Here’s a bit of irony for you: I was reading an article from UC Davis Dept of Ampelography last month and discovered something incredibly interesting. Studies on wine residues in clay pots in Haifa (known as Galilee in Biblical times), shows surprising genetic matches with what’s believed to be none other than our much-maligned merlot grape! Apparently, this seemed to be the wine of choice for those settlements along what is now called the Holy Land. According to the article, there was more than a good chance the wine created from water in that very famous Canaan wedding was merlot (or some form of it)! While this data is not 100% conclusive, the way I see it, if merlot was good enough for heavenly consumption, it’s good enough for me. So, who’s laughing now, Miles? 2003 Cloverdale Ranch Alexander Valley Merlot ($19.99) Consistently one of the more impressive Merlots we carry every year. This year, it’s still stylishly seductive, but adds an extra element of soft, ripe tannins and subtle earthy tones that keep its posture straight and hair combed just right. What a great, full-bodied effort, and the most striking to date. 2003 Burgess Napa Merlot ($14.99) You’ve got to love these guys. Besides being just killer nice people, their wines are remarkable and affordable. You don’t often see serious Merlot this flat-out good at prices that can be considered “everyday.” Yet this Merlot will never fail you in times of either friendly get-togethers or important dinners. Way to go! And why not, let’s throw in Merlot’s friendly rival, Pinot Noir. Though not divinely inspired, the ever-consistent 2004 Olivet Lane Russian River Pinot Noir ($23.99), loads up on the velvety, seductive sensory heaven that is Russian River Pinot Noir. Each new release, just like every new Mardi Gras, reminds you how good life is. It’s foolish not to drink it on the first day of April, too. Oh wait, there’s no Davis Department of Ampelography, you say? Fine, but the joke’s on you. Enjoy anyway! —Martin Reyes
Well, it’s both for me this month! I’ll be spending the first half of the month in South Africa tasting my way through the Cape Wine Expo. Of course, I could never forget my home wines of California, and I have some delicious wines for you this month! I do love the wines of Honig, and the 2005 Honig Napa Sauvignon Blanc ($11.99) is another winner in a long line of great SBs. Tropical fruits abound, papaya, guava, sweet grapefruit and a nice light mineral feel. Finishing fine and crisp, my mouth waters just thinking about it. Honig cabs have been improving year after year, and the 2003 Honig Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($29.99) is now available. Rich and bright black raspberry with a Rutherford dust nose leads you to a wonderful mouthful of blackberries and black plums, smooth toasty vanillin oak and a sprinkling of black pepper and eastern spices. The wine has good structure but is nice and juicy with a smooth velvety texture, finishing pretty long with an elusive mocha note. If you’re in the mood for a New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc, you must try the 2005 Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc ($9.99). This is a perfect name for the wine. It has a spectacularly juicy exotic tangy grapefruit nose and a palate of exciting and mouthwatering tropical and citrus fruits laced with lemon zest. A zippy acidity keeps the whole thing bright and lively. This little beauty screams for seafood and a warm spring afternoon. Tom Renaldi (of Duckhorn fame) is making fantastic wines at Provenance , and the 2003 Provenance Rutherford Cabernet ($29.99) is quite a bargain. This has it all, approachable pretty dense rich black fruits, Rutherford dust, cocoa, black spices, sweet oak, vanilla, with plenty of structure wrapped in velvety goodness! A big deal Napa Cab at a great price! —Shaun Green
Yes that is right, Corsica! This month I am pleased to be able to make this guest appearance here and talk about some of the wines that I really love to drink. Along with all the Riesling, Grüner Veltliner and funky Loire and Alsace wines that I drink, I am also keenly interested in the South of France. Granted the South of France is a large area. I cannot comment on everything in such a short space but let me say that after traveling there briefly last summer I was impressed with the energy and passion of the quality growers. I predict that in the next few years we will be hearing much more about these dynamic and evolving growing regions that are now producing wines that can now hold their own on the world stage. Now on to Corsica!! We are now importing one of the real stars of the Corsican wine scene, Yves Canarelli who produces wines near Figari on the ferociously windy southern tip of the Island. The soils are granitic in base with alluvial material and, of course, they are very poor, making for vines that must reach deep for sustenance. Corsica though the southern-most growing region in France is not by any means its hottest. It is essentially a mountain rising from the sea to heights of over 8500 feet with peaks where the snow never melts and winds that never quiet. The potential for Corsican wine is only limited by the producer’s dedication to the incredible terrior their home possesses. The 2003 Clos Canarelli “Le Petit Clos” ($14.99), a blend of syrah, nielluccio (sangiovese) and sciacarello is friendly and easy with ripe round flavors, a juicy bright mouth feel and an intriguing nose of floral and sage brush notes with hints of sandalwood and earth. Can you say lamb!! The top wine of the domaine is the 2003 Clos Canarelli ($24.99). This blend of old-vine syrah and nielluccio aged in wood is one of the great wines of the island and of Southern France. It is dense and powerful with a strong mineral component even in a hot year like ’03, yet it is still fresh and very supple due to the cooling winds of Figari. The nose is exotic in the way you would imagine a Sultan’s tent to smell with incense and dates, smoke from a fire roasting meats and that elusive term, garrigue, the sweet, warm smell of herbs and soil and brush. You can drink this now if you decant it, but the wine will be at its best from 2008-2015+ —Jeff Vierra
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