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With the James Bond movie Spectre being released today, no time could be better to drink Bollinger. The most suave spy in the world has been sipping on Bollinger since Moonraker in 1979. While we can’t all drive a fully loaded, customized machine gun having Aston Martin, we certainly can chill down a bottle of Bolli! The 2004 Bollinger "Grande Année" Brut Champagne ($109) is as good as Champagne gets; all barrel fermented and full of masculine, Pinot Noir power and high class elegance. We even have a few bottles of the limited 2009 Bollinger "James Bond 007" Brut Champagne ($195) in stock for the diehard fan of Bond & Champagne!

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Brunello Vintage Report

By the time this missive reaches you Mike Parres and I will have been sloshing through Italy for a couple of weeks. We will have tasted more than 170 of the new 2001 Brunello di Montalcino—the sacrifices we make for you! If you haven’t heard before, this 2001 is The Vintage of the Millennium! Sure, it is only the second year of the millennium, true. All the levity aside, this will be a truly great vintage. This 2001 vintage will be a hybrid of the 1997 vintage’s ripeness, proclaimed by many to be the best, and the balance, length and focus of 1999, proclaimed by most Italian wine insiders as the classic vintage. A freeze hit Tuscany Easter Sunday, 2001, after a balmy early spring. Many vines had budded out, and the initial prognosis looked bad. But nature’s pruning actually made the wines more concentrated. A long growing season (without any global warming, month-long heat spells) allowed the wines to be balanced, showing incredible length and aromatic—sangiovese’s classic characteristics. For me 2001 is the single best vintage I have tasted. I loved many of the 1997s, but there were many overripe wines. I loved almost all of the ’99s, yet my palate leans toward the more balanced, and I balk at super ripe fruit without acidic balance. The 2001 vintage has everything: concentration, size, color (harder in sangiovese), classic aromatics, balance, length, aging ability and immediate appeal. You will see amongst the critics a more universal acclaim. Daniel Thomases who writes for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and whose palate generally leans toward the more classic style, wrote about “many flabby and characterless 1997s produced in Montalcino.” He will most assuredly give the 2001 wines high praise. James Suckling who writes for the Wine Spectator and whose palate leans toward the riper has already said this about the 2001 vintage: “They are rich and powerful yet show wonderful balance and length. They are a combination of the structured and tannic 1999s and the refined and fresh 1997s.” He has also thrown out a couple of handfuls of 95+ point scores to whip up the initial press frenzy. The Wine Enthusiast will be doing a big issue on this vintage as well, so be forewarned. The scores will be flying high! I don’t give scores but try and write about character and style. In the upcoming weeks I will be tasting almost the entire DOC. I will be writing my vintage report that will be available to you. I think it is important for most everyone to understand that while scores offer you some insight to the writer’s preference, it may not be yours. Best to talk with someone who knows! The initial offerings are just coming out now as I write this (February 3, incurring the ire of our crack newsletter staff by being a day late!), and we will have our first offering available in the middle of March. Anyone who is interested in receiving the first offerings and the vintage report that Mike and I will prepare please send an email to, and I will get you our first offering. —Greg St.Clair

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