Happy beginning of the holidays, everyone. I cannot believe that this year has passed already and that we are into Thanksgiving and Christmas time (Don’t I say this every year?). As of this writing (September 28th), our winemaking group has yet to receive any grapes; they are not ripe at this point. This harvest has been very late, and the only positive side to it is that we hope for no rain and tons of hang-time with warm, not extremely hot weather. The other problem that I noticed is that many of the vines are beginning to go dormant and shut down due to the fact that we have been averaging ten to fifteen degrees cooler than normal—not good for a late vintage. The positive side to this, Indian Summer gave us a call today for the first time with temperatures into the 90s… It’s about time! We just landed some incredible directly imported, reasonably priced Bordeaux. Let me begin with the 2003 Château Saint Hilaire Queyrac, Médoc ($14.99), a blend of cabernet sauvignon (50%), merlot (45%) and cabernet franc (5%), which is an incredibly lush, well-rounded, new-world fruit-driven wine. Deep ruby in color, the nose explodes with focused currants, roasted coffee bean and blackberries. In the mouth, this is an incredibly broad, fleshy wine with soft, silky tannins, ripe fruit, good complexity, cedary undertones and a long, warm finish. Anderson says for all of you to do yourselves a flavor: Buy a case or two at this price and enjoy. Another Bordeaux, the 2003 Château Souvenir Bordeaux Superieur ($9.99), that we have been importing for nearly ten years, is a wonderful drink-me-now red. A blend of merlot (60%), cabernet franc (20%), and cabernet sauvignon (20%), the nose is typical of this ’03 vintage, showing ripe, lush curranty to blackberry fruit with just a hint of minerality and no oak interference that carries over through a broadly fruited, soft tannin impression and a finish that lingers. A great value that will drink nicely for the next five years. Believe it or not, we are still finding some 2000 and 2001 Bordeaux to buy that are not only good, but totally pocketbook friendly. The 2001 Château de Francs, Cotes de France “Les Cerisiers” ($12.99) is a wonderfully dense, ripe wine that shows tons of lush, concentrated cassis to black currant fruit with just a hint of cranberry and cedar on the nose and in the mouth. As with many of the 2001s, the fruit is broad, round and forthcoming but with excellent acid structure. This puppy should drink fantastically well for the next 5 to 8 years. Anderson has told me that this and the above two reds will be our house reds for the month. We might even serve it with our Thanksgiving wild turkey, if he can catch another one. The 2003 Blason wines were big hits in our store last year. How do the Blasons do this and charge such reasonable prices? I think they function under the age-old atitude that wine is a food source meant to be consumed on a daily basis versus a collector’s art piece. Thank you, Giovanni. The 2004 Blason Friuli Pinot Grigio ($7.99) gushes with jasmine aromas. The mouth is lush, rich, yet clean, crisp and viscous across the tongue, and the finish is to die-for. This is absolutely wonderful and one of the best Pinot Grigios I have ever put in my mouth! How much is it? Greg, are you kidding? Eby has told me that this will be our house white for the month. We hope you enjoy this month’s selections! —Jim, Anderson, and Eby
Before we get real serious about Spätburgunder and why you should be drinking more of it, you need to get out your calendars and block off Saturday January 21 for our Third (not exactly annual) Terry Theise German and Austrian Tour Tasting. This year we will be holding the event in San Francisco at a very hip yet undisclosed space. It will cost some amount of money, and you will get some amount of food. How’s that for exclusive? Come rub elbows, taste and chat with some of the hottest growers from the coldest regions, learn why drinking Riesling will make you better looking, how a steady diet of Grüner Veltliner has been proven to make you happier and more content, how Blaufränkish has been known to cause sudden outbursts of extreme joy… in other words don’t miss it. We will be pouring a ton of 2004s and some others: whites, reds, sparkling and down-right weird. The final list of producers is not yet firm, but I can say now that they will be many and most of them tall. Stay tuned for more info, or send me an email (email@example.com) to be put on a notification list. There will be a bottle of wine for the person who travels the furthest to attend this spectacular event. Now on to your new passion… German Pinot Noir aka Spätburgunder in the homeland. First, I must say that if you are the type who likes pinot more in the style of syrah, big and dark with super-ripe flavors and lots of new oak, please do not buy these wines. You will hate them and me for suggesting them to you. If finesse and subtlety appeal to you, then we are on the right track. German Pinot Noir is, as you can imagine, more of a novelty in this country, not because it is no good but because it is in such short supply and what we get here is usually the lowest quality wine made by large blenders (any one remember the monkey bottle?) The market is so strong in Germany for great Spätburgunder that some of the wines routinely fetch over 100 Euros. and are much coveted by collectors. We have two great wines in stock now to introduce you to this important cool-climate style of Pinot. 2004 Weingut Binz Nackenheimer Spätburgunder ($12.99), grown on the red slopes of Nackenheim, is a bright zesty style of pinot, balanced with reasonable alcohol level, full of spice, wild cherry and hints of earth. Yes I said $12.99!! The 2003 Bercher Jechtinger Eichert Spätburgunder Spätlese Trocken ($28.99) is from just east of Alsace in the warmest growing region of Germany, the Kaiserstuhl. Here is where you find some of the most sought-after reds in the country and where most of the great Pinot comes from, like this supple beauty. Rich and lush with great power and depth, this wine will convince even the most skeptical among you. Live in the Light! —Jeff Vierra
Yes, it is upon us, the holiday season. This is the season when we find ourselves spending our time and money on everyone else but ourselves. Two months of being pulled in every direction possible. With that in mind I’ll keep it short and sweet, shooting it to you straight, three wines that make me smile. From the Rust region, here is… 2004 Heidi Schrock Muscat ($21.99) This spicy little beauty will just make you tingle inside. Made up of 40% gelber muskateller, 20% ottonel muskateller, 40% sauvignon blanc and a whole lot of love, this is a must have. Fragrances of a newly flowered spring meadow race around the rim of the glass. I swear I saw a couple of fairies from the land of Aromatica, it’s a fairly new country, that came flying out of the bottle when it was uncorked. When I finally decided to find out what the rest of this wine had to offer I took a sip. A feeling of brilliant purity zipped across my palate backed up by a freshness of pears that are interlaced with mint and crystal clear water from the high mountains. From the Kamptal region I give you… 2004 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner “Gobelsburger” ($13.99) A lighter, polished style of Grüner, with an unexpected, hidden core of fruit that will, truly, make you smile. A truly classic Grüner, aromas of a peppery earthiness linked with a racy acidity that will tantalize your palate, leaving you with the realization that you just got one heck of a wine for, only fourteen bucks. And last but not least, from the region of Mittelburgenland, here is… 2003 Paul Lehrner Claus ($16.99) A vibrant, juicy red blended from 85% zweigelt and 15% blaufränkisch. Here is a wine you don’t have to put away and forget about for years and years. Drink it today, or tomorrow if that is better for you! This is really a warm, delicious wine packing quite a bit of life. A bit of smokiness, a hint of fresh herbs and just enough acidity to make everything balance out, it’s a quaffer!!! —Eric Story
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