No, they’re not from Champagne or even California, but they are all really tasty and well under twenty dollars. Do I have your attention yet? The first two of these fantastic wines are from the Loire Valley and the other two from Alsace. These are all outstanding wines for almost any event, whatever it may be: weddings, an evening sipper while relaxing on the porch, brunch with somebody special, or not so special. You get the picture! Domaine de l’Ecu (Guy Bossard) Cuvée Ludwig Hahn Sparkling ($13.99) 45% folle blanche (Gros-Plant), 25% chardonnay, 20% melon de bourgogne (Muscadet) and 10% cabernet cauvignon ( I know, this was a first for me too). The complexity and length that you get out of this bottle is outstanding for a $14-bottle of bubbles. François Pinon Vouvray Pétillant Brut ($16.99) This sparkling chenin blanc comes from soils that are clay and silica on a base of limestone (tuffeau) with flint (silex), and the area is rated among the top sites in the appellation. Fantastic earthy characters with warmth and charm make this a great fit for a variety of foods. If you have never tried a sparkling Chenin I really suggest that this be the first one. Jean Philippe & Francois Becker Cremant d’Alsace ($14.99) A blend of pinot noir, chardonay and pinot blanc that is bright and edgy but a bit shy all at the same time, a lot like me! The sharp minerality and focus always leaves me wanting more than just that first glass. Charles Baur Cremant d’Alsace ($14.99) Made up of pinot blanc (40%), auxerrois (40%) and chardonnay (20%), this has a happy aromatic character with a creamy richness running through the middle giving it more of a softer, rounder finish. Don’t be scared of the unknown, you never know what kind of interesting and special things you may find! —Eric Story
I am pleased to report that new releases from one of my favorite Languedoc properties have arrived. Tucked in the northeastern corner of the Languedoc appellation of St. Chinian, Jean-Marie Rimbert crafts simply lovely regional wines full of character, vitality and charm. 2005 Saint Chinian Blanc Domaine Rimbert ($11.99) If you’ve ever grown a pot of thyme in your kitchen window, you know what happens when you pinch off the little white flowers that appear on the end of the stems. The smell that comes off those tiny, innocuous looking blossoms is springtime, summer, honey and citrus all at once. A sniff of this fresh white effects similar responses in your nose and mouth. A blend of marsanne, roussanne, vermentino, grenache blanc and carginan blanc, picked manually in the early morning hours to maintain freshness, it’s ideal with grilled fish, or try with your favorite mild fish cooked in parchment! 2004 Saint Chinian Domaine Rimbert “Le Mas au Schiste” ($14.99) Even if you’re incredibly tough on yourself you owe it to your inner child to pick up a bottle of the new vintage of Rimbert’s playful Mas au Schiste. The blend is 40% carignan, 30% syrah and 30% grenache aged for 12 months on the lees in old barrels, which impart no wood flavor and no destraction from the amazingly pure and vivid fruit. Delicious and jam-packed with spicy and juicy red and black berries, this is an ideal house red to go with lamb, chicken, burgers, you name it. There are also 1.5Ls of the 2003 “Le Mas au Schiste” ($29.99) —Mulan Chan
As with the last few years, I am once again having a difficult time getting a feel for the quality of this vintage. We had a ton of rain during the winter and spring, and almost into summer, a very long and serious ten-day heat wave (most of the Northern Hemisphere experienced it) during July, and a lower than normal weather conditions since then. We are all watching this with amazement and trying to put a positive face on what we see and keep our fingers cross that Mother Nature will hold off the rains just long enough to get these grapes in, in healthy conditions. As I write this (September 1), the harvest has just begun for the sparkling wine producers, and they are reporting superior quality, of course. Three years ago, Greg St. Clair discovered an incredible gem on one of his buying trips to Italy, the wines of Giovanni Blason. Located in Gradisca d’Inzonzo, just under four miles from the Slovenian border, the wines coming from Blason are genuine, distinctively varietal and inexpensive. The 2005 Blason Pinot Grigio ($8.99) shows a wonderful nose of spice (white pepper) and Chilean jasmine, while in the mouth it explodes with lush, refreshin and balanced fruit that is viscous and bright. As I heard Greg point out to a customer just before he left for our L.A. store, “The 2005 Blason Pinot Grigio is the best Giovanni and Andrea have made to date.” The other wines (Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon, Tocai and Chardonnay) from the Blasons are stunning wines, and Eby says the shouldn’t be missed. She has her claws out for those of you who walk by the Blason floor display without grabbing a few of them. Our Deutschlander wine buyer, Jeff Vierra, keeps finding to-die-for bargains of superb German Rieslings at prices that bring back memories of yesteryear for me. The 2004 August Kesseler Riesling “R” A.P. #6 ($9.99) is the soul of what Riesling is about when it is done in a drier style. Produced from contracted steep-sloped fruit from Lorch, Lorchhausen and Rudesheim, this is an astounding riesling that offers loads of white peach to jade to clover on the nose and in the mouth, while providing firm acidity to offset what meager residual there is, and shows a long, crisp, minerality finish of slate and stone. This is great wine, and for you riesling lovers it would be a moral sin to miss it. For you point-only dupes, the infamous low-acid lawyer from the East Coast gave it 90 points. He got it right this time, for now. It is not a low acid, high in alcohol, overly extracted wine. Vanilla says that you need this in your cellar or else. Okay, Anderson, take your best shot at these cats. Totally vinified for near-term consumption, the 2003 Château Souvenir Bordeaux Superieur ($9.99), a blend of merlot (60%) and equal parts cabernet sauvignon and franc, is a deeply colored beauty. Aged in huge vats after fermentation, this is an upfront wine that is meant to be drunk now. Offering a lovely nose of cassis and blackberries that carry over to the palate, this wine is soft, round and perfect for such meals as pork roast or stews. The house red for the month, according to Anderson, is the 2003 Château Saint Sauveur, Haut-Médoc ($20.99), which the wine-god anointed as a “sleeper of the vintage.” This is an amazing Cru Bourgeois Superieur that should be given serious consideration for a fifth- or even fourth-growth level wine considering this 2003 and some of the previous near-term wines that have come from this property. Deep ruby in color, the nose erupts with cassis, blackberries, spice, roasted coffee bean and cedar that carry through to the palate. Layered, complex flavors with ample structure and integrated tannins lead to a multi-dimensional wine that is merlot driven yet complex and long. If you have any questions about these selections, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy this month’s wines! —Jim, Anderson, Eby and Vanilla
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