This month meet me a hop, skip and a jump away from the Franco-Spanish border, or more precisely the French winegrowing region known as the Roussillon. About 20 minutes north of Perpignan a critical mass of both young and more established vignerons is forming and making GREAT wine from old vines, low yields and very poor soil. Some of the big guns include Gauby, Mas Amiel, Olivier Pithon, Marjorie Gallet at Roc des Anges. I would also invite rising star Eric Sonne of Clot de l’Oum to join as the newest member of this elite group. Eric purchased vineyard land here in the late 1990s and produced his first vintage in 2001. His 18 hectares are divided amongst 33 different parcels within the communes of Maury and Belesta. Although the soil types are quite varied, one finds a predominance of granite (think Cote Rotie and Hermitage!) and smaller amounts of schist and gneiss. Erics parcels lie between 400-600 meters in altitude on predominantly sloping hillsides, which contribute to great exposure, more long, slow ripening and fresh elegant wines. The 2004 Côtes du Roussillon-Villages Clot de L’Oum “Compagnie des Papillons” ($18.99) is composed of old-vine grenache and carignan, and owes its name to the numerous butterlies which, after nearly a decade of organic viticulture, have returned to the vineyard. At once spicy, peppery and deep, there are copious amounts of ripe dark fruits, Spanish lavender and black olive notes, along with graphite and smoke on the finish. Rich and balanced Roussillon red at its best! —Mulan Chan
Returning for its third D-I engagement of the last twelve months is the Aimery Sieur d’Arques “1531” Cremant de Limoux ($9.99) and with its six months of further bottle development, it is even better than before. It offers up layers of green apple, pear and citrus fruit with a fine bead and an oh so delicate hint of hazelnut. If you loved the 1531 the first time around we suggest you stock up. More lushness, more viscosity and an even finer bead. Eby has told me that this is our everyday house sparkler for the year. The 2005 Kalinda Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc ($9.99) offers a lovely nose of fig, red clover, and melon lead immediately into a viscous, lush sauvignon blanc that is not only a lovely wine to have as a cocktail, but one that would be well-suited for an ahi tuna or salmon dinner. Vanilla has informed me that this little gem is our other house white for the month. The 2005 Domaine de Chevalier Rosé, Pessac-Leognan ($10.99) is here just in time for the holidays. With its bright strawberry to raspberry fruit characteristics underscored by that typical Graves minerality, this dry, clean, crisp cabernet-based wine will work wonders at your table. And I do believe this is our first offering of rosé from Domaine de Chevalier, which is one of my favorite Graves producers. From a 40-year-old property, the 2003 Château Serilhan, St-Estèphe ($19.99) is a stunner, loaded with cassis, currants and other black fruits both on the nose and in the mouth. It is complex, layered and long, and is vinified to be drunk near-term and over the next several years. This will be one of our house reds for the month. Finally, returning for its third DI engagement this year is one of my favorite wines, the 2003 Château de Montfaucon, Cotes du Rhone ($9.99). It is rich, broad, ready to drink, worth a case or two in your cellar for day-to-day consumption (especially for such meals as stews and ragout), and enough written… buy it and thank me later. Anderson has for the third time informed me that this is our house red for the month. If you have any questions about these selections, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy this month’s wines! —Jim, Anderson, Eby and Vanilla
Thanksgiving is a time for reflection, football and the smell of a broom closet. Oops, I meant to say the smell of turkey. Thanksgiving turkey… an endless loop of Jim Barr jokes that beg to see the light of day. But Thanksgiving is about history, invasion and Sterling Vineyards wine. Let me take you back to the beginning… The Santa Maria was the first of the ships to set anchor in the Bay of Pigs. The New World. America. But it looked a LOT like Norway. Captain Ishmael James Barr (“call me Ishmael”) and his crew reached the rocky shores of Plymouth, Duster on the third Thursday of November. They bore glad tidings. They bore gifts of Sterling wine. Truth to tell, they bore everyone. The native people greeted the seafaring contingent warily; they’d already coughed up Manhattan for peanuts, and they weren’t about to get shafted again. The usual beads and pleasantries were exchanged (“How about those Yankees?” “You look great! New headdress?”). By and by the discussion turned to the evening meal. “We’ll bring the wine,” said Captain Barr. And so they did. The table was set for fifty. Not a moveable feast. An amazing array of comestibles assaulted the senses of the contingent: A maze of maize and ferries of cranberries. Haystacks of stuffing. Dams full of yams. Green eggs and hams. And the bird... my word! More wings than an airport runway. More breasts than a Russ Meyer movie. And the Patriots were playing the Chiefs on T.V. Captain Ishmael’s crew presented the wines: Sterling Vineyards library wines of such breadth, the ’76, ’77 and ’78. ’82, ’84 and ’86. ’87, ’90, ’91 and ’92. Napa bottlings, priced to buy and ready to drink; Reserves, full and rich and concentrated. Diamond Mountain Ranch selections, crafted in the style of the great wines of Bordeaux. There were larger bottles too: magnums and double magnums, six liters and nine (A whole case in a bottle!). An amazing selection, direct from the winery. Captain Ishmael flushed with pride and the change of life. The Patriots-Chiefs contest began. The meal was a great success. Until dessert. Giant pies made from pumpkins were brought out, scirocco warm and as aromatic as a French subway. What followed may have been the swiftest unraveling of diplomatic relations since the barf in the Japanese Prime Ministers lap thing. The native people brought out bowls of cream that had obviously been whipped mercilessly. Whipped and whipped, until it flowed no more. The cream lay motionless. Captain Ishmael was appalled. This blatant violation of the world torture ban would not be tolerated. He and his crew rowed back to the Santa Maria and set sail. As Captain Ishmael J. Barr peered through his telescope, he asked his first mate what part of the cargo hold he had put the Sterling wines that were brought back to the ship. “I thought you brought them,” said the mate. Reverse gear. Running up the beach. But the table... and the wines... were gone. Game over. Chiefs won. —Joe Zegulder
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