I can’t believe I haven’t written about Terra Valentine yet, considering how great these wines are and how much the entire Redwood City staff loves them. It’s been over a year since I desperately asked Trey if we could carry the 2001s and now with the rip-roaringly good 2002s just released, it’s a perfect time to introduce them now, and not just because it’s February! Terra Valentine is a family-owned, small-production winery that sits deep and high inside the spectacular Spring Mountain Appellation, truly one of the best regions for growing Cabernet in all of Napa Valley. Eighteen hundred feet above the drums of the winery divas below, this extraordinary 14-year-old, 35-acre vineyard produces wines of profound character and intensity, displaying amazing personality and a chiseled, age-worthy structure. The true masterpiece, however, is owner Angus Wurtele’s choice to price these stunners at absurdly reasonable levels. For such magnificent quality, you can easily pay a lot more (and trust me, you mostly do!). In fact, I performed a little experiment a couple weeks ago when I had glass of 2002 Terra Valentine Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon ($26.99) next to that of an ultra-prestigious winery whose focus one might say is its famous white label. There I was, sitting on the patio sipping Terra Valentine next to a $100+ dollar bottle thinking to myself, “In all fairness I can’t say that T.V. is better (or worse) than this luxury brand next to it. Wow!” The kicker was that it had all the depth and elegance of greatness, but none of the price tag. As if that wasn’t enough, the 2001 Terra Valentine “Wurtele Vineyard” Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($44.99) is something else!! Winemaker Sam Baxter selects fruit from two exceptional, volcanic-soil blocks within this killer vineyard to make a truly special wine that turns up the muscle and concentration, demonstrating astonishing fruit and refinement that’ll make your mind salivate. I’m going to be blunt about this. There is no California Cabernet under $50 that will make it flinch. Not one. If you find one, you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me, because I want to buy it. Enjoy! —Martin Reyes
Olivet Lane vineyard is an incredibly desirable source of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit in the Russian River appellation of Sonoma. The grapes are higly sought after by wineries such as Williams Selyem and Merry Edwards, but the way to buy is directly from the owners of the vineyard under their own Olivet Lane label. Pellegrini Family owns this vineyard, and under the astute direction of Robert Pellegrini these wines are truly world class. Both wines are wonderful values and have proven themselves with our staff and our customers. Give each a try and see for yourself how you can buy cult level wines at great prices. The 2002 Olivet Lane Pinot Noir ($19.99) is wonderfully opulent with nice dark cherry fruit filling the palate, accented by delicate notes of sweet spices, blackberry, integrated oak and a long plush finish. Good tannins provide structure, but the velvety texture of the wine smoothes these out into a wine that is hard to resist right now. This is luxury in a bottle, and at a price we all can afford. This is truly new world-style Pinot Noir at its best and avoids the ultra-extraction crutch that hides the true character of Pinot while exhibiting the unctuous ripeness that the Russian River appelation uniquely adds to the world of Pinot styles. The 2003 Olivet Lane Chardonnay ($14.99) also shows how great the Russian River can be for the prodction of world-class Chardonnay, with a wonderful offering of ripe pear to apple fruit with notes of stone, cinnamon and a touch of vanillin oak. With all this ripe fruit, you might expect a lack of acidity or structure, but it comes through here in this great food wine. This is a Chardonnay to please everyone! Consistent year after year, this has been a favorite of our customers (and staff) consistently. —Shaun Green
Actually, I should clarify that I am not actually in Basqueland. My travel plans for the month of February include a comfortable armchair, a copy of Mark Kurlansky’s A Basque History of the World and a few tasty bottles of wine from this breathtakingly beautiful and rugged country. Below are two selections from the Basque appellations of Iroulegey and the Jurancon, located at the base of the Pyrenees in southwest France. I am sure you will appreciate them, both for their sense of terroir and for being dang tasty. Please read on! Clos Lapeyre in Jurançon is a 12-hectare domaine owned by the Larrieu family. The goal of owner/winemaker Jean-Bernard Larrieu is to produce wines that express the specificity of the grape varieties (namely gros and petit manseng) and the soils (clay/limestone and silex) found on his steeply planted vines (250 meters!). The 2004 Domaine Lapeyre Jurancon Sec ORGANIC ($13.99) comes in a nifty screw cap, and oh what fun it is to drink! Comprised of 100% gros manseng, this is a firm, mineral-driven white with notes of fresh herbs, green apple and quince. This Basque white is delicate and refreshing, however its complexity and concentration will undoubtedly impress you. Enjoy a glass while cooking dinner, or pair with Basque style sizzling garlic shrimp! One of the most picturesque and breathtaking villages in all of France MUST be Irouleguy! Rustically inspired Basque-style architecture as well as amazing wine and food lend a uniqueness to this village. The 2003 Iroulegey Rouge Domaine Illaria ORGANIC ($13.99), from winemaker Peio Espil is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, tannat and cabernet franc. This is not a massive, oak-laden fruit bomb but rather a medium-bodied red with notes of crunchy cherry, plum and black currant. A perfect match for hearty dishes like roast lamb in rosemary sauce or a traditional Basque-inspired grilled filet mignon with roasted red peppers. Enjoy a glass of this delicious and authentic red and take a trip to Basque country! —Mulan Chan
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