Mike Trujillo, winemaker for Karl Lawrence, had full control of Sequoia Grove’s 2002 vintage. Mike’s skill and decision making has given Sequoia Grove a so-called rebirth. This vintage screams, “pay attention!” I was fortunate to be invited to a blind trade tasting where Sequoia Grove’s 2002 and their Rutherford Reserve were up against the likes of Pride Mountain, Opus One, Rudd, Shafer, Groth, Caymus, BV Georges de Latour, Pine Ridge, Whitehall Lane and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Mike has been touring the country putting on these blind tastings for trade folks. And to his credit (and the wines’), Sequoia Grove has gained a new cache. The group of 50 tasters chose the 2002 Sequoia Grove Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($26.99) as their number three choice. Needless to say, the results surprised quite a lot of predisposed tasters. But what really did it was the overwhelming # 1 vote for the 2002 Sequoia Grove Rutherford Reserve (Inquire)! Mike mentioned that it had been the winner at more than 11 of his 18 nationwide tastings, and always in the top three! I’m happy to say that the group’s number one was my number one. Go Mike! You have made a delicious Cabernet. This is a wine that boosts a wealth of balanced fruit as well as hints of lavender and rich dark chocolate. It’s a powerful yet subtle wine that begs to be swirled and smelled, swirled and smelled again. Not to forget the ribbons of elegant tannin that finish off this experience. —Keelyn Healy
Thanks to Fritz Zweigelt’s 1922 historical creation we now have the varietal aptly known as zweigelt (zv eye-gelt). A crossing of two indigenous varietals, blaufrankish and st. laurent, it was created with the hopes of withstanding frost and disease, and be an earlier ripening grape. Known for all of these features, it is now the most widely planted red varietal in all of Austria. It has even reached parts of eastern Germany. Across the board the character of zweigelt is one of a dark, dense core, rounded structure and aromatics of bright, red cherry fruit. Most of the zweigelt vineyards are now just coming of age. Remember this is a new varietal; you only get to make changes once a year. With that in mind the aging potential is not fully clear. But, I feel with a little more time we will begin to see high-class Zweigelts being put through the test of time and fairing extremely well. There are even some experiments happening that include the blending of zweigelt and blaufrankish. Think of Bordeaux with cabernet and merlot, zweigelt being the merlot. So, with all of that said, here are some wines that will help get your feet wet in the zweigelt pool. 2004 Berger Blauer Zweigelt 1L ($13.99) Yes, a ONE LITER! An easy going, gulpable little bugger that is racy, lush and just down-right fun. By all means, do not consider this wine to be a weak interpretation of the varietal in any way!!!! 2003 Iby Zweigelt Classic ($11.99) This is the Austrian equivalent of a good spicy Cotes du Rhone. Lots of berry notes (you know, the aroma of a crushed summer strawberry that smacks you in the face), and mild tannins make it a fun summer wine when paired with foods from the grill. It is light enough for picnics, too! 2003 Paul Lehrner Claus ($16.99) A blend of 75% zweigelt and 15% blaufrankish, The Claus is a wine with a very subtle bit of tannin due to the addition of the blaufrankish, and a dark, sappy core of lush, juicy fruit that throws out hints of delicate herbs surrounded by a thin coat of smokiness, which will keep you sniffing deeper and deeper into the glass. A happy drinker! —Eric Story
The Fairview estate in South Africa does an amazing job of creating wines with style, character and value. Made from a blend of syrah, grenache, cinsault and merlot, the 2006 Goats do Roam Rosé ($7.99) has vibrant aromatics of ripe strawberry and watermelon that follow on the palate with a round mouth feel, good acidity and length. The 2004 Bored Doe ($9.99) is a blend of 48% merlot, 28% cabernet sauvignon, 13% malbec and 11% petite verdot. Notes of dark plum, cherry and currant with a hint of licorice and smoke are finely balanced with a fine finish. The 2005 Goat Door Chardonnay ($10.99) sees partial barrel and malolactic fermentation. After six months in tank and neutral French oak, the wine is blended. On the nose there is subtle oak nuances with hazelnut and notes of pineapple, baked apple, citrus and spice. There is good balancing acidity with a long finish. We were lucky to get Phil Christiansen once again to fashion a great Shiraz as he did in 2002. The 2004 Kirkham Peak Shiraz McLaren Vale South Australia ($15.99) is classic McLaren Vale juice with cassis, blueberry, toffee, chocolate and spice. The oak influence is subtle with a combination of French and American oak of which 10% is new. On the palate, there is great purity to the fruit with good acidity and silky soft supple tannins. There is great balance and structure reflecting the fine 2004 vintage in Australia. —Jimmy C
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