Happy New Year Rhône heads! Those of you who have read my article on page 2 already know of my optimistic resolutions to stretch more, read more and eat and drink orangically whenever possible. Fortunately for us, many appellations in the Southern Rhône exhibit a dry micro climate and windy conditions, making it easier for vignerons to produce their wines along organic, nearly organic (or in this case biodynamic) lines, as they do not have to deal with conditions such as rot and mildew nearly as often. Below are two beautiful examples! 2003 Montirius Vacqueyras ($22.99) Montirius is the family estate of Christine and Eric Saurel, fifth generation growers whose vineyards grace the prestigious Plateau des Garrigues above the village of Vacqueyras in the southern Rhône valley. Their vineyards are tended biodynamically, a strict form of sustainable viticulture. This 2003 Vacqueyras is a grenache-based red that is hands down one of the best Vacqueyras I have tasted from the 2003 vintage. Black currant ripeness is matched by rich black olive flavors. Good acidity to boot makes this southern Rhône one long, cool beauty. 2003 Montirius Gigondas ($29.99) The Montirius Gigondas is another grenache-based beauty that displays ample flesh, yet maintains a degree of elegance and restraint not that easy to come by in most 2003 Southern Rhones. In fact, La Revue du Vin de France (July/August 2005) gives the 2003 Gigondas from Montirius four stars out of five, a truly impressive accolade from what I believe is one of the best reference points for rating French wines. Enjoy now with one hour of decanting and over the next six years. —Mulan Chan
2004 Gravitas “St. Arnaud Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand ($15.99) This wine shows great intensity with a bouquet full of melon, passion fruit, white grapefruit, citrus, wet stone and minerals. These elements follow on the palate with great balancing acidity and superb length that is precise and pure. 2000 Petaluma Cabernet-Merlot Coonawarra South Australia ($19.99) Here’s a chance to try a classic Coonawarra blend for HALF PRICE, that was given 91 points from Wine & Spirits. This wine, made of equal parts cabernet sauvignon and merlot, offers aromas of mint, currant, dark cherry, tobacco leaf and minerals. On the palate, the wine has good acidity with gravelly fine dusty tannins that lend structure to the components above and lead to a fine finish. 2004 Water Wheel “Memsie” Bendigo Victoria ($9.99) This one got 90 points from the Wine Spectator AND Robert Parker. The dark purple color leads to juicy black and blueberry fruit with notes of earth and licorice. A GREAT bargain. 2004 Sylvan Springs “Hard Yards” Shiraz Vale South Australia ($14.99) This wine is lovely. It shows supple silky peppery cassis and blackberry fruit with some earthy notes. The palate reveals fine balance with good acidity and excellent length. Another fine value. Happy New Year! —Jimmy C
Perched on a rocky plateau overlooking the town of Paulliac, Château Pedesclaux shares position with such graces as Mouton-Rothschild, Lafite-Rothschild, Lynch-Bages and Pontet-Canet. Pedesclaux hasn’t always been at the top of its capacities. The château received 5th growth classification in 1855. After World War II it was purchased by the Jucla family. Renovations of the estate began in 1996 when the two youngest Juclas took over the management, and improvements are tangible. It’s planted with traditional Médoc grapes averaging 35 years (50% cabernet sauvignon, 45% merlot, 5% cabernet franc), and then matured for 18 months in 33% new oak. The 2002 Ch. Pedesclaux ($24.99) is opaque and deep in color with aromas of ripe dark fruit, and spices on the nose. The palate opens slowly introducing you to tender fruit with a touch of earthiness that evolves to light notes of coffee and tobacco. This is a great wine that will age well over the next 5-8 years. Three other noteworthy values under $20 are from the great 2003 vintage. 2003 Ch. Perron ($18.99), Lalande-de-Pomerol, is primarily merlot and has a dandy black berry and gravelly nose. Bright cherry hints with bits of cassis and plum are the main characters on the palate. 2003 Ch. Serilhan ($19.99), Saint-Estèphe, has undertones of earth and leather on the nose and palate. This wine provides the opportunity to explore dense black fruit and spice. It’s ready to drink now! A rarity in St-Estèphe. From a small appellation, Listrac-Médoc, 2003 Ch. Saransot-Dupre ($17.99) is a merlot-based wine. This beauty is aged in 30% new oak barrels creating hints of spice, and cassis exploding on the nose. This wine offers supple tannins that makes it approachable today. Enjoy now and over the next couple of years. —Alexandre Brisoux
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