Once again my good friend, and ex-boss, has created a force to be reckoned with. As he puts it, “being a small farmer from the Rheingau, I not only want to produce wines that represent my region but also the village from I have been born and raised.” Johannes has continued to practice the same philosophy since he began making wine, purity of fruit. He is fanatical about it, trust me on this one! When working for him, he would say, once a day at least, my wines are made 90% in the vineyard and only 10% in the cellar. Nothing but clean, bright, healthy fruit will do for this guy. I swear one day I thought I saw him cry when he came across a cluster of grapes that were not up to his standards. Running along the top of the hill of Rudesheim, just below the forest line, is a vineyard named Drachenstein (Dragonstone), aptly named after the dinosaur print found there. The Drachenstein vineyard is steep and very difficult to work. The soils are filled with all sorts of shapes and sizes of quartzite, which really defines the character of wines that can come out of there. The 2005 vintage was a superb one, and the 2005 Josef Leitz Rüdesheimer Drachenstein “Dragonstone” Riesling ($14.99) is yet another fantastic example. Yes, although considered a QBA, this is no QBA, especially considering this was picked at the high-end spatlese level. This year’s Dragy has a powerful core of fruit, reminding me a bit of ’03, spiked with that quartzite minerality and a truly unbelievable sharp, ripe, citrus acidity, unlike ’03, that leaves a translucent, pure lingering finish. Mr. Leitz has given us another world-class wine at an unbelievable price. This is truly a no brainer for a summertime sipper, or gulper! Thank you Johannes, you are my hero!!! —Eric Story
Located at an altitude of 3000 feet above sea level, in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, are the vineyards of Chateau Musar which rest, warm, happy and excited. The Bekaa Valley is surrounded by mountains running parallel with the Mediterranean coast. Here grow vines that rarely see any frost or disease and are bathed in a long, warm sunny growing season. Grape varietals of cabernet sauvignon, cinsault and carignan dominate the vineyard, which consists of a gravelly soil and base of limestone. Founded, as a hobby interest, by Gaston Hochar and now run by his two sons, Serge and Ronald, Musar strives “to translate what nature intended.” The blend is always based on the vintage, hand picked then aged 12 to 15 months in Nevers oak, blended in its third year, bottled and then aged in the cellar for another four years. Known world wide for their complexity and maturity, the wines are ready to drink upon release, seven years after harvest, but will continue to age with style and grace for many, many years. The 1995 Château Musar, Lebanon ($47.99) is a vibrant little beauty. A rich round core, spicy chocolate aromas and a zippy, elegant finish is what this is showing off now, but I can’t wait to try it again in five. The 1997 Château Musar, Lebanon ($43.99) is a bit more austere and rugged with a darker, richer style of old-world flare that needs time to really begin to strut its stuff. This is definitely one for the cellar. Since it is time for those summer time sippers, we are also excited to have the 2004 Château Musar Cuvee Reserve Rosé ($16.99). This is a blend of mostly cinsault and obeideh that is aged in oak for 6 to 9 months, bottled and then finally released two years later. You have to give this a shot with a grilled vegetable cous cous with fresh parsley, cilantro and good extra virgin olive oil!!! —Eric Story
Martin and Shaun here to team up on the wine for summer, dry rosé. We have plenty of great rosé from right here in California, and there’s no better time than the present to start bringing yours home. 2005 Vinum “It’s OKAY” Rosé, Napa ($8.99) Wow what a color! This rosé of cabernet has a bright ruby red robe that absolutely shines, and a wonderful dry frais du bois nose that promises richness. Not to fail on the palate, a dry burst of strawberry cherry and raspberry fruit makes the mouth water. And you’ll be doing a good deed by purchasing this one; a portion of the profits will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, a cause we can all support. What have you got Martin? Shaun, I’m glad you asked. I myself came around last year to the surprising pleasures of elegant rosés, and my first pick is 2004 Miner Family Rosato ($14.99), a wonderully balanced rosé made with 100% sangiovese grapes from very chill Mendecino County. This producer is sometimes known for weighty, full-bodied, richly textured wines but this is rosé is all about finesse and refreshment. A perfect drinker or a lunch-time sipper. Mmm, I’m getting hungry, Shaun. Going to my kitchen to take a look. Take over for a second. Will do, Martin. Everyone loves Bonny Doon, the eccentric winery of Santa Cruz Mountains, and the 2005 Bonny Doon “Vin Gris de Cigare” California Rosé ($9.99) is a perennial favorite. Provencal varietals comprise most of the grapes here, and the dry spicy fruit on the palate mingles with olfactory resonances of Provencal fields of sweet herbs. Fun, exciting, mouthwatering and esoteric rosé that is hard to resist. Who needs dinner? Grab an ice bucket and some hors d’oeuvres and head for the back yard for a mini vacation any day of the week. What’s next on your list Martin? Well, Shaun, a wise man once said, “If you like pink, the world is your playground.” More or less, I think that’s what he said. Anyway, that was the case when I tasted the 2004 Red Car “Think Pink” Rosé ($14.99). A Rhone varietal menage, this pleasurable elixir shows up wearing nothing but a lovely ruby grapefruit hue, and opens into juicy Bing cherry, fresh strawberry, and hints of exotic, tropical wonders. Have this with seared ahi or grilled butter-sage chicken with fresh vegetables. Okay Shaun, let me cool off, back to you. Let’s see, the 2005 Elizabeth Spencer Sonoma Coast Rosé ($15.99) is a rich and bright rosé of syrah to keep up the Southern French motif. The soft watermelon color belies the powerful palate of strawberries and blueberries mingled with Provencal flowers and zingy acidity. Rich enough for dinner, and shows a nice long finish. What are we going to finish with Martin? The 2005 Soter “North Valley” Rosé ($19.99) from the same man who’s brought us Etude all these years, is a thing of beauty. Equal parts whimsical charm and refined elegance, this pinot noir-based (what else?) stunner from Oregon stopped me dead in my tracks. Rocking with almost any food, Soter commands your attention the way few rosés can. Take this one to any party, picnic, BBQ, you name it, and show it off to anyone who’s ready to laugh at rosé for being “unsophisticated” because this baby’ll laugh right back. A real winner. Until next June, this is Pink & Bean, purveyors of fine “Off-reds” for your drinking pleasure, signing off. Enjoy! —Shaun Green and Martin Reyes
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