This month we are featuring a special on two wines that are not only limited but are also at a great price. The Pinots and Chards from Saintsbury are quite well known and enjoyed by many consumers. A little less known are the single-vineyard wines they produce from the Brown Ranch. The Brown Ranch Vineyard was planted in the early ’90s in the northeast section of the Carneros appellation. The ranch has a combination of typical Carneros clay loams soil as well as some volcanic soil types on steeper hillsides. Three separate Dijon clones are planted on four different rootstocks. The wines from the Brown Ranch always show an intense concentration as well as a unique terrior. I have seen these wines sell for close to $75 per bottle. It think that at the prices we are offering them this month, these wines are not to be missed! 2003 Saintsbury “Brown Ranch” Carneros Chardonnay ($29.99) Very toasty and rich, with sweet fruit, hints of hazelnuts, butter and green apples. If you like full-throttle Chardonnay you will enjoy this. I think this wine is comparable to other Chardonnays that sell for over $40! 2003 Saintsbury “Brown Ranch” Carneros Pinot Noir ($39.99) Bright, concentrated and lively strawberry fruit is followed by a fresh, spicy finish. Not the over-extracted style that is so popular now, but more of a classic expression of pinot noir. Good acidity and its medium body will allow this to pair well with a variety of foods. Just the other day I tasted the 2004 Hirsch Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($59.99), and I had to write about it. Sourced by the likes of Kistler, Williams Selyem, Flowers, Siduri and Littorai—among other top California Pinot producers, the growers of this famed vineyard on Sonoma's Coast decided to make their own Pinot Noir in 2002. The 2004 shows intense fruit that is ripe and velvety with a silky, fresh finish that lingers in the mouth. The wine is pure and balanced. It should age well in a cellar over the next 10+ years. —Trey Beffa
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
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