One of my favorite beverages is sparkling wine, particularly Champagne and especially those coming from those small Champagne houses that our buyer, Gary Westby, continues to discover. One can occasionally discover non-Champagne sparklers from other French regions that will rival some of the better multi-vintage sparklers from Champagne. Such is the case with the Charles Baur Cremant d’Alcase ($14.99), a blend of pinot blanc (40%), auxerrois (40%) and chardonnay aged on yeast for two years. With a finely etched bead, this shows a rich, creamy texture with a mild nutty tone both on its fabulously aromatic bouquet and in its clean, bright flavors. As Jeff Vierra (our Alsatian wine buyer) has pointed out to customers: “Most people outside of the region don’t think about Alsace for sparkling wine.” Once you try this you will. The 2005 Domaine de la Pépière Classique Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie ($10.99) has arrived and it is a very fine example of the exceptional quality of the ’05 vintage in France (as well as in the rest of Europe). “This gem has become a perennial hit with our customers,” Jeff Vierra, who also does our Loire Valley wine buying, was overheard saying recently. Produced from 40 year or older vines that are planted in granitic soils, the Muscadets from La Pépière are among the best in that region. To once again quote Jeff: “It is energetic, juicy, and full of life, a cool crisp slice of the Muscadet soil tempered with snappy fruit.” To quote, in unison, Eby and Vanilla, as they hiss and snarl at each other: “This will be our house white wine for the month.” For the most part, I have never been a fan of Los Carneros fruit. I have always thought that most of the pinot noirs smelled and tasted like Beaujolais, which is generally not a bad thing if you enjoy a simple, one-dimensional, tutty-fruity wine. And the chardonnays have been generally simple to me. To have a syrah coming from that cool climate, fogged-in area that would show depth, character and incredible richness, would unravel the rules of universe to me. But, lo, the 2003 Kalinda Los Carneros “Reserve” Syrah ($17.99) is possessed. It actually possesses richness, depth, complexity, roundness and a wonderful degree of exacted white pepper, spicy to plumy varietal character and exactness that lingers into its well extended finish. This wine should be had with a “Fred’s Steak” from Shaub’s in the Stanford Shopping Center. Anderson wants this to be one our house reds for the month of August. Enjoy! Finally, one of my favorite red wines in our inventory is the 1999 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir ($16.99), which is a monumental wine for those of you who enjoy aged pinot. One of the questions I always ask customers who wonder into the Old and Rare Wine section of our store is, “What is your experience with old and rare wine like this?” The vast majority of you have been raised on young, fleshy, bright wines, and the first encounter with a somewhat aged red wine makes many of you believe that it is a bad wine. Well, aged wine has a leathery, cedary, soft, rounded, complex, subtle character with similar developed aromas, and that is what it is…. so get use to it and learn to appreciate it. That is what this wine is about. This is incredibly well-made pinot (I wish that I could make wine like this) that has an aged quality to it. Anderson has told me that this will be our house red for however long it is around. If you have any questions about these selections, you can email us at email@example.com. Enjoy this month’s wines! —Jim, Anderson, Eby and Vanilla
Lordy lordy. A spot check on the pricing of the 2005 top-tier Bordeaux wines had best be done sitting down. Ten thousand bucks for a case of wine? Wine that is not even in the bottle yet? As Ebert and Roper would say: two thumbs down. Way down. The few always ruin it for the many. There are scores of fabulous and reasonably priced ’05s to choose from. But the perception of blatant gouging across the Bordeaux board already has folks on the run to other vintages (if not other countries), and the damage is done. At $800 plus a bottle (from a property whose previous vintage sold for $200 dollars!) very few corks will be pulled. Welcome to Stock Market Wine. This is the wine equivalent of the disappearance of the middle class. This will hit my department as well. The stocks and cellars of older vintages will go up. The vacuum effect may even extend to the rest of the premium French wine world, and has potentially global implications. Sound like an Al Gore movie? To high-price leaders, I say: Better hope the weather holds next year. O.K., let’s get happy again. Please allow me to introduce Léoville-Poyferre, the most obscure of the Léovilles and but no less delicious. The quality here has never been better; the underachieving years are long passed, and the property now has the ability for great success in lesser vintages, not an easy trick. Léoville-Poyferre tends to be solid and structured but with exotic plumage and somewhat finer tannins. Think of Léoville-Barton with a Cos d’Estournel chaser. We currently something for everyone: 1989 Léoville-Poyferre 1.5L ($289.00) This is a sturdy wine with sweet currant fruit notes and refined power. I believe that the wine is at its apex, but I’m not averse to drinking wines like this in the September of their life, when the fruit loses a bit of sweetness and the bouquet begins to show more dry roses and minerals. Lovely now. 1993 Léoville-Poyferre 1.5L ($89.99) The ’93 offers up the signature summer fruit flavors of blueberries and plums as well as the ubiquitous blackcurrants. There is a lovely balance to the components, and it drinks perfectly now. The wine does not shout, nor does it whisper. 1994 Léoville-Poyferre ($89.99) This little showboat has it all- ripeness, richness, toasty oak and good body. Oh, and one more thing- the balance to be a complete and complex wine now, more so with a few more vintages under its' belt. An absolute steal. An engaging and exotic wine. 1995 Léoville-Poyferre ($189.00) There is always a tortoise among the hares. This offering will require the patience of Job, but not the pocketbook of Steven Jobs. Trust me, this is some serious grape juice: deep, dense and powerful. With smoky notes and tobacco to complement the never ending layers of sweet black fruits, this is a brute with balance. This one needs to get tucked in for at least a half-decade slumber. Wake it up after 2012, or later. You’ll be glad you bought it. So, you have two choices: By a single bottle of a certain 2005 first growth, or every one of these magnums and throw in a nice dinner for the same price. See how easy it is to choose? —Joe Zugelder
Summerer is a new grower in the marketplace and one that we are really digging on. The estate is located in Langenlois the heart of the Kamptal, a bowl like valley with vineyards surrounding the town on all sides. The Summerer’s Rupert and Elizabeth continue a tradition at this estate that dates back to 1679 yet this property is anything but traditional. All the wines are now being bottled with glass stoppers. That’s right, no more cork taint here my friends. These wines are energetic, snappy and ripe with modest alcohol (12.5%), fresh clean flavors and distinctive minerality. Austria is on the move. I firmly believe it to be one of the most dynamic regions in the wine world today with folks like the Summerers all over the country making great wines that go with food, are distinctive and honest with vision and a sense of place. We have two wines to prove this point for you to try this month. 2004 Summerer Grüner Veltliner Steinhaus ($15.99), from vines grown on Urgestein (primary rock), is a dazzling little number sure to make you smile, from its fresh cool nose to the zippy mineral mouth feel. This is a great match with heirloom tomato salad. 2004 Summerer Riesling Steinmassl ($22.99) is from a great site for Riesling, producing wines of real finesse, cut and minerality, always a little firm and lean when young with hints of citrus and white flowers, yet coupled with a very strong scent of stone. Enjoy this now for its vibrant youthful exuberance or drink in 4-8 years for a more mature experience. Enjoy! —Jeff Vierra
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