This month it’s all about the Complete Package. These wines are impressive and unique on every front, including labels. That’s right folks, I’m review wines with cool labels here! No matter how irrelevant they are regarding quality, sometimes you just want to make a statement, not only with what’s inside but what’s on the outside, too. Never fear though, the great liquid that’s vesseled inside these expressive bottles is terrific too. 2004 Peirano “The Other Wine” Red Blend ($11.99) Lodi has arrived!! Forget what you may believe about this wine region, because you’ll be blown away by the many tremendous, inexpensive reds coming from here. I was immediately struck by the rich core of fruit and intensity from this syrah/petite syrah/cabernet blend. You might also be struck by the, ahem, provocative label on the front. I don’t know how in the world they got past the TTB, but Peirano produced a knockout, both inside and outside the bottle! 2002 Aia (Miner Family Vineyards) Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon ($21.99) The 2001 was one of our best selling Cabernets in any category, with its dark, bold, red label splashing “AIA” in contrasted white on the front. A standout in all senses of the word, this wine will take center stage and demand respect in any situation. Last night I poured this blind to a group of highly tuned tasters, and everyone nailed it… except for the price. A $60+ Cab from Napa was the overall guess! 2nd wine for Miner. In my opinion, a truly superlative Cabernet effort. Speaking of best sellers, how about showing up to a dinner with 2004 Peter Cellars Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($29.99)? Does it have a pink border, a comic book font, and a big paw on the capsule? No doubt! The wine, just as its playful theme suggests, remains elusive, mysterious, but oh-so-enjoyable no matter how many sips you take. On the nose, a syrah-like gamey element ushers in the telltale (excuse the pun) aromas of crushed cherries and truffles of pinot-land. The bold, rich, ripeness belies the insistent backbone of acidity that makes this one of the better all-around food-focused Pinot Noirs under thirties dollars in the store. Thank you, Michael Jordan, for finding this diamond of a wine! Enjoy. —Martin Reyes
If you have stopped by the either of our stores in the last few years you will recognize this as one of our staff favorites, and the 2004 Domaine de la Croix Senaillet Saint Veran ($14.99) is once again at the top of our list. Saint Veran, if you are unfamiliar, is an appellation that is literally a stone’s throw away from Pouilly Fuissé and several of the more esteemed Macon villages. The soils have both clay and chalk, and you can see them both of these components expressed in the fantastic 2004 vintage. The long cool and wet summer finally broke in August allowing for the grapes to ripen. The grapes were not super ripe like the 2003 vintage so they speak more of the terroir, the clay rich soils giving the wine body and richness while the chalky soils give the wine cut and minerality. This wine once again speaks to wine lovers, both old world and new world. The nose is bright and citrusy with floral and yellow fruit tones. The palate has ripe almost tropical fruit tones with just a hint of nuttiness and a kiss of vanilla spice. This wine is a summer multi-tasker: poolside sipper, aperitif, or lighter BBQ quencher, not to mention its utility at the dinner table. If you haven’t given this one a try yet, now is the time. Or if it is a favorite of yours, stock up. This jewel will drink nicely over the next couple of years. —Kirk Walker
As of late May, we have been very fortunate to obtain a producer of considerable quality and value. Champagne Fleury is well known for their use of pinot noir, the varietal that makes up their line of Champagnes. Fleury is located in Courteron in Aube. Because the vineyards are so close to Chablis, they produce a more Burgundian style of Champagne. That is to say, a very dry style with extremely low dosage despite the fact that their wines are pinot based. As an added bonus, the Fleury Champagnes are completely biodynamic, the strictest form of organic viticulture. At 100% pinot Noir, the Fleury “Carte Rouge” Brut ($29.99) is truly unique. A wonderful nose of lemon crème, coconut and lime. In the mouth, dried cherries, citrus fruits, vanilla and crème fraiche. Though the delicate fruit and creamy texture give away the pinot based aspect of this wine, there is a note of lemon on the finish that gives it a classic touch. Very well-suited for pate, rich seafood such as lobster or crusty bread and Brie. Like the Brut, the Fleury Brut Rosé ($34.99) is also 100% pinot noir with the base wine coming solely from the 1999 vintage. A wonderful creamy texture with small bubbles that rival those of Champagne Launois. Once opened, the Rosé shows a nose of dark cherries, wet stones, vanilla, nutmeg and the slightest hint of red currants. On the palate, a combination of cherry and strawberry fruit with a cleanliness enhanced by a bit of minerality. Rich and tasty, yet complex and delicate. Fine finish with just a whiff of oak. This is wonderful Champagne to start a meal with a salad of romaine, mandarin oranges and toasted pecans. Or, have it with a main course of poultry or game bird. Both of these Champagnes are also available in half bottles, perfect for picnics in the summer. The Brut is available in a magnum for larger parties and dinners. Happy summer sipping! —Scott Beckerley
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