Edmunds St. John 2003 "Rocks and Gravel" California Red Wine ($20.99)
Very dark garnet, with a blackish-purple center and clear reddish-violet edge. Spicy red-berry aromas, raspberries and strawberries, carry over in the flavor with ripe and juicy fruit framed with tart, almost tangy acidity followed by perceptible but palatably smooth tannins. Tart berry and lemon-squirt flavors linger in a very long finish. Oak is present but not overdone, and there's a subtle whisper of the soil that's more evocative than earthy. The blend varies somewhat from year to year; the 2003 is 35 percent Grenache, 35 percent Syrah and 30 percent Mourvèdre. US Importer: ()

FOOD MATCH: Grilled red meat makes the ideal companion for Rhone and Rhone-style reds, but in an experimental mood, I brought free-range chicken up to meet this hearty wine by braising it with frseh tomatoes, onions and garlic and lots of fresh tarragon, a sweet-tangy-herbal blend that came up nicely to meet the red wine.

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