There are some exciting things happening on the Direct Import side. I found out to my delight that the Boulays of Chavignol inherited some vines in the famed Monte Damnés vineyard, one of the best sites in all of Sancerre. The 1.2ha parcel is exposed fully to the south with vines between 25- to 45-years old, of course completely hand harvested, vinification taking place in 300L barrels with natural yeast fermentation. The 2004 Boulay Sancerre Montes Damnés ($26.99) is the first release, and our allocation is only 300 bottles. Compared to the Clos du Beaujeu, this wine is overtly more aromatic with spicy aromas hinting at pepper. Where the Beaujeu is subtle and fine, this wine is powerful and concentrated. This is a steal at the price. Hopefully here by now is another favorite, the 2005 Château Soucherie Rosé de Loire ($10.99). We get only one shot to order this wine each year, and last time our supply didn’t last long. We will get a few more cases this year, but it won’t be around much past mid June. Made from 100% cabernet franc, this is pale in color yet packed with bright fruit, a slight earthiness and loads of minerality. On the Alsace front, I had the pleasure of visiting with Martine Becker of Zellenberg when she was in San Francisco. Her wines are clean and vibrant, precise and mineral. I am very excited about the Becker Cremant d’Alsace ($14.99) a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay made in the traditional method. We should have it by now (fingers crossed), and you will love this for the summer months. This is a sparkler of real depth that is refreshing, lively and invigorating with a fine bead, soft creamy texture and dry mineral finish. --Jeff Vierra
It has begun. The native varietal of the Rhone region is coming on strong. It began conquering the new world in Australia, and it is seeing more acreage in California and Washington planted every year. It didn’t have a movie made about it, and it will never be as successful as the Cabernet grape…. but watch out. Syrah is coming on strong, and California has many styles and flavors that will keep everyone happy. Here are three Syrahs not to be missed: 2002 Clos Saron “Heart of Stone” Syrah ($32.99) Big, juicy, spicy and built to last. This wine is neither over-ripe, over-alcoholic nor over-oaked. For those of you (like me) who prefer pure fruit and balance, this Syrah has it all. Just 139 cases made! 2003 Unti Dry Creek Syrah ($21.99) Another gem from the Unti family, this is probably their best Syrah to date. A very pretty wine with great length, richness and beautiful balance. The 15% grenache adds depth and character. 1,500 cases produced. 2001 Steele “Parmelee-Hill” Sonoma Syrah ($15.99) This wine is a great every-day syrah with cola and cherry notes. Fabulous fruit in the mid palate and a long balanced finish. 500 cases made. See you in the City… —Mike Jordan
This month we are featuring a special on two wines that are not only limited but are also at a great price. The Pinots and Chards from Saintsbury are quite well known and enjoyed by many consumers. A little less known are the single-vineyard wines they produce from the Brown Ranch. The Brown Ranch Vineyard was planted in the early ’90s in the northeast section of the Carneros appellation. The ranch has a combination of typical Carneros clay loams soil as well as some volcanic soil types on steeper hillsides. Three separate Dijon clones are planted on four different rootstocks. The wines from the Brown Ranch always show an intense concentration as well as a unique terrior. I have seen these wines sell for close to $75 per bottle. It think that at the prices we are offering them this month, these wines are not to be missed! 2003 Saintsbury “Brown Ranch” Carneros Chardonnay ($29.99) Very toasty and rich, with sweet fruit, hints of hazelnuts, butter and green apples. If you like full-throttle Chardonnay you will enjoy this. I think this wine is comparable to other Chardonnays that sell for over $40! 2003 Saintsbury “Brown Ranch” Carneros Pinot Noir ($39.99) Bright, concentrated and lively strawberry fruit is followed by a fresh, spicy finish. Not the over-extracted style that is so popular now, but more of a classic expression of pinot noir. Good acidity and its medium body will allow this to pair well with a variety of foods. Just the other day I tasted the 2004 Hirsch Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($59.99), and I had to write about it. Sourced by the likes of Kistler, Williams Selyem, Flowers, Siduri and Littorai—among other top California Pinot producers, the growers of this famed vineyard on Sonoma's Coast decided to make their own Pinot Noir in 2002. The 2004 shows intense fruit that is ripe and velvety with a silky, fresh finish that lingers in the mouth. The wine is pure and balanced. It should age well in a cellar over the next 10+ years. —Trey Beffa
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