Spring hits us this month, and it’s about time! I’m ready for some fresh sauvignon blanc on the patio, and I’ve found just the wines! The 2004 St. Supéry Napa Sauvignon Blanc ($13.99) is a great backyard quaff. Crisp and clean on the nose with notes of tangerine and sweet chalk, the wine has a touch of Asian pear filling out the palate of bright and crisp lime peel, lemon, sweet fresh hay and a smooth lemon curd touch. Absolutely refreshing. I stole the 2004 Morgan Monterey Sauvignon Blanc ($10.99) from Martin’s article on Monterey, and I’m not sorry! Creamy in texture with exotic fruits, Mexican papaya, white peaches and apricot. It’s lifted a bit with notes of citrus and a lively acidity and finished clean and crisp. Everything you want from an everyday SB, varietally correct, easy to pair and a crowd pleaser. If you really want to wake up your palate, try the 2004 De Sante Napa Sauvignon Blanc ($16.99). Leading of with a bright figgy/grassy noted nose, this zippy and lively sauvignon blanc is absolutely mothwatering! White grapefruit, guava, fresh grass, lemon blossom and a chalky/fine mineral edge combine to perfection. I love this wine. It’s a bit like a cross between New Zealand and classic Napa. If I were Jim Barr I would give this many cat faces. The 2001 Spring Ridge Santa Cruz Mountain Chardonnay ($12.99) breaks the SB rule for this article, but this wine is a steal so I’m putting it in anyway. The rich nutty/praline nose reminds me of the Burgundian notes found in expensive Chardonnay. A palate of exotic pear and Fuji apple mingles with hazelnut, orange rind and fine minerals. Rich and opulent, but not overbearing, the oak is fully integrated and simply complements its fantastic fruit, and the acidity forms a wonderful complement to the supple textures. —Shaun Green
In January, Clyde, Elisabeth and I spent a week and a half in South Australia. With the exception of a day trip to the Clare Valley, we divided our time between the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. The trip offered a view of everyone from the “big boys” (Penfolds, Rosemount, Jacob’s Creek) to the smaller producers (Hewitson, Torbreck, Longwood), and quality was very high across the board. For me, it was a chance to revisit 2003, taste many of the 2004s coming on to the market, and barrel sample the much anticipated 2005 vintage. Tasting the warmer 2003 vintage confirmed what I thought from my visit in 2004, which was that the wines generally were more even and balanced in the cooler region of McLaren Vale. The 2004s showed well in the Barossa as well as McLaren Vale with the cooler vintage offering wines of good balance and a more streamlined structure. Whether it was the cool 2004s and the somewhat cool, long, even season of 2005, or a maturing of winemaking styles, the trend seemed to be showing better balance of wood and control of alcohol levels. The 2005 vintage showed what I’d been hearing from various Australian winemakers since last year. These guys experienced a perfect, long, even growing season with very good balancing acidity and fine mid-palate richness. This was certainly true of all the white wines I tasted and that are now starting to come in. The reds out of barrel were superb, and we were able to get a preview from Thorn-Clarke, Elderton, Craneford, Ross Estate, Tait, Kaesler, Hewitson and Clarendon. So, to sum it up, the 2004 and 2005 vintages will give fans of Australian wine much to look forward to whether it’s wines for current consumption or for the cellar. Here are two classic Barossa Valley Shiraz to try: 2004 Torbreck Woodcutters Red Shiraz ($17.99) and the 2004 Hewitson Ned & Henry’s Shiraz ($17.99) David Powell from Torbreck and Dean Hewitson are both making superb wines. You owe it to yourself to try these great examples of the vintage and varietal. The Woodcutter is from 10- to 15-year-old vines that are cropped at about 2.5 tons to the acre and sees larger neutral barrels. There are notes of tar, black olive, meats and blackberry with a juicy, long finish. Parker gave this 91 points. Ned & Henry’s has 9% mourvèdre added and shows ripe silky boysenberry and blackberry fruits with meats and spice. Dean uses all French barriques, very few of which are new. The wine has superb balance and length. Cheers! —Jimmy C
This month I would like to share with you one of the most exciting discoveries of my trip through the Rhone Valley last year. Domaine de la Ferme Saint-Martin is a small domaine located in the Cotes du Rhone appellation of Beaumes de Venise. Vigneron Guy Jullien farms approximately 22 hectares of vineyards of several parcels spread across the appellations of Beaumes de Venise and Cote de Ventoux. Guy deeply believes in making wine that is respectful of both the soil and nature. For this reason, yields are kept low, and he tends to his vines organically. In order to preserve the purity of his gorgeous syrah and grenache grapes, Guy vinifies in cement vats, and elevage in old wood is utilized only for syrah. I first met Guy after an incredibly long and very hot day of tasting. Guy’s good friend and neighbor Eric Tabardon thought that it might be a good idea for us to meet, and boy was he right. Each wine, from the entry level “vin de soif” up to the cuvee Saint Martin, exhibited a distinct personality. As I tasted, my mind conjured up the perfect occasion: on the deck with grilled veggies, with roast duck, or on a cold rainy night with great friends and a beef daube. Fantastic! The 2004 Beaumes de Venise Rouge Domaine de la Ferme Saint Martin “Terres Jaunes” (ORGANIC) ($12.99) is comprised of grenache (70%) and syrah (30%) from limestone and clay soils formed some 240 million years ago. This “yellow earth” imparts a brightness to the wine, along with fine tannins and a tight mineral core. Bright cherry, violets and black licorice provide a forwardness and charm that will captivate you. Notes of white pepper and star anise add an element of spicy complexity, coupled with good acidity that will make this red Rhone a lovely companion at the table. I hope you will taste this delicious gem of a wine! —Mulan Chan
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