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In This Issue
Wine travel plans
Au Bon Climat 2000 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir ($19.99)
 Sydney International Wine Competition
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

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Wine travel plans

Looking over my growing travel calendar for 2003, I thought this snowy Monday might be a good day to break away from the usual wine-tasting tips to go over my wine-travel plans for 2003.

Based on this early peek at my tentative vinous itinerary, you're most welcome to drop me a note (E-mail: if you would like to offer suggestions about places to stop and sights to see along my route. As my schedule permits, I'm also glad to stop by and visit the wine shops, wineries and other wine-related businesses that many of you run, or even consider giving a talk or joining in (and helping organize) wine dinners in the places I'll visit.

And for those of you in the rest of the world, this schedule will signal some of the regional topics I'll be covering as the year goes by ... and for those who've switched to our HTML/graphics edition, you can count on my sending back wine-travel photos from the road.

So, with the understanding that plans are subject to change, and more may be added, here are some highlights of my coming travels:

  • ITALY - This one's coming right up. In two weeks, I'll be on my way to participate in the Vino & Territorio 2003 program in Cividale, Friuli-Venezia Giulia from March 5-8. An extensive program of winery visits and seminars will pretty much fill my days as I return to one of my favorite places, the region in Italy's far northeastern corner, above Venice.

  • FRANCE - I'm already looking forward with eager anticipation to a week helping my friends at French Wine Explorers lead a tour of "The Best of Bordeaux" including visits to some of the most renowned producers in the Médoc, Graves, Saint-Emilion and Sauternes. There's still limited availability on this May 11-17 tour, and more spaces in a July 20-26 encore, although I won't be along for that one. For information contact Lauriann Greene with French Wine Explorers, On the way to Bordeaux in early May, I'm planning a quick and casual spin for a few days in Paris, the Champagne region and Alsace.

  • SLOVENIA - This one is still somewhat up in the air because of a change in the competition management and its schedule, but I'm hoping to return to Slovenia, the beautiful little country at the northern end of the former Yugoslavia, for a third round of judging at Vino Ljubljana, the annual international wine competition in the nation's capital. The event is now tentatively set for early June, and if I go, chances are I'll spend some time touring wine regions in Slovenia and perhaps surrounding areas.

  • AUSTRALIA - I'm absolutely delighted to have been invited back to judge the Sydney International Wine Competition, a major wine event that occasioned my last trip Down Under in 2000. The judging is Sept. 28-Oct. 4, and it's a virtual certainty that I'll tack on additional time to visit wine regions in Australia, New Zealand and, most likely, a short side jaunt to Los Angeles and the California Central Coast on the outbound leg.

At this point, Napa and Sonoma and the San Francisco Bay Area aren't on my travel schedule, but it would be a rare year that doesn't offer some opportunity to get out that way ... and to other wine regions as well.

With all that talk about international travel, I'll come back to the U.S. for today's tasting, a quality Pinot Noir from one of my favorite California Central Coast wineries. The Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir from Au Bon Climat is "estate-grown," that is, made from grapes grown by the producer, and is one step up from Au Bon Climat's basic Santa Barbara Pinot. Like most of this producer's wines, this Pinot speaks in a distinct New World accent with its bold fruit, but delicacy and balance show respect to its European heritage.

Au Bon Climat Au Bon Climat 2000 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir ($19.99)

Clear ruby in color, this wine shows "benchmark" Central Coast Pinot character in its forward cherry-cola and tangy "tomato-skin" on the nose and palate. Ripe and intensely fruity flavors are laced up with crisp lemon-squirt acidity that makes it a natural partner with food and that hangs on in a very long finish. (Feb. 9, 2003)

FOOD MATCH: Perfect with a dish crafted to match, white asparagus and diced ham in Mornay sauce over rounds of toasted olive bread.

VALUE: The $20 point is more than fair for California Pinot of this quality.

WHEN TO DRINK: Ready to go, but no hurry; should keep and even evolve over a few years in the cellar.

WEB LINK: Au Bon Climat has no Website, but to continue today's international theme, here's an interesting article about the winery from an Australian perspective:

Sydney International Wine Competition:
Unveiling the award winners!

Sydney International Wine Competition It's an exciting time of year for Australian wine lovers, as the annual banquet and tastings surrounding the announcement of the Sydney International Wine Competition's winners draw near.

The most gastronomic of all the major wine competitions, the Sydney International is the only one to judge its finalists alongside appropriate food dishes, placing the emphasis strongly on selecting award winners that are good with food. The Sydney International Wine Competition's Awards Presentation Banquet is one of the grand events on Australia's gastronomic calendar, with as much emphasis placed on food as on the wines.

Five fine food courses will be interspersed with the presentation of the 22 major trophies for the top wines of the 2003 Competition. Each food course has been created to complement the three top wines of the particular Wine Style Category it accompanies. The three highest pointed Sparkling Aperitif wines and the Blue-Gold Award winning Digestifs will be presented before and after the five food courses.

d'Arry Osborn of the d'Arenberg winery will be guest of honor at the awards presentation in the Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton on the Park, 161 Elizabeth Street in Sydney on Saturday, March 1 at 1 p.m. The first showing of the Top 1OO Wines of the 2003 Competition will be offered exclusively for Banquet guests, from 10 a.m. All the Award winning wines will also be available for tasting between the second and third food courses, providing an opportunity for guests and winemakers to greet, mix and mingle.

The program is open to all wine lovers at $AU190 per person or $AU1,800 for a table of ten. Dress is black tie or lounge suit for gentlemen. For reservations or information E-mail Jacqueline at or visit the SIWC Website,

Later in March, there'll be another chance to taste all the award-winning wines.

All 248 Sydney International Wine Competition 2003 Blue-Gold Award winners will be offered at an event open to all lovers of fine wines, described as the "most civilised wine-tasting in the world." The 248 award-winning wines were chosen by an international panel of judges from 1,922 entries submitted from 15 countries this year.

The setting will be the Playfair Suites of the RAS Sydney Showgrounds, a magnificent venue built for the Sydney Olympics at the Sydney Olympic Park in Homebush Bay, Sydney, with tastings from 5-9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 20-21, and 2-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 22-23. Dress is smart casual, and the $AU50 admission each day includes tastings and a copy of the print guide to the Top 1OO wines.

Again, for reservations or information E-mail Jacqueline at or visit the SIWC Website,,
where award winners and other information will be published after March 1.

Sponsorship Opportunities

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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is currently distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

Driving a Lamborghini (Feb. 14)

Double-blind tasting (Feb. 12)

Wine myths (Feb. 10)

Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Hot stuff! (Feb. 13)

Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:


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Monday, Feb. 17, 2003
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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