In February, Greg and I went to Valdobbiadene region (Province of Treviso. Venice is about 30 miles away) to meet up with Silvano and visit his estate, Silvano Follador (No disappointments here). Prosecco grapes (minimum 85%) along with verdiso, perera, and bianchetta (maximum of 15%) are currently allowed in the blend. Silvano is in his early Twenties and doing a fantastic job. With the help of his sister Alberta they make four types of Prosecco ( Sui-Lieviti, Cartizze, Brut and Extra Dry), and right now we have the last two in stock. We LOVE this stuff, and you will love the price. The Silvano Follador Extra Dry ($10.99) is prefect for your summer entertaining! Pear and honeydew melon balanced with great acidity and rich texture, by itself or for making mimosas or Bellini’s. The Silvano Follador Brut ($10.99), though dryer on the palate has a very creamy texture and yeastiness with an incredible length on the finish and a very fine mouse that just dances on the tongue. 2002 Villa Antinori Toscano Rosso ($15.95) Earthy and light strawberry with some cherry undertone. Medium body, with soft acidity and a delicate finish. Sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah. This one is very user friendly for cocktail hour. 2004 Ruggeri Corsini Barbera d’Alba ($13.99) From the husband and wife team Nicola Argamante and Loredana Addari, and wow have they have hit another one out of the ballpark! This barbera is medium to full bodied with lots of black cherries, raspberries blended with some minerality and a touch of violet on the finish. Enjoy with your barbequed tri tip or burgers. —Mike Parres
The uproar that the 2001 Brunello di Montalcino vintage has created is truly astounding. People who’ve never heard of Brunello are now stockpiling bottles and cases. When someone doesn’t have great experience in this category it is really easy to just follow the points to “assure” you of the “best wine available.” Unfortunately it is a losing strategy. Unless you frequently have the Wine Spectator’s James Suckling to dinner, purchasing his choices for your cellar may not be ultimately rewarding for you. If you want your wine to taste more like a cabernet from California or some den of international winemaking iniquity it is more important to analyze your buying strategy. You should be making plans about when to drink these wines. If this year comes to mind then it will be easy to decide which to buy. If you are looking to age the wine 5-10+ years then the sweet, upfront fruit that is so pleasing in youth doesn’t always carry through unless the right structure is in place. You might want to examine the explosive growth in Montalcino, so many new wineries to find some new gem. Many times the very small producers get overlooked, except by me. This year there are so many very good wines. Don’t limit yourself to the points. You will undoubtedly be paying a premium for those points and not always actually liking the results. My much promised tasting notes will be published on the web by the time you read this or you can always write or call me to get other ideas. One really great wine that is sure to fall through the cracks is 2001 Villa le Prata Brunello di Montalcino ($54.99). Who? You might say. This producer’s 1999 was my “Wine of the Vintage.” It was great! No, it still is great! The 2001 is certainly in the top ten wines of this vintage once again. Its nose is wild, sauvage, full of wild cherry, plum and spice that seamlessly fold into one another. On the palate the wine is gracious, warm and just flows to all corners of your mouth carrying the complex, spicy fruit to blend with hints of toffee and chocolate. Long, supple, muscular and very feminine, it’s like an enchantress’s eyes are reeling you in, so exotic, pleasureful, sinful. The finish is more of the same. That exotic incense wafts over your body. You can’t resist, just always reaching for more. Sensational! It is drinkable now with decanting but best after 3-5 years and then over the next 15+. The 2001 Caprili Brunello di Montalcino ($44.99) is another sleeper. It has deep, ripe, plumy fruit that flows from the glass. In the mouth this wine becomes far more powerful than one might have guessed from the nose. Dense, concentrated fruit with lots of tannic structure, big shoulders, bulging deltoids, Arnold-like pectorals. The enormous size of this wine gives it a more rustic character than the quality of fruit portrays. Sweet focused plumy fruit with backbone and direction while powerfully striding toward a long finish. This is a wine for your cellar. Five years from now it will have begun to shed a bit of the structure, and the fruit underneath will blossom. It will age 10-20 years easily. —Greg St Clair
Many people ask me what I drink at home. Of course, the answer is wines from all over the world. There are some things I do not like, namely high alcohol, overblown, over-sized, palate-fatiguing wines. That is why I am the Burgundy guy here, after all. But, one kind of wine I regularly drink all summer drink is rosé! Now, lest you be confused, I am not talking about the White Zinfandels of old. Today’s French rosés are delightful, never heavy, extremely food-friendly, and easy to drink in the summer. One of my favorites is the Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne ($11.99). It is naturally fermented in the bottle from pinot noir and chardonnay, the traditional Burgundian grapes. On the palate it is very rich and fruity but just off-dry on the finish. The mousse is explosive, with a very creamy palate impression. Being the pinot noir lover I am, some of my favorites are, of course, rosés made from Burgundian pinot noir. These are anything but after-thoughts for the producers who make them. Instead, they are carefully crafted from grapes grown especially for rosé. They keep their delicate color due to the lack of skin contact. This means that you get the aromatics of a good Burgundy, accompanied by a delicacy and lightness that is truly refreshing. In fact, what you are tasting is what all Red Burgundy was, until the 20th Century. Two of my favorites are the 2004 Charles Audoin Marsannay Rosé, ($14.99), made from his younger vines, high on the hill in Marsannay. It has a wonderful pale “eye of the swan” color, a fragrant, unmistakably pinot noir nose and a dry, clean finish. And, the 2005 Château de Puligny Montrachet Rosé, ($16.99) is made from estate-grown fruit from the Château de Puligny, from Monthelie, Pommard, St. Aubin and Bourgogne. A true, slow-press rosé, it has strawberry notes in the nose and a classic texture. Here is your first look at the 2005 vintage, just in time for your summer drinking. Á Santé. —Keith Wollenberg
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