2004 Vinos Sin-Ley G2 Garnacha, Montsant ($7.99) 88 points Robert Parker: “This deep ruby/purple-tinged offering displays notes of crushed rocks, raspberries, and kirsch in a rich, medium-bodied, fruit-driven style with hints of earth, garrigue, and spice. “ 2003 Bodegas Tintoralba Higueruela (Grenache) ($8.99) 88 points Robert Parker: “Old vines, low yields, and impeccable winemaking have resulted in a dense ruby/purple-colored wine with medium to full body as well as a delicious kirsch, blackberry, currant, licorice, and spice-scented bouquet.” 2004 Senorio de Barahonda Monastrell Tinto ($9.99) 90 points Robert Parker: “For $10, the 2004 Monastrell Tinto is amazing. An extraordinary bouquet of raspberries, blueberries, and vanilla jumps from the glass of this dense, medium to full-bodied, luscious, fruit-filled, seamlessly constructed effort. It is ideal for consumption over the next several years. The good news is that 2,500 cases are exported to the U.S. This estate is one of the top discoveries of all my tastings.” 2003 Celler de Capcanes Mas Donis Barrica ($10.99) 92 points Robert Parker: “Its dense ruby/purple color is followed by sumptuous aromas of blueberries, black currants, cold steel, and minerals. Evocative of a baby Priorat, it possesses an amazing fragrance, considerable nobility as well as complexity, medium to full body, and a long, concentrated, heady finish. Enjoy it over the next 5-7 years.” 2004 Vinos Piñol Sacra Natura, Terra Alta (Organic) ($15.99) 90 points Robert Parker: “A terrific bargain is the 2004 Sacra Natura, a blend of 60% Carignan and 40% Tempranillo. A pungent earthy note provides a distinctive terroir aspect to this dark purple-hued 2004. Sweet raspberry and blueberry fruit along with scents of new saddle leather, spice box, toast, and vanilla emerge from this beautiful effort. It is hard to believe such quality is available at this price.” Happy New Year! —Anne Pickett
Philip Togni Vineyards first planted their vines on Spring Mountain in 1981. The vineyard is run by Philip, his wife Birgitta and their daughter Lisa. Both Philip and Lisa have spent time in Bordeaux and Togni wines are California wines that Bordeaux lovers must have. California born with European sensibility. You read about Bryant, Screaming Eagle and Harlan, but Togni is a wine that belongs alongside the top wines of California. I’ve had several vintages of this wine and the 1990 and 1994 sit on the top of my list. K&L has many older vintages of the estate along with the current releases below. If you give these wines a try, it will put a smile on your face. 2003 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon ($84.99) One of the better 2003 cabs that I’ve tried, this wine will need at least five years to really show its best. 92-94 points from Robert Parker. 2001 Tanbark Hill Cabernet Sauvignon ($54.99) The second label of the estate, this wine was just released and is drinking very well now with another ten years of cellaring possible. 90 points Stephan Tanzer. 2002 Tanbark Hill Cabernet Sauvignon ($47.99) There wasn’t a Philip Togni in the 2002 vintage. Everything went into the second label, and this wine shows it. 92 points fom Wine Spectator. See you in the City… —Mike Jordan
But that didn’t stop us! 80 wine fanatics braved the season’s biggest storm and gathered at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay to celebrate Château Montelena’s wines with Bo and Heidi Barrett. True to form, each and every wine was stellar! We started the evening with the brilliant heir to the winner of the 1976 Paris Chardonnay challenge (showing the world that California’s Chardonnay can stand up with the best). The 2003 Ch. Montelena Napa Chardonnay ($29.99) was brilliant with character, avoiding the crutch of over oaking and malo. This bright and structured wine has deep density and richness offering ripe pear, green apple , hints of spice and white flowers. The wonderful acidity and beautiful structure bode well for ageing or drinking now (the 1999 was also showing wonderfully. Paired with a wild mushroom salad, it was gorgeous). This may be the best Chardonnay in California. The 2002 Ch. Montelena Napa Cabernet ($34.99) was also showing its brilliance with Rutherford-like dustiness to the explosive nose and an intense concentration of black cherry highlighted by wonderful sous-bois and anise. At an incredibly good price, this is a mini Estate that you can buy and drink today! This wine will age well for 5-10 years, if you can keep your hands off it, but I bet most of us will not be able to wait. The 1999 was showing just how well these wines do age. It was beginning to soften its core just a bit, and drank like liquid velvet. And ahhhh… the Estate, a wine I always collect. The Montelena Estate is my favorite California Cab because it gives everything, every time. Every wine since 1978 is still drinking beautifully. The evening’s ’94 and ’97 were showing the vintages’ softer supple and luxurious sides, and the ’95, ’96 and ’01 were showing a serious and unbeatably solid side. Bo seems to pull the best out of each vintage and bottle it as the Estate, but you have to be fast. These are always offered as pre-arrivals, and you must get them quickly, since I’m not the only unbridled fan. Lastly, don’t forget the 2002 Ch. MontelenaZinfandel ($24.99). Lush and heady have been used to describe this wine, I think it is just pleasure in a bottle. Lifted with a touch of viognier. Don’t deprive yourself of this experience. Hope to see you at the next dinner! —Shaun Green
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