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September 2005

September 2, 2005

Casa Nuestra— 2000 Chenin Blanc, Napa Valley

Gene Kirkham is quite a character who makes wines with character as well, in his upgraded garage of a winery on the northern end of the Silverado Trail in Napa. Everything at Casa Nuestra is made in traditional fashion and in very small batches, with total production never exceeding 2,000 cases. We held back a bottle of this 2000 Reserve to see what it might do. It did well but could probably age a bit longer. In fact we had a better appreciation for it after it had been open for a while, when it started to show a rich golden color. Scents and flavors of apple, melon and honey also revealed themselves in layers. It is interesting to note that plantings of this bottling date back from the 1940’s. This is a great match with salads and other light later summer dishes.

Rating: 14/20
Price: $30

Other Chenin Blancs we've tasted
Check out our guide to Napa Valley

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September 9, 2005

Famiglia Bianchi — 2003 Malbec

An import from San Rafael, Argentina, this deep purple-red wine is a true expression of the lushly intense Malbec varietal. Great care was taken in producing this wine, with its hand-picked grapes, classic fermentation and an aging process of more than 12 months. The wine has deep concentrations of fruit, with hints of plums, cherries, berries and spice. On the palate, the aromas play up even more, adding a soft but full-bodied feel and a long finish. Because of its intensity, the wine pairs best with a number of foods, but we recommend trying it with red meats and sharp cheeses, as well as letting it age a bit.

Rating: 14/20
Price: $18

Other reds we've tasted
Check out our guide to Argentina

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September 16, 2005

Franciscan Oakville Estate — 2002 Cuvée Sauvage

For almost two decades, Franciscan Oakville Estate has had their very own elaborate way of letting nature take its course in this wild cuvée of Chardonnay. After selecting the finest barrels and the best grapes from their vineyards, winemaker Larry Levin puts the juice in the barrels—without adding yeast. Instead of using commercially cultured yeast to trigger the fermentation process, Levin lets the native vineyard yeasts already in the grapes do the work. Each barrel develops an individual dimension and character, and only the best barrels are chosen for the cuvée, which will produce at most 2,000 cases.

Despite the heavy use of French Oak (65 percent new), wood is not the main characteristic. The 2002 is perfectly balanced and exuberates richness with fresh white fruit and honeysuckle. Its long finish is characterized by hints of butter and toasted nuts. Pair it with white fish or chicken.

Rating: 14.5/20
Price: $33

Other Chardonnays we've tasted
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September 23, 2005

Penfolds — 2002 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz

Here is a new release for this staple wine made since the 1960’s. Bin 389 has helped Penfolds establish a solid reputation among red wine connoisseurs. Those familiar with the Penfolds Grange will be happy to know that this wine sometimes referred to as “Baby Grange” is mature in barrels that held the previous vintage of Grange! As you can imagine you are greeted by a dense deep red beverage, soon releasing a cornucopia of flavors: plum, licorice, mocha and smoky oak with floral tones in the background. You might want to park it for a few years but you can already enjoy the vibrant layers of blackberry, chocolate and spicy oak. It is rather full-bodied but the acid fruit balance is in check. Pleasant in the mouth, its not-too-aggressive tannins will allow the wine to age nicely. It will pair comfortably with lamb, beef and game.

Rating: 14/20
Price: $25

Other Red Blends we've tasted
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September 30, 2005

Lolonis — 2000 Petros, Redwood Valley

For more than 80 years, the Lolonis family has been growing grapes in the Redwood Valley area. With this release, the goal was to create a rich proprietary red blend to embody the philosophy of the winery. “Our wine is produced from organically grown grapes,” proprietor Petros Lolonis said. Grapes were harvested from their Heritage Vineyard with vines’ ages averaging from 30 to 60 years. You will want to age this wine for a while, but should you drink it now, you would experience a rich, layered and pleasant wine. Berries dominate the palate, along with hints of ripe cherries, chocolate and light spice on the finish. It’s organic and packs only 13.5 percent alcohol, so sensitive types might do fine with it. Though tannic, this Merlot-based wine is somewhat delicate and therefore good for sipping. We might consider it with a meat and pasta dish. So get one of their six-packs soon—if you can—since only 2,200 bottles were produced.

Rating: 14.5/20
Price: $40

Other Red Blends we've tasted
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