The extremely ripe 2003 vintage lead to lot of variability in the wines. However, there were a few domaines whose wine struck me as outstanding. One of these was Patrice Rion, in Nuits-St.-Georges. Somehow, Patrice’s wines, both domaine bottles and negociant, retained a clear sense of place as well as grace and balance, which only a handful of producers managed, in my opinion. This is so extraordinary a range that I visited Patrice directly to be certain I could get the wines! The 2003 Patrice Rion Gevrey Chambertin ($34.99) is meaty and rich, while the 2003 Patrice Rion Chambolle Musigny ($34.99) shows delicate red fruits and transparency of fruit. The 2003 Patrice Rion Nuits-St-Georges , V.V. ($34.99) is so poised that Allen Meadows writes: “It’s rare to find a Nuits villages with this degree of style and grace.” The 2003 Domaine Patrice Rion Chambolle Musigny, Les Cras ($36.99) is from Patrice’s own vineyard and is a complete standout for its Chambolle charm and lovely red fruits. The 2003 Patrice Rion Nuits-St.-Georges 1er Cru “Les Cailles” ($49.99) is another Burghound Key Buy, with punch and muscularity. The 2003 Domaine Patrice Rion Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru “Clos des Argillieres” ($51.99) is muscular and taut with power, minerality and elegance. Finally, the piéce de resistance, his 2003 Patrice Rion Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru “Les Charmes” ($59.99) is so full of sweet, pure pinot fruit that it is just irresistible. Á Santé. —Keith Wollenberg
Several of us here at K&L have been patiently waiting for these 2004 white Burgundies to arrive. Over the last several vintages winemaker Pierre-Yves Colin has been producing what could be some of the best values in Burgundy. A patient and meticulous man who farms as organically as possible but refuses to be hamstrung by dogmatically following any viticulture or winemaking philosophy, Colin wants the wine to speak of the vineyards from which they come. He uses only the wild yeast from each vineyard and keeps lees stirring to a minimum this vintage. If I try to characterize his 2004s, I’d say they are bright with charming fresh citrus and stone fruits and a driving persistence. Here are some wines well worth trying: 2004 St-Aubin, “Les Charmois,” 1er Cru ($29.99) 2004 St-Aubin, “Murgers des Dent de Chien,” 1er Cru ($29.99) The wines from St-Aubin could represent the “best value” in white Burgundy. Not a sexy appellation but these are the best vineyards made by one of the best vintners sold at a reasonable price. Les Charmois is located next to Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Chaumées, 1er Cru and has very Chassagne-like character, more open with a clean and bright pear and floral tone. The palate is fresh with a pleasant creaminess on the mid palate. Murgers des Dent de Chein is located next to Puligny-Montrachet, “La Garenne,” 1er Cru. From a spot higher in elevation, this wine is rich and posses a driving stoniness. 2004 Chassagne-Montrachet, “Les Encégnières” ($39.99) 2004 Puligny-Montrachet, “Le Trézin” ($39.99) The Les Encegnieres is “only a village vineyard located just below Batard-Montrachet, and shares the rich clay loam of the surface soil. Bright and long, this real estate gives this wine a rich and oily mid palate. The Le Trézin is one of the highest vineyards in the AOC, which makes the wine racy and stony. With its lovely floral tone, finely etched character and long finish, this wine is a real charmer. —Kirk Walker
Now that the winter thaw has started, it is time to celebrate. So, pop a bottle or two of Champagne. Heck! At these prices, buy a case! To start with, we have the ultra low-priced Ariston Carte Blanche Brut ($22.99). The grapes that make up this lovely wine are from the steep, sunny slopes of Brouillet. This results in riper fruit. A rich soil of shellfish fossils provides minerality and depth in the final blend, which consists of 40% chardonnay, 30% pinot noir and 30% pinot meunier. In the nose, you will find pistachios, brioche, red fruits and just the faintest hint of coconut. On the palate, lemon curd and custard come out in the forefront. These flavors are followed by red plum and currant fruit. Roasted nuts round out the finish. This newest incarnation of Carte Blanche has smaller bubbles and less yeast than the previous blend. A perfect match for brie and other creamy cheeses as well as a pan-seared whitefish crusted with almonds. Second on this month’s list, is the Tarlant Brut Zero ($26.99). The current trend of Ultra-Brut, no dosage (no sugar added) Champagne is at its apex with this wine. A blend of 1/3 each of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier with fruit from hillsides in Oeuilly in the Valley of the Marne. Soils in the area are a mix of chalk, sand, limestone and sparnacien (chalk and clay). The final blend is from the 1998, 1999 and 2000 vintage, which was bottled in July, 2003. A fantastic nose of tangerines, stone fruits and minerals. In the mouth, citrus fruit, nectarine, lime and hazelnuts. This wine absolutely begs to be served with oysters! Another bonus is that the Tarlant family does not advertise, is that their Champagnes are organic! —Scott Beckerley
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