Over the many years that I have been in this industry, I have come to realize that the more that I learn, the less I know. Just when I believe that I am aware of every conceivable producer from a certain viticultural location, a whole new batch of those that I have never heard about appear on the scene or in our inventory. To quote The Sundance Kid, “Who are these guys?” And how did our buyers find out about them? So, when the 2003 Château La Gatte Bordeaux Rouge, Saint Andre-de-Cubzac ($10.99) appeared in our warehouse, my immediate question was, Who are these guys? Clyde’s response was to ask me if, for whatever reason, I remembered the luncheon we had at Château Latour in1991 (the same luncheon that made me ill). The couple (Michael Affatato and Hélène Fenouillet) who sat next to us, bought this property in 1994 and immediately turned the quality level up quite a few notches the following vintages. With the 2003, a blend of merlot (65%), cabernet (25%), and the balance malbec, you have a wine that is deeply colored with pronounced aromatics of plum, cassis, and touch of white pepper spiciness. This little beauty has the richness of the ’03 vintage without being overdone. It offers a silky, broad, yet balanced mouthfeel, very fine tannins and a long finish. Drink this for the next five to eight years. Anderson has informed me that this will be one of our house red for the month of May. The 2004 Domaine de Verquiere Cotes du Rhone ($8.99), from a family vineyard specializing in concentrated field blends, is consistently one of the best-selling Rhones in the store. The usual suspects (grenache, cinsault and syrah) are behind this intense charmer, showing concentrated red fruit and pepper notes. Anderson has informed me that our last house red for the month will be the 2003 Purisima Canyon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($16.99), a blend of three different vineyard ranches that originate from Chiles Valley, St. Helena, and Pope Valley. Deep ruby/inky in color, the nose provides lush, ripe aromas of cassis, blackberry, and tea (Earl Gray) tones that are underscored by a mild cedary, toasty tone. In the mouth, you will be treated to a Cabernet that is lush, with finely focused complex fruit, excellent acid structure, integrated soft tannins, hints of chocolate, superb depth of character and a long, lasting finish. This gem should evolve well and drink nicely over the course of the next five to ten years. Any of the above red wines are worth at least a case in your collection. Our only house white wine for May will be the 2003 Château Reynon Bordeaux Blanc, “Vieilles Vignes” ($11.99). A blend of sauvignon (80%) and semillon, this beautiful old-vine gem offers opulent aromas of lanolin and sweet grapefruit-to-white-peach characteristics. This dry, complex, yet elegant white Bordeaux provides undertones of focused minerality and tons of structure and has a clean, long, mouthwatering finish. This is another extremely successful wine in a vintage that left many producers scratching their heads as to how to handle the heat in August, and will rival such wines as Carbonnieux and Smith-Haut-Lafitte. Eby says to stockpile this gem. If you have any questions, you can email me at email@example.com. Enjoy this month’s selection or else! —Jim, Anderson, & Eby
A good friend and local Austrian wine authority has started importing some really exciting wines from Austria that we are proud to offer to our customers. The quality of these wines far exceeds the prices we are asking, a benefit of the wines not having many layers of importation and distribution to work through. And you reap the rewards. We have selected three producers to work with starting out and may expand to a few more after my trip this year to meet them. The first and most eye opening for me is a man named Johann Stadlmann, a champion of Zierfandler (yes, that is the grape) of which there are only 100-200 hectares planted on the planet. I cannot recommend these wines enough. I would even be willing to come to your house and personally open the bottle for you, and, of course, have a glass. We have two wines from Stadlmann, two Zierfandlers, which must be some kind of a record for wine stores on El Camino Real. The first is 2004 Stadlmann Zierfandler Classic ($15.99), a great introduction to the grape and a super wine for the summer. It is sleek and dry with high-toned citrus, herbal and a zesty candied grapefruit/ginger aromatics that are refreshing and lively. Then we have one of the most intriguing wines I have tasted in many years, the 2004 Stadlmann Zierfandler Mandel-Höh ($25.99), which I have no doubt belongs among the top wines in Austria and the world. This vineyard site produces a singular wine that is hauntingly beautiful and absolutely serious. It fills you with questions that cannot be answered. An experience unto itself. Drink up. —Jeff Vierra Lover of Marginal Things
Without a doubt, Germany is the king of riesling. But, there are so many other exciting things happening here. When I say these are well worth considering as they will tempt your palate and your mind. 2004 Schloss Saarstein Pinot Blanc ($15.99) Yet another stunning example from Christian and Andrea Ebert. This 100% pinot blanc, also known as weiss burgunder, is a beautiful expression of pure, clean fruit treated with minimal cellar manipulation and maximum love. Fresh flowers and summer time fruits jump from the glass and its subtle, slate minerality make this wine a translucent beauty! 2003 Weingut Bürgerspital Würzbürger Stein-Harfe Scheurebe Kabinett ($13.99) Quite possibly the oldest wine estate in all of Germany, founded in 1319, there is just a bit of tradition and knowledge floating around. Yes, sheurebe, a crossbreeding of riesling and silvaner. If you were to smell this blind folded I bet you would think it is a red wine. Rich pears and dark cassis are intertwined with a soft, juicy acid to give us a wine that would be fantastic with some of those sausages just off the grill and a few of those richer cheeses sitting in the fridge. 2003 Bercher Burkheimer Feuerberg Spatburgunder Spätlese trocken ($22.99) A spatburgunder, or pinot noir, showing a plum nose with a sexy edge of dusty earth, sends you into a lighter style of pinot which has a finish of sweet cranberry and zippy acidity. This is not your Central Coast Pinot! 2003 was a fantastic vintage for reds in this area. Just because it is a red from Germany, this should not be overlooked or ignored. Roll the dice, you might get lucky! —Eric Story
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