If you’ve ever made a pilgrimage to Aix en Provence, chances are pretty good that you’ve been through Palette. This tiny appellation (one of the first to gain appellation controllee status) is located directly southeast of this most famous Provencal town. Herein lies one of the most famous and grand wine estates in all of France: Château Simone. A majestic limestone outcropping, combined with meticulous viticulture and traditional vinification techniques endow the wines from Simone with that special je ne sais quoi. Those of you who know Provence most likely already know of Simone. For those of you who do not, you should. Like the cicada, lavender and olives, the wines of Château Simone are responsible for making the region as magical and unique as it is. Along with Domaine Tempier’s Bandol, I consider Château Simone’s Rosé to be a vinous icon of the Provencal way of life. The grapes for the 2004 Château Simone Palette Rosé Provence ($31.99) are the usual suspects for this part of France: grenache, mourvèdre and syrah with small amounts of cinsault, carignane and other local varieties. But at Simone, they translate into a rosé unlike any other. Were talking power here, and a certain something serious. The rosé is fermented in small foudres and is then racked into barriques and left on the lees until the following spring. Rich with raspberries and herbs, this mouth-filling rosé holds onto its natural acidity, as it does not undergo malolactic fermentation. This wine costs as much as many reds. Fortunately it has the concentration and complexity to go along with the price. Serve it with serious food and be prepared to learn a thing or two about rosé. Best from 2006-2008. The 2003 Château Simone Palette Blanc, Provence ($31.99) is composed primarily of clairette, with some grenache blanc and other local varieties. The white is fermented in small foudres and is then racked into barriques and left on the lees for one year. As it does not undergo malolactic fermentation (thanks to the very cool cellars of this historic château), the wine also exhibits great natural acidity. This is truly one of the Grand Vins of Southern France! Rich and textured, with notes of hazelnut, bartlett pear and meyer lemon, over time the wine will develop hints of resin, nuts and herbs. A must for any serious collector of French wines. Best from 2008-20015. —Mulan Chan
After many months of anticipation I am excited to announce the arrival of the 2004 St. Josephs from Pierre Coursodon. The Coursodons are one of the most revered domaines in the appellation, and for very good reason. The wines are beautiful expressions of syrah and marsanne, with just the right amount of fruit, power and acidity. 2004 St. Joseph Blanc Pierre Coursodon ($25.99) This classic St. Joseph blanc represents all that is fresh, vibrant and inviting about the Rhone valley. Fresh cut flowers, white nectarine and orange blossom honey make this marsanne a brilliant way to start your Provencal meal, or pair with brandade or poached fish. Best from 2006-2008. 2004 St. Joseph Blanc Pierre Coursodon “Le Paradis Saint-Pierre” ($32.99) I am not normally fond of overt oak influence, especially in whites. After trying a bottle of 1998 Le Paradis last year, I’ve been humbled. Buttered apricots with a hint of roasted nuts and a rich waxy lanolin texture. All of this richesse over a solid framework of acidity and brightness. What an over achiever! Best between 2009-2013. 2004 St. Joseph Pierre Coursodon ($25.99) This classic cuvee is forward, fresh and charming, with notes of violets, blackcurrant, rosehips and a whiff of tobacco on the finish. Almost pinot-esque in character, this elegant syrah will absolutely sing with grilled Ahi tuna steaks topped with a dollop of tapenade. Best from 2006-2009. 2004 St. Joseph Pierre Coursodon “l’Olivaie” ($32.99) This prestige cuvee hails from 80+ year old vines. The 2004 vintage exhibits supple-textured ripe fruit, with whiffs of mineral, wet earth and smoke. This more powerful syrah will benefit from a couple years cellar time. However if you cannot wait, then decant for several hours and enjoy with heartier fare. Best from 2008-2013. —Mulan Chan
In what is the relatively young New Zealand wine industry, Tim and Judy Finn are pioneers. They planted their vineyards in 1978 in Nelson on the northern tip of the south island just northwest of Marlborough. The vines are planted on a gentle north-facing slope overlooking a branch of the Moutere Valley, which is one of the most sunny areas offering 2300 hours of sunlight per year with clear skies allowing rapid cooling at night. This is an estate that is driven by quality and character. Get these wines while you can. The 2004 Neudorf Sauvignon Blanc Nelson ($16.99) is blended from two different vineyards Moutueka, the cooler one giving bright lime and gooseberry and Brightwater showing more tropical and stone fruit characture. Small barrel fermetation gives texture and weight to the wine, which has fine acidity and length. The 2004 Neudorf Chardonnay Nelson ($22.99) shows smoky notes with citrus, minerals, honey and a hint of butterscotch. There is a Burgundian feel here with fine acid and a long finish. The 2004 Neudorf Pinot Noir Nelson ($23.99) sees mostly Dijon clones from the Moutere vineyard. There are notes of dark plum, black cherry and spice with the wine unfined and unfiltered. The 2004 Neudorf Pinot Noir “Moutere” Nelson ($39.99) is more structured with elements of dark strawberry, cherry, meats, a little smoky bacon fat and clove. There is superb concentration and length. Cheers! —Jimmy C
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