It has begun. The native varietal of the Rhone region is coming on strong. It began conquering the new world in Australia, and it is seeing more acreage in California and Washington planted every year. It didn’t have a movie made about it, and it will never be as successful as the Cabernet grape…. but watch out. Syrah is coming on strong, and California has many styles and flavors that will keep everyone happy. Here are three Syrahs not to be missed: 2002 Clos Saron “Heart of Stone” Syrah ($32.99) Big, juicy, spicy and built to last. This wine is neither over-ripe, over-alcoholic nor over-oaked. For those of you (like me) who prefer pure fruit and balance, this Syrah has it all. Just 139 cases made! 2003 Unti Dry Creek Syrah ($21.99) Another gem from the Unti family, this is probably their best Syrah to date. A very pretty wine with great length, richness and beautiful balance. The 15% grenache adds depth and character. 1,500 cases produced. 2001 Steele “Parmelee-Hill” Sonoma Syrah ($15.99) This wine is a great every-day syrah with cola and cherry notes. Fabulous fruit in the mid palate and a long balanced finish. 500 cases made. See you in the City… —Mike Jordan
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
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