I had the honor of being a member of the K&L team that went to Bordeaux the first two weeks in April to taste and evaluate the 2005 vintage. Although these extremely young wines are still changing and forming every day, it was clear to all of us that this is a very special vintage in terms of consistency and quality. The bad news is quantities will be low, and prices will be high. The ray of hope is that virtually everyone made an outstanding 2nd wine, and these usually sell for a fraction of the first wines’ price. In fact, some of the best wines we tasted on our trip were the 2nd wines of the First and Second Growths. Les Forts de Latour, Pauilac: Super intense aromas of crushed currants and berries. This is ripe and fat with a very elegant, velvety finish. Almost as good as some vintages of Latour and the best 2nd wine of the vintage. WOW! Alter Ego de Palmer, Margaux: Flavors of raspberries, blackberries, chocolate and oak are in this outstanding and seamless wine. This was sweet and spicy and had the most plush texture of any of the 2nd wines we tasted. Rivals Les Forts for quality. Pavillon Rouge, Margaux: Ch. Margaux made one of the best wines in 2005, and that attention to quality shows in their 2nd wine. Bright and vibrant with tons of black and red fruit masking the 14% alcohol. Aromas of licorice flow into the rich middle and ends with a velvety, fat smooth finish. Great 2nd wine! Clos du Marquis, St-Julien: This was sweet and thick showing red berries, black cherries and toasty oak all in perfect balance. This powerful and deep wine shows great proportion and very fine, sweet tannin. Excellent! Carraudes de Lafite, Pauillac: A high percentage of merlot (45%) shows in the mid-palate of this elegant and structured wine. There is beautiful harmony in the way the sweet entry and dark cherry flavors are pulled together by the strong yet seductive tannins on the finish. Lots of class and breed here. —Steve Bearden
In February, Greg and I went to Valdobbiadene region (Province of Treviso. Venice is about 30 miles away) to meet up with Silvano and visit his estate, Silvano Follador (No disappointments here). Prosecco grapes (minimum 85%) along with verdiso, perera, and bianchetta (maximum of 15%) are currently allowed in the blend. Silvano is in his early Twenties and doing a fantastic job. With the help of his sister Alberta they make four types of Prosecco ( Sui-Lieviti, Cartizze, Brut and Extra Dry), and right now we have the last two in stock. We LOVE this stuff, and you will love the price. The Silvano Follador Extra Dry ($10.99) is prefect for your summer entertaining! Pear and honeydew melon balanced with great acidity and rich texture, by itself or for making mimosas or Bellini’s. The Silvano Follador Brut ($10.99), though dryer on the palate has a very creamy texture and yeastiness with an incredible length on the finish and a very fine mouse that just dances on the tongue. 2002 Villa Antinori Toscano Rosso ($15.95) Earthy and light strawberry with some cherry undertone. Medium body, with soft acidity and a delicate finish. Sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah. This one is very user friendly for cocktail hour. 2004 Ruggeri Corsini Barbera d’Alba ($13.99) From the husband and wife team Nicola Argamante and Loredana Addari, and wow have they have hit another one out of the ballpark! This barbera is medium to full bodied with lots of black cherries, raspberries blended with some minerality and a touch of violet on the finish. Enjoy with your barbequed tri tip or burgers. —Mike Parres
The uproar that the 2001 Brunello di Montalcino vintage has created is truly astounding. People who’ve never heard of Brunello are now stockpiling bottles and cases. When someone doesn’t have great experience in this category it is really easy to just follow the points to “assure” you of the “best wine available.” Unfortunately it is a losing strategy. Unless you frequently have the Wine Spectator’s James Suckling to dinner, purchasing his choices for your cellar may not be ultimately rewarding for you. If you want your wine to taste more like a cabernet from California or some den of international winemaking iniquity it is more important to analyze your buying strategy. You should be making plans about when to drink these wines. If this year comes to mind then it will be easy to decide which to buy. If you are looking to age the wine 5-10+ years then the sweet, upfront fruit that is so pleasing in youth doesn’t always carry through unless the right structure is in place. You might want to examine the explosive growth in Montalcino, so many new wineries to find some new gem. Many times the very small producers get overlooked, except by me. This year there are so many very good wines. Don’t limit yourself to the points. You will undoubtedly be paying a premium for those points and not always actually liking the results. My much promised tasting notes will be published on the web by the time you read this or you can always write or call me to get other ideas. One really great wine that is sure to fall through the cracks is 2001 Villa le Prata Brunello di Montalcino ($54.99). Who? You might say. This producer’s 1999 was my “Wine of the Vintage.” It was great! No, it still is great! The 2001 is certainly in the top ten wines of this vintage once again. Its nose is wild, sauvage, full of wild cherry, plum and spice that seamlessly fold into one another. On the palate the wine is gracious, warm and just flows to all corners of your mouth carrying the complex, spicy fruit to blend with hints of toffee and chocolate. Long, supple, muscular and very feminine, it’s like an enchantress’s eyes are reeling you in, so exotic, pleasureful, sinful. The finish is more of the same. That exotic incense wafts over your body. You can’t resist, just always reaching for more. Sensational! It is drinkable now with decanting but best after 3-5 years and then over the next 15+. The 2001 Caprili Brunello di Montalcino ($44.99) is another sleeper. It has deep, ripe, plumy fruit that flows from the glass. In the mouth this wine becomes far more powerful than one might have guessed from the nose. Dense, concentrated fruit with lots of tannic structure, big shoulders, bulging deltoids, Arnold-like pectorals. The enormous size of this wine gives it a more rustic character than the quality of fruit portrays. Sweet focused plumy fruit with backbone and direction while powerfully striding toward a long finish. This is a wine for your cellar. Five years from now it will have begun to shed a bit of the structure, and the fruit underneath will blossom. It will age 10-20 years easily. —Greg St Clair
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