For several years now I have found the Wine Spectator rating as my single, most reliable metric for new wine purchases. I have not had the some success with Rober Parker (Wine Advocate) ratings, so I never buy a bottle solely on RP (WA), if it is not backed up by WS. How do your experiences compare? Thanks!
Original Post
Great topic and one that I look forward to reading the responses on from the more 'experienced' folks. I was just thinking about this this morning. I find myself going exactly the opposite of you, in that I like the Parker wines and find myself agreeing with his scores more than WS. For example, the 1998 Clos Mimi Shell Creek Syrah is one of my favorite wines right now, which RP gives a 93 and WS gives an 87. This has happened to me several times. I really enjoy the WS magazine and this board much more so than the eBob forum, but my tastes seem to lie more with RP.

Dale
I think it simply depends. I rely on Parker for Rhone, Bordeaux, and California Cab. I also rely on Parker for Australia, where he is very consistent and accurate in his description, I just subtract a few points. For California Pinot Noir, I turn to WS and, to lesser extent, Tanzer. For Alsace, I think WS is the clear leader, possibly in part to their much broader coverage of the region.

Like most things, generalizations can be quite misleading, I think each has stong points and weak points, it's best to get a deversity of opinion.
Parker's greatest strength is in the evaluation of young Rhones. I find there's no more difficult task for a wine reviewer. When I see the posters here tasting young Rhones and proclaiming their virtues, I smile, if not laugh out loud. The Wine Advocate is also valuable for Bordeaux and all California wines, though the same can be said for The Wine Spectator. The Wine Advocate is completely useless for buying advice on young Burgundies. You might as well flip a coin. Both sources are competent at Spanish wines. Anybody and their grandmother can evaluate young German wines and California Zins. Like Eric, I prefer The Wine Spectator's advice on Alsatian wines. Parker overrates Australian wines.
As far as I am concerned I rely more on Tanzer for ratings. For the most part he stays consistant from year to year, no "river stone" in his TN's and I think he still believes that an 80-84 is good an 85-89 very good etc.

Parker has gone off of the reservation when it comes to scores IMO it seems as if every Spanish wine he tries is a 90+. Although Laube went the opposite direction in many scores he gave to some '01 Cali Cabs, Chateau Montelena ring a bell for anyone?
Burgundy and Bordeaux - Parker ONLY
Zin - Laube (always more in line with my tastes for some reason)
Pinot - Connoisseur's Guide with WS and WA a close second
CA/WA Cabernet - WS and WA equally

The rest of the world I have not defined a clear palate orientation although, Parker is really good at predicting ageability.
I pretty much ignore any WA ratings that Parker isn't the taster.

Rovanni, shmovanni....

Then again, I don't buy much Burgundy, Spanish or Oz so I don't have that much interest in the ratings for them no matter who reviews them for WA.

Parker is fine in the rest of France and California.

I don't understand Laube at all when it comes to Cali Cabs or any Cal-rhones not grown in Napa.

James Suckling is pretty close to my taste in Bordeaux and I'm still watching James Molesworth to see where his palate is compared to mine. He's certainly more consistant than PHM was.
WA for Bordeaux, Spain, and CA Zins and Chards
WS for most everything else, except:

Piedmont - increasingly paying attention to Galloni (although Suckling is pretty solid);

Burgundy - really no one at this point (don't have subscriptions to Burghound or Tanzer).
I use them all (WS, WA and Tanzer) for all regions. I haven't really seen a consistent alignment with any one experts palate. Howerve, I'll disregard Laube's recent low scores for some Calif cabs if the other publications rate higher. I won't buy an Aussie or Spanish wine Parker rates high unless another publication likes it too or I've tasted it. Tanzer seems to give many Calif pinots lower scores, but I think he is a good balance for the high scores other publications give to some of the high octane ones. I've been disappointed by wines Parker has rated very high and ones WS has rated very high, so neither has a monopoly on over scoring. If I haven't tasted a wine, I look at the scores and then use the boards for confirmation. That tends to serve me pretty well.
I use both of them and find that my tastes align with Parker on:

Australia
California cabs
burgundy


Suckling for Italy
WS for north american pinot and german rieslings

NZ is up for grabs; both are pretty consistent

All in all, I think that I lean towards parker. The main reason is that I feel he is more accurate in the main regions that I like.
Italy... Gambero Rosso & J. Suckling

Bordeaux... J. Suckling, Decanter & Parker (Left Bank)

Champagne... B. Sanderson & Decanter

Loire... J. Molesworth & Decanter

Alsace... Decanter & B. Sanderson

Burgundy... Decanter and my personal past history. NEVER Parker!

Cali & Oregon Pinot... local trade tastings and a few people who post here!
For me...

I generally rely on WA & IWC (Steve Tanzer). I do use WS in certain cases... (Suckling on Bordeaux and Tuscany in particular) but find the WS barrel scores too unreliable, likely because the forced structure gives the taster too little room.


As for tasting notes... I find the formulaic WS notes pretty much useless to me. (Does everything have 'velvety tannins'?) Both Parker & Tanzer write notes that really give me an idea of the profile of the wine.
Bordeaux is Parker
Rhône was only Parker, but I'm liking more and more James Molesworth's reviews.
Bruce Sanderson for Burgundy and Alsace.
For Germany I'll go with both Bruce Sanderson and Davis Schildknecht.(Even if I can't understand his TNs sometimes.)
Italian, Port and Sauternes, I go with Suckling.
I think ratings are overrated to be honest with you. Wine Spectator, Parker, etc. all should be taken with a grain of salt.

Take Cakebread wines for example. WS has consitently given these wines mid to low 80 numbers, absolutely ridiculous to do so. I have also noticed that the more expensive the wine the higher the figure. Now WS will vehemently deny this but that is the perception from this reader.

Of course there is a major difference in how an $10 bottle is made and will taste versus one that costs $50. But the average wine drinker does not spend $50 per bottle when they go out their local wine shop to but 6-8 bottles for the next few weeks. I and the people that I associate with want to spend between $10-20 per bottle and I have found many, many excellent wines in this price range. I have also found several wines that are priced under $10 per bottle that I also find very good, day to day wines.

WS and many on these boards approach wine on some sort of spiritual, snobbish level when it should be a product that is enjoyed in moderation - just like a good cigar. But please don't get me started on WS's other publication!
quote:
Take Cakebread wines for example. WS has consitently given these wines mid to low 80 numbers, absolutely ridiculous to do so. I have also noticed that the more expensive the wine the higher the figure.


You have lost me, Cakebread is a "more expensive" wine so under your thinking their scores would be higher not lower.
I don't think ratings are overrated at all. They are a very useful tool. Should one go out and buy every Parker wine that scores over 95 pts without tasting any of them? No...well unless you can afford it.

If I'm looking at a wine and at least two out of the top three publications I look at have it rated as a good wine...I'm not talking all 95 and above but a respectable score...then there is a good chance I might like it. I then look at the price and read the notes. If it still sounds like a wine I'd enjoy I use the boards as another tool to see what posters have thought of the wine. If there are some positives there then I might buy it or put it on my list to consider if I find it at a good price. Ideally I'd be able to taste all wines but a) I don't have the time and b) the wine might not even be available in Ohio to taste. So I use as many tools as I can find. Knowing how to use those tools and how much weight to give each tool is something I've learned for myself over time.

I don't disregard a wine out of hand just because one rater gave it a low rating nor do I go out an buy it on one person's opinion unless I've had the wine myself or had previous vintages and know I like the wine in general. I think in the under $20 range, a knowledgeable wine store employee can be the best source for finding good wines. Above that I often look to other sources too.

I also don't think that for the most part people on this board or others "approach wine on some sort of spiritual, snobbish level." They approach it like someone who generally has more knowledgeable about wine then the general public and who want to learn more about it. Just because someone regularly drinks wines that cost more than $50 (I'm not one of them) doesn't mean they are snobbish. It can also mean that they have the money to do that and the desire to spend their money that way. I can't justify spending $250 on a bottle of wine, but just because some do and can doesn't mean they are snobbish.

I recently opened a '92 Spottswoode for my birthday. I believe I paid $52 for the bottle. It was the best wine I've had this year. (I rated it 94 points.) If I could find that quality in a $10-20 bottle I'd be all over it. Alas, sometimes you have to pay to have that experience...you know the spiritual snobbish kind.
I just cut and pasted from WS' ratings of Cakebread only one 80 score on the first page. So what exactly are you talking about when you say
quote:
WS offers ratings in the low 80 raNGE


Cakebread Score: 94

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Vine Hill Ranch 1997 Highly Recommended
Price: $70
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: May 31, 2001


Bold, rich, deeply flavored and deeply concentrated Cabernet that has layers of currant, coffee, chocolate, hazelnut and cherry. The finish delivers a flourish of mocha and coffee. Best from 2002 through 2012. 500 cases made. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 93

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1983 Price: $16
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Nov 30, 1986



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Winery: Cakebread Score: 93

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Benchland Select 1996 Price: $80
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Oct 31, 2000


Deliciously ripe and intense, sharply focused, rich and deep, with gobs of complex, earthy currant, tobacco, coffee, mocha and spicy flavors, finishing with a soft, supple aftertaste. Best from 2002 through 2012. 350 cases made. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 92

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1994 Spectator Selection
Price: $25
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Jul 31, 1997


Beautifully focused while enticingly lush. Ripe and chewy, with complex, concentrated flavors of currant, plum and black cherry with a long, rich aftertaste. Tempting now, better over the next few years. 15,000 cases made. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 92

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Three Sisters 1997 Price: $85
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: May 15, 2001


Wonderful depth, richness, and purity of flavor, with layers of mocha-laced currant, plum and cherry fruit, touches of herb and cedary oak. It finishes with a long, tapered aftertaste, with firm tannins. Best from 2003 through 2012. 300 cases made. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 91

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Lot 2 1974 Price: $100
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Nov 15, 1994


Deep, rich and plush, with mature but pleasing cedar, coffee, chocolate and currant flavors. One of the better 1974s in this tasting, it is fully mature, but complex and flavorful. The tannins turn smooth on the finish, with just a trace of dryness. Drink up.--1974 California Cabernet horizontal. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 91

Wine: Syrah Napa Valley Carneros 2002 Price: $44
Country: California
Region: Carneros
Issue: Sep 30, 2005


Wonderful aromas of rich, meaty wild berry, currant and beef carpaccio, with complex earth, mineral, sage and dusty cedar notes. Intense and concentrated, it's impeccably balanced, finishing with a rich aftertaste. Drink now through 2010. 1,000 cases made. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 91

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Benchland Select 1998 Price: $90
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Sep 30, 2002


Wonderful fruit purity, with ripe, rich plum and black currant flavors at the center, wrapped tightly by mouthcoating tannins and offering hints of anise, sage and blackberry. Has tannin to shed, but dryness on the finish is a concern too. Drink now through 2008. 2,400 cases made. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 91

Wine: Chardonnay Napa Valley Reserve 1996 Price: $39
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Jun 15, 1999


Tightly wound, with a firm band of citrus, pear, spice and grapefruit, it slowly unfolds to reveal layers of depth and complexity. Finishes rich. Drink now through 2002. 4,500 cases made. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 91

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Rutherford Reserve 1987 Highly Recommended
Price: $23
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Sep 15, 1993


Showcases the style of the '87 vintage, with ripe, rich, plush currant, black cherry and spice notes that turn intense and concentrated, finishing with great depth and finesse. Needs time; best in 1998. 800 cases made.
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 91

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1999 Highly Recommended
Price: $48
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Sep 30, 2002


Rich Napa Cab. Intense and spicy, a delightfully vibrant and complex wine with pure currant, black cherry and blackberry fruit that's enlivened by firm tannins and acidity. Best from 2003 through 2012. 16,500 cases made. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 90

Wine: Zinfandel Howell Mountain 1992 Highly Recommended
Price: $17
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Sep 15, 1994


Intense and spicy, with loads of peppery Zinfandel character that's ripe and rich on the palate. Lush, full-bodied raspberry and wild berry flavors. Finishes with firm tannins and a long, smoky aftertaste. 1,000 cases made.
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 90

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Benchland Select 1997 Price: $85
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: May 15, 2001


Wonderful integration of ripe, spicy black cherry, plum, currant and herbal notes, picking up a candied cherry and mocha nuance, before firming up on the finish. Best from 2002 through 2012. 900 cases made. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 90

Wine: Chardonnay Napa Valley Carneros Reserve 2001 Price: $45
Country: California
Region: Carneros
Issue: Aug 31, 2004


Smooth, rich and creamy textured, with a pretty core of ripe fig, apricot, honeysuckle and pear flavors that are intense and concentrated, finishing with elegance and grace and a touch of herb and citrus, but it's the rich creamy fruit that holds the attraction. Drink now through 2008. 3,000 cases made. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 90

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Benchland Select 1999 Price: $90
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Apr 30, 2003


Wonderful richness, depth and harmony, with layers of complex currant, anise, cedar, mocha and coffee flavors that are sharply focused, long and detailed, with finely integrated tannins. Drink now through 2010. 1,700 cases made. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 90

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Vine Hill Ranch 1998 Price: $90
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Sep 30, 2002


Beautifully proportioned, intense and concentrated, with layers of spicy currant, plum, chocolate and dusty berry. Finishes with dry, earthy nuances and firm tannins that add to the pleasure. Drink now through 2010. 430 cases made. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 90

Wine: Syrah Napa Valley Carneros 1998 Price: $40
Country: California
Region: Carneros
Issue: Aug 31, 2001


A rich and distinctive wine, loaded with spicy, beefy black cherry, mocha, herbal and leathery notes, turning supple and elegant on the finish. Drink now through 2005. 192 cases made. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 90

Wine: Chardonnay Napa Valley Reserve 1995 Price: $37
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Sep 15, 1998


Ripe, clean and complex, with pretty spice, pear, vanilla and honey, finishing with a sharp focus and spicy, toasty oak flavors. Drink now through 2002. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 90

Wine: Chardonnay Napa Valley 1997 Price: $26
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Jun 15, 1999


Ripe and intense, with clean, juicy apple, pear, melon and fig flavors that are tightly wound and fan out nicely on the finish. Needs short-term cellaring. Drink now through 2003. 48,500 cases made. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 90

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Benchland Select 1995 Price: $65
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Dec 31, 1998


Well integrated, harmonious if a bit rigid, the fruit flavors are pure and well focused, with layers of coffee, currant, black cherry and cedar. Turns complex on the finish, where the flavors mesh nicely. Best from 2000 through 2008. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 90

Wine: Chardonnay Napa Valley 1995 Price: $23
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Jun 15, 1997


A crisp and flinty style, marked by tart green apple, citrus and pear flavors and finishing with a long, clean and lively aftertaste. 25,000 cases made. (JL)
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 90

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1986 Price: $20
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Aug 31, 1989


Fresh, clean and lively with plenty of black cherry, currant and plum-tinged Cabernet flavor with a note of mintiness. Firm tannins and toasty oak flavors bring up the rear. Drink now to 1998. 5,000 cases made.
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 90

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1985 Price: $20
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Apr 15, 1988


Massively concentrated, with the powerful cassis fruit battling it out with leathery wood, not very tannic, however, but very young and raw. The basic structure is fine; it just needs a year or two to show what it can do.
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 90

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1987 Price: $25
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Oct 15, 1990


Big, rich and lush, with intense, concentrated black cherry, currant and plum flavors that are broad and complex, with a pretty, smoky, toasty oak flavor that adds dimension to the flavor and texture package. A youngster; needs time to come together. Fruit echoes on the finish. Best to drink between 1994 and 2001. 6,000 cases made.
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Winery: Cakebread Score: 89

Wine: Chardonnay Napa Valley 1988 Price: $18
Country: California
Region: Napa
Issue: Mar 15, 1990


Distinctive for its pear, grapefruit and nutmeg flavors, this is a well-balanced, elegant, richly flavored wine with finesse and complexity and a long, pretty aftertaste. Drink now.
quote:
Originally posted by muzikman:
I am going by the ratings that I read in WS over the last 12 months or so. Not all of the ratings are online I have noticed


That is kind of like watching the 4th inning of a ball game and saying you know what the outcome of the game is going to be.
When I first got into wine I remember a few Cakebread wines getting lower than 88, sometimes around 84, I beleive. I was puzzled, as I I knew the Chard retailed for $40 and the Cab for about $65. I noticed those wines were not in the list. It was a long time ago though, and I threw those issues of WS away. Maybe it was just a dream.
The answer lies in which critic your palate is most like. Secondarily, Parker tends to rate for long term potential. That must be kept in mind.

For me:

Bordeaux - Parker
Rhone - Parker
Alsace - Wine Spectator
Italy - Wine Spectator
Cali Cab - Parker
Australia - Wine Spectator/ Parker likes the fruitbombs (he rates the wines too high). Washington State - Tanzer
Burgundy - let me know when you find a good critic

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