When it comes to ratings, many wine cognoscenti consider them, well, overrated. Nonetheless, when it comes to palates, Robert Parker’s is well-respected and, quite frankly, when he spits, the word listens.

It seems that recently Mr. Parker’s palate was quite pleased with wines from several Santa Barbara County producers. The results, published online August 31 and in this month’s print issue of The Wine Advocate, highlight Central Coast Rhône producers in particular. Out of 100 possible points, winemakers Blair Fox, Paul Lato, and Joey Tensley received consistent scores in the high 90s. Tensley achieved an exceptional 99 for his 2008 Anniversary Series syrah. Not all results were favorable, however. Tercero Wines received low scores and what industry insiders have deemed “heavy-handed negative comments.”

Though ratings are admittedly subjective, for those winemakers who have put their heart and soul into crafting an artful wine, the recognition generated by a positive Robert Parker review is deeply gratifying. Winemaker Blair Fox, whose four 2007 syrahs all scored between 94 to 96, calls the comments “very validating.”

Beyond flattery, high scores also sell wine. “In the sea of wines on the market today,” Fox explains, “ratings help distinguish our label from others.” Since The Wine Advocate’s publication, he has received inquiries from distributors and wine buyers from around the world.

Ultimately, whether consumers trust Robert Parker’s taste or not, the scores should generate interest in Santa Barbara County wines and inspire aficionados to seek them out to swirl, savor, and evaluate for themselves.


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