It’s time to cover up the BBQ, put the outdoor furniture in the shed and move the party inside. Cooler temperatures, darkness at 5 p.m., costumes and football now prevail, and it’s the opening of red wine season. As all the great chefs move inside and turn up the intensity of their culinary adventures, you can bet the same thing is happening in the cellar, with the selections of fine reds being made to complement the special times and meals. As the relatives arrive, I’m popping corks! If you need any help, here are a few suggestions: 1999 Bordeaux is flat out underrated, a lovely vintage to drink young, and we have three super wines to serve. 1999 Ch. d’Angludet ($36.99), from Margaux, is full of ripe red fruit with a soft/creamy middle texture and hints of cherry and mulberry. Conversely, the 2000 shows you the qualities in d’Angludet that resemble a more St-Julien/Pauillac style wine and should be cellared 5-15 more years. 1999 Ch. Haut Bailly ($44.99), from Pessac-Léognan, is one of the few 1999s featuring very good acidity to go along with a bright and zesty core of crimson and black fruit with hints of earth and minerality. Decant these ’99s 45 minutes to an hour and enjoy. Whatever you do, don’t be popping your top wines from the 2000 Bordeaux vintage. This fine vintage is full of focus and power, and to drink them young will be a big mistake with very few exceptions. 2000 Ch. Cantemerle ($32.99), the fifth growth from the Haut-Médoc, is just minutes south of Margaux where vines have been in the ground here since 1570. The 40% merlot planted in the vineyard at Cantemerle always guarantees a consistent wine of warmth, charm and elegance. The 2000 is a great expression of Cantemerle, and the beauty of this wine is also the outstanding balance, which means it will age very well, but the great taste will be very hard to stay away from. As good as the 2005 vintage may turn out to be, I believe 2003 may turn out to be my favorite vintage ever. The vintage has absolutely everything: ripeness, opulence, richness, balance and great taste. These wines just cannot be ignored now that they have arrived in America and are on the sales floor. From this point on, any red wine I buy for my collection will be 2003 red Bordeaux until they leave the marketplace. Many of the wines are flat out better than their 2005 counterparts and are lower priced as well. These include wines like La Couspaude, Haut Bailly, Langoa-Barton, Poujeaux, Sociando Mallet, Phelan-Segur, Clerc-Milon, Nenin, Haut-Bages-Liberal, Malartic Lagraveliere, Lynch Bages, Pichon Comtesse de la Lalande, and Cos d’Estournel. You could drink Léoville-Las-Cases everyday of your life and never guess if you were tasted blind that 2003 Clos du Marquis ($39.99) was not the first wine! One more thought to convey: If you have any inkling to go shopping for some older Bordeaux from your favorite estates, don’t dally, sprint into action. There are some great deals in our inventory now, and 1996 and 2000 Montrose ($84.99 and $149.00) are prime examples as is 1989 Cos d’Estournel ($169.00). These wines were bought in April, before the crazily priced 2005s were released, and they are priced extremely well. Feel free to contact me anytime with questions or advice on the wines of Bordeaux at ex 2723 or Ralph@klwines.com. Cheers and Go Giants and Niners! —Ralph Sands
The definition of eccentric is unconventional, especially in a whimsical way, and I can think of nothing better to describe the 2003 vintage. The wines are different yes, but endearing to all but the staunchest of Bordeaux devotees. In fact, I would say that 2003 is actually a great vintage for the uninitiated, the perfect place to start the love affair that so many of us have developed. The 2003 Château Léonie, Graves ($23.99) is the perfect wine for those fans of California wines looking for something different to whet their palate. Juicy raspberry ripeness dominates the nose while the supple, creamy texture accents ample red berry fruit found on the palate. This is an unabashed 2003 fruit bomb that will surely turn heads, and it is easy on the wallet. While nowhere near as jammy, the 2003 Château Prieuré-Lichine, Margaux ($32.99) will be an easy transition for those used to drinking big California Cabernets. Coffee and vanilla ooze out of the glass and straight into your olfactories. This wine is packed full of the black cherry fruit and coconut spice so often found in the big names of California wine fame. Another stylish red from the same commune is the 2003 du Tertre, Margaux ($29.99). Most Margaux’s are about texture recently, and this wine is no exception. This will coat your mouth with a glycerin-like creaminess and all the milk chocolate covered cherry fruit you could ever want. A perfect cocktail Bordeaux. The 2003 Château Meyney, St-Estèphe ($24.99) is a bit more traditional, showing wet stone and rare steak qualities throughout. Bolstered by black currant and tobacco, this has a more tannic grip that will give it some longevity in the cellar. Finally, there is the 2003 Reserve de la Comtesse, Pauillac ($31.99), the stunner of the vintage. Layered black cherry puree and black tea leaves fight for dominance. Hard edged now, this will be fantastic with some aeration or age. A wine that is a perfect combination of vintage and house style. —Bryan Brick
"It is a very good day. We got a new tractor and the cicadas didn't start singing until 9AM." So began our wonderful day at Moulin de la Gardette, a small family-run estate in the Gigondas district of France's southern Rhone Valley about 45 minutes from Avignon. We spent a total of about five and a half hours with Jean Baptiste Meunier, the jovial owner and winemaker, during which time he showed us the grounds, the vines, the winery and the surrounding village before hosting us at a lovely luncheon in the town square. JC and I left with a feeling of total contentment and a conviction that if we are ever reincarnated as grapes, we'd like to be some of Moulin de la Gardette's. The day started with a warm greeting as described above at Moulin de la Gardette's very cute tasting room on the town square. About 200 people live in the village of Gigondas (jee gon dahs) proper, with an additional 500 or so in the outlying area. So as you can imagine, the "town square" is a tiny but lively place. If you're visiting Gigondas, the square and the Gardette tasting room are terrifically easy to find. This was fortuitous for JC and me, as we've discovered that navigating in France is definitely not facile (see upcoming entry "Blonde & Blonder"). JB made us feel immediately at home, whizzing us up the nearby hill for a breathtaking view of his family's vineyards, a local ruin and, beyond, the entire Rhone Valley. At the top of this little mountain is a circular indicator called the Belvedere Table d'Orientation instructing visitors on what can be found in the nearby countryside. Here's a pic of JC locating the Palace of the Popes in nearby Avignon, where we're staying. The giant mountain in the background is Mont Ventoux, the famed peak of this region and, apparently, a very windy place. The first pic in this entry captures the "Mistral," the famed wind that whips through the area and temporarily took JC back to the big hair days of the 80s. It's also apparently blown some people off of Mont Ventoux to their deaths, eek! Some more gorgeous pics of the Rhone! After our sojourn on the windy peak we ventured into the vineyards, where we observed three different colors of soil - white, gray and orange - indicating several unique terroirs on the 9 hectare estate (about 22 acres). The vines are a mix of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault. The most interesting was the Cinsault, a blending grape with bigger berries than the others. They were big, indeed! They've got, conversely, weaker stems than the Grenache, leading JB to make an amusing and, I must add, very French observation that the stems are "rather feminine" while the grapes "masculine." I had to chuckle to myself at that remark. Here's another pic of some old vine Grenache (the property has vines up to around 100 years old, planted by JB's grandfather) and a middle aged vine with a gorgeous bunch on it undergoing veraison, the conversion of the grapes from green to purplish colors. Cicadas, the bizarre large insects that make noise by vibrating while in trees and shrubs, can be heard all around the vineyard. JB explained that they make the noise to cool themselves, and that this racket can be heard as early as 6AM sometimes. When that's the case, it's going to be a scorcher, he says. Good thing they didn't get going 'til 9 today - as it was still incredibly warm and I can't imagine what it must be like when scorching. Random aside: while doing some follow up research on cicadas I was intrigued by the site My-bugs.com, which sells framed cicadas under the slogan, "No living room or study would be complete without one." Hmm, not so sure I agree, but whatevs - to each his own! Cuvee de Mon Fils Then, back in the car for a quick jaunt over to the Gardette's new winery, built just two years ago by a local architect we ran into later near the town square. The facility is small but efficient and, as you can see from the pic, quite striking against the bright blue sky. Inside we were shown the concrete fermentation vats, where only natural yeasts are used to conduct fermentation and where JB's son, Georges, fell in one time. This is actually incredibly dangerous since fermenting grapes give off CO2 that can lead to unconsciousness and, in rare instances, death. Fortunately, Georges was salvaged and I was able to safely joke, "did you call the wine 'Cuvee de Mon Fils'? We tasted several wines in the winery, including the recently bottled 2004 vintage of the winery's two main wines, the Cuvee Tradition (retails in the US for around $17) and the Ventabrun (about $27). Both were very good, and I found the Ventrabrum (which sees time in old oak barriques and undergoes a light filtration) particularly pleasing. 2004 was an outstanding vintage in this area, and the wine is redolent with flavors of plum and currant as well as an exciting collection of things found in the surrounding area: lavender, thyme, wildflower and sweet grass. There are also notes of cocoa, orange peel, cinnamon, flowers and licorice. Highly recommended. We also enjoyed tasting a 1998 vintage wine JB created in honor of the birth of his daughter, Zoe. Zoe has personalized her wine with these very cute chalk drawings and signature. I told JB over lunch I think Zoe, who's learning to play the harp and enjoys philosophy, will certainly be his next winemaker. He looked reflective after I said this and simply said, "I hadn't thought of that." It'll be interesting to see what happens. After tasting there was a smooth transition to lunch in the village courtyard, just a brief jaunt away in JB's car. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal of summer salad, tartine and a charcuterie/cheese plate along with some Moulin de la Gardette wine. The highlight of the day was JB's opening, at lunch, a really lovely bottle of his 1995 Gigondas, which was bottled unfined and unfiltered. It had a beautiful nose of nuts, figs, coffee, some gun flint and dates and had structure to go on aging for 10 or more years. Definitely a class act. "It's a very nice place to be a grape." I can't think of a more pleasant day than today. Jean Baptiste, who worked at famed estate Diamond Creek in the Napa Valley for some time in the 90s and is pictured here with his eldest son, put it perfectly when he described the land surrounding the village of Gigondas and his vines. The pine trees, the rosemary and all the other things in the area contribute character to the vines and, in turn, the region's wines. "It's a very nice place to be a grape," he said on the drive back from the little mountain. I couldn't agree more. www.moulindelagardette.com --- Courtney Cochran, aka Your Personal Sommelier, provides personalized wine services to adventurous wine collectors, purveyors and enthusiasts, making wine accessible and fun for those who think outside the mainstream wine box. Visit her site at www.CourtneyCochran.com
Bid on this...we're pleased to be conducting fine wine auctions in addition to our retail selection of thousands of the world's best wines.
Bid, buy, sell, and browse the hundreds of auction lots live on K&L Auctions.
Back in the 1970's we went by the name "K&L Liquors" and our dedication to bringing you the finest spirits remains the same.
View our Spirits Journal to find out what our buyers are getting into next...