Tax time is here, and not many of us are in the mood to take a chance when it comes to spending money. But we still crave good wine, so what should we do? By sticking to the most consistent producers we get great value without feeling like we have to gamble with our tax return. 2002 Pagodes de Cos, St-Estèphe ($22.99) Cos d’Estournel is one of the best and most consistent wines of St-Estèphe, and their 2nd wine is always a delicious value. This shows a bright, smokey herbal nose and lots of firm, ripe berry fruit with supple texture. Decant this rich and versatile bargain tonight or cellar some for several more years. 2002 La Fleur de Bouard, Lalande de Pomerol ($25.99) Run by the folks at Château Angelus, this property always seems to craft incredibly tasty wines that are easy to drink as soon as they are released. This silky wine displays lots of rich, ripe fruit and toasty oak in a flashy style that remains elegant and balanced. This wine is always a crowd favorite at my monthly tastings consistently beating out Bordeaux that costs twice as much. 2002 l’Eglise Clinet, Pomerol ($74.99) At a recent event in San Francisco the 2001 vintage of this wine was my choice for best of the 60 Bordeaux poured, beating out several First Growths and two super expensive Right Bank “garage” wines. Despite boasting some of the oldest vines in Pomerol, microscopic production (only 12,000 bottles) allows this château to fly under the radar. Yet it has one of the most consistent track records in all of Bordeaux. Super refined and complex, showing silky raspberries and mineral. This satin-textured wine is truly profound. 1998 Pichon-Lalande, Pauillac ($57.99) Our favorite Bordeaux hits the mark year after year, even in difficult vintages. The big firm cabernet shows in the aromatics with complex herb, cedar and smoke that leap from the glass. The high percentage of merlot shines on the palate giving this round, silky wine a lushness you won’t often find in 1998 Médocs. Pichon-Lalande is the closest thing to a slam dunk regardless of the vintage, and this is a shining example. Enjoy now or age 15 more years. —Steve Bearden
As you read this month’s newsletter, Ralph, Chip, Steve and I will be in Bordeaux, tasting the newest “vintage of the Century,” the much-heralded 2005 Bordeaux wines, already said to be better than 2003 and 2000, more of a combination of 1982, 1986 and 1996 ... great Cabernet year, etc, etc. We will beg for a few cases and we will be happy with what we get. It looks to be a sellers’ market, and you know that means high prices. Our report should be out by the end of April. Now’s the time to put your name on the waiting list for any wines you may want. There will be severe allocations for some of these wines. Meanwhile, the absolutely delicious 2003 Bordeaux wines are arriving daily. We have 6000 cases coming from Bordeaux, so please be patient while waiting for these to arrive. Our Pichon-Lalande dinner at Cetrella on March 2 was superb: great crowd (sellout), fabulous wines and delicious food. These are the best bargain dinners in the U.S.A. —Clyde Beffa Jr
I’ve come across a great wine recently, the 1997 Clos du Marquis, St-Julien ($31.99). This second wine of the world-famous Léoville-Las-Cases is truly a superb wine for tonight. The succulent sweet concentrated dark fruit is well integrated with the oak and offers great balance. I think this is one of the better second wines from the 1997 vintage. Enjoy it by itself or any cheese. One other great value now back in stock is the 2001 Haut-Vigneau, Pessac-Leognan ($13.99). Helped by the winemaking crew at Carbonnieux, Haut-Vigneau offers a solid wine. Showing sweet berries, cassis and little oak as well as good mineral tones, this wine can be enjoyed today (with decanting) and over the next five years. The 2002 Haut-Bergey, Pessac-Leognan ($19.99) is another great Pessac that can be enjoyed today. Bright cherry, slight red berry with good structure, but not hard, nice acidity is what makes this one of the most elegant wines of Pessac in 2002. It’s still young, but don’t be afraid to open it and let yourself be charmed. The 2003 St-Hilaire, Haut-Médoc ($14.99) is one of our better value wines of the 2003 vintage. As you might know, 2003 was an extremely hot vintage in Bordeaux. Plenty of ripe concentrated fruit, cassis and blackberry come to mind. The tannins are present but not aggressive. Still young, but with the warm weather coming and the charcoal already warming up, this will be great with any grilled beef from strip sirloin to burgers. —Alexandre Brisoux
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