This month I would like to get on my soapbox and champion one of the most underrated wine regions in France: Provence. Sure, it’s beautiful. Of course, the food is great. But what about the wine? Provence certainly gets lots of attention in the form of tourism, but because of its good looks does not often see the need to develop quality wines. Fortunately, there is a small but growing group of vignerons producing wines that are delicious and characterful. Château Estoublon, located in Les Baux de Provence, consist of 10 hectares of vines and 35 hectares of olive trees, all organically grown. Winemaker Remy Reboul is after rich and elegant wines that are reflective of the sun-drenched colors and flavors of Provence. The 2004 Les Baux de Provence Château d’Estoublon Blanc (ORGANIC) ($19.99) is a blend of ugni blanc and grenache blanc. This most serious Provencal white is rich and grand, with notes of honey and almonds. On the palate, however, it is pure refreshing fruit showing citrus along with more tropical notes toward the end. A dead ringer for a great white Châteauneuf-du-Pape! The 2003 Les Baux de Provence Château d’Estoublon Rouge (ORGANIC) ($18.99) is composed of grenache, syrah and about 10% cabernet sauvignon. Ripe griotte aromatics and notes of black olive and thyme abound in this supple red. The wine maintains the requisite amount of mineral drive and acidity to keep make this a perfect accompaniment to an eggplant tian or leg of lamb. —Mulan Chan
2004 Grand Enclos du Cerons Blanc (dry) ($13.99) Cerons is an area just north of Sauternes and Barsac known for producing value-priced sweet wines, although some excellent dry wine is also produced. This bone-dry blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc comes from soils that consist of flinty stones over gravely subsoil, which show in the wine’s character. Crisp, clean aromas of stone fruit and mineral lead to a firm, steely mid palate that is substantial and beautifully fresh. Great with shellfish, goat cheese or as an aperitif. 2002 Reserve de Comtesse Lalande, Pauillac ($25.99) Pichon Lalande’s 2nd wine is delicious and a bargain to boot! This is bright and deep with lots of blackberry and cherry fruit, hints of herb and mineral, plenty of plump merlot juiciness in the middle and toasty, well-rounded tannin on the finish. Enjoy this now with decanting, or cellar several years. 2003 Bernadotte, Haut-Médoc ($19.99) The team at Pichon-Lalande also crafted this rich, chunky beauty from the much heralded 2003 vintage. Sweet blackberries abound in the chewy middle, and there is surprising elegance on the long finish. This shows the forward ripeness of the 2003 vintage but has plenty of underlying structure for those who want to cellar some. 2003 Lascombes, Margaux ($39.99) This 2nd Growth with vineyards spread throughout the appellation of Margaux has been on a roll since it changed hands in 2000. This is viscous and extracted with boatloads of plush blueberry fruit, toasty oak and licorice flavors in a flashy, velvety, full-bodied style. 92-95 points from Robert Parker. 2003 La Couspaude, St-Emilion ($45.99) This tiny (by Bordeaux standards) “garage” wine has become known for producing jammy, oaky fruit bombs that have enough underlying structure to age well, and never appear heavy or over the top. This fat, low-acid wine has lots of ripe black cherry and sweet oak richness in addition to an opulent liquid-mineral component on the perfumed finish. This is flashy, flamboyant, fruity and already easy to drink. —Steve Bearden
We spend an incredible amount of time and energy bantering about the virtues and differences of the 61 great estates, First Growths thru Fifth, that make up the 1855 Classification. These are of course the top wines of Bordeaux. They represent about 25% of the Médoc appellations total production and are collected and treasured worldwide, but these wines are by no means the only great wines made in Bordeaux. There are over 450 estates that make up the Syndicat des Crus Bourgeois. They account for about 40% of the Médoc wine over three levels of status. In ascending order, Crus Bourgeois, Crus Grands Bourgeois and the top level Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnel. These titles are bestowed as a result of government controlled law and are revisited every 12 years. The previous six vintages are evaluated and judged, changes are made and the new classification released. One of the Exceptionnels is now a top selling wine at K&L, and you may be surprised to hear that the wine is Ch. Phelan Segur. The reason is simple: Phelan is an elegant St-Estèphe in a commune with few elegant wines. The blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot and 10% cabernet franc tastes good at almost any stage of its life. The wine of Phelan is not “pushed.” Rather, it is naturally extracted and honest wine. It tastes good, it’s a fine value, and it has early drinkability. This is a winning combination, my friends. 1996 Phelan Segur, St-Estèphe ($31.99) is your perfect example of Claret at 10 years of age. Good definition and focused, already a nice drink but will hold for numerous years. For the price it is hard to stay away from with an hour decanting. 2000 Phelan Segur, St-Estèphe ($26.99) still needs 5-7 years to blossom. It is firm with everything in good harmony, very similar in many ways to the 1996. It will be one of 2000’s earlier drinkers. Also, just in stock ... 2003 Carbonnieux Blanc ($24.99) …sells fast! Please feel free to contact me anytime with questions or advice on the wines of Bordeaux at ex 2723 or Ralph@klwines.com. Toujours Bordeaux! —Ralph Sands
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