan's lawyers plan to file one in the new year.

Matt Kramer put down roots in what he considers the world's most exciting wine region at the moment: Portugal.

It’s an exciting time for up-and-coming wine regions around the world, but one stood out in 2014: Portugal. With the tremendous 2011 vintage in the market, Portugal snagged the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 spots in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2014, not only on the strength of majestic Vintage Ports but world-class dry reds and whites as well. So vivacious is the wine scene in the small Iberian country that longtime Wine Spectator columnist Matt Kramer set off to live there for a few months, chronicling and heralding the developments he found. Before delivering his seminar at the New York Wine Experience on Portuguese wine, Kramer declared Portugal “the most exciting place on the wine planet today” in his most popular online column of 2014. “Something about the culture, the landscape, the people and, not least, the wine, has to exert a siren call, an irresistible pull,” wrote Kramer in March, praising the wines for their “originality, flavor distinction, character, depth and finesse.” While posted in the country, Kramer tasted the best “house white” he’d ever had, pondered the possibilities of cru terroir in the country’s nascent dry wine scene and extolled the mysteries of Madeira. Elsewhere in his twice-monthly Drinking Out Loud column, the ever-thought-provoking Kramer cautioned readers about expert analyses of aged old wines and took a close look at what he considers the most powerful force in fine wine today.

Few in the wine world cut a figure as dramatic as Mouton-Rothschild owner and grande dame of Bordeaux Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who died following complications from surgery on Aug. 22 at age 80. After a successful early career as an actress, the baroness joined the family business of making world-class Bordeaux at Mouton in the early 1980s, following in her father’s footsteps. A natural in the world of wine brokering, she was instrumental in setting up and maintaining partnerships around the globe, including continuing one with Robert Mondavi at Opus One in Napa and starting one with Concha y Toro at Almaviva in Chile. All the while, her focus remained on the legendary Mouton, working with general director Philippe Dhalluin to make subtle shifts in the winemaking to emphasize more purity rather than brute power in the wine and overseeing the construction of a new chai, completed in time for the 2013 harvest. Philippine's involvement in the art world also led her to vigorously further the long-standing Mouton tradition of commissioning a different esteemed artist's work on each vintage's label. In September, Baroness Philippine was laid to rest next to her father with 1,200 mourners in attendance, including family members from many branches of the Rothschild clan. Earlier this year, executive editor Thomas Matthews interviewed the baroness and highlighted her inimitable Bordeaux legacy.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild's funeral service, held at Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac, France, drew 1,200 mourners. Pictured in the front row, from left, are her husband, Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais, and her three children, Camille Ögren, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais.

Jacqueline from Weingut Haider is the Jungwinzerinnen Kalender 2015's Frau Oktober.

The story was not without controversy—one reader humorously commented “I was caught reading Unfiltered”—but the 2015 Young Female Winemakers Calendar of Austria picked up so many views in late December that we didn’t have time to count it among the top Unfiltered stories of the year. Yet the women of Austrian wine, in comely poses amidst the vats and vines, earned their place among the most-read items of the year on WineSpectator.com, for whatever reasons. Since 2004, Ellen Ledermüller-Reiner has been assembling the playful black-and-white calendar to promote the wines of her home country, and you readers viewed her latest efforts with great interest.

At Nice Matin, a family-friendly French bistro, wine director Aviram Turgeman oversees a list that spans 2,485 selections, with a focus on mature bottles from classic French wine regions.

The list of Grand Awards in Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards program is the most rarefied club of wine-list excellence in the restaurant world. In 2014, six restaurants were elevated to the honor, reserved for wine lists that generally offer 1,500 or more selections, with superior breadth and depth in many of the world’s classic wine-producing regions. They have also passed a rigorous inspection that evaluates the overall quality of their wine program, cellars, service, ambiance and cuisine. This year, the program's 34th, 3,748 restaurants around the world, representing all 50 states and 81 other countries and territories, earned Restaurant Awards. Joining 68 other Grand Award winners were Clos Maggiore in London La Toque in Napa, Calif. Nice Matin in New York Saison in San Francisco the Stonehouse in Santa Barbara, Calif. and Studio in Laguna Beach, Calif.

A brine of herbs, lemons and garlic, and judicious seasoning in the coating, all add up to a perfect fried chicken recipe.

As always, exclusive recipe features were a big hit on WineSpectator.com, whether in the form of tips for seasonal entertaining, easy weeknight meals or glimpses at what esteemed pro chefs like to cook off-hours. This year's top recipe came courtesy of one of the preeminent kitchen professionals in America, Thomas Keller, of Napa's The French Laundry and New York's Per Se. While Keller is known for his intricate, high-wire cuisine, this recipe, adapted from Fried & True: More Than 50 Recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken and Sides by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman, is a straightforward and delicious take on—you guessed it—fried chicken. Of course, we believe food should be paired with delicious wine, so we provided a list of recommended American sparklers to match, including scores and tasting notes.

Plenty of ink has been spilled on the importance of emerging export markets like China and India, but this year the facts spoke for themselves: No one drank more wine than Americans. Americans consumed 329 million cases in 2013—a 1 percent increase over 2012, and 18 percent, or 51 million cases, over 2005—making the U.S. now the world's top wine market by volume, according to data from our sister publication Impact Databank. While a younger generation of Americans is embracing wine, powering especially strong growth in segments like imported wine, sweet wine, sparkling wine and dry rosé, their young counterparts in traditional wine cultures like France and Italy are less enthusiastic, making U.S. wine-drinking superiority a good bet for the near future.

Dennis Rosen, chairman of the NYSLA, says he's creating a fair playing field. Critics say he's vindictive.

Business is getting tougher for wine merchants in one of America’s biggest markets, and consumers may pay the price. The New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) is taking a dramatic new tack in its role as regulator of alcohol sales in the state. Large retailers, who often have a nation-wide clientele, are now being forced to cut back on the allocations of certain fine wines they can offer so that smaller players can have access to rare stocks. New Jersey merchants that once serviced the city are being told to cease and desist. And in one high-profile case, in August 2014, the NYSLA charged Albany retailer Empire Wine with 16 counts of improperly shipping wine to out-of-state customers. In September, Empire fired back with a lawsuit in state court challenging the NYSLA’s authority to regulate interstate shipping, declaring its rules “unconstitutionally vague” and challenging its authority over out-of-state sales. Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers, snarked, "I'm sure the people of New York feel relieved and safer knowing that [the NYSLA] is so enthusiastically working on their behalf to hamper legitimate commerce, hinder New York businesses and prevent out-of-state wine lovers from obtaining the wines they desire."

Top Tasting Reports

1. 2013 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting
Our early spring visits to Bordeaux to evaluate the newest vintage aging in barrels are perennial favorites, regardless of expectations for the vintage, as collectors seek tips on which of the unfinished wines are worth buying as futures, when they expect to pay the lowest prices. But 2013—possibly the toughest vintage for reds in a generation, and a significant drop in quality from the uneven 2012, outstanding 2011 and stellar 2010 and 2009 vintage—did not look like one for speculation. To find out what was really going on, James Molesworth visited many châteaus to talk with the winemakers and blind-tasted hundreds of reds, whites and sweet wines from the top estates and lesser-known names, at all price points, across the spectrum of appellations. Fortunately, the dry whites and sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac fared extremely well, and Molesworth found that experience, technology and green farming techniques saved the reds from what could have been a disaster. His scores and tasting notes are broken out by type, name, appellation and top-scoring wines.

2. Beaujolais Nouveau 2014
Following up its surprise appearance as the most popular tasting report of 2013, our annual release-day tasting of the newest vintage from Beaujolais demonstrated that this category of wines has staying power. Is that due to the resurgence of quality and interest in cru Beaujolais, for which Nouveau provides something of a preview of the vintage character? Or is it just that these food-friendly wines, released on the third Thursday of November, are so popular for Thanksgiving and the following holidays? At any rate, our blind tasting of eight 2014 wines turned up good to very good quality among these light- to medium-bodied, easy-drinking reds. Coming from an unusually cool and rainy summer (faced by much of Europe), the wines benefited from fantastic weather in September, resulting in lively acidity and lots of bright fruit.

3. Tasting Highlights: 9 Outstanding Napa Cabernets
As the bulk of the 2011 California Cabernets started to arrive on the market, this set of summer reviews provided an initial look at how the grape fared in a tricky growing season for Napa, followed by another 10 Bold Napa Cabernets from reliable names such as Chappellet and Neyers, along with a new bargain label from two friends stepping out from the shadows of their prominent winemaking families. With cool weather, botrytis and rain during the 2011 harvest, there are compelling wines from the vintage, just fewer to be had.

4. Tasting Highlights: 11 Hot California Pinot Noir Values
It’s difficult to find large-volume, inexpensive Pinot Noirs that are truly exciting, but this list highlighted nearly a dozen wines, most from the 2012 vintage, worth considering. Hailing from some of California’s prime Pinot-growing regions, not only are these wines complex, with true Pinot character, they are available for $25 or less. Another diverse set of 10 Enticing California Pinot Noirs—a mix from 2012, 2011 and 2010—came in at less than $40.

5. Tasting Highlights: 10 Lively California Zinfandels
Zinfandel has been in and out of our top five over the years, but in 2014, readers were paying attention all year long, looking for the standouts from the cool, challenging 2011 vintage to the power of the easy 2012 vintage found in the 10 Knockout California Zinfandels beginning to be released in the fall. Keep your eyes out for many more 2012 reviews in the coming months.

6. Tasting Highlights: 11 Stunning California Sauvignon Blancs
Though white wines don't usually crack the top five, it's worth noting that one set came close to the mark—and it wasn’t Chardonnay. Amid the heat of summer, refreshing, juicy, fragrant Sauvignon Blanc from the strong 2012 and 2013 vintages were particularly appealing. These were no innocuous summer quaffs, but complex, high-end bottlings showing all the grape can do when given full attention.


Top Wine Stories of 2014

In recent years, light-hearted and even encouraging news about celebrity wine successes, newly discovered wine-and-health benefits and cool wine innovations proved the biggest stories of the year. Alas, not so in 2014, which seemed to knock around the wine world with news of a disaster, crime of unprecedented damage or the deaths of beloved figures.

According to our most-viewed stories of the year, 2014 was a difficult vintage. A 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit Napa and Sonoma in August, injuring some 200 people and causing at least $80 million in damage to wineries in the region. In crime, while notorious counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years behind bars, an American collector sued a London wine merchant for $25 million for allegedly selling fakes. And, among others, we lost Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and pioneering Walla Walla winemaker Eric Dunham.

But there were bright spots as well. The number of states allowing winery direct-to-consumer shipping rose, Yankee readers could cheer that the United States became the No. 1 wine-consuming nation in the world and Portugal made a dramatic mark on the world wine scene with the incredible 2011 vintage. Three of its wines earned spots on our Top 10 of 2014—as always, our top draw of the year. And of course, there were thousands of excellent wines available from around the world. When it came to our readers’ favorite categories of wine reviews, the perennial favorites of Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and California Pinot Noir dueled for the top spots, while Beaujolais Nouveau reprised its strong showing in 2013.

Here are the most-read WineSpectator.com news and features of 2014, as well as your favorite tasting reports published this year.

Top News and Features

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Napa and Sonoma in the early hours of Sunday, Aug. 24, the strongest to hit the San Francisco Bay area since 1989. At least 200 people were injured, and, by October, it was estimated that the cost to the wine industry in the region would exceed $80 million. The timing—when most were not at work and harvest had not yet begun in earnest—was the only silver lining of the disaster. Silver Oak president David Duncan was among the first vintners to report from the ground, painting a picture that would emerge all over the Bay Area. Silver Oak lost hundreds of bottles from a rare collection of single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. “The collection of bottles is literally priceless. I cleaned that up myself with a shovel,” Duncan said. For others, the damage to vinifying wine was more pressing: At The Hess Collection on Mt. Veeder, two 10,000-gallon tanks ruptured and leaked almost 15,000 cases worth of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon into the surrounding meadow and courtyard, dying the grass purple, and some Napa winery employees were left homeless. Sebastiani, Robert Biale, B.R. Cohn and the historic McIntyre building at Trefethen Vineyards were all among the facilities to take on damage. Costs are still being assessed, but the resilient community pushed on with the 2014 harvest.

Not so long ago, attempting to buy wine online to ship directly to your home was a bureaucratic nightmare, but despite some snaggles, it has by and large become easier, though the picture remains complicated. The number of states that permit out-of-state wineries to ship directly to consumers has risen from 27 in 2005 to 40 as of January 2015, when Massachusetts' winery direct-shipping law will go into effect. (The District of Columbia permits both out-of-district winery and retailer shipping as well). In that same time, the number of states permitting out-of-state retailer direct-to-consumer shipping has fallen, from 18 states in 2005 to just 14 today. In July 2014, Wine Spectator updated its maps and listings for states that allow out-of-state winery-to-consumer and retailer-to-consumer shipping. Caveats, ambiguities and restrictions remain, but look here to see what your state allows today in terms of letting wine get to your doorstep.

Collector Julian LeCraw Jr. sued a merchant over several questionable Bordeauxs.

In April, Atlanta wine collector and real-estate investor Julian LeCraw, Jr., sued London wine merchant Antique Wine Company for more than $25 million for fraud and racketeering, alleging that the dealer sold him 15 bottles of fake rare Bordeauxs ranging from 1908 back to 1787. Beginning in 2006, LeCraw bought a bottle of Château d'Yquem 1787, Yquem 1847, a 6-liter bottle of Château Margaux 1908 and 12 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild, ranging in vintage from 1784 to 1906, from the company. Then in 2013, with the intention of selling, LeCraw consulted several authentication experts who doubted the legitimate provenance of his wines among them was Charles Chevallier, director of domaines for Domaines Barons de Rothschild. The suit, for breach of contract, accused the merchant of peddling "worthless glass containing unknown liquids." In May, the London firm fired back, defending the authenticity of the bottles, but representatives formerly of Château d’Yquem and the Bordeaux mercantile Cruse family, which actively traded the mid-19th century Sauternes, cast doubt on AWC’s claims in interviews with Wine Spectator .

Beloved Walla Walla wine pioneer Eric Dunham, whose Dunham Cellars consistently earned outstanding ratings for quality, died on Oct. 23 at 44, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police officers who knocked on the door of a motel room in Cannon Beach, Ore., where Dunham was staying after he had been listed as a missing person, heard a gunshot and found Dunham's body there. “He was incredibly creative, and incredibly impulsive,” actor Kyle MacLachlan, who partnered with Dunham on the Pursued By Bear label, said. “He threw himself into any situation with gusto, including the relationship we had with the wine we made together . He had this wonderful, young, impulsive energy.” After a stint in the Navy and apprenticeships at other local wineries, Dunham launched his own label in 1997. Dunham's Cabernets, Syrahs, Chardonnays and Rieslings soon began earning acclaim, but fellow winemakers remembered him foremost as a mentor, artist, animal lover, family man and generous spirit.

Rudy Kurniawan will serve 10 years in a federal prison.

What has been perhaps the most damaging and far-reaching scandal in the world of fine wine in recent years has drawn to a close, for now: Rudy Kurniawan, the mysterious collector—and fabricator—of rare wines was sentenced in August by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman to 10 years in prison, $28.4 million in restitution to seven of his victims and a forfeiture of $20 million in property. When FBI agents knocked on Kurniawan’s door in 2012, they found hundreds of bottles, corks, stamps and 18,000 fake wine labels, especially for rare old Burgundies from houses like Domaine Ponsot and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. (Kurniawan was once nicknamed “Dr. Conti” by auction-house pals.) The extent of Kurniawan’s fraud is difficult to assess, because his customers, many wealthy and private, have not all had their collections examined or wished to come forward as victims of swindling. But the Rudy K. saga may not be over: After the sentencing, co-counsel Vincent Verdiramo said, "I've had murderers who got less time. It's practically a guarantee that we will appeal." Indeed, Kurniawan's lawyers plan to file one in the new year.

Matt Kramer put down roots in what he considers the world's most exciting wine region at the moment: Portugal.

It’s an exciting time for up-and-coming wine regions around the world, but one stood out in 2014: Portugal. With the tremendous 2011 vintage in the market, Portugal snagged the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 spots in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2014, not only on the strength of majestic Vintage Ports but world-class dry reds and whites as well. So vivacious is the wine scene in the small Iberian country that longtime Wine Spectator columnist Matt Kramer set off to live there for a few months, chronicling and heralding the developments he found. Before delivering his seminar at the New York Wine Experience on Portuguese wine, Kramer declared Portugal “the most exciting place on the wine planet today” in his most popular online column of 2014. “Something about the culture, the landscape, the people and, not least, the wine, has to exert a siren call, an irresistible pull,” wrote Kramer in March, praising the wines for their “originality, flavor distinction, character, depth and finesse.” While posted in the country, Kramer tasted the best “house white” he’d ever had, pondered the possibilities of cru terroir in the country’s nascent dry wine scene and extolled the mysteries of Madeira. Elsewhere in his twice-monthly Drinking Out Loud column, the ever-thought-provoking Kramer cautioned readers about expert analyses of aged old wines and took a close look at what he considers the most powerful force in fine wine today.

Few in the wine world cut a figure as dramatic as Mouton-Rothschild owner and grande dame of Bordeaux Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who died following complications from surgery on Aug. 22 at age 80. After a successful early career as an actress, the baroness joined the family business of making world-class Bordeaux at Mouton in the early 1980s, following in her father’s footsteps. A natural in the world of wine brokering, she was instrumental in setting up and maintaining partnerships around the globe, including continuing one with Robert Mondavi at Opus One in Napa and starting one with Concha y Toro at Almaviva in Chile. All the while, her focus remained on the legendary Mouton, working with general director Philippe Dhalluin to make subtle shifts in the winemaking to emphasize more purity rather than brute power in the wine and overseeing the construction of a new chai, completed in time for the 2013 harvest. Philippine's involvement in the art world also led her to vigorously further the long-standing Mouton tradition of commissioning a different esteemed artist's work on each vintage's label. In September, Baroness Philippine was laid to rest next to her father with 1,200 mourners in attendance, including family members from many branches of the Rothschild clan. Earlier this year, executive editor Thomas Matthews interviewed the baroness and highlighted her inimitable Bordeaux legacy.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild's funeral service, held at Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac, France, drew 1,200 mourners. Pictured in the front row, from left, are her husband, Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais, and her three children, Camille Ögren, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais.

Jacqueline from Weingut Haider is the Jungwinzerinnen Kalender 2015's Frau Oktober.

The story was not without controversy—one reader humorously commented “I was caught reading Unfiltered”—but the 2015 Young Female Winemakers Calendar of Austria picked up so many views in late December that we didn’t have time to count it among the top Unfiltered stories of the year. Yet the women of Austrian wine, in comely poses amidst the vats and vines, earned their place among the most-read items of the year on WineSpectator.com, for whatever reasons. Since 2004, Ellen Ledermüller-Reiner has been assembling the playful black-and-white calendar to promote the wines of her home country, and you readers viewed her latest efforts with great interest.

At Nice Matin, a family-friendly French bistro, wine director Aviram Turgeman oversees a list that spans 2,485 selections, with a focus on mature bottles from classic French wine regions.

The list of Grand Awards in Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards program is the most rarefied club of wine-list excellence in the restaurant world. In 2014, six restaurants were elevated to the honor, reserved for wine lists that generally offer 1,500 or more selections, with superior breadth and depth in many of the world’s classic wine-producing regions. They have also passed a rigorous inspection that evaluates the overall quality of their wine program, cellars, service, ambiance and cuisine. This year, the program's 34th, 3,748 restaurants around the world, representing all 50 states and 81 other countries and territories, earned Restaurant Awards. Joining 68 other Grand Award winners were Clos Maggiore in London La Toque in Napa, Calif. Nice Matin in New York Saison in San Francisco the Stonehouse in Santa Barbara, Calif. and Studio in Laguna Beach, Calif.

A brine of herbs, lemons and garlic, and judicious seasoning in the coating, all add up to a perfect fried chicken recipe.

As always, exclusive recipe features were a big hit on WineSpectator.com, whether in the form of tips for seasonal entertaining, easy weeknight meals or glimpses at what esteemed pro chefs like to cook off-hours. This year's top recipe came courtesy of one of the preeminent kitchen professionals in America, Thomas Keller, of Napa's The French Laundry and New York's Per Se. While Keller is known for his intricate, high-wire cuisine, this recipe, adapted from Fried & True: More Than 50 Recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken and Sides by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman, is a straightforward and delicious take on—you guessed it—fried chicken. Of course, we believe food should be paired with delicious wine, so we provided a list of recommended American sparklers to match, including scores and tasting notes.

Plenty of ink has been spilled on the importance of emerging export markets like China and India, but this year the facts spoke for themselves: No one drank more wine than Americans. Americans consumed 329 million cases in 2013—a 1 percent increase over 2012, and 18 percent, or 51 million cases, over 2005—making the U.S. now the world's top wine market by volume, according to data from our sister publication Impact Databank. While a younger generation of Americans is embracing wine, powering especially strong growth in segments like imported wine, sweet wine, sparkling wine and dry rosé, their young counterparts in traditional wine cultures like France and Italy are less enthusiastic, making U.S. wine-drinking superiority a good bet for the near future.

Dennis Rosen, chairman of the NYSLA, says he's creating a fair playing field. Critics say he's vindictive.

Business is getting tougher for wine merchants in one of America’s biggest markets, and consumers may pay the price. The New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) is taking a dramatic new tack in its role as regulator of alcohol sales in the state. Large retailers, who often have a nation-wide clientele, are now being forced to cut back on the allocations of certain fine wines they can offer so that smaller players can have access to rare stocks. New Jersey merchants that once serviced the city are being told to cease and desist. And in one high-profile case, in August 2014, the NYSLA charged Albany retailer Empire Wine with 16 counts of improperly shipping wine to out-of-state customers. In September, Empire fired back with a lawsuit in state court challenging the NYSLA’s authority to regulate interstate shipping, declaring its rules “unconstitutionally vague” and challenging its authority over out-of-state sales. Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers, snarked, "I'm sure the people of New York feel relieved and safer knowing that [the NYSLA] is so enthusiastically working on their behalf to hamper legitimate commerce, hinder New York businesses and prevent out-of-state wine lovers from obtaining the wines they desire."

Top Tasting Reports

1. 2013 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting
Our early spring visits to Bordeaux to evaluate the newest vintage aging in barrels are perennial favorites, regardless of expectations for the vintage, as collectors seek tips on which of the unfinished wines are worth buying as futures, when they expect to pay the lowest prices. But 2013—possibly the toughest vintage for reds in a generation, and a significant drop in quality from the uneven 2012, outstanding 2011 and stellar 2010 and 2009 vintage—did not look like one for speculation. To find out what was really going on, James Molesworth visited many châteaus to talk with the winemakers and blind-tasted hundreds of reds, whites and sweet wines from the top estates and lesser-known names, at all price points, across the spectrum of appellations. Fortunately, the dry whites and sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac fared extremely well, and Molesworth found that experience, technology and green farming techniques saved the reds from what could have been a disaster. His scores and tasting notes are broken out by type, name, appellation and top-scoring wines.

2. Beaujolais Nouveau 2014
Following up its surprise appearance as the most popular tasting report of 2013, our annual release-day tasting of the newest vintage from Beaujolais demonstrated that this category of wines has staying power. Is that due to the resurgence of quality and interest in cru Beaujolais, for which Nouveau provides something of a preview of the vintage character? Or is it just that these food-friendly wines, released on the third Thursday of November, are so popular for Thanksgiving and the following holidays? At any rate, our blind tasting of eight 2014 wines turned up good to very good quality among these light- to medium-bodied, easy-drinking reds. Coming from an unusually cool and rainy summer (faced by much of Europe), the wines benefited from fantastic weather in September, resulting in lively acidity and lots of bright fruit.

3. Tasting Highlights: 9 Outstanding Napa Cabernets
As the bulk of the 2011 California Cabernets started to arrive on the market, this set of summer reviews provided an initial look at how the grape fared in a tricky growing season for Napa, followed by another 10 Bold Napa Cabernets from reliable names such as Chappellet and Neyers, along with a new bargain label from two friends stepping out from the shadows of their prominent winemaking families. With cool weather, botrytis and rain during the 2011 harvest, there are compelling wines from the vintage, just fewer to be had.

4. Tasting Highlights: 11 Hot California Pinot Noir Values
It’s difficult to find large-volume, inexpensive Pinot Noirs that are truly exciting, but this list highlighted nearly a dozen wines, most from the 2012 vintage, worth considering. Hailing from some of California’s prime Pinot-growing regions, not only are these wines complex, with true Pinot character, they are available for $25 or less. Another diverse set of 10 Enticing California Pinot Noirs—a mix from 2012, 2011 and 2010—came in at less than $40.

5. Tasting Highlights: 10 Lively California Zinfandels
Zinfandel has been in and out of our top five over the years, but in 2014, readers were paying attention all year long, looking for the standouts from the cool, challenging 2011 vintage to the power of the easy 2012 vintage found in the 10 Knockout California Zinfandels beginning to be released in the fall. Keep your eyes out for many more 2012 reviews in the coming months.

6. Tasting Highlights: 11 Stunning California Sauvignon Blancs
Though white wines don't usually crack the top five, it's worth noting that one set came close to the mark—and it wasn’t Chardonnay. Amid the heat of summer, refreshing, juicy, fragrant Sauvignon Blanc from the strong 2012 and 2013 vintages were particularly appealing. These were no innocuous summer quaffs, but complex, high-end bottlings showing all the grape can do when given full attention.


Top Wine Stories of 2014

In recent years, light-hearted and even encouraging news about celebrity wine successes, newly discovered wine-and-health benefits and cool wine innovations proved the biggest stories of the year. Alas, not so in 2014, which seemed to knock around the wine world with news of a disaster, crime of unprecedented damage or the deaths of beloved figures.

According to our most-viewed stories of the year, 2014 was a difficult vintage. A 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit Napa and Sonoma in August, injuring some 200 people and causing at least $80 million in damage to wineries in the region. In crime, while notorious counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years behind bars, an American collector sued a London wine merchant for $25 million for allegedly selling fakes. And, among others, we lost Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and pioneering Walla Walla winemaker Eric Dunham.

But there were bright spots as well. The number of states allowing winery direct-to-consumer shipping rose, Yankee readers could cheer that the United States became the No. 1 wine-consuming nation in the world and Portugal made a dramatic mark on the world wine scene with the incredible 2011 vintage. Three of its wines earned spots on our Top 10 of 2014—as always, our top draw of the year. And of course, there were thousands of excellent wines available from around the world. When it came to our readers’ favorite categories of wine reviews, the perennial favorites of Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and California Pinot Noir dueled for the top spots, while Beaujolais Nouveau reprised its strong showing in 2013.

Here are the most-read WineSpectator.com news and features of 2014, as well as your favorite tasting reports published this year.

Top News and Features

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Napa and Sonoma in the early hours of Sunday, Aug. 24, the strongest to hit the San Francisco Bay area since 1989. At least 200 people were injured, and, by October, it was estimated that the cost to the wine industry in the region would exceed $80 million. The timing—when most were not at work and harvest had not yet begun in earnest—was the only silver lining of the disaster. Silver Oak president David Duncan was among the first vintners to report from the ground, painting a picture that would emerge all over the Bay Area. Silver Oak lost hundreds of bottles from a rare collection of single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. “The collection of bottles is literally priceless. I cleaned that up myself with a shovel,” Duncan said. For others, the damage to vinifying wine was more pressing: At The Hess Collection on Mt. Veeder, two 10,000-gallon tanks ruptured and leaked almost 15,000 cases worth of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon into the surrounding meadow and courtyard, dying the grass purple, and some Napa winery employees were left homeless. Sebastiani, Robert Biale, B.R. Cohn and the historic McIntyre building at Trefethen Vineyards were all among the facilities to take on damage. Costs are still being assessed, but the resilient community pushed on with the 2014 harvest.

Not so long ago, attempting to buy wine online to ship directly to your home was a bureaucratic nightmare, but despite some snaggles, it has by and large become easier, though the picture remains complicated. The number of states that permit out-of-state wineries to ship directly to consumers has risen from 27 in 2005 to 40 as of January 2015, when Massachusetts' winery direct-shipping law will go into effect. (The District of Columbia permits both out-of-district winery and retailer shipping as well). In that same time, the number of states permitting out-of-state retailer direct-to-consumer shipping has fallen, from 18 states in 2005 to just 14 today. In July 2014, Wine Spectator updated its maps and listings for states that allow out-of-state winery-to-consumer and retailer-to-consumer shipping. Caveats, ambiguities and restrictions remain, but look here to see what your state allows today in terms of letting wine get to your doorstep.

Collector Julian LeCraw Jr. sued a merchant over several questionable Bordeauxs.

In April, Atlanta wine collector and real-estate investor Julian LeCraw, Jr., sued London wine merchant Antique Wine Company for more than $25 million for fraud and racketeering, alleging that the dealer sold him 15 bottles of fake rare Bordeauxs ranging from 1908 back to 1787. Beginning in 2006, LeCraw bought a bottle of Château d'Yquem 1787, Yquem 1847, a 6-liter bottle of Château Margaux 1908 and 12 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild, ranging in vintage from 1784 to 1906, from the company. Then in 2013, with the intention of selling, LeCraw consulted several authentication experts who doubted the legitimate provenance of his wines among them was Charles Chevallier, director of domaines for Domaines Barons de Rothschild. The suit, for breach of contract, accused the merchant of peddling "worthless glass containing unknown liquids." In May, the London firm fired back, defending the authenticity of the bottles, but representatives formerly of Château d’Yquem and the Bordeaux mercantile Cruse family, which actively traded the mid-19th century Sauternes, cast doubt on AWC’s claims in interviews with Wine Spectator .

Beloved Walla Walla wine pioneer Eric Dunham, whose Dunham Cellars consistently earned outstanding ratings for quality, died on Oct. 23 at 44, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police officers who knocked on the door of a motel room in Cannon Beach, Ore., where Dunham was staying after he had been listed as a missing person, heard a gunshot and found Dunham's body there. “He was incredibly creative, and incredibly impulsive,” actor Kyle MacLachlan, who partnered with Dunham on the Pursued By Bear label, said. “He threw himself into any situation with gusto, including the relationship we had with the wine we made together . He had this wonderful, young, impulsive energy.” After a stint in the Navy and apprenticeships at other local wineries, Dunham launched his own label in 1997. Dunham's Cabernets, Syrahs, Chardonnays and Rieslings soon began earning acclaim, but fellow winemakers remembered him foremost as a mentor, artist, animal lover, family man and generous spirit.

Rudy Kurniawan will serve 10 years in a federal prison.

What has been perhaps the most damaging and far-reaching scandal in the world of fine wine in recent years has drawn to a close, for now: Rudy Kurniawan, the mysterious collector—and fabricator—of rare wines was sentenced in August by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman to 10 years in prison, $28.4 million in restitution to seven of his victims and a forfeiture of $20 million in property. When FBI agents knocked on Kurniawan’s door in 2012, they found hundreds of bottles, corks, stamps and 18,000 fake wine labels, especially for rare old Burgundies from houses like Domaine Ponsot and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. (Kurniawan was once nicknamed “Dr. Conti” by auction-house pals.) The extent of Kurniawan’s fraud is difficult to assess, because his customers, many wealthy and private, have not all had their collections examined or wished to come forward as victims of swindling. But the Rudy K. saga may not be over: After the sentencing, co-counsel Vincent Verdiramo said, "I've had murderers who got less time. It's practically a guarantee that we will appeal." Indeed, Kurniawan's lawyers plan to file one in the new year.

Matt Kramer put down roots in what he considers the world's most exciting wine region at the moment: Portugal.

It’s an exciting time for up-and-coming wine regions around the world, but one stood out in 2014: Portugal. With the tremendous 2011 vintage in the market, Portugal snagged the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 spots in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2014, not only on the strength of majestic Vintage Ports but world-class dry reds and whites as well. So vivacious is the wine scene in the small Iberian country that longtime Wine Spectator columnist Matt Kramer set off to live there for a few months, chronicling and heralding the developments he found. Before delivering his seminar at the New York Wine Experience on Portuguese wine, Kramer declared Portugal “the most exciting place on the wine planet today” in his most popular online column of 2014. “Something about the culture, the landscape, the people and, not least, the wine, has to exert a siren call, an irresistible pull,” wrote Kramer in March, praising the wines for their “originality, flavor distinction, character, depth and finesse.” While posted in the country, Kramer tasted the best “house white” he’d ever had, pondered the possibilities of cru terroir in the country’s nascent dry wine scene and extolled the mysteries of Madeira. Elsewhere in his twice-monthly Drinking Out Loud column, the ever-thought-provoking Kramer cautioned readers about expert analyses of aged old wines and took a close look at what he considers the most powerful force in fine wine today.

Few in the wine world cut a figure as dramatic as Mouton-Rothschild owner and grande dame of Bordeaux Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who died following complications from surgery on Aug. 22 at age 80. After a successful early career as an actress, the baroness joined the family business of making world-class Bordeaux at Mouton in the early 1980s, following in her father’s footsteps. A natural in the world of wine brokering, she was instrumental in setting up and maintaining partnerships around the globe, including continuing one with Robert Mondavi at Opus One in Napa and starting one with Concha y Toro at Almaviva in Chile. All the while, her focus remained on the legendary Mouton, working with general director Philippe Dhalluin to make subtle shifts in the winemaking to emphasize more purity rather than brute power in the wine and overseeing the construction of a new chai, completed in time for the 2013 harvest. Philippine's involvement in the art world also led her to vigorously further the long-standing Mouton tradition of commissioning a different esteemed artist's work on each vintage's label. In September, Baroness Philippine was laid to rest next to her father with 1,200 mourners in attendance, including family members from many branches of the Rothschild clan. Earlier this year, executive editor Thomas Matthews interviewed the baroness and highlighted her inimitable Bordeaux legacy.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild's funeral service, held at Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac, France, drew 1,200 mourners. Pictured in the front row, from left, are her husband, Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais, and her three children, Camille Ögren, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais.

Jacqueline from Weingut Haider is the Jungwinzerinnen Kalender 2015's Frau Oktober.

The story was not without controversy—one reader humorously commented “I was caught reading Unfiltered”—but the 2015 Young Female Winemakers Calendar of Austria picked up so many views in late December that we didn’t have time to count it among the top Unfiltered stories of the year. Yet the women of Austrian wine, in comely poses amidst the vats and vines, earned their place among the most-read items of the year on WineSpectator.com, for whatever reasons. Since 2004, Ellen Ledermüller-Reiner has been assembling the playful black-and-white calendar to promote the wines of her home country, and you readers viewed her latest efforts with great interest.

At Nice Matin, a family-friendly French bistro, wine director Aviram Turgeman oversees a list that spans 2,485 selections, with a focus on mature bottles from classic French wine regions.

The list of Grand Awards in Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards program is the most rarefied club of wine-list excellence in the restaurant world. In 2014, six restaurants were elevated to the honor, reserved for wine lists that generally offer 1,500 or more selections, with superior breadth and depth in many of the world’s classic wine-producing regions. They have also passed a rigorous inspection that evaluates the overall quality of their wine program, cellars, service, ambiance and cuisine. This year, the program's 34th, 3,748 restaurants around the world, representing all 50 states and 81 other countries and territories, earned Restaurant Awards. Joining 68 other Grand Award winners were Clos Maggiore in London La Toque in Napa, Calif. Nice Matin in New York Saison in San Francisco the Stonehouse in Santa Barbara, Calif. and Studio in Laguna Beach, Calif.

A brine of herbs, lemons and garlic, and judicious seasoning in the coating, all add up to a perfect fried chicken recipe.

As always, exclusive recipe features were a big hit on WineSpectator.com, whether in the form of tips for seasonal entertaining, easy weeknight meals or glimpses at what esteemed pro chefs like to cook off-hours. This year's top recipe came courtesy of one of the preeminent kitchen professionals in America, Thomas Keller, of Napa's The French Laundry and New York's Per Se. While Keller is known for his intricate, high-wire cuisine, this recipe, adapted from Fried & True: More Than 50 Recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken and Sides by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman, is a straightforward and delicious take on—you guessed it—fried chicken. Of course, we believe food should be paired with delicious wine, so we provided a list of recommended American sparklers to match, including scores and tasting notes.

Plenty of ink has been spilled on the importance of emerging export markets like China and India, but this year the facts spoke for themselves: No one drank more wine than Americans. Americans consumed 329 million cases in 2013—a 1 percent increase over 2012, and 18 percent, or 51 million cases, over 2005—making the U.S. now the world's top wine market by volume, according to data from our sister publication Impact Databank. While a younger generation of Americans is embracing wine, powering especially strong growth in segments like imported wine, sweet wine, sparkling wine and dry rosé, their young counterparts in traditional wine cultures like France and Italy are less enthusiastic, making U.S. wine-drinking superiority a good bet for the near future.

Dennis Rosen, chairman of the NYSLA, says he's creating a fair playing field. Critics say he's vindictive.

Business is getting tougher for wine merchants in one of America’s biggest markets, and consumers may pay the price. The New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) is taking a dramatic new tack in its role as regulator of alcohol sales in the state. Large retailers, who often have a nation-wide clientele, are now being forced to cut back on the allocations of certain fine wines they can offer so that smaller players can have access to rare stocks. New Jersey merchants that once serviced the city are being told to cease and desist. And in one high-profile case, in August 2014, the NYSLA charged Albany retailer Empire Wine with 16 counts of improperly shipping wine to out-of-state customers. In September, Empire fired back with a lawsuit in state court challenging the NYSLA’s authority to regulate interstate shipping, declaring its rules “unconstitutionally vague” and challenging its authority over out-of-state sales. Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers, snarked, "I'm sure the people of New York feel relieved and safer knowing that [the NYSLA] is so enthusiastically working on their behalf to hamper legitimate commerce, hinder New York businesses and prevent out-of-state wine lovers from obtaining the wines they desire."

Top Tasting Reports

1. 2013 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting
Our early spring visits to Bordeaux to evaluate the newest vintage aging in barrels are perennial favorites, regardless of expectations for the vintage, as collectors seek tips on which of the unfinished wines are worth buying as futures, when they expect to pay the lowest prices. But 2013—possibly the toughest vintage for reds in a generation, and a significant drop in quality from the uneven 2012, outstanding 2011 and stellar 2010 and 2009 vintage—did not look like one for speculation. To find out what was really going on, James Molesworth visited many châteaus to talk with the winemakers and blind-tasted hundreds of reds, whites and sweet wines from the top estates and lesser-known names, at all price points, across the spectrum of appellations. Fortunately, the dry whites and sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac fared extremely well, and Molesworth found that experience, technology and green farming techniques saved the reds from what could have been a disaster. His scores and tasting notes are broken out by type, name, appellation and top-scoring wines.

2. Beaujolais Nouveau 2014
Following up its surprise appearance as the most popular tasting report of 2013, our annual release-day tasting of the newest vintage from Beaujolais demonstrated that this category of wines has staying power. Is that due to the resurgence of quality and interest in cru Beaujolais, for which Nouveau provides something of a preview of the vintage character? Or is it just that these food-friendly wines, released on the third Thursday of November, are so popular for Thanksgiving and the following holidays? At any rate, our blind tasting of eight 2014 wines turned up good to very good quality among these light- to medium-bodied, easy-drinking reds. Coming from an unusually cool and rainy summer (faced by much of Europe), the wines benefited from fantastic weather in September, resulting in lively acidity and lots of bright fruit.

3. Tasting Highlights: 9 Outstanding Napa Cabernets
As the bulk of the 2011 California Cabernets started to arrive on the market, this set of summer reviews provided an initial look at how the grape fared in a tricky growing season for Napa, followed by another 10 Bold Napa Cabernets from reliable names such as Chappellet and Neyers, along with a new bargain label from two friends stepping out from the shadows of their prominent winemaking families. With cool weather, botrytis and rain during the 2011 harvest, there are compelling wines from the vintage, just fewer to be had.

4. Tasting Highlights: 11 Hot California Pinot Noir Values
It’s difficult to find large-volume, inexpensive Pinot Noirs that are truly exciting, but this list highlighted nearly a dozen wines, most from the 2012 vintage, worth considering. Hailing from some of California’s prime Pinot-growing regions, not only are these wines complex, with true Pinot character, they are available for $25 or less. Another diverse set of 10 Enticing California Pinot Noirs—a mix from 2012, 2011 and 2010—came in at less than $40.

5. Tasting Highlights: 10 Lively California Zinfandels
Zinfandel has been in and out of our top five over the years, but in 2014, readers were paying attention all year long, looking for the standouts from the cool, challenging 2011 vintage to the power of the easy 2012 vintage found in the 10 Knockout California Zinfandels beginning to be released in the fall. Keep your eyes out for many more 2012 reviews in the coming months.

6. Tasting Highlights: 11 Stunning California Sauvignon Blancs
Though white wines don't usually crack the top five, it's worth noting that one set came close to the mark—and it wasn’t Chardonnay. Amid the heat of summer, refreshing, juicy, fragrant Sauvignon Blanc from the strong 2012 and 2013 vintages were particularly appealing. These were no innocuous summer quaffs, but complex, high-end bottlings showing all the grape can do when given full attention.


Top Wine Stories of 2014

In recent years, light-hearted and even encouraging news about celebrity wine successes, newly discovered wine-and-health benefits and cool wine innovations proved the biggest stories of the year. Alas, not so in 2014, which seemed to knock around the wine world with news of a disaster, crime of unprecedented damage or the deaths of beloved figures.

According to our most-viewed stories of the year, 2014 was a difficult vintage. A 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit Napa and Sonoma in August, injuring some 200 people and causing at least $80 million in damage to wineries in the region. In crime, while notorious counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years behind bars, an American collector sued a London wine merchant for $25 million for allegedly selling fakes. And, among others, we lost Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and pioneering Walla Walla winemaker Eric Dunham.

But there were bright spots as well. The number of states allowing winery direct-to-consumer shipping rose, Yankee readers could cheer that the United States became the No. 1 wine-consuming nation in the world and Portugal made a dramatic mark on the world wine scene with the incredible 2011 vintage. Three of its wines earned spots on our Top 10 of 2014—as always, our top draw of the year. And of course, there were thousands of excellent wines available from around the world. When it came to our readers’ favorite categories of wine reviews, the perennial favorites of Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and California Pinot Noir dueled for the top spots, while Beaujolais Nouveau reprised its strong showing in 2013.

Here are the most-read WineSpectator.com news and features of 2014, as well as your favorite tasting reports published this year.

Top News and Features

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Napa and Sonoma in the early hours of Sunday, Aug. 24, the strongest to hit the San Francisco Bay area since 1989. At least 200 people were injured, and, by October, it was estimated that the cost to the wine industry in the region would exceed $80 million. The timing—when most were not at work and harvest had not yet begun in earnest—was the only silver lining of the disaster. Silver Oak president David Duncan was among the first vintners to report from the ground, painting a picture that would emerge all over the Bay Area. Silver Oak lost hundreds of bottles from a rare collection of single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. “The collection of bottles is literally priceless. I cleaned that up myself with a shovel,” Duncan said. For others, the damage to vinifying wine was more pressing: At The Hess Collection on Mt. Veeder, two 10,000-gallon tanks ruptured and leaked almost 15,000 cases worth of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon into the surrounding meadow and courtyard, dying the grass purple, and some Napa winery employees were left homeless. Sebastiani, Robert Biale, B.R. Cohn and the historic McIntyre building at Trefethen Vineyards were all among the facilities to take on damage. Costs are still being assessed, but the resilient community pushed on with the 2014 harvest.

Not so long ago, attempting to buy wine online to ship directly to your home was a bureaucratic nightmare, but despite some snaggles, it has by and large become easier, though the picture remains complicated. The number of states that permit out-of-state wineries to ship directly to consumers has risen from 27 in 2005 to 40 as of January 2015, when Massachusetts' winery direct-shipping law will go into effect. (The District of Columbia permits both out-of-district winery and retailer shipping as well). In that same time, the number of states permitting out-of-state retailer direct-to-consumer shipping has fallen, from 18 states in 2005 to just 14 today. In July 2014, Wine Spectator updated its maps and listings for states that allow out-of-state winery-to-consumer and retailer-to-consumer shipping. Caveats, ambiguities and restrictions remain, but look here to see what your state allows today in terms of letting wine get to your doorstep.

Collector Julian LeCraw Jr. sued a merchant over several questionable Bordeauxs.

In April, Atlanta wine collector and real-estate investor Julian LeCraw, Jr., sued London wine merchant Antique Wine Company for more than $25 million for fraud and racketeering, alleging that the dealer sold him 15 bottles of fake rare Bordeauxs ranging from 1908 back to 1787. Beginning in 2006, LeCraw bought a bottle of Château d'Yquem 1787, Yquem 1847, a 6-liter bottle of Château Margaux 1908 and 12 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild, ranging in vintage from 1784 to 1906, from the company. Then in 2013, with the intention of selling, LeCraw consulted several authentication experts who doubted the legitimate provenance of his wines among them was Charles Chevallier, director of domaines for Domaines Barons de Rothschild. The suit, for breach of contract, accused the merchant of peddling "worthless glass containing unknown liquids." In May, the London firm fired back, defending the authenticity of the bottles, but representatives formerly of Château d’Yquem and the Bordeaux mercantile Cruse family, which actively traded the mid-19th century Sauternes, cast doubt on AWC’s claims in interviews with Wine Spectator .

Beloved Walla Walla wine pioneer Eric Dunham, whose Dunham Cellars consistently earned outstanding ratings for quality, died on Oct. 23 at 44, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police officers who knocked on the door of a motel room in Cannon Beach, Ore., where Dunham was staying after he had been listed as a missing person, heard a gunshot and found Dunham's body there. “He was incredibly creative, and incredibly impulsive,” actor Kyle MacLachlan, who partnered with Dunham on the Pursued By Bear label, said. “He threw himself into any situation with gusto, including the relationship we had with the wine we made together . He had this wonderful, young, impulsive energy.” After a stint in the Navy and apprenticeships at other local wineries, Dunham launched his own label in 1997. Dunham's Cabernets, Syrahs, Chardonnays and Rieslings soon began earning acclaim, but fellow winemakers remembered him foremost as a mentor, artist, animal lover, family man and generous spirit.

Rudy Kurniawan will serve 10 years in a federal prison.

What has been perhaps the most damaging and far-reaching scandal in the world of fine wine in recent years has drawn to a close, for now: Rudy Kurniawan, the mysterious collector—and fabricator—of rare wines was sentenced in August by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman to 10 years in prison, $28.4 million in restitution to seven of his victims and a forfeiture of $20 million in property. When FBI agents knocked on Kurniawan’s door in 2012, they found hundreds of bottles, corks, stamps and 18,000 fake wine labels, especially for rare old Burgundies from houses like Domaine Ponsot and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. (Kurniawan was once nicknamed “Dr. Conti” by auction-house pals.) The extent of Kurniawan’s fraud is difficult to assess, because his customers, many wealthy and private, have not all had their collections examined or wished to come forward as victims of swindling. But the Rudy K. saga may not be over: After the sentencing, co-counsel Vincent Verdiramo said, "I've had murderers who got less time. It's practically a guarantee that we will appeal." Indeed, Kurniawan's lawyers plan to file one in the new year.

Matt Kramer put down roots in what he considers the world's most exciting wine region at the moment: Portugal.

It’s an exciting time for up-and-coming wine regions around the world, but one stood out in 2014: Portugal. With the tremendous 2011 vintage in the market, Portugal snagged the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 spots in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2014, not only on the strength of majestic Vintage Ports but world-class dry reds and whites as well. So vivacious is the wine scene in the small Iberian country that longtime Wine Spectator columnist Matt Kramer set off to live there for a few months, chronicling and heralding the developments he found. Before delivering his seminar at the New York Wine Experience on Portuguese wine, Kramer declared Portugal “the most exciting place on the wine planet today” in his most popular online column of 2014. “Something about the culture, the landscape, the people and, not least, the wine, has to exert a siren call, an irresistible pull,” wrote Kramer in March, praising the wines for their “originality, flavor distinction, character, depth and finesse.” While posted in the country, Kramer tasted the best “house white” he’d ever had, pondered the possibilities of cru terroir in the country’s nascent dry wine scene and extolled the mysteries of Madeira. Elsewhere in his twice-monthly Drinking Out Loud column, the ever-thought-provoking Kramer cautioned readers about expert analyses of aged old wines and took a close look at what he considers the most powerful force in fine wine today.

Few in the wine world cut a figure as dramatic as Mouton-Rothschild owner and grande dame of Bordeaux Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who died following complications from surgery on Aug. 22 at age 80. After a successful early career as an actress, the baroness joined the family business of making world-class Bordeaux at Mouton in the early 1980s, following in her father’s footsteps. A natural in the world of wine brokering, she was instrumental in setting up and maintaining partnerships around the globe, including continuing one with Robert Mondavi at Opus One in Napa and starting one with Concha y Toro at Almaviva in Chile. All the while, her focus remained on the legendary Mouton, working with general director Philippe Dhalluin to make subtle shifts in the winemaking to emphasize more purity rather than brute power in the wine and overseeing the construction of a new chai, completed in time for the 2013 harvest. Philippine's involvement in the art world also led her to vigorously further the long-standing Mouton tradition of commissioning a different esteemed artist's work on each vintage's label. In September, Baroness Philippine was laid to rest next to her father with 1,200 mourners in attendance, including family members from many branches of the Rothschild clan. Earlier this year, executive editor Thomas Matthews interviewed the baroness and highlighted her inimitable Bordeaux legacy.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild's funeral service, held at Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac, France, drew 1,200 mourners. Pictured in the front row, from left, are her husband, Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais, and her three children, Camille Ögren, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais.

Jacqueline from Weingut Haider is the Jungwinzerinnen Kalender 2015's Frau Oktober.

The story was not without controversy—one reader humorously commented “I was caught reading Unfiltered”—but the 2015 Young Female Winemakers Calendar of Austria picked up so many views in late December that we didn’t have time to count it among the top Unfiltered stories of the year. Yet the women of Austrian wine, in comely poses amidst the vats and vines, earned their place among the most-read items of the year on WineSpectator.com, for whatever reasons. Since 2004, Ellen Ledermüller-Reiner has been assembling the playful black-and-white calendar to promote the wines of her home country, and you readers viewed her latest efforts with great interest.

At Nice Matin, a family-friendly French bistro, wine director Aviram Turgeman oversees a list that spans 2,485 selections, with a focus on mature bottles from classic French wine regions.

The list of Grand Awards in Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards program is the most rarefied club of wine-list excellence in the restaurant world. In 2014, six restaurants were elevated to the honor, reserved for wine lists that generally offer 1,500 or more selections, with superior breadth and depth in many of the world’s classic wine-producing regions. They have also passed a rigorous inspection that evaluates the overall quality of their wine program, cellars, service, ambiance and cuisine. This year, the program's 34th, 3,748 restaurants around the world, representing all 50 states and 81 other countries and territories, earned Restaurant Awards. Joining 68 other Grand Award winners were Clos Maggiore in London La Toque in Napa, Calif. Nice Matin in New York Saison in San Francisco the Stonehouse in Santa Barbara, Calif. and Studio in Laguna Beach, Calif.

A brine of herbs, lemons and garlic, and judicious seasoning in the coating, all add up to a perfect fried chicken recipe.

As always, exclusive recipe features were a big hit on WineSpectator.com, whether in the form of tips for seasonal entertaining, easy weeknight meals or glimpses at what esteemed pro chefs like to cook off-hours. This year's top recipe came courtesy of one of the preeminent kitchen professionals in America, Thomas Keller, of Napa's The French Laundry and New York's Per Se. While Keller is known for his intricate, high-wire cuisine, this recipe, adapted from Fried & True: More Than 50 Recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken and Sides by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman, is a straightforward and delicious take on—you guessed it—fried chicken. Of course, we believe food should be paired with delicious wine, so we provided a list of recommended American sparklers to match, including scores and tasting notes.

Plenty of ink has been spilled on the importance of emerging export markets like China and India, but this year the facts spoke for themselves: No one drank more wine than Americans. Americans consumed 329 million cases in 2013—a 1 percent increase over 2012, and 18 percent, or 51 million cases, over 2005—making the U.S. now the world's top wine market by volume, according to data from our sister publication Impact Databank. While a younger generation of Americans is embracing wine, powering especially strong growth in segments like imported wine, sweet wine, sparkling wine and dry rosé, their young counterparts in traditional wine cultures like France and Italy are less enthusiastic, making U.S. wine-drinking superiority a good bet for the near future.

Dennis Rosen, chairman of the NYSLA, says he's creating a fair playing field. Critics say he's vindictive.

Business is getting tougher for wine merchants in one of America’s biggest markets, and consumers may pay the price. The New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) is taking a dramatic new tack in its role as regulator of alcohol sales in the state. Large retailers, who often have a nation-wide clientele, are now being forced to cut back on the allocations of certain fine wines they can offer so that smaller players can have access to rare stocks. New Jersey merchants that once serviced the city are being told to cease and desist. And in one high-profile case, in August 2014, the NYSLA charged Albany retailer Empire Wine with 16 counts of improperly shipping wine to out-of-state customers. In September, Empire fired back with a lawsuit in state court challenging the NYSLA’s authority to regulate interstate shipping, declaring its rules “unconstitutionally vague” and challenging its authority over out-of-state sales. Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers, snarked, "I'm sure the people of New York feel relieved and safer knowing that [the NYSLA] is so enthusiastically working on their behalf to hamper legitimate commerce, hinder New York businesses and prevent out-of-state wine lovers from obtaining the wines they desire."

Top Tasting Reports

1. 2013 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting
Our early spring visits to Bordeaux to evaluate the newest vintage aging in barrels are perennial favorites, regardless of expectations for the vintage, as collectors seek tips on which of the unfinished wines are worth buying as futures, when they expect to pay the lowest prices. But 2013—possibly the toughest vintage for reds in a generation, and a significant drop in quality from the uneven 2012, outstanding 2011 and stellar 2010 and 2009 vintage—did not look like one for speculation. To find out what was really going on, James Molesworth visited many châteaus to talk with the winemakers and blind-tasted hundreds of reds, whites and sweet wines from the top estates and lesser-known names, at all price points, across the spectrum of appellations. Fortunately, the dry whites and sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac fared extremely well, and Molesworth found that experience, technology and green farming techniques saved the reds from what could have been a disaster. His scores and tasting notes are broken out by type, name, appellation and top-scoring wines.

2. Beaujolais Nouveau 2014
Following up its surprise appearance as the most popular tasting report of 2013, our annual release-day tasting of the newest vintage from Beaujolais demonstrated that this category of wines has staying power. Is that due to the resurgence of quality and interest in cru Beaujolais, for which Nouveau provides something of a preview of the vintage character? Or is it just that these food-friendly wines, released on the third Thursday of November, are so popular for Thanksgiving and the following holidays? At any rate, our blind tasting of eight 2014 wines turned up good to very good quality among these light- to medium-bodied, easy-drinking reds. Coming from an unusually cool and rainy summer (faced by much of Europe), the wines benefited from fantastic weather in September, resulting in lively acidity and lots of bright fruit.

3. Tasting Highlights: 9 Outstanding Napa Cabernets
As the bulk of the 2011 California Cabernets started to arrive on the market, this set of summer reviews provided an initial look at how the grape fared in a tricky growing season for Napa, followed by another 10 Bold Napa Cabernets from reliable names such as Chappellet and Neyers, along with a new bargain label from two friends stepping out from the shadows of their prominent winemaking families. With cool weather, botrytis and rain during the 2011 harvest, there are compelling wines from the vintage, just fewer to be had.

4. Tasting Highlights: 11 Hot California Pinot Noir Values
It’s difficult to find large-volume, inexpensive Pinot Noirs that are truly exciting, but this list highlighted nearly a dozen wines, most from the 2012 vintage, worth considering. Hailing from some of California’s prime Pinot-growing regions, not only are these wines complex, with true Pinot character, they are available for $25 or less. Another diverse set of 10 Enticing California Pinot Noirs—a mix from 2012, 2011 and 2010—came in at less than $40.

5. Tasting Highlights: 10 Lively California Zinfandels
Zinfandel has been in and out of our top five over the years, but in 2014, readers were paying attention all year long, looking for the standouts from the cool, challenging 2011 vintage to the power of the easy 2012 vintage found in the 10 Knockout California Zinfandels beginning to be released in the fall. Keep your eyes out for many more 2012 reviews in the coming months.

6. Tasting Highlights: 11 Stunning California Sauvignon Blancs
Though white wines don't usually crack the top five, it's worth noting that one set came close to the mark—and it wasn’t Chardonnay. Amid the heat of summer, refreshing, juicy, fragrant Sauvignon Blanc from the strong 2012 and 2013 vintages were particularly appealing. These were no innocuous summer quaffs, but complex, high-end bottlings showing all the grape can do when given full attention.


Top Wine Stories of 2014

In recent years, light-hearted and even encouraging news about celebrity wine successes, newly discovered wine-and-health benefits and cool wine innovations proved the biggest stories of the year. Alas, not so in 2014, which seemed to knock around the wine world with news of a disaster, crime of unprecedented damage or the deaths of beloved figures.

According to our most-viewed stories of the year, 2014 was a difficult vintage. A 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit Napa and Sonoma in August, injuring some 200 people and causing at least $80 million in damage to wineries in the region. In crime, while notorious counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years behind bars, an American collector sued a London wine merchant for $25 million for allegedly selling fakes. And, among others, we lost Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and pioneering Walla Walla winemaker Eric Dunham.

But there were bright spots as well. The number of states allowing winery direct-to-consumer shipping rose, Yankee readers could cheer that the United States became the No. 1 wine-consuming nation in the world and Portugal made a dramatic mark on the world wine scene with the incredible 2011 vintage. Three of its wines earned spots on our Top 10 of 2014—as always, our top draw of the year. And of course, there were thousands of excellent wines available from around the world. When it came to our readers’ favorite categories of wine reviews, the perennial favorites of Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and California Pinot Noir dueled for the top spots, while Beaujolais Nouveau reprised its strong showing in 2013.

Here are the most-read WineSpectator.com news and features of 2014, as well as your favorite tasting reports published this year.

Top News and Features

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Napa and Sonoma in the early hours of Sunday, Aug. 24, the strongest to hit the San Francisco Bay area since 1989. At least 200 people were injured, and, by October, it was estimated that the cost to the wine industry in the region would exceed $80 million. The timing—when most were not at work and harvest had not yet begun in earnest—was the only silver lining of the disaster. Silver Oak president David Duncan was among the first vintners to report from the ground, painting a picture that would emerge all over the Bay Area. Silver Oak lost hundreds of bottles from a rare collection of single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. “The collection of bottles is literally priceless. I cleaned that up myself with a shovel,” Duncan said. For others, the damage to vinifying wine was more pressing: At The Hess Collection on Mt. Veeder, two 10,000-gallon tanks ruptured and leaked almost 15,000 cases worth of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon into the surrounding meadow and courtyard, dying the grass purple, and some Napa winery employees were left homeless. Sebastiani, Robert Biale, B.R. Cohn and the historic McIntyre building at Trefethen Vineyards were all among the facilities to take on damage. Costs are still being assessed, but the resilient community pushed on with the 2014 harvest.

Not so long ago, attempting to buy wine online to ship directly to your home was a bureaucratic nightmare, but despite some snaggles, it has by and large become easier, though the picture remains complicated. The number of states that permit out-of-state wineries to ship directly to consumers has risen from 27 in 2005 to 40 as of January 2015, when Massachusetts' winery direct-shipping law will go into effect. (The District of Columbia permits both out-of-district winery and retailer shipping as well). In that same time, the number of states permitting out-of-state retailer direct-to-consumer shipping has fallen, from 18 states in 2005 to just 14 today. In July 2014, Wine Spectator updated its maps and listings for states that allow out-of-state winery-to-consumer and retailer-to-consumer shipping. Caveats, ambiguities and restrictions remain, but look here to see what your state allows today in terms of letting wine get to your doorstep.

Collector Julian LeCraw Jr. sued a merchant over several questionable Bordeauxs.

In April, Atlanta wine collector and real-estate investor Julian LeCraw, Jr., sued London wine merchant Antique Wine Company for more than $25 million for fraud and racketeering, alleging that the dealer sold him 15 bottles of fake rare Bordeauxs ranging from 1908 back to 1787. Beginning in 2006, LeCraw bought a bottle of Château d'Yquem 1787, Yquem 1847, a 6-liter bottle of Château Margaux 1908 and 12 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild, ranging in vintage from 1784 to 1906, from the company. Then in 2013, with the intention of selling, LeCraw consulted several authentication experts who doubted the legitimate provenance of his wines among them was Charles Chevallier, director of domaines for Domaines Barons de Rothschild. The suit, for breach of contract, accused the merchant of peddling "worthless glass containing unknown liquids." In May, the London firm fired back, defending the authenticity of the bottles, but representatives formerly of Château d’Yquem and the Bordeaux mercantile Cruse family, which actively traded the mid-19th century Sauternes, cast doubt on AWC’s claims in interviews with Wine Spectator .

Beloved Walla Walla wine pioneer Eric Dunham, whose Dunham Cellars consistently earned outstanding ratings for quality, died on Oct. 23 at 44, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police officers who knocked on the door of a motel room in Cannon Beach, Ore., where Dunham was staying after he had been listed as a missing person, heard a gunshot and found Dunham's body there. “He was incredibly creative, and incredibly impulsive,” actor Kyle MacLachlan, who partnered with Dunham on the Pursued By Bear label, said. “He threw himself into any situation with gusto, including the relationship we had with the wine we made together . He had this wonderful, young, impulsive energy.” After a stint in the Navy and apprenticeships at other local wineries, Dunham launched his own label in 1997. Dunham's Cabernets, Syrahs, Chardonnays and Rieslings soon began earning acclaim, but fellow winemakers remembered him foremost as a mentor, artist, animal lover, family man and generous spirit.

Rudy Kurniawan will serve 10 years in a federal prison.

What has been perhaps the most damaging and far-reaching scandal in the world of fine wine in recent years has drawn to a close, for now: Rudy Kurniawan, the mysterious collector—and fabricator—of rare wines was sentenced in August by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman to 10 years in prison, $28.4 million in restitution to seven of his victims and a forfeiture of $20 million in property. When FBI agents knocked on Kurniawan’s door in 2012, they found hundreds of bottles, corks, stamps and 18,000 fake wine labels, especially for rare old Burgundies from houses like Domaine Ponsot and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. (Kurniawan was once nicknamed “Dr. Conti” by auction-house pals.) The extent of Kurniawan’s fraud is difficult to assess, because his customers, many wealthy and private, have not all had their collections examined or wished to come forward as victims of swindling. But the Rudy K. saga may not be over: After the sentencing, co-counsel Vincent Verdiramo said, "I've had murderers who got less time. It's practically a guarantee that we will appeal." Indeed, Kurniawan's lawyers plan to file one in the new year.

Matt Kramer put down roots in what he considers the world's most exciting wine region at the moment: Portugal.

It’s an exciting time for up-and-coming wine regions around the world, but one stood out in 2014: Portugal. With the tremendous 2011 vintage in the market, Portugal snagged the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 spots in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2014, not only on the strength of majestic Vintage Ports but world-class dry reds and whites as well. So vivacious is the wine scene in the small Iberian country that longtime Wine Spectator columnist Matt Kramer set off to live there for a few months, chronicling and heralding the developments he found. Before delivering his seminar at the New York Wine Experience on Portuguese wine, Kramer declared Portugal “the most exciting place on the wine planet today” in his most popular online column of 2014. “Something about the culture, the landscape, the people and, not least, the wine, has to exert a siren call, an irresistible pull,” wrote Kramer in March, praising the wines for their “originality, flavor distinction, character, depth and finesse.” While posted in the country, Kramer tasted the best “house white” he’d ever had, pondered the possibilities of cru terroir in the country’s nascent dry wine scene and extolled the mysteries of Madeira. Elsewhere in his twice-monthly Drinking Out Loud column, the ever-thought-provoking Kramer cautioned readers about expert analyses of aged old wines and took a close look at what he considers the most powerful force in fine wine today.

Few in the wine world cut a figure as dramatic as Mouton-Rothschild owner and grande dame of Bordeaux Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who died following complications from surgery on Aug. 22 at age 80. After a successful early career as an actress, the baroness joined the family business of making world-class Bordeaux at Mouton in the early 1980s, following in her father’s footsteps. A natural in the world of wine brokering, she was instrumental in setting up and maintaining partnerships around the globe, including continuing one with Robert Mondavi at Opus One in Napa and starting one with Concha y Toro at Almaviva in Chile. All the while, her focus remained on the legendary Mouton, working with general director Philippe Dhalluin to make subtle shifts in the winemaking to emphasize more purity rather than brute power in the wine and overseeing the construction of a new chai, completed in time for the 2013 harvest. Philippine's involvement in the art world also led her to vigorously further the long-standing Mouton tradition of commissioning a different esteemed artist's work on each vintage's label. In September, Baroness Philippine was laid to rest next to her father with 1,200 mourners in attendance, including family members from many branches of the Rothschild clan. Earlier this year, executive editor Thomas Matthews interviewed the baroness and highlighted her inimitable Bordeaux legacy.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild's funeral service, held at Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac, France, drew 1,200 mourners. Pictured in the front row, from left, are her husband, Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais, and her three children, Camille Ögren, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais.

Jacqueline from Weingut Haider is the Jungwinzerinnen Kalender 2015's Frau Oktober.

The story was not without controversy—one reader humorously commented “I was caught reading Unfiltered”—but the 2015 Young Female Winemakers Calendar of Austria picked up so many views in late December that we didn’t have time to count it among the top Unfiltered stories of the year. Yet the women of Austrian wine, in comely poses amidst the vats and vines, earned their place among the most-read items of the year on WineSpectator.com, for whatever reasons. Since 2004, Ellen Ledermüller-Reiner has been assembling the playful black-and-white calendar to promote the wines of her home country, and you readers viewed her latest efforts with great interest.

At Nice Matin, a family-friendly French bistro, wine director Aviram Turgeman oversees a list that spans 2,485 selections, with a focus on mature bottles from classic French wine regions.

The list of Grand Awards in Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards program is the most rarefied club of wine-list excellence in the restaurant world. In 2014, six restaurants were elevated to the honor, reserved for wine lists that generally offer 1,500 or more selections, with superior breadth and depth in many of the world’s classic wine-producing regions. They have also passed a rigorous inspection that evaluates the overall quality of their wine program, cellars, service, ambiance and cuisine. This year, the program's 34th, 3,748 restaurants around the world, representing all 50 states and 81 other countries and territories, earned Restaurant Awards. Joining 68 other Grand Award winners were Clos Maggiore in London La Toque in Napa, Calif. Nice Matin in New York Saison in San Francisco the Stonehouse in Santa Barbara, Calif. and Studio in Laguna Beach, Calif.

A brine of herbs, lemons and garlic, and judicious seasoning in the coating, all add up to a perfect fried chicken recipe.

As always, exclusive recipe features were a big hit on WineSpectator.com, whether in the form of tips for seasonal entertaining, easy weeknight meals or glimpses at what esteemed pro chefs like to cook off-hours. This year's top recipe came courtesy of one of the preeminent kitchen professionals in America, Thomas Keller, of Napa's The French Laundry and New York's Per Se. While Keller is known for his intricate, high-wire cuisine, this recipe, adapted from Fried & True: More Than 50 Recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken and Sides by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman, is a straightforward and delicious take on—you guessed it—fried chicken. Of course, we believe food should be paired with delicious wine, so we provided a list of recommended American sparklers to match, including scores and tasting notes.

Plenty of ink has been spilled on the importance of emerging export markets like China and India, but this year the facts spoke for themselves: No one drank more wine than Americans. Americans consumed 329 million cases in 2013—a 1 percent increase over 2012, and 18 percent, or 51 million cases, over 2005—making the U.S. now the world's top wine market by volume, according to data from our sister publication Impact Databank. While a younger generation of Americans is embracing wine, powering especially strong growth in segments like imported wine, sweet wine, sparkling wine and dry rosé, their young counterparts in traditional wine cultures like France and Italy are less enthusiastic, making U.S. wine-drinking superiority a good bet for the near future.

Dennis Rosen, chairman of the NYSLA, says he's creating a fair playing field. Critics say he's vindictive.

Business is getting tougher for wine merchants in one of America’s biggest markets, and consumers may pay the price. The New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) is taking a dramatic new tack in its role as regulator of alcohol sales in the state. Large retailers, who often have a nation-wide clientele, are now being forced to cut back on the allocations of certain fine wines they can offer so that smaller players can have access to rare stocks. New Jersey merchants that once serviced the city are being told to cease and desist. And in one high-profile case, in August 2014, the NYSLA charged Albany retailer Empire Wine with 16 counts of improperly shipping wine to out-of-state customers. In September, Empire fired back with a lawsuit in state court challenging the NYSLA’s authority to regulate interstate shipping, declaring its rules “unconstitutionally vague” and challenging its authority over out-of-state sales. Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers, snarked, "I'm sure the people of New York feel relieved and safer knowing that [the NYSLA] is so enthusiastically working on their behalf to hamper legitimate commerce, hinder New York businesses and prevent out-of-state wine lovers from obtaining the wines they desire."

Top Tasting Reports

1. 2013 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting
Our early spring visits to Bordeaux to evaluate the newest vintage aging in barrels are perennial favorites, regardless of expectations for the vintage, as collectors seek tips on which of the unfinished wines are worth buying as futures, when they expect to pay the lowest prices. But 2013—possibly the toughest vintage for reds in a generation, and a significant drop in quality from the uneven 2012, outstanding 2011 and stellar 2010 and 2009 vintage—did not look like one for speculation. To find out what was really going on, James Molesworth visited many châteaus to talk with the winemakers and blind-tasted hundreds of reds, whites and sweet wines from the top estates and lesser-known names, at all price points, across the spectrum of appellations. Fortunately, the dry whites and sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac fared extremely well, and Molesworth found that experience, technology and green farming techniques saved the reds from what could have been a disaster. His scores and tasting notes are broken out by type, name, appellation and top-scoring wines.

2. Beaujolais Nouveau 2014
Following up its surprise appearance as the most popular tasting report of 2013, our annual release-day tasting of the newest vintage from Beaujolais demonstrated that this category of wines has staying power. Is that due to the resurgence of quality and interest in cru Beaujolais, for which Nouveau provides something of a preview of the vintage character? Or is it just that these food-friendly wines, released on the third Thursday of November, are so popular for Thanksgiving and the following holidays? At any rate, our blind tasting of eight 2014 wines turned up good to very good quality among these light- to medium-bodied, easy-drinking reds. Coming from an unusually cool and rainy summer (faced by much of Europe), the wines benefited from fantastic weather in September, resulting in lively acidity and lots of bright fruit.

3. Tasting Highlights: 9 Outstanding Napa Cabernets
As the bulk of the 2011 California Cabernets started to arrive on the market, this set of summer reviews provided an initial look at how the grape fared in a tricky growing season for Napa, followed by another 10 Bold Napa Cabernets from reliable names such as Chappellet and Neyers, along with a new bargain label from two friends stepping out from the shadows of their prominent winemaking families. With cool weather, botrytis and rain during the 2011 harvest, there are compelling wines from the vintage, just fewer to be had.

4. Tasting Highlights: 11 Hot California Pinot Noir Values
It’s difficult to find large-volume, inexpensive Pinot Noirs that are truly exciting, but this list highlighted nearly a dozen wines, most from the 2012 vintage, worth considering. Hailing from some of California’s prime Pinot-growing regions, not only are these wines complex, with true Pinot character, they are available for $25 or less. Another diverse set of 10 Enticing California Pinot Noirs—a mix from 2012, 2011 and 2010—came in at less than $40.

5. Tasting Highlights: 10 Lively California Zinfandels
Zinfandel has been in and out of our top five over the years, but in 2014, readers were paying attention all year long, looking for the standouts from the cool, challenging 2011 vintage to the power of the easy 2012 vintage found in the 10 Knockout California Zinfandels beginning to be released in the fall. Keep your eyes out for many more 2012 reviews in the coming months.

6. Tasting Highlights: 11 Stunning California Sauvignon Blancs
Though white wines don't usually crack the top five, it's worth noting that one set came close to the mark—and it wasn’t Chardonnay. Amid the heat of summer, refreshing, juicy, fragrant Sauvignon Blanc from the strong 2012 and 2013 vintages were particularly appealing. These were no innocuous summer quaffs, but complex, high-end bottlings showing all the grape can do when given full attention.


Top Wine Stories of 2014

In recent years, light-hearted and even encouraging news about celebrity wine successes, newly discovered wine-and-health benefits and cool wine innovations proved the biggest stories of the year. Alas, not so in 2014, which seemed to knock around the wine world with news of a disaster, crime of unprecedented damage or the deaths of beloved figures.

According to our most-viewed stories of the year, 2014 was a difficult vintage. A 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit Napa and Sonoma in August, injuring some 200 people and causing at least $80 million in damage to wineries in the region. In crime, while notorious counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years behind bars, an American collector sued a London wine merchant for $25 million for allegedly selling fakes. And, among others, we lost Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and pioneering Walla Walla winemaker Eric Dunham.

But there were bright spots as well. The number of states allowing winery direct-to-consumer shipping rose, Yankee readers could cheer that the United States became the No. 1 wine-consuming nation in the world and Portugal made a dramatic mark on the world wine scene with the incredible 2011 vintage. Three of its wines earned spots on our Top 10 of 2014—as always, our top draw of the year. And of course, there were thousands of excellent wines available from around the world. When it came to our readers’ favorite categories of wine reviews, the perennial favorites of Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and California Pinot Noir dueled for the top spots, while Beaujolais Nouveau reprised its strong showing in 2013.

Here are the most-read WineSpectator.com news and features of 2014, as well as your favorite tasting reports published this year.

Top News and Features

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Napa and Sonoma in the early hours of Sunday, Aug. 24, the strongest to hit the San Francisco Bay area since 1989. At least 200 people were injured, and, by October, it was estimated that the cost to the wine industry in the region would exceed $80 million. The timing—when most were not at work and harvest had not yet begun in earnest—was the only silver lining of the disaster. Silver Oak president David Duncan was among the first vintners to report from the ground, painting a picture that would emerge all over the Bay Area. Silver Oak lost hundreds of bottles from a rare collection of single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. “The collection of bottles is literally priceless. I cleaned that up myself with a shovel,” Duncan said. For others, the damage to vinifying wine was more pressing: At The Hess Collection on Mt. Veeder, two 10,000-gallon tanks ruptured and leaked almost 15,000 cases worth of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon into the surrounding meadow and courtyard, dying the grass purple, and some Napa winery employees were left homeless. Sebastiani, Robert Biale, B.R. Cohn and the historic McIntyre building at Trefethen Vineyards were all among the facilities to take on damage. Costs are still being assessed, but the resilient community pushed on with the 2014 harvest.

Not so long ago, attempting to buy wine online to ship directly to your home was a bureaucratic nightmare, but despite some snaggles, it has by and large become easier, though the picture remains complicated. The number of states that permit out-of-state wineries to ship directly to consumers has risen from 27 in 2005 to 40 as of January 2015, when Massachusetts' winery direct-shipping law will go into effect. (The District of Columbia permits both out-of-district winery and retailer shipping as well). In that same time, the number of states permitting out-of-state retailer direct-to-consumer shipping has fallen, from 18 states in 2005 to just 14 today. In July 2014, Wine Spectator updated its maps and listings for states that allow out-of-state winery-to-consumer and retailer-to-consumer shipping. Caveats, ambiguities and restrictions remain, but look here to see what your state allows today in terms of letting wine get to your doorstep.

Collector Julian LeCraw Jr. sued a merchant over several questionable Bordeauxs.

In April, Atlanta wine collector and real-estate investor Julian LeCraw, Jr., sued London wine merchant Antique Wine Company for more than $25 million for fraud and racketeering, alleging that the dealer sold him 15 bottles of fake rare Bordeauxs ranging from 1908 back to 1787. Beginning in 2006, LeCraw bought a bottle of Château d'Yquem 1787, Yquem 1847, a 6-liter bottle of Château Margaux 1908 and 12 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild, ranging in vintage from 1784 to 1906, from the company. Then in 2013, with the intention of selling, LeCraw consulted several authentication experts who doubted the legitimate provenance of his wines among them was Charles Chevallier, director of domaines for Domaines Barons de Rothschild. The suit, for breach of contract, accused the merchant of peddling "worthless glass containing unknown liquids." In May, the London firm fired back, defending the authenticity of the bottles, but representatives formerly of Château d’Yquem and the Bordeaux mercantile Cruse family, which actively traded the mid-19th century Sauternes, cast doubt on AWC’s claims in interviews with Wine Spectator .

Beloved Walla Walla wine pioneer Eric Dunham, whose Dunham Cellars consistently earned outstanding ratings for quality, died on Oct. 23 at 44, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police officers who knocked on the door of a motel room in Cannon Beach, Ore., where Dunham was staying after he had been listed as a missing person, heard a gunshot and found Dunham's body there. “He was incredibly creative, and incredibly impulsive,” actor Kyle MacLachlan, who partnered with Dunham on the Pursued By Bear label, said. “He threw himself into any situation with gusto, including the relationship we had with the wine we made together . He had this wonderful, young, impulsive energy.” After a stint in the Navy and apprenticeships at other local wineries, Dunham launched his own label in 1997. Dunham's Cabernets, Syrahs, Chardonnays and Rieslings soon began earning acclaim, but fellow winemakers remembered him foremost as a mentor, artist, animal lover, family man and generous spirit.

Rudy Kurniawan will serve 10 years in a federal prison.

What has been perhaps the most damaging and far-reaching scandal in the world of fine wine in recent years has drawn to a close, for now: Rudy Kurniawan, the mysterious collector—and fabricator—of rare wines was sentenced in August by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman to 10 years in prison, $28.4 million in restitution to seven of his victims and a forfeiture of $20 million in property. When FBI agents knocked on Kurniawan’s door in 2012, they found hundreds of bottles, corks, stamps and 18,000 fake wine labels, especially for rare old Burgundies from houses like Domaine Ponsot and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. (Kurniawan was once nicknamed “Dr. Conti” by auction-house pals.) The extent of Kurniawan’s fraud is difficult to assess, because his customers, many wealthy and private, have not all had their collections examined or wished to come forward as victims of swindling. But the Rudy K. saga may not be over: After the sentencing, co-counsel Vincent Verdiramo said, "I've had murderers who got less time. It's practically a guarantee that we will appeal." Indeed, Kurniawan's lawyers plan to file one in the new year.

Matt Kramer put down roots in what he considers the world's most exciting wine region at the moment: Portugal.

It’s an exciting time for up-and-coming wine regions around the world, but one stood out in 2014: Portugal. With the tremendous 2011 vintage in the market, Portugal snagged the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 spots in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2014, not only on the strength of majestic Vintage Ports but world-class dry reds and whites as well. So vivacious is the wine scene in the small Iberian country that longtime Wine Spectator columnist Matt Kramer set off to live there for a few months, chronicling and heralding the developments he found. Before delivering his seminar at the New York Wine Experience on Portuguese wine, Kramer declared Portugal “the most exciting place on the wine planet today” in his most popular online column of 2014. “Something about the culture, the landscape, the people and, not least, the wine, has to exert a siren call, an irresistible pull,” wrote Kramer in March, praising the wines for their “originality, flavor distinction, character, depth and finesse.” While posted in the country, Kramer tasted the best “house white” he’d ever had, pondered the possibilities of cru terroir in the country’s nascent dry wine scene and extolled the mysteries of Madeira. Elsewhere in his twice-monthly Drinking Out Loud column, the ever-thought-provoking Kramer cautioned readers about expert analyses of aged old wines and took a close look at what he considers the most powerful force in fine wine today.

Few in the wine world cut a figure as dramatic as Mouton-Rothschild owner and grande dame of Bordeaux Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who died following complications from surgery on Aug. 22 at age 80. After a successful early career as an actress, the baroness joined the family business of making world-class Bordeaux at Mouton in the early 1980s, following in her father’s footsteps. A natural in the world of wine brokering, she was instrumental in setting up and maintaining partnerships around the globe, including continuing one with Robert Mondavi at Opus One in Napa and starting one with Concha y Toro at Almaviva in Chile. All the while, her focus remained on the legendary Mouton, working with general director Philippe Dhalluin to make subtle shifts in the winemaking to emphasize more purity rather than brute power in the wine and overseeing the construction of a new chai, completed in time for the 2013 harvest. Philippine's involvement in the art world also led her to vigorously further the long-standing Mouton tradition of commissioning a different esteemed artist's work on each vintage's label. In September, Baroness Philippine was laid to rest next to her father with 1,200 mourners in attendance, including family members from many branches of the Rothschild clan. Earlier this year, executive editor Thomas Matthews interviewed the baroness and highlighted her inimitable Bordeaux legacy.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild's funeral service, held at Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac, France, drew 1,200 mourners. Pictured in the front row, from left, are her husband, Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais, and her three children, Camille Ögren, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais.

Jacqueline from Weingut Haider is the Jungwinzerinnen Kalender 2015's Frau Oktober.

The story was not without controversy—one reader humorously commented “I was caught reading Unfiltered”—but the 2015 Young Female Winemakers Calendar of Austria picked up so many views in late December that we didn’t have time to count it among the top Unfiltered stories of the year. Yet the women of Austrian wine, in comely poses amidst the vats and vines, earned their place among the most-read items of the year on WineSpectator.com, for whatever reasons. Since 2004, Ellen Ledermüller-Reiner has been assembling the playful black-and-white calendar to promote the wines of her home country, and you readers viewed her latest efforts with great interest.

At Nice Matin, a family-friendly French bistro, wine director Aviram Turgeman oversees a list that spans 2,485 selections, with a focus on mature bottles from classic French wine regions.

The list of Grand Awards in Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards program is the most rarefied club of wine-list excellence in the restaurant world. In 2014, six restaurants were elevated to the honor, reserved for wine lists that generally offer 1,500 or more selections, with superior breadth and depth in many of the world’s classic wine-producing regions. They have also passed a rigorous inspection that evaluates the overall quality of their wine program, cellars, service, ambiance and cuisine. This year, the program's 34th, 3,748 restaurants around the world, representing all 50 states and 81 other countries and territories, earned Restaurant Awards. Joining 68 other Grand Award winners were Clos Maggiore in London La Toque in Napa, Calif. Nice Matin in New York Saison in San Francisco the Stonehouse in Santa Barbara, Calif. and Studio in Laguna Beach, Calif.

A brine of herbs, lemons and garlic, and judicious seasoning in the coating, all add up to a perfect fried chicken recipe.

As always, exclusive recipe features were a big hit on WineSpectator.com, whether in the form of tips for seasonal entertaining, easy weeknight meals or glimpses at what esteemed pro chefs like to cook off-hours. This year's top recipe came courtesy of one of the preeminent kitchen professionals in America, Thomas Keller, of Napa's The French Laundry and New York's Per Se. While Keller is known for his intricate, high-wire cuisine, this recipe, adapted from Fried & True: More Than 50 Recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken and Sides by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman, is a straightforward and delicious take on—you guessed it—fried chicken. Of course, we believe food should be paired with delicious wine, so we provided a list of recommended American sparklers to match, including scores and tasting notes.

Plenty of ink has been spilled on the importance of emerging export markets like China and India, but this year the facts spoke for themselves: No one drank more wine than Americans. Americans consumed 329 million cases in 2013—a 1 percent increase over 2012, and 18 percent, or 51 million cases, over 2005—making the U.S. now the world's top wine market by volume, according to data from our sister publication Impact Databank. While a younger generation of Americans is embracing wine, powering especially strong growth in segments like imported wine, sweet wine, sparkling wine and dry rosé, their young counterparts in traditional wine cultures like France and Italy are less enthusiastic, making U.S. wine-drinking superiority a good bet for the near future.

Dennis Rosen, chairman of the NYSLA, says he's creating a fair playing field. Critics say he's vindictive.

Business is getting tougher for wine merchants in one of America’s biggest markets, and consumers may pay the price. The New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) is taking a dramatic new tack in its role as regulator of alcohol sales in the state. Large retailers, who often have a nation-wide clientele, are now being forced to cut back on the allocations of certain fine wines they can offer so that smaller players can have access to rare stocks. New Jersey merchants that once serviced the city are being told to cease and desist. And in one high-profile case, in August 2014, the NYSLA charged Albany retailer Empire Wine with 16 counts of improperly shipping wine to out-of-state customers. In September, Empire fired back with a lawsuit in state court challenging the NYSLA’s authority to regulate interstate shipping, declaring its rules “unconstitutionally vague” and challenging its authority over out-of-state sales. Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers, snarked, "I'm sure the people of New York feel relieved and safer knowing that [the NYSLA] is so enthusiastically working on their behalf to hamper legitimate commerce, hinder New York businesses and prevent out-of-state wine lovers from obtaining the wines they desire."

Top Tasting Reports

1. 2013 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting
Our early spring visits to Bordeaux to evaluate the newest vintage aging in barrels are perennial favorites, regardless of expectations for the vintage, as collectors seek tips on which of the unfinished wines are worth buying as futures, when they expect to pay the lowest prices. But 2013—possibly the toughest vintage for reds in a generation, and a significant drop in quality from the uneven 2012, outstanding 2011 and stellar 2010 and 2009 vintage—did not look like one for speculation. To find out what was really going on, James Molesworth visited many châteaus to talk with the winemakers and blind-tasted hundreds of reds, whites and sweet wines from the top estates and lesser-known names, at all price points, across the spectrum of appellations. Fortunately, the dry whites and sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac fared extremely well, and Molesworth found that experience, technology and green farming techniques saved the reds from what could have been a disaster. His scores and tasting notes are broken out by type, name, appellation and top-scoring wines.

2. Beaujolais Nouveau 2014
Following up its surprise appearance as the most popular tasting report of 2013, our annual release-day tasting of the newest vintage from Beaujolais demonstrated that this category of wines has staying power. Is that due to the resurgence of quality and interest in cru Beaujolais, for which Nouveau provides something of a preview of the vintage character? Or is it just that these food-friendly wines, released on the third Thursday of November, are so popular for Thanksgiving and the following holidays? At any rate, our blind tasting of eight 2014 wines turned up good to very good quality among these light- to medium-bodied, easy-drinking reds. Coming from an unusually cool and rainy summer (faced by much of Europe), the wines benefited from fantastic weather in September, resulting in lively acidity and lots of bright fruit.

3. Tasting Highlights: 9 Outstanding Napa Cabernets
As the bulk of the 2011 California Cabernets started to arrive on the market, this set of summer reviews provided an initial look at how the grape fared in a tricky growing season for Napa, followed by another 10 Bold Napa Cabernets from reliable names such as Chappellet and Neyers, along with a new bargain label from two friends stepping out from the shadows of their prominent winemaking families. With cool weather, botrytis and rain during the 2011 harvest, there are compelling wines from the vintage, just fewer to be had.

4. Tasting Highlights: 11 Hot California Pinot Noir Values
It’s difficult to find large-volume, inexpensive Pinot Noirs that are truly exciting, but this list highlighted nearly a dozen wines, most from the 2012 vintage, worth considering. Hailing from some of California’s prime Pinot-growing regions, not only are these wines complex, with true Pinot character, they are available for $25 or less. Another diverse set of 10 Enticing California Pinot Noirs—a mix from 2012, 2011 and 2010—came in at less than $40.

5. Tasting Highlights: 10 Lively California Zinfandels
Zinfandel has been in and out of our top five over the years, but in 2014, readers were paying attention all year long, looking for the standouts from the cool, challenging 2011 vintage to the power of the easy 2012 vintage found in the 10 Knockout California Zinfandels beginning to be released in the fall. Keep your eyes out for many more 2012 reviews in the coming months.

6. Tasting Highlights: 11 Stunning California Sauvignon Blancs
Though white wines don't usually crack the top five, it's worth noting that one set came close to the mark—and it wasn’t Chardonnay. Amid the heat of summer, refreshing, juicy, fragrant Sauvignon Blanc from the strong 2012 and 2013 vintages were particularly appealing. These were no innocuous summer quaffs, but complex, high-end bottlings showing all the grape can do when given full attention.


Top Wine Stories of 2014

In recent years, light-hearted and even encouraging news about celebrity wine successes, newly discovered wine-and-health benefits and cool wine innovations proved the biggest stories of the year. Alas, not so in 2014, which seemed to knock around the wine world with news of a disaster, crime of unprecedented damage or the deaths of beloved figures.

According to our most-viewed stories of the year, 2014 was a difficult vintage. A 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit Napa and Sonoma in August, injuring some 200 people and causing at least $80 million in damage to wineries in the region. In crime, while notorious counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years behind bars, an American collector sued a London wine merchant for $25 million for allegedly selling fakes. And, among others, we lost Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and pioneering Walla Walla winemaker Eric Dunham.

But there were bright spots as well. The number of states allowing winery direct-to-consumer shipping rose, Yankee readers could cheer that the United States became the No. 1 wine-consuming nation in the world and Portugal made a dramatic mark on the world wine scene with the incredible 2011 vintage. Three of its wines earned spots on our Top 10 of 2014—as always, our top draw of the year. And of course, there were thousands of excellent wines available from around the world. When it came to our readers’ favorite categories of wine reviews, the perennial favorites of Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and California Pinot Noir dueled for the top spots, while Beaujolais Nouveau reprised its strong showing in 2013.

Here are the most-read WineSpectator.com news and features of 2014, as well as your favorite tasting reports published this year.

Top News and Features

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Napa and Sonoma in the early hours of Sunday, Aug. 24, the strongest to hit the San Francisco Bay area since 1989. At least 200 people were injured, and, by October, it was estimated that the cost to the wine industry in the region would exceed $80 million. The timing—when most were not at work and harvest had not yet begun in earnest—was the only silver lining of the disaster. Silver Oak president David Duncan was among the first vintners to report from the ground, painting a picture that would emerge all over the Bay Area. Silver Oak lost hundreds of bottles from a rare collection of single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. “The collection of bottles is literally priceless. I cleaned that up myself with a shovel,” Duncan said. For others, the damage to vinifying wine was more pressing: At The Hess Collection on Mt. Veeder, two 10,000-gallon tanks ruptured and leaked almost 15,000 cases worth of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon into the surrounding meadow and courtyard, dying the grass purple, and some Napa winery employees were left homeless. Sebastiani, Robert Biale, B.R. Cohn and the historic McIntyre building at Trefethen Vineyards were all among the facilities to take on damage. Costs are still being assessed, but the resilient community pushed on with the 2014 harvest.

Not so long ago, attempting to buy wine online to ship directly to your home was a bureaucratic nightmare, but despite some snaggles, it has by and large become easier, though the picture remains complicated. The number of states that permit out-of-state wineries to ship directly to consumers has risen from 27 in 2005 to 40 as of January 2015, when Massachusetts' winery direct-shipping law will go into effect. (The District of Columbia permits both out-of-district winery and retailer shipping as well). In that same time, the number of states permitting out-of-state retailer direct-to-consumer shipping has fallen, from 18 states in 2005 to just 14 today. In July 2014, Wine Spectator updated its maps and listings for states that allow out-of-state winery-to-consumer and retailer-to-consumer shipping. Caveats, ambiguities and restrictions remain, but look here to see what your state allows today in terms of letting wine get to your doorstep.

Collector Julian LeCraw Jr. sued a merchant over several questionable Bordeauxs.

In April, Atlanta wine collector and real-estate investor Julian LeCraw, Jr., sued London wine merchant Antique Wine Company for more than $25 million for fraud and racketeering, alleging that the dealer sold him 15 bottles of fake rare Bordeauxs ranging from 1908 back to 1787. Beginning in 2006, LeCraw bought a bottle of Château d'Yquem 1787, Yquem 1847, a 6-liter bottle of Château Margaux 1908 and 12 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild, ranging in vintage from 1784 to 1906, from the company. Then in 2013, with the intention of selling, LeCraw consulted several authentication experts who doubted the legitimate provenance of his wines among them was Charles Chevallier, director of domaines for Domaines Barons de Rothschild. The suit, for breach of contract, accused the merchant of peddling "worthless glass containing unknown liquids." In May, the London firm fired back, defending the authenticity of the bottles, but representatives formerly of Château d’Yquem and the Bordeaux mercantile Cruse family, which actively traded the mid-19th century Sauternes, cast doubt on AWC’s claims in interviews with Wine Spectator .

Beloved Walla Walla wine pioneer Eric Dunham, whose Dunham Cellars consistently earned outstanding ratings for quality, died on Oct. 23 at 44, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police officers who knocked on the door of a motel room in Cannon Beach, Ore., where Dunham was staying after he had been listed as a missing person, heard a gunshot and found Dunham's body there. “He was incredibly creative, and incredibly impulsive,” actor Kyle MacLachlan, who partnered with Dunham on the Pursued By Bear label, said. “He threw himself into any situation with gusto, including the relationship we had with the wine we made together . He had this wonderful, young, impulsive energy.” After a stint in the Navy and apprenticeships at other local wineries, Dunham launched his own label in 1997. Dunham's Cabernets, Syrahs, Chardonnays and Rieslings soon began earning acclaim, but fellow winemakers remembered him foremost as a mentor, artist, animal lover, family man and generous spirit.

Rudy Kurniawan will serve 10 years in a federal prison.

What has been perhaps the most damaging and far-reaching scandal in the world of fine wine in recent years has drawn to a close, for now: Rudy Kurniawan, the mysterious collector—and fabricator—of rare wines was sentenced in August by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman to 10 years in prison, $28.4 million in restitution to seven of his victims and a forfeiture of $20 million in property. When FBI agents knocked on Kurniawan’s door in 2012, they found hundreds of bottles, corks, stamps and 18,000 fake wine labels, especially for rare old Burgundies from houses like Domaine Ponsot and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. (Kurniawan was once nicknamed “Dr. Conti” by auction-house pals.) The extent of Kurniawan’s fraud is difficult to assess, because his customers, many wealthy and private, have not all had their collections examined or wished to come forward as victims of swindling. But the Rudy K. saga may not be over: After the sentencing, co-counsel Vincent Verdiramo said, "I've had murderers who got less time. It's practically a guarantee that we will appeal." Indeed, Kurniawan's lawyers plan to file one in the new year.

Matt Kramer put down roots in what he considers the world's most exciting wine region at the moment: Portugal.

It’s an exciting time for up-and-coming wine regions around the world, but one stood out in 2014: Portugal. With the tremendous 2011 vintage in the market, Portugal snagged the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 spots in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2014, not only on the strength of majestic Vintage Ports but world-class dry reds and whites as well. So vivacious is the wine scene in the small Iberian country that longtime Wine Spectator columnist Matt Kramer set off to live there for a few months, chronicling and heralding the developments he found. Before delivering his seminar at the New York Wine Experience on Portuguese wine, Kramer declared Portugal “the most exciting place on the wine planet today” in his most popular online column of 2014. “Something about the culture, the landscape, the people and, not least, the wine, has to exert a siren call, an irresistible pull,” wrote Kramer in March, praising the wines for their “originality, flavor distinction, character, depth and finesse.” While posted in the country, Kramer tasted the best “house white” he’d ever had, pondered the possibilities of cru terroir in the country’s nascent dry wine scene and extolled the mysteries of Madeira. Elsewhere in his twice-monthly Drinking Out Loud column, the ever-thought-provoking Kramer cautioned readers about expert analyses of aged old wines and took a close look at what he considers the most powerful force in fine wine today.

Few in the wine world cut a figure as dramatic as Mouton-Rothschild owner and grande dame of Bordeaux Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who died following complications from surgery on Aug. 22 at age 80. After a successful early career as an actress, the baroness joined the family business of making world-class Bordeaux at Mouton in the early 1980s, following in her father’s footsteps. A natural in the world of wine brokering, she was instrumental in setting up and maintaining partnerships around the globe, including continuing one with Robert Mondavi at Opus One in Napa and starting one with Concha y Toro at Almaviva in Chile. All the while, her focus remained on the legendary Mouton, working with general director Philippe Dhalluin to make subtle shifts in the winemaking to emphasize more purity rather than brute power in the wine and overseeing the construction of a new chai, completed in time for the 2013 harvest. Philippine's involvement in the art world also led her to vigorously further the long-standing Mouton tradition of commissioning a different esteemed artist's work on each vintage's label. In September, Baroness Philippine was laid to rest next to her father with 1,200 mourners in attendance, including family members from many branches of the Rothschild clan. Earlier this year, executive editor Thomas Matthews interviewed the baroness and highlighted her inimitable Bordeaux legacy.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild's funeral service, held at Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac, France, drew 1,200 mourners. Pictured in the front row, from left, are her husband, Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais, and her three children, Camille Ögren, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais.

Jacqueline from Weingut Haider is the Jungwinzerinnen Kalender 2015's Frau Oktober.

The story was not without controversy—one reader humorously commented “I was caught reading Unfiltered”—but the 2015 Young Female Winemakers Calendar of Austria picked up so many views in late December that we didn’t have time to count it among the top Unfiltered stories of the year. Yet the women of Austrian wine, in comely poses amidst the vats and vines, earned their place among the most-read items of the year on WineSpectator.com, for whatever reasons. Since 2004, Ellen Ledermüller-Reiner has been assembling the playful black-and-white calendar to promote the wines of her home country, and you readers viewed her latest efforts with great interest.

At Nice Matin, a family-friendly French bistro, wine director Aviram Turgeman oversees a list that spans 2,485 selections, with a focus on mature bottles from classic French wine regions.

The list of Grand Awards in Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards program is the most rarefied club of wine-list excellence in the restaurant world. In 2014, six restaurants were elevated to the honor, reserved for wine lists that generally offer 1,500 or more selections, with superior breadth and depth in many of the world’s classic wine-producing regions. They have also passed a rigorous inspection that evaluates the overall quality of their wine program, cellars, service, ambiance and cuisine. This year, the program's 34th, 3,748 restaurants around the world, representing all 50 states and 81 other countries and territories, earned Restaurant Awards. Joining 68 other Grand Award winners were Clos Maggiore in London La Toque in Napa, Calif. Nice Matin in New York Saison in San Francisco the Stonehouse in Santa Barbara, Calif. and Studio in Laguna Beach, Calif.

A brine of herbs, lemons and garlic, and judicious seasoning in the coating, all add up to a perfect fried chicken recipe.

As always, exclusive recipe features were a big hit on WineSpectator.com, whether in the form of tips for seasonal entertaining, easy weeknight meals or glimpses at what esteemed pro chefs like to cook off-hours. This year's top recipe came courtesy of one of the preeminent kitchen professionals in America, Thomas Keller, of Napa's The French Laundry and New York's Per Se. While Keller is known for his intricate, high-wire cuisine, this recipe, adapted from Fried & True: More Than 50 Recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken and Sides by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman, is a straightforward and delicious take on—you guessed it—fried chicken. Of course, we believe food should be paired with delicious wine, so we provided a list of recommended American sparklers to match, including scores and tasting notes.

Plenty of ink has been spilled on the importance of emerging export markets like China and India, but this year the facts spoke for themselves: No one drank more wine than Americans. Americans consumed 329 million cases in 2013—a 1 percent increase over 2012, and 18 percent, or 51 million cases, over 2005—making the U.S. now the world's top wine market by volume, according to data from our sister publication Impact Databank. While a younger generation of Americans is embracing wine, powering especially strong growth in segments like imported wine, sweet wine, sparkling wine and dry rosé, their young counterparts in traditional wine cultures like France and Italy are less enthusiastic, making U.S. wine-drinking superiority a good bet for the near future.

Dennis Rosen, chairman of the NYSLA, says he's creating a fair playing field. Critics say he's vindictive.

Business is getting tougher for wine merchants in one of America’s biggest markets, and consumers may pay the price. The New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) is taking a dramatic new tack in its role as regulator of alcohol sales in the state. Large retailers, who often have a nation-wide clientele, are now being forced to cut back on the allocations of certain fine wines they can offer so that smaller players can have access to rare stocks. New Jersey merchants that once serviced the city are being told to cease and desist. And in one high-profile case, in August 2014, the NYSLA charged Albany retailer Empire Wine with 16 counts of improperly shipping wine to out-of-state customers. In September, Empire fired back with a lawsuit in state court challenging the NYSLA’s authority to regulate interstate shipping, declaring its rules “unconstitutionally vague” and challenging its authority over out-of-state sales. Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers, snarked, "I'm sure the people of New York feel relieved and safer knowing that [the NYSLA] is so enthusiastically working on their behalf to hamper legitimate commerce, hinder New York businesses and prevent out-of-state wine lovers from obtaining the wines they desire."

Top Tasting Reports

1. 2013 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting
Our early spring visits to Bordeaux to evaluate the newest vintage aging in barrels are perennial favorites, regardless of expectations for the vintage, as collectors seek tips on which of the unfinished wines are worth buying as futures, when they expect to pay the lowest prices. But 2013—possibly the toughest vintage for reds in a generation, and a significant drop in quality from the uneven 2012, outstanding 2011 and stellar 2010 and 2009 vintage—did not look like one for speculation. To find out what was really going on, James Molesworth visited many châteaus to talk with the winemakers and blind-tasted hundreds of reds, whites and sweet wines from the top estates and lesser-known names, at all price points, across the spectrum of appellations. Fortunately, the dry whites and sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac fared extremely well, and Molesworth found that experience, technology and green farming techniques saved the reds from what could have been a disaster. His scores and tasting notes are broken out by type, name, appellation and top-scoring wines.

2. Beaujolais Nouveau 2014
Following up its surprise appearance as the most popular tasting report of 2013, our annual release-day tasting of the newest vintage from Beaujolais demonstrated that this category of wines has staying power. Is that due to the resurgence of quality and interest in cru Beaujolais, for which Nouveau provides something of a preview of the vintage character? Or is it just that these food-friendly wines, released on the third Thursday of November, are so popular for Thanksgiving and the following holidays? At any rate, our blind tasting of eight 2014 wines turned up good to very good quality among these light- to medium-bodied, easy-drinking reds. Coming from an unusually cool and rainy summer (faced by much of Europe), the wines benefited from fantastic weather in September, resulting in lively acidity and lots of bright fruit.

3. Tasting Highlights: 9 Outstanding Napa Cabernets
As the bulk of the 2011 California Cabernets started to arrive on the market, this set of summer reviews provided an initial look at how the grape fared in a tricky growing season for Napa, followed by another 10 Bold Napa Cabernets from reliable names such as Chappellet and Neyers, along with a new bargain label from two friends stepping out from the shadows of their prominent winemaking families. With cool weather, botrytis and rain during the 2011 harvest, there are compelling wines from the vintage, just fewer to be had.

4. Tasting Highlights: 11 Hot California Pinot Noir Values
It’s difficult to find large-volume, inexpensive Pinot Noirs that are truly exciting, but this list highlighted nearly a dozen wines, most from the 2012 vintage, worth considering. Hailing from some of California’s prime Pinot-growing regions, not only are these wines complex, with true Pinot character, they are available for $25 or less. Another diverse set of 10 Enticing California Pinot Noirs—a mix from 2012, 2011 and 2010—came in at less than $40.

5. Tasting Highlights: 10 Lively California Zinfandels
Zinfandel has been in and out of our top five over the years, but in 2014, readers were paying attention all year long, looking for the standouts from the cool, challenging 2011 vintage to the power of the easy 2012 vintage found in the 10 Knockout California Zinfandels beginning to be released in the fall. Keep your eyes out for many more 2012 reviews in the coming months.

6. Tasting Highlights: 11 Stunning California Sauvignon Blancs
Though white wines don't usually crack the top five, it's worth noting that one set came close to the mark—and it wasn’t Chardonnay. Amid the heat of summer, refreshing, juicy, fragrant Sauvignon Blanc from the strong 2012 and 2013 vintages were particularly appealing. These were no innocuous summer quaffs, but complex, high-end bottlings showing all the grape can do when given full attention.


Top Wine Stories of 2014

In recent years, light-hearted and even encouraging news about celebrity wine successes, newly discovered wine-and-health benefits and cool wine innovations proved the biggest stories of the year. Alas, not so in 2014, which seemed to knock around the wine world with news of a disaster, crime of unprecedented damage or the deaths of beloved figures.

According to our most-viewed stories of the year, 2014 was a difficult vintage. A 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit Napa and Sonoma in August, injuring some 200 people and causing at least $80 million in damage to wineries in the region. In crime, while notorious counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years behind bars, an American collector sued a London wine merchant for $25 million for allegedly selling fakes. And, among others, we lost Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and pioneering Walla Walla winemaker Eric Dunham.

But there were bright spots as well. The number of states allowing winery direct-to-consumer shipping rose, Yankee readers could cheer that the United States became the No. 1 wine-consuming nation in the world and Portugal made a dramatic mark on the world wine scene with the incredible 2011 vintage. Three of its wines earned spots on our Top 10 of 2014—as always, our top draw of the year. And of course, there were thousands of excellent wines available from around the world. When it came to our readers’ favorite categories of wine reviews, the perennial favorites of Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and California Pinot Noir dueled for the top spots, while Beaujolais Nouveau reprised its strong showing in 2013.

Here are the most-read WineSpectator.com news and features of 2014, as well as your favorite tasting reports published this year.

Top News and Features

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Napa and Sonoma in the early hours of Sunday, Aug. 24, the strongest to hit the San Francisco Bay area since 1989. At least 200 people were injured, and, by October, it was estimated that the cost to the wine industry in the region would exceed $80 million. The timing—when most were not at work and harvest had not yet begun in earnest—was the only silver lining of the disaster. Silver Oak president David Duncan was among the first vintners to report from the ground, painting a picture that would emerge all over the Bay Area. Silver Oak lost hundreds of bottles from a rare collection of single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. “The collection of bottles is literally priceless. I cleaned that up myself with a shovel,” Duncan said. For others, the damage to vinifying wine was more pressing: At The Hess Collection on Mt. Veeder, two 10,000-gallon tanks ruptured and leaked almost 15,000 cases worth of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon into the surrounding meadow and courtyard, dying the grass purple, and some Napa winery employees were left homeless. Sebastiani, Robert Biale, B.R. Cohn and the historic McIntyre building at Trefethen Vineyards were all among the facilities to take on damage. Costs are still being assessed, but the resilient community pushed on with the 2014 harvest.

Not so long ago, attempting to buy wine online to ship directly to your home was a bureaucratic nightmare, but despite some snaggles, it has by and large become easier, though the picture remains complicated. The number of states that permit out-of-state wineries to ship directly to consumers has risen from 27 in 2005 to 40 as of January 2015, when Massachusetts' winery direct-shipping law will go into effect. (The District of Columbia permits both out-of-district winery and retailer shipping as well). In that same time, the number of states permitting out-of-state retailer direct-to-consumer shipping has fallen, from 18 states in 2005 to just 14 today. In July 2014, Wine Spectator updated its maps and listings for states that allow out-of-state winery-to-consumer and retailer-to-consumer shipping. Caveats, ambiguities and restrictions remain, but look here to see what your state allows today in terms of letting wine get to your doorstep.

Collector Julian LeCraw Jr. sued a merchant over several questionable Bordeauxs.

In April, Atlanta wine collector and real-estate investor Julian LeCraw, Jr., sued London wine merchant Antique Wine Company for more than $25 million for fraud and racketeering, alleging that the dealer sold him 15 bottles of fake rare Bordeauxs ranging from 1908 back to 1787. Beginning in 2006, LeCraw bought a bottle of Château d'Yquem 1787, Yquem 1847, a 6-liter bottle of Château Margaux 1908 and 12 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild, ranging in vintage from 1784 to 1906, from the company. Then in 2013, with the intention of selling, LeCraw consulted several authentication experts who doubted the legitimate provenance of his wines among them was Charles Chevallier, director of domaines for Domaines Barons de Rothschild. The suit, for breach of contract, accused the merchant of peddling "worthless glass containing unknown liquids." In May, the London firm fired back, defending the authenticity of the bottles, but representatives formerly of Château d’Yquem and the Bordeaux mercantile Cruse family, which actively traded the mid-19th century Sauternes, cast doubt on AWC’s claims in interviews with Wine Spectator .

Beloved Walla Walla wine pioneer Eric Dunham, whose Dunham Cellars consistently earned outstanding ratings for quality, died on Oct. 23 at 44, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police officers who knocked on the door of a motel room in Cannon Beach, Ore., where Dunham was staying after he had been listed as a missing person, heard a gunshot and found Dunham's body there. “He was incredibly creative, and incredibly impulsive,” actor Kyle MacLachlan, who partnered with Dunham on the Pursued By Bear label, said. “He threw himself into any situation with gusto, including the relationship we had with the wine we made together . He had this wonderful, young, impulsive energy.” After a stint in the Navy and apprenticeships at other local wineries, Dunham launched his own label in 1997. Dunham's Cabernets, Syrahs, Chardonnays and Rieslings soon began earning acclaim, but fellow winemakers remembered him foremost as a mentor, artist, animal lover, family man and generous spirit.

Rudy Kurniawan will serve 10 years in a federal prison.

What has been perhaps the most damaging and far-reaching scandal in the world of fine wine in recent years has drawn to a close, for now: Rudy Kurniawan, the mysterious collector—and fabricator—of rare wines was sentenced in August by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman to 10 years in prison, $28.4 million in restitution to seven of his victims and a forfeiture of $20 million in property. When FBI agents knocked on Kurniawan’s door in 2012, they found hundreds of bottles, corks, stamps and 18,000 fake wine labels, especially for rare old Burgundies from houses like Domaine Ponsot and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. (Kurniawan was once nicknamed “Dr. Conti” by auction-house pals.) The extent of Kurniawan’s fraud is difficult to assess, because his customers, many wealthy and private, have not all had their collections examined or wished to come forward as victims of swindling. But the Rudy K. saga may not be over: After the sentencing, co-counsel Vincent Verdiramo said, "I've had murderers who got less time. It's practically a guarantee that we will appeal." Indeed, Kurniawan's lawyers plan to file one in the new year.

Matt Kramer put down roots in what he considers the world's most exciting wine region at the moment: Portugal.

It’s an exciting time for up-and-coming wine regions around the world, but one stood out in 2014: Portugal. With the tremendous 2011 vintage in the market, Portugal snagged the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 spots in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2014, not only on the strength of majestic Vintage Ports but world-class dry reds and whites as well. So vivacious is the wine scene in the small Iberian country that longtime Wine Spectator columnist Matt Kramer set off to live there for a few months, chronicling and heralding the developments he found. Before delivering his seminar at the New York Wine Experience on Portuguese wine, Kramer declared Portugal “the most exciting place on the wine planet today” in his most popular online column of 2014. “Something about the culture, the landscape, the people and, not least, the wine, has to exert a siren call, an irresistible pull,” wrote Kramer in March, praising the wines for their “originality, flavor distinction, character, depth and finesse.” While posted in the country, Kramer tasted the best “house white” he’d ever had, pondered the possibilities of cru terroir in the country’s nascent dry wine scene and extolled the mysteries of Madeira. Elsewhere in his twice-monthly Drinking Out Loud column, the ever-thought-provoking Kramer cautioned readers about expert analyses of aged old wines and took a close look at what he considers the most powerful force in fine wine today.

Few in the wine world cut a figure as dramatic as Mouton-Rothschild owner and grande dame of Bordeaux Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who died following complications from surgery on Aug. 22 at age 80. After a successful early career as an actress, the baroness joined the family business of making world-class Bordeaux at Mouton in the early 1980s, following in her father’s footsteps. A natural in the world of wine brokering, she was instrumental in setting up and maintaining partnerships around the globe, including continuing one with Robert Mondavi at Opus One in Napa and starting one with Concha y Toro at Almaviva in Chile. All the while, her focus remained on the legendary Mouton, working with general director Philippe Dhalluin to make subtle shifts in the winemaking to emphasize more purity rather than brute power in the wine and overseeing the construction of a new chai, completed in time for the 2013 harvest. Philippine's involvement in the art world also led her to vigorously further the long-standing Mouton tradition of commissioning a different esteemed artist's work on each vintage's label. In September, Baroness Philippine was laid to rest next to her father with 1,200 mourners in attendance, including family members from many branches of the Rothschild clan. Earlier this year, executive editor Thomas Matthews interviewed the baroness and highlighted her inimitable Bordeaux legacy.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild's funeral service, held at Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac, France, drew 1,200 mourners. Pictured in the front row, from left, are her husband, Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais, and her three children, Camille Ögren, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais.

Jacqueline from Weingut Haider is the Jungwinzerinnen Kalender 2015's Frau Oktober.

The story was not without controversy—one reader humorously commented “I was caught reading Unfiltered”—but the 2015 Young Female Winemakers Calendar of Austria picked up so many views in late December that we didn’t have time to count it among the top Unfiltered stories of the year. Yet the women of Austrian wine, in comely poses amidst the vats and vines, earned their place among the most-read items of the year on WineSpectator.com, for whatever reasons. Since 2004, Ellen Ledermüller-Reiner has been assembling the playful black-and-white calendar to promote the wines of her home country, and you readers viewed her latest efforts with great interest.

At Nice Matin, a family-friendly French bistro, wine director Aviram Turgeman oversees a list that spans 2,485 selections, with a focus on mature bottles from classic French wine regions.

The list of Grand Awards in Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards program is the most rarefied club of wine-list excellence in the restaurant world. In 2014, six restaurants were elevated to the honor, reserved for wine lists that generally offer 1,500 or more selections, with superior breadth and depth in many of the world’s classic wine-producing regions. They have also passed a rigorous inspection that evaluates the overall quality of their wine program, cellars, service, ambiance and cuisine. This year, the program's 34th, 3,748 restaurants around the world, representing all 50 states and 81 other countries and territories, earned Restaurant Awards. Joining 68 other Grand Award winners were Clos Maggiore in London La Toque in Napa, Calif. Nice Matin in New York Saison in San Francisco the Stonehouse in Santa Barbara, Calif. and Studio in Laguna Beach, Calif.

A brine of herbs, lemons and garlic, and judicious seasoning in the coating, all add up to a perfect fried chicken recipe.

As always, exclusive recipe features were a big hit on WineSpectator.com, whether in the form of tips for seasonal entertaining, easy weeknight meals or glimpses at what esteemed pro chefs like to cook off-hours. This year's top recipe came courtesy of one of the preeminent kitchen professionals in America, Thomas Keller, of Napa's The French Laundry and New York's Per Se. While Keller is known for his intricate, high-wire cuisine, this recipe, adapted from Fried & True: More Than 50 Recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken and Sides by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman, is a straightforward and delicious take on—you guessed it—fried chicken. Of course, we believe food should be paired with delicious wine, so we provided a list of recommended American sparklers to match, including scores and tasting notes.

Plenty of ink has been spilled on the importance of emerging export markets like China and India, but this year the facts spoke for themselves: No one drank more wine than Americans. Americans consumed 329 million cases in 2013—a 1 percent increase over 2012, and 18 percent, or 51 million cases, over 2005—making the U.S. now the world's top wine market by volume, according to data from our sister publication Impact Databank. While a younger generation of Americans is embracing wine, powering especially strong growth in segments like imported wine, sweet wine, sparkling wine and dry rosé, their young counterparts in traditional wine cultures like France and Italy are less enthusiastic, making U.S. wine-drinking superiority a good bet for the near future.

Dennis Rosen, chairman of the NYSLA, says he's creating a fair playing field. Critics say he's vindictive.

Business is getting tougher for wine merchants in one of America’s biggest markets, and consumers may pay the price. The New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) is taking a dramatic new tack in its role as regulator of alcohol sales in the state. Large retailers, who often have a nation-wide clientele, are now being forced to cut back on the allocations of certain fine wines they can offer so that smaller players can have access to rare stocks. New Jersey merchants that once serviced the city are being told to cease and desist. And in one high-profile case, in August 2014, the NYSLA charged Albany retailer Empire Wine with 16 counts of improperly shipping wine to out-of-state customers. In September, Empire fired back with a lawsuit in state court challenging the NYSLA’s authority to regulate interstate shipping, declaring its rules “unconstitutionally vague” and challenging its authority over out-of-state sales. Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers, snarked, "I'm sure the people of New York feel relieved and safer knowing that [the NYSLA] is so enthusiastically working on their behalf to hamper legitimate commerce, hinder New York businesses and prevent out-of-state wine lovers from obtaining the wines they desire."

Top Tasting Reports

1. 2013 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting
Our early spring visits to Bordeaux to evaluate the newest vintage aging in barrels are perennial favorites, regardless of expectations for the vintage, as collectors seek tips on which of the unfinished wines are worth buying as futures, when they expect to pay the lowest prices. But 2013—possibly the toughest vintage for reds in a generation, and a significant drop in quality from the uneven 2012, outstanding 2011 and stellar 2010 and 2009 vintage—did not look like one for speculation. To find out what was really going on, James Molesworth visited many châteaus to talk with the winemakers and blind-tasted hundreds of reds, whites and sweet wines from the top estates and lesser-known names, at all price points, across the spectrum of appellations. Fortunately, the dry whites and sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac fared extremely well, and Molesworth found that experience, technology and green farming techniques saved the reds from what could have been a disaster. His scores and tasting notes are broken out by type, name, appellation and top-scoring wines.

2. Beaujolais Nouveau 2014
Following up its surprise appearance as the most popular tasting report of 2013, our annual release-day tasting of the newest vintage from Beaujolais demonstrated that this category of wines has staying power. Is that due to the resurgence of quality and interest in cru Beaujolais, for which Nouveau provides something of a preview of the vintage character? Or is it just that these food-friendly wines, released on the third Thursday of November, are so popular for Thanksgiving and the following holidays? At any rate, our blind tasting of eight 2014 wines turned up good to very good quality among these light- to medium-bodied, easy-drinking reds. Coming from an unusually cool and rainy summer (faced by much of Europe), the wines benefited from fantastic weather in September, resulting in lively acidity and lots of bright fruit.

3. Tasting Highlights: 9 Outstanding Napa Cabernets
As the bulk of the 2011 California Cabernets started to arrive on the market, this set of summer reviews provided an initial look at how the grape fared in a tricky growing season for Napa, followed by another 10 Bold Napa Cabernets from reliable names such as Chappellet and Neyers, along with a new bargain label from two friends stepping out from the shadows of their prominent winemaking families. With cool weather, botrytis and rain during the 2011 harvest, there are compelling wines from the vintage, just fewer to be had.

4. Tasting Highlights: 11 Hot California Pinot Noir Values
It’s difficult to find large-volume, inexpensive Pinot Noirs that are truly exciting, but this list highlighted nearly a dozen wines, most from the 2012 vintage, worth considering. Hailing from some of California’s prime Pinot-growing regions, not only are these wines complex, with true Pinot character, they are available for $25 or less. Another diverse set of 10 Enticing California Pinot Noirs—a mix from 2012, 2011 and 2010—came in at less than $40.

5. Tasting Highlights: 10 Lively California Zinfandels
Zinfandel has been in and out of our top five over the years, but in 2014, readers were paying attention all year long, looking for the standouts from the cool, challenging 2011 vintage to the power of the easy 2012 vintage found in the 10 Knockout California Zinfandels beginning to be released in the fall. Keep your eyes out for many more 2012 reviews in the coming months.

6. Tasting Highlights: 11 Stunning California Sauvignon Blancs
Though white wines don't usually crack the top five, it's worth noting that one set came close to the mark—and it wasn’t Chardonnay. Amid the heat of summer, refreshing, juicy, fragrant Sauvignon Blanc from the strong 2012 and 2013 vintages were particularly appealing. These were no innocuous summer quaffs, but complex, high-end bottlings showing all the grape can do when given full attention.


Watch the video: Meet Chef Thomas Keller. Williams-Sonoma (December 2021).