In May I traveled through the south of France tasting wines on behalf of K&L. One of the standout tastings was with Olivier Hillaire at Domaines de Relagnes. After two hours tasting his 2004s and his 2005s, Oliver presented a bottle of 1979 Relagnes CNP. Covered in cobwebs and cool to the touch, this gorgeously fresh and lush CNP was an absolute gift to behold. Domaine des Relagnes is one class act. 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape Domaine des Relagnes “Tradition” ($33.99) If you are into purity of fruit and a wine that dances on your palate, flirts and teases you with its charm and delicacy, then you must try this wine. Cinnamon stick, red fruit and blackcurrant tea abound. 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape Domaine des Relagnes “Cuvee Vigneronne” ($38.99) Black cherry, rosehips with a bit more depth than the Tradition. Very subtle notes of stone and that “tar” thing give added depth and complexity, while all the while remaining cool and lovely, with fine tannins and exquisite balance. 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape Domaine des Relagnes “Les Petits Pieds d’Armand” ($74.99) (90% grenache 10% syrah) Relagnes’ super cuvee. Up there with Bosquet des Pape’s Chante le Merle in terms of depth, concentration and elegance. Definitely ageworthy (think 10-20 years) but showing beautifully right now, with fine tannins and an oh-so-silky texture. Sublime. —Mulan Chan
If you ever find yourself in the Languedoc with a hankering for a view of the water, some tasty oysters and a crisp glass of picpoul to wash it all down with then I recommend that you make a pit stop in the town of Bouzigues. Located about halfway between Montpellier and Beziers and overlooking the Bassin de Thau, Bouzigues is the perfect place to spend the afternoon before or after you hit the more pristine and sauvage Languedoc regions of say Minervois or Faugeres. The town itself is charming and quaint and can easily be “walked” within half an hour or so. While you’re at it, please stop by 42 Grand Rue and please say hello my friends Gregory Hecht and Francois Bannier. These two young enterprising Frenchmen collectively make up H&B Selections, a new enterprise dedicated to finding some of the best kept fruit sources in the South of France and bringing them to you and me. As I have stated before, the South of France is the new Wild West, and both of these guys are on the cutting edge of quality wine that’s being made down here. I am sure Gregory and Francois might even have a few recommendations on places (both vinous and non) in the region to visit. Below you’ll find two H&B selections that K&L is proud to offer. And watch out for more great wines to come from H&B! 2005 VdP du Cotes de Thau Rosé Hecht & Bannier ($9.99) Strawberry, watermelon and pomegranate nuances abound in this delectable pink wine that pairs with just about anything! H&B’s 2004 rosé was named #1 rosé in last summer’s La Revue du Vins de France, so when K&L had the opportunity to get some of these guys’ 2005, we jumped! This is a K&L exclusive and one heck of a deal. 2003 Coteaux du Languedoc Faugeres Hecht & Bannier ($22.99) Dried cherry, star anise and hints of pu-erh tea provide tremendous complexity, while fine tannins and a lengthy finish make this wine a real contender for “wine of the night” at your next Mediterranean themed dinner party. Best from 2007-2015 or decant for one hour and enjoy with heartier fare such as grilled tri-tip or a lamb kabobs! —Mulan Chan
2003 Benziger Sonoma Mountain “Tribute” ($59.99) Winemaker Mike Benziger is passionate about organic farming. The 2003 Benziger Tribute is Demeter-Certified Biodynamic, the highest form of organic farming. Biodynamic farming goes beyond the elimination of all chemicals; it incorporates the environment in and around the vineyards. Mike Benziger feels the differences with this type of farming can also be tasted in the wines. The ’03 Tribute is a blend of 69% cabernet sauvignon, 15% cabernet franc, 11% merlot and 5% petite verdot. The wine shows earthy undertones with an abundance of ripe currant, Bing cherry and cola flavors, which are followed by ripe tannins and a long finish. This wine will be at its best with a few more years in the bottle. Released last month, the 2003 Dominus ($99.98) is an outstanding wine that should not be missed. 2003 will be remembered as a vintage with a very long growing season, one that continued into November for some blocks. The 2003 is a blend of 88% cabernet sauvignon, 7% cabernet franc and 5% petit verdot. It is a wine to stick in your cellar and forget about for 10 years. The 2002 Napanook ($39.99), on the other hand, is a wine you can enjoy tonight. The Napanook is a blend of 68% cabernet sauvignon, 13% cabernet franc, 11% merlot, 7% petit verdot and 1% malbec, which is very similar to the Benziger Tribute, grown over the hill. It is reminiscent of a left bank Bordeaux. Aromas of cedar, lead pencil, cassis and spicy vanilla are followed by a wine that is long, balanced and filled with delicate fruit. Decant for an hour or so and enjoy this one. 2003 Miner Family Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon ($49.99) In keeping with the big Cabernet theme, the ’03 Miner Family is supple, well-balanced and focused. It seduces you with its firm yet velvety tannins, big, rich middle and long finish that lingers for minutes. Decant and enjoy! —Trey Beffa
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