What has the weather conditions this winter/spring in the North Coast been in comparison to the previous years, and how is it affecting this harvest, you may be asking? To begin with, I have never seen this much rainfall and cold weather in the North Coast. When Chris, Eric, Jeff, and I decided to put the vineyard and property up for sale in October, I told them that the worse case scenario would be if we had close to last year’s rainfall, 67 inches (normal is 45+/-). We past 90 inches of rain by April 14. It made showing the property/vineyard impossible. More importantly, we did not have bud break in the valley until the last week of April, three to four weeks behind. So, this has been the worst of the worse case scenarios. I will keep you posted as to how all of this affects the harvest as it evolves. The Cremant de Limoux Aimery Sieur d'Argues “Grand Cuvee 1531” ($9.99) has reappeared at our revolving door. This is the same D.I. sparkler that we landed last November, and all 250 cases vanished in less than four weeks. With a very fine bead, this blend of chardonnay, chenin blanc and mauzac blanc (a widely planted grape in the Limoux area of southern France) offers lovely mild yeasty, nutty tones with apply and pear-like fruit characteristics both on its wonderful aromatic nose and in its sensational palate impressions. A clean, crisp finish with mouthwatering acidity makes this an absolute steal in the sparkling wine side of the world. Eby has told me that once again this is our house sparkler for the month… Enjoy! We have two exciting new private label wines that demand your full attention. The 2003 Kalinda Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($17.99), from a well-known, highly respected single-vineyard source situated behind Healdsburg along the Russian River, is deep ruby/purple in color and provides powerful, opulent aromatics of the essence of cassis, blackberries and hints of chocolate. Full, lush, and broad on the palate, this well-focused gem is complex, well-structured with very fine, silky tannins and a long, warm, fleshy finish. Anderson told me that this is one of our house reds for the month. The 2005 Kalinda Los Carneros Chardonnay ($12.99) is loaded with ripe tropical fruit and Pink Pearl apple fruit that is underscored by a mild creaminess and lushness. This isn’t your usual full-blown, over-the-top, sweet Rombauer-style chardonnay, but a much more refined and elegant style with richness and depth of chardonnay character. Eby says this is our other house white for the month and the next few months or however long it survives. To quote our Rhone Valley wine buyer, Mulan Chan, “The 2004 southern Rhone Valley harvest produced classic, exceptionally-made, and fresh red wines.” We just landed the 2004 Cecile Chassagne Vacqueyras ($12.99) and, as Mulan described, this is a classic southern Rhone red. Medium deep ruby red in color, the nose exhibits a forward, bright plumy smell (this is grenache-driven fruit with just a touch of syrah, 20%) with hints of tarragon and terroir-oriented spice. Balanced, lush, with the fabulous ’04 structure and freshness, and soft tannins, this is a great near-term drinker for the next several years. Anderson has told me that this is our other house red for the month of June… try it with some wild game or a steak. 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 (a stray cat that has adopted us who is totally sweet and loveable though Eby keeps growling at her. Eby will have to accept her; she has no choice)
2004 Fess Parker “Frontier Red” ($7.99) This is your BBQ red for the summer! A blend of too many varietals to list, this wine is all about the ripe fruit and soft finish. Serve with almost anything you can put on a grill. 2005 Kalinda Los Carneros Chardonnay ($12.99) Just the right amount of fruit, acidity and oak combined to make this deliciously rich yet fresh wine your perfect poolside sipper. Food friendly! 2003 Kirkham Peak Howell Mountain Zinfandel ($14.99) Lots of bang for you buck here. Big, rich and juicy, the combination of the softer, riper vintage of 2003 and the Howell Mountain firmness helps create a Zinfandel that shows the perfect balance of fruit and structure. 2003 Miner Family Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon ($49.99) A blend of 95% cabernet sauvignon and 5% cabernet Franc, aged for 21 months in 60% new French oak and 8% new American oak. The 2003 vintage shows ripe, vibrant fruit, which is lush and lively in the mouth and hints for fresh black currants and red cherries. This wine can be enjoyed on the younger side, as the fruit is the dominate force. 1999 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvingon ($79.99) 93 points from the Wine Spectator! This wine is $20 cheaper than the currant release and has the benefit of several extra years in the bottle. We tasted this wine the other day, and it is really starting to develop some complexity in its aromas. Red fruits dominate the flavors with hints of cedar, mint and spice. The wine is at its best with some decanting. —Trey Beffa
Last February I traveled to the Loire Valley to attend a fair held at Angers each year highlighting the wines of the region. There was a big group of us from all over the U.S., retailers, distributors, sommeliers and a couple of die-hard wine nuts. Going to such an event is useful as you can taste a ton of wines and really get a feel for the vintage and how it played out in all the different regions. But the best part is visiting the producers at their estates before and after the fair. One of my favorite visits is always to Marc Olivier at Domaine de la Pépière in Muscadet, this being the third straight vintage I have tasted prior to bottling. For those of you who don’t know this estate, Marc Olivier hand harvests, a rarity in the region, uses natural yeasts, waits for the wine to finish and bottles with a very light filtration. The vineyards are in old vines (40 years and older) with a particularly good exposition on a plateau overlooking the river Sèvre. All the vineyards are from original stock; Olivier is the only grower in the Muscadet who does not have a single clonal selection in his vineyards. This heroic vigneron does in Muscadet with old vines, granitic soils and low yields what others dream of in much more “serious” appellations. Some of you had the pleasure of meeting him at our event last March. He was very impressed with the welcome you all gave him. The 2005 Domaine de la Pépière Classique Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie has now arrived just in time for the summer. It is energetic, juicy and full of life, a cool crisp slice of the Muscadet soil tempered with snappy fruit. Don’t delay. These wines have built up quite the following. —Jeff Vierra, Proud Muscadet Lover
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