Okay, last month some were surprised by the historic importance of merlot only to be reminded about that April 1st thing. This month I’ll come clean. No misleading here; these surprises are going to be real. What I’ve found this month is an flip-flop of wine regions. Normally we look for bargains from places like Paso Robles, and expect to pay through the nose for anything with the word Napa on it. But this month, we’ve received three new wines that have turned these categories upside down. No foolin’! One of our new releases in the hot $20-Cabernet category is the 2003 Waterstone Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.99). Immensely enjoyable now, no need to decant or cellar, this tasty treat gives you nothing but beautiful, luscious fruit and a long, velvety finish. You can almost see the tears of relief in my eyes. Gas prices may be going up, but all hope is not lost in Cabernet. Somebody out there still likes us. Now, onto a producer that has refocused their efforts over the recent years. Artesa winery, besides being a great place to visit, has consistently produced great Chardonnays and Pinots without much fanfare or hype. Now, they’ve outdone themselves with the 2002 Artesa Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.99). This is a remarkably affordable, high-class Cabernet that might leave you wondering why you have pay more for great Cabs. The mood shifts considerably when you experience the 2003 L’Aventure Paso Robles Optimus ($35.99) for the first time. This effort comes fully loaded with everything you expect from greatness. A blend of mostly syrah and cabernet, this beauty shows persistent acidity, refined tannins, elegant multi-layered fruit, a seamless finish and an overall sense of quality thats unusual to find (yet) in Paso Robles. This gem’s easily as good as some of the pricier names to the north. Do yourself a great favor and diversify your portfolio so to speak, by investing in a few of these for the cellar. You’ll be rewarded nicely. —Martin Reyes
Cult wines come and get so popular that no one can find or afford them, but no one seems to point out the cult wines in the making. Let’s change that right now. Watch out for Sonoma Coast Vineyards. I have some delicious wines for you this month! 2003 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Chardonnay ($36.99) This explosive newcomer is brimming with rich west Sonoma fruit. Spicy ripe pear and figs dominate the nose, which is interlaced with a lees-y and rich Crème Broulee/French oak nose. On the palate this wine just screams, dare I say it, Kistler Killer! At less than half the price of Kistler’s Chards, this rich and powerful Chardonnay has an incredible texture of beeswax/lanolin and unctuousness while maintaining acidity that tells you right away this is west Sonoma Chardonnay. You’ll find rich succulent pear and fuji apple fruit, with an intriguing note of tangerine. The wine maintains acidity, (malo was discouraged) and an elegant silky smooth and very long finish. If you have enjoyed the high-end Dutton Goldfields and Kistlers but don’t want to spend a fortune, give this a spin and see for yourself. A guaranteed “wow” and a great savings to boot! 2003 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Pinot Noir ($44.99) Well, I’m going to have to use explosive again because that describes this wine to a tee! Monstrous amounts of intense cherry liqueur-ish fruit dominate the nose with a warm blush of French oak (50% new) and spicy blackberry juice undertones. The palate again bursts with intense fruit and a dusty Asian spice, intense and viscous. This is not a Pinot for the faint of heart. It is truly a wine for the cult Pinot lover. If you love the Kistlers, William Selyems, Martinellis, Rochiolis of the Pinot World, you owe it to yourself to try this blockbuster before it becomes impossible to find too. —Shaun Green
If you’ve ever made a pilgrimage to Aix en Provence, chances are pretty good that you’ve been through Palette. This tiny appellation (one of the first to gain appellation controllee status) is located directly southeast of this most famous Provencal town. Herein lies one of the most famous and grand wine estates in all of France: Château Simone. A majestic limestone outcropping, combined with meticulous viticulture and traditional vinification techniques endow the wines from Simone with that special je ne sais quoi. Those of you who know Provence most likely already know of Simone. For those of you who do not, you should. Like the cicada, lavender and olives, the wines of Château Simone are responsible for making the region as magical and unique as it is. Along with Domaine Tempier’s Bandol, I consider Château Simone’s Rosé to be a vinous icon of the Provencal way of life. The grapes for the 2004 Château Simone Palette Rosé Provence ($31.99) are the usual suspects for this part of France: grenache, mourvèdre and syrah with small amounts of cinsault, carignane and other local varieties. But at Simone, they translate into a rosé unlike any other. Were talking power here, and a certain something serious. The rosé is fermented in small foudres and is then racked into barriques and left on the lees until the following spring. Rich with raspberries and herbs, this mouth-filling rosé holds onto its natural acidity, as it does not undergo malolactic fermentation. This wine costs as much as many reds. Fortunately it has the concentration and complexity to go along with the price. Serve it with serious food and be prepared to learn a thing or two about rosé. Best from 2006-2008. The 2003 Château Simone Palette Blanc, Provence ($31.99) is composed primarily of clairette, with some grenache blanc and other local varieties. The white is fermented in small foudres and is then racked into barriques and left on the lees for one year. As it does not undergo malolactic fermentation (thanks to the very cool cellars of this historic château), the wine also exhibits great natural acidity. This is truly one of the Grand Vins of Southern France! Rich and textured, with notes of hazelnut, bartlett pear and meyer lemon, over time the wine will develop hints of resin, nuts and herbs. A must for any serious collector of French wines. Best from 2008-20015. —Mulan Chan
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