Wow, November already. Time sure flies when you’re selling wine. I thought about writing on holiday wines. No, it’s been done. So, here are a new wines that I thought were worth a look. 2001 Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($54.99) Cathy has created a gem this vintage. Her wines are always balanced and perfect for drinking or aging. Red fruit and chocolate with hints of mineral and spice make this one of my favorite wines of 2001. A popular wine with the Francophiles who work in San Francisco. I just had the 1996 in London, and it was almost perfect. 2001 Corison “Corazon” Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer ($19.99) Produced since 1999, this is rarely seen in stores. Alsatian in style, this wine shows touches of pear and grapefruit and a little smokiness. Fermented to complete dryness. It doesn’t get any better than this. 2001 Paradise Ridge “Elevation” Cabernet Sauvignon ($21.99) A fantastic price on this Rockpile Vineyard Cabernet. 89% cabernet with a little merlot and petit verdot, this wine jumps right out at you with dark fruit and oak. A bright finish with long, lush tannins. 2003 Cristom “Mt. Jefferson Cuvee” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($25.99) Always a great drinking pinot, the 2003 definitely has a little more forward fruit. The wine shows hints of licorice, tea and earth with light tannin and acidity. Perfect for the holidays. See you in the City… —Mike Jordan
On a recent trip down to Santa Barbara, Trey and I stopped to visit Palmina, a small producer of Italian varietal wines. Located in an unassuming Lompoc warehouse complex affectionately called the “wine ghetto” (at once the most critical and least glamorous wine-making settings in Santa Barbara), Palmina is making truly spectacular things happen. The husband-and-wife team of Steve and Chrystal Clifton (yes, from Brewer-Clifton fame) are absolutely fantastic winemakers, besides being incredibly friendly and down-to-earth people. Their contagious passion for Italy and its soul-stirring wine and food inspires anyone who sets foot in their facility. A great visit, made better by both wonderful people and extraordinary wines. A few of their best, perfect for holiday dinner season: 2004 Palmina “Sisquoc Vineyard” Santa Maria Sauvignon Blanc ($14.99) is aromatically electrifying and astonishing in its pedigree. A rare breed of domestic premium Sauvignon Blanc, and probably my favorite one this year. In fact, it was so good I couldn’t wait until KL carried it; I bought some bottles at the winery to take home! 2004 Palmina “Botasea” Rosato ($16.99) is a clear winner in the rosé category. A 50/50 blend of sangiovese and barbera, bone dry on the palate, with a fresh strength that shows best at the dinner table. Try it with roasted cornish hen with acorn squash. That rocks! 2004 Palmina “Zotovich Vineyards” Dolcetto ($19.99) A surprisingly structured wine with earthy, subtle charm, this one took off with the cheese and sausage in the Clifton’s tasting room. Definitely a welcome dinner companion at my home anytime! 2004 Palmina Barbera ($24.99) This one is perfect for Thanksgiving!! A superbly made Barbera, showing true hallmarks of the variety with an abundance of bright, plummy fruit and tremendous lively acidity. Unquestionably delicious and versatile by any standard, it will dance well with all the dishes of the coming holiday season. Enjoy! —Martin Reyes
Last month Martin and I took a trip down south for a quick tour of a few wineries. This was our first day on our two-day trip. Our first stop was at Garretson Wine Company in Paso Robles. Working in a very industrial looking building, winemaker Matt Garretson is focusing on Rhône-inspired blends from Paso Robles. Our favorite pick from this stop was the 2003 Garretson Red Central Coast Red Blend ($19.99). This would be considered their user-friendly red, which is a blend of 70% syrah, 12% grenache, 10% mourvèdre and 8% viognier. Continuing down south, our next stop was at Domaine Alfred. People were friendly, and the wines were well made. Our favorites included the 2003 Domaine Alfred Edna Valley Chardonnay ($18.99) and the 2002 Domaine Alfred “Califa” Edna Valley Pinot Noir ($39.99). The Chardonnay shows great acidity, freshness and pure fruit, and the Pinot Noir is rich, balanced and pure as well. Both are clean and fresh. No heavy-handed winemaking here. Our next visit was with John Alban at Alban Cellars in Arroyo Grande. Great guy and great visit! Unfortunately the wines are next to impossible to get. We then had a quick visit at Talley and then made our way to Laetitia. Our two picks from Laetitia were the 2004 Laetitia Arroyo Grande Chardonnay ($14.99) and the 2003 Laetitia Arroyo Grande Pinot Noir ($17.99). The Chardonnay is rich, ripe and full in the mouth with hints of sweet pear, honey and lime. The Pinot Noir shows a nice balance between fruit and earth with hints of spicy minerals and red strawberry fruit. After Laetitia our next appointment was with John Nivin of Baileyana. Our favorites included the Chardonnay and Pinot releases under their Grand Firepeak Cuvee label. Located just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, the Firepeak Vineyard is the first to benefit from the cool maritime breezes funneling in from the Morro Bay. The warm days and cool nights are perfect for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Currently we have the 2002 Baileyana Grand Firepeak Pinot Noir ($29.99) and the 2003 Baileyana Grand Firepeak Chardonnay ($19.99). Both are delicious! —Trey Beffa
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