Today's Sponsors:
 Brentwood Wine Co.
 California Wine Club

In This Issue
 Amazing grape: Carmenère Once it was lost, but now it's found.
 Santa Ema 2001 Rapel Valley Carmenère ($9.99) An intriguing mix of scents builds aroma complexity.
 Brentwood Wine Co. It's spring cleaning season. Don't forget your wine cellar!
 California Wine Club Just two weeks left in the Spring Cleaning Wine Sale!
 Six CWC Wine sale goodies Remarkable values at $8.25 each.
 Wine Advisor's Premium Edition Shop with confidence when you're spending a little more.
 This week on The delicate balance of food and wine.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index Links to last week's articles in the Wine Advisor archives.
Administrivia Change E-mail address, frequency, format or unsubscribe: "Administrivia" at the end of this page.

Amazing grape: Carmenère

Once it was lost, but now it's found, an ocean away from its original home, this appealing red wine grape called Carmenère, with its century-old French heritage and a welcoming new home in the Spanish-speaking New World.

It has been a couple of years since we took our last look at this intriguing variety. Let's return to it today, re-introducing Carmenère as this month's featured wine in our wine-education feature, Wine Tasting 101.

Once it was lost: Centuries ago, Carmenère was widely grown in Bordeaux as a popular ingredient in that French region's great red wines. Hearty and robust, it added rich red color, full body and hearty flavor to a blend that without it would have been on the pale side. But Carmenère fell out of favor more than 300 years ago for economic reasons - in a chilly and damp climate like Bordeaux, it falls an easy victim to a grapevine affliction called "coulure," in which spring buds fail to develop into grape bunches.

But now it's found: In Chile, where the arid climate doesn't foster coulure and where there's a good dose of French blood in the wine-producing family tree, Carmenère was widely grown by the 1800s ... but its name got lost. Some growers called the grape Grande Vidure, but most of it was eventually mistaken for its cousin Merlot.

During the past dozen years or so, though, Chilean wine makers have rediscovered the vine's original heritage, identified many "Merlot" vineyards as Carmenère, and are producing an increasingly popular varietal wine.

One good, affordable Carmenère is featured below. I'll be trying a couple more during the coming month, and encourage you to do the same.

Our popular Wine Tasting 101 feature makes it easy for everyone - even novice wine enthusiasts - to learn how to record and share wine-tasting notes.

Wine Tasting 101 uses the same user-friendly software as our other interactive forums, but it is dedicated to a single purpose: Learning more about wine by tasting a specific featured wine each month, recording your impressions and sharing them with others in a civil, friendly online community where peer support is encouraged and abuse is banned.

This month's topic is Carmenère, and you are cordially invited to participate. (And don't worry, there's no admission charge. All our forums are free and open to wine lovers everywhere.) To get started, click to Wine Tasting 101,

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Santa Ema Santa Ema 2001 Rapel Valley Carmenère ($9.99)

Very dark reddish-purple, almost black. An intriguing mix of scents builds aroma complexity - black cherry with a hint of anise and "torrefied" overtones of smoke and black coffee. Flavors are consistent with the nose, black-cherry fruit and earthy, charred nuances, all shaped by lemony acidity that becomes almost tangy in the finish and makes for an exceptionally palate-cleansing food companion. U.S. importer: T.G.I.C. Importers Inc., Woodland Hills, Calif. (March 3, 2004)

FOOD MATCH: A natural with red meat, but it also made a delicious match with lighter fare, a dinner salad (easy on the vinaigrette) topped with the earthy flavors of Point Reyes blue cheese and slices of a robust, peppery Calabrese-style salame from Volpi of St. Louis.

VALUE: No complaints at the $10 price point.

WHEN TO DRINK: No rush to drink it, but I don't see it evolving with cellar time.

WEB LINK: The Santa Ema Website is available in Spanish and English at
I found it very slow loading today, and could not get the English pages to come up at all. You may have better luck at another time of day. The importer has an informative section on Santa Ema and its wines at

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Look for Santa Ema Carmenère on

Brentwood Wine Co.

Brentwood Wine Co.

It's spring cleaning season. Don't forget your wine cellar!

Savvy wine enthusiasts know that the time of year when we clean up, fix up and paint up is also a great time to review our wine collection and consider moving things around, clearing out old bottles that no longer intrigue us and making room for something new. Perhaps you over-bought what seemed like a good deal at the time ... or your tastes have changed ... or maybe you just see an opportunity to realize an investment gain on something you bought a decade ago. Whatever your reasons for taking wine to auction, Brentwood is the place for you. Here's why:

  • Brentwood pays sooner! With consignment auction houses, you'll wait months for your money. Brentwood pays in three to five days.
  • Brentwood pays more! You can count on average auction net or above for your wines.
  • Brentwood buys your wine outright! There's no risk of a bad auction result or unsold lots.
  • Free appraisals! Send your list to or fax it to 1-503-638-6737.

Of course selling is only half the game. If you're buying collectibles, Brentwood is your year-round source for centerpiece wines for entertaining. Enjoy the fun and excitement of buying wine at auction ... at Brentwood Wine Co.,

Brentwood Wine Co.

PS: Thinking about restocking your home glassware? Be sure to check Brentwood for great buys on Riedel crystal: they've got some of the lowest prices on the planet!

California Wine Club

California Wine Club

Just two weeks left in The California Wine Club's Spring Cleaning Wine Sale!

Take advantage of real savings on award-winning wines from California's best mom and pop wineries. Wine Sales come just twice a year, so don't miss this opportunity to stock up and save! Visit
to view the full list of wines on sale or call 1-800-777-4443. The California Wine Club encourages you to mix a case and sample a wide variety of award-winning wines and there are two free gifts just for ordering. Call or visit their website today and start saving.

Six CWC Wine sale goodies

Here, in quick review, are summaries of my comments on a half-dozen of the "mom & pop winery" goodies featured in the California Wine Club's Spring Cleaning Wine Sale this month. They're all amazing bargains at this single-digit price.

2001 Baileyana Winery, "Paso Robles" Syrah ($8.25)
Classic Syrah aroma ... Warm and plummy fruit adds a dash of pepper. Approachable and easy sipping, holds promise for still more with a little cellar time.

2001 Century Oak Winery, "Old Vine" Zinfandel ($8.25)
Ripe mixed berries, jammy, ripe and sweet, blackberries and raspberries in a classic, exuberant Zin.

2001 Drytown Cellars, "California" Merlot ($8.25)
Delicious black-cherry and dark-chocolate aromas, the characteristic profile of California Merlot. Sturdy and structured flavor, good aging potential.

2002 Kitfox Vineyards, "California" Cabernet Sauvignon ($8.25)
Excellent Cabernet, classic blackcurrant aromas with pleasant aromatic notes of leather and mint. Full and ripe, nicely balanced.

2001 Mastantuono Winery, Carminello ($8.25)
Ripe blackberry fruit and herbal tarragon, with a back beat of spicy oak. Full and ripe, juicy fruit and tart acidity over a base of dark chocolate.

2000 Sylvester Vineyard & Winery, Kiara Reserve, Estate Bottled "Paso Robles" Chardonnay ($8.25)
Intriguing white fruit, acacia flowers and aromatic oak, straight-up Chardonnay flavors and spicy oak in balance, a benchmark California-style Chardonnay.

FIND THESE WINES ONLINE: Click directly to the ordering page for this and many other $8.25 sale specials at California Wine Club,

Wine Advisor's Premium Edition

Cautious about risking $30 or more for a special bottle of wine? The 30 Second Wine Advisor Premium Edition covers wines in the $30 to $50 range. This trustworthy E-mail companion makes it easy to shop with confidence when you're spending a little more. ... and your participation helps support

The next Premium Edition will go to subscribers a week from tomorrow. If you're not already on the subscription list, I hope you'll join us soon:

This week on

Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:

Nat Decants: Food and wine
With fusion cuisine and modern wines, some experts say that any wine can go with any dish. But, observes columnist Natalie MacLean, most of us don't drink a delicate white wine with a hearty meat dish or a powerful red wine with sole for the same reason we don't put ketchup on our ice cream: The flavors and textures don't match. In a reprise of one of her classic columns, Natalie discusses "Food and wine: A delicate balance."

I'm delighted to report, by the way, that Natalie MacLean has been nominated for two James Beard journalism awards, including the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. We'll be cheering for her when the awards are presented in New York City in May.

Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Latitude and grapes
"The latitude you are located at will define the length of day, and the rate of changing of that length of day," observes Nova Scotia reader Jeff P. "Potato plants, for example, will simply not make potatoes unless they are at a latitude that presents a certain day length pattern. I know this is true for potatoes, but do not know if it matters for wine." Jeff's wine-science query has started a good conversation in our online Wine Lovers' Discussion Group. Read the posts, and please feel welcome to add your own:

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

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

 White Meritage (March 12, 2004)

 Zin and 'za (March 10, 2004)

 The literate wine lover: Wine-book reviews (March 8, 2004)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Pursuing perfect bread (March 11, 2004)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

Monday, March 15, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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