Monterey County and its sub-appellations hold an increasingly prominent place in California’s wine history. Currently, Monterey is re-affirming itself as a world-class winemaking region for grapes like chardonnay, pinot noir and other warm-climate haters. Santa Lucia, without a doubt, is the premium growing region in Monterey, and one of the best producers there is Morgan Winery. Founded in 1982, Morgan’s quest for shocking Chardonnays and perfect Pinots has produced wines that are heads, shoulders and torso above much of the surrounding wineries. The 2004 Morgan “Metallico” Chardonnay ($16.99) is a laser of a wine, made in stainless steel, no ML, yet clean, bright, crisp fruit with superb minerality and focus. The richly dressed 2004 Morgan “Twelve Clones” Pinot Noir ($24.99) jumps out of the glass with sumptuous aromatics and rounded vanilla and cherry notes. Double L, short for Double Luck, named for the owner’s twin daughters, is an organically grown vineyard that is probably one of the best pinot/chardonnay vineyards in the Central Coast. Each effort, the 2003 Morgan “Double L” Pinot Noir ($46.99) and the 2004 Morgan “Double L” Chardonnay ($27.99), reflects the exquisite purity, power and refinement that come from meticulously cared for, pesticide-free vines planted at the right place with the right grapes. Farther south, we run into Graff Family Vineyards, the family that started it all in Monterey. What, you say? Never heard of them before? The family only co-founded Chalone! Now, the same winemaker whose deft hand makes world-class pinot noir is making wine from the old family estate. The 2003 Graff Family Chalone Pinot Blanc ($15.99) shows the classy, elegant and supple side of this lovely grape while the 2003 Graff Family Chalone Mourvèdre ($15.99) shows the softer, sexier side of this otherwise powerful, husky grape. In fact, it’s one of those rare bottles that appeals to the entire spectrum of wine appreciators, from beginners all the way up to our own store manager! I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Incredible! Take a bow, Monterey. You have superstars in your midst. Enjoy! —Martin Reyes
Spring hits us this month, and it’s about time! I’m ready for some fresh sauvignon blanc on the patio, and I’ve found just the wines! The 2004 St. Supéry Napa Sauvignon Blanc ($13.99) is a great backyard quaff. Crisp and clean on the nose with notes of tangerine and sweet chalk, the wine has a touch of Asian pear filling out the palate of bright and crisp lime peel, lemon, sweet fresh hay and a smooth lemon curd touch. Absolutely refreshing. I stole the 2004 Morgan Monterey Sauvignon Blanc ($10.99) from Martin’s article on Monterey, and I’m not sorry! Creamy in texture with exotic fruits, Mexican papaya, white peaches and apricot. It’s lifted a bit with notes of citrus and a lively acidity and finished clean and crisp. Everything you want from an everyday SB, varietally correct, easy to pair and a crowd pleaser. If you really want to wake up your palate, try the 2004 De Sante Napa Sauvignon Blanc ($16.99). Leading of with a bright figgy/grassy noted nose, this zippy and lively sauvignon blanc is absolutely mothwatering! White grapefruit, guava, fresh grass, lemon blossom and a chalky/fine mineral edge combine to perfection. I love this wine. It’s a bit like a cross between New Zealand and classic Napa. If I were Jim Barr I would give this many cat faces. The 2001 Spring Ridge Santa Cruz Mountain Chardonnay ($12.99) breaks the SB rule for this article, but this wine is a steal so I’m putting it in anyway. The rich nutty/praline nose reminds me of the Burgundian notes found in expensive Chardonnay. A palate of exotic pear and Fuji apple mingles with hazelnut, orange rind and fine minerals. Rich and opulent, but not overbearing, the oak is fully integrated and simply complements its fantastic fruit, and the acidity forms a wonderful complement to the supple textures. —Shaun Green
In January, Clyde, Elisabeth and I spent a week and a half in South Australia. With the exception of a day trip to the Clare Valley, we divided our time between the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. The trip offered a view of everyone from the “big boys” (Penfolds, Rosemount, Jacob’s Creek) to the smaller producers (Hewitson, Torbreck, Longwood), and quality was very high across the board. For me, it was a chance to revisit 2003, taste many of the 2004s coming on to the market, and barrel sample the much anticipated 2005 vintage. Tasting the warmer 2003 vintage confirmed what I thought from my visit in 2004, which was that the wines generally were more even and balanced in the cooler region of McLaren Vale. The 2004s showed well in the Barossa as well as McLaren Vale with the cooler vintage offering wines of good balance and a more streamlined structure. Whether it was the cool 2004s and the somewhat cool, long, even season of 2005, or a maturing of winemaking styles, the trend seemed to be showing better balance of wood and control of alcohol levels. The 2005 vintage showed what I’d been hearing from various Australian winemakers since last year. These guys experienced a perfect, long, even growing season with very good balancing acidity and fine mid-palate richness. This was certainly true of all the white wines I tasted and that are now starting to come in. The reds out of barrel were superb, and we were able to get a preview from Thorn-Clarke, Elderton, Craneford, Ross Estate, Tait, Kaesler, Hewitson and Clarendon. So, to sum it up, the 2004 and 2005 vintages will give fans of Australian wine much to look forward to whether it’s wines for current consumption or for the cellar. Here are two classic Barossa Valley Shiraz to try: 2004 Torbreck Woodcutters Red Shiraz ($17.99) and the 2004 Hewitson Ned & Henry’s Shiraz ($17.99) David Powell from Torbreck and Dean Hewitson are both making superb wines. You owe it to yourself to try these great examples of the vintage and varietal. The Woodcutter is from 10- to 15-year-old vines that are cropped at about 2.5 tons to the acre and sees larger neutral barrels. There are notes of tar, black olive, meats and blackberry with a juicy, long finish. Parker gave this 91 points. Ned & Henry’s has 9% mourvèdre added and shows ripe silky boysenberry and blackberry fruits with meats and spice. Dean uses all French barriques, very few of which are new. The wine has superb balance and length. Cheers! —Jimmy C
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