I awoke with a start, my face dripping with perspiration. What a nightmare...there were acrobats and Republicans, cocktail waitresses and an Indian elephant. Man, scary. I looked next to me. There was a tusk sticking out of the covers. Time to get up. There was work to be done. Not by me. I didn’t have any. Semantics. The door opened. She lit up the room like a nuclear Christmas tree. I was pining already. “Mr. Berg?” she asked with a voice that dripped molten honey. “I have a problem.” So did I. I remained seated. “I’ve been robbed. Cases of wine from the estate of Pichon Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande. Three different vintages: 1994, 1995 and 1996. Mr. Berg, I MUST have them back by Saturday. I’m hosting a dinner party for international diplomats. Can you help me?” The Lord helps those who help themselves. But asking her if I could help myself was out of the question. I assured her that I would do what I could. Even if it took a million years. It’s all about billable hours. Her name was Tatiana, a liason to the American consulate. The diplomats in question were flying in from Sweden, Norway, Lebanon and Canada. I checked backround information on all of them—clean as a whistle. I searched motive, and found none. My mind raced like Jesse Owens. I ran over scenarios like a monster truck from hell. Nothing. The Swede was Staffan. He was still bristling over the jokes that Olaf, the Norwegian made (three Swedes leave a bar after one drink. Well, it COULD happen! Haha! Ya sure). Neither were an easy suspect. The man from Lebanon. He was interesting. Could have cut his teeth on Musar, Lebanon’s finest wine estate, and later developed a taste for Bordeaux. The Canadian? A beer drinker. Doesn’t fit the profile. One thing was certain; The three vintages of Lalande served a very useful purpose: The 1994 ($159.00) was a tremendous success for the vintage. The bouquet is a kaleidoscope of warm, lush black fruit, and the wine can be enjoyed now. The ’95 ($309.99) is smoother and more debonnair. Smoke, cedar and bittersweet chocolate notes balance the rich red and black fruits. Outstanding. The ’96 ($299.99) is built for the long haul, as one enjoys first the ’94, followed by the ’95. Sweet, rich fruit it has, but the structure for long term aging is ever present. Time was running out. Time always runs out. But who did it?... Then it hit me like an angry blackjack dealer. I leapt up, grabbed my hat, made the bus in seconds flat… I burst into the room like a poltergeist on acid. Tataiana spun round like a dervish. The room got as quiet as outer space. Metaphors hung in the air like clouds. “Tatiana, I have solved the crime. Olaf, please step forward.” A nervous Olaf stepped up. “You may go. Staffan, you may go as well.” I stared at the Lebanese diplomat, then turned to the crowded room. “This is the thief. I kept wondering: Why three consecutive vintages? Then I realized… Tripoli! Triple, for three vintages! And Tripoli is the capital of Lebanon!” I was smug as a Cheshire cat, really feline good. Then the Canadian spoke. “Impossible, yknow, eh? I took the wine.” Gasters were flabbered. Instead of the cheese course, incredulity was served. But I was dining on crow. “Why? Why did you take my three vintages of Lalande?” Tatiana bellowed like an accordion. The Canadian smiled wanly. “Hat Trick.” —Joe Zugelder
It is amazing to me that thirty-five years ago I started in this business, and, come June, I will have been with K&L for nineteen years. I keep telling our young, rookie-type wine specialists to “not blink; you will suddenly realize that you have been employed in this industry for thirty-plus years and it will seem as if you just started yesterday.” It has all been a blur, and not just because of all the wine I have drunk! One of the many things I’ve discovered over the years is that it is incredibly easy to buy and sell high-quality expensive, cult-type wines. Finding inexpensive high quality wine for customers has not only been much more challenging, but one of positive attributes that has kept my interests alive and fresh for all these years. A perfect example of this is with the 2004 Domaine La Tour Saint-Martin Menetou Salon Morogues ($13.99), a sauvignon blanc-based white coming from the Loire Valley. Rivaling some of the great Sancerre sauvignons, this Menetou Salon, which is just southwest of its much more famous neighbor, shows perfumed aromas of lime peel zest and wet stone minerality that carries over onto a clean, crisp, mouthwatering set of flavors. This lovely creature is the perfect wine for shellfish. This will be our house white for the month. Our new 2003 Kalinda El Dorado Cabernet Sauvignon ($12.99) was a major surprise when I first tasted it, due to the fact that it presents itself more in the style of a Stag’s Leap cabernet rather than the Sierra foothills. Medium deep ruby in color, the nose offers cassis to blackberry fruit with a hint of vanilla bean and dust. On its amply complex, broadly fruited palate, it shows superb focus, excellent structure, soft round tannins, and a long, silky finish that refuses to quick. Anderson has informed me that this will be one of our house reds for the month. One of my favorite Rhone Valley producers has returned with the introduction of their new vintage. The 2003 Château du Montfaucon Cotes du Rhone “Cuvee Baron Louis” ($14.99) offers a complete wine with its deeply colored robe, pronounced violet to white pepper spice to plum fruit on the nose and in the mouth, superb depth and richness, and soft, round tannins. This grenache (60%), syrah (20%), mourvedre (10%), and carignan (10%) Châteauneuf-style blend is a classic, elegant wine that will drink wonderfully now and for the next three to six years. Anderson has informed me that this will be our other house red for the month. It amazes me just how the 1997 Bordeaux have evolved; they continue to pick up fleshiness and broadness, yet are immensely enjoyable to consume now. Such is the case with 1997 Château Les Ormes-de-Pez, St-Estèphe ($19.95). This is a delicious drink that is medium deep ruby in color with developed, aged bouquet of blackcurrants, cedar, and tobacco. In the mouth, this is round, soft, and resolved, with well-integrated, sleeky tannins, wonderful fullness, layers of character, and a long, warm, distinctive finish. As Anderson has pointed out to me, “this wine screams drink me!” and you need to put some in your collection for that special occasion or dinner. If you have any questions regarding these wines, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy this month’s selection or else! —Jim, Anderson, & Eby
This month I will be talking about two of my favorite producers from two of my favorite wine producing countries, Germany and Austria. Schlossgut Diel has been producing some of the Nahe’s finest wines for quite sometime now. The 2004 Schlossgut Diel Dorsheimer Pittermännchen Spätlese ($39.99) is a rich style of spätlese balanced out by a fantastic splash of red spices and tropical fruits with a cleansing acidity that lingers on the finish, most likely due to the slate, quartzite and gravel vineyard site. The 2004 Schlossgut Diel Riesling Classic ($23.99), a zippy wine with just a smidge more residual sugar than a trocken, reminds me of ripe green apples. A great match to lighter first course dishes for that next dinner party you are having. The wines of Leo Alzinger are everything the Wachau region of Austria should represent: power, grace and beauty. We are happy to have the 2004 Alzinger Grüner Veltliner Loibenberg Smaragd ($49.99). With its peppery aromas, surrounded by white stone fruit and earthy mint, and a full body richness that mingles around a juicy yet stony mineral backbone of love, this is one of the best ’04 Grüners I have had to date. There is also the 2004 Alzinger Riesling Steinertal Smaragd ($54.99), a true testament to what top notch Riesling from a great region and a great producer should be. This one has set the bar way up there! A bit of smokiness, a bit of tart apple, spicy peach and a juicy sense of a stone that has been dipped into a cold mountain stream, this wine is brilliance in a bottle!!! —Eric Story
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