Admin note: Riding out a hurricane
Our best wishes go out to all of you in hurricane-battered Florida and other places ravaged by this season's terrible weather. Although we're located safely inland in the Ohio River Valley, my thoughts are with our friends (and family) in Florida.
Please note also that our Web servers are located in Melbourne, Fla., which took a fairly direct hit from both Frances and Jeanne. They're running on generator power and managing to stay online most of the time, but if you visit WineLoversPage.com and find the shutters up on occasion this week - or have belated delivery of The 30 Second Wine Advisor - please understand that things aren't exactly normal down there.
Our thanks and praise to the good folks at CNIWeb.net, who have done a remarkable job of keeping the system up and running through very difficult circumstances. I strongly recommend this quality firm to anyone considering commercial Web-hosting services.
First taste: 2003 Rhone
There's already been a lot of discussion about the impact of Europe's sizzling summer of 2003 on the wines of the region, and I've indulged in a bit of that myself after doing a little barrel tasting in Burgundy last spring.
As I pointed out then (and as our columnist John Juergens discusses further in his recently published article "The Heat is On"), there's room for plenty of debate between those who hail the high degree of ripeness that resulted from the fierce summer heat, versus those who deplore the lack of "physiological maturity" in grapes hurried too early to ripeness by the aberrant weather.
The proof of the pudding lies in the tasting, of course, and for quality 2003 Burgundy and Bordeaux, it's going to be a good while before commercial bottled wines reach the market for us all to judge.
But the 2003 Rhones are already turning up on retail shelves, and for this region it's a welcome return after the destructive storms and floods of 2002 all but wiped out the previous year's vintage from this usually favored wine scene.
I love Rhones both red and white, and when I spotted the first 2003 I had seen on this side of the Atlantic last week, I grabbed it with considerable delight. I judged it with appropriate reportorial skepticism, of course - mustn't let glad emotions tilt the tasting report - but I'm happy to say that, at least in this early example, the hot vintage yielded a hearty wine that's full of fruit and flavor, maybe a bit "New Worldish," but with all the good balance and earthy complexity that makes Rhone wines a personal favorite.
After the relatively few thin, lean and watery '02s that showed up on export, it's a joy to see these amiable '03s coming; and the luscious raspberry-Grenache flavors and bold structure of this generic Côtes du Rhône from the respected Domaine Réméjeanne bode very well for the Chateauneuf-du-Pape and other more exalted wines of the Southern Rhone.
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Domaine Réméjeanne 2003 Chevrefeuilles Côtes du Rhône ($12.99)
Very dark reddish-purple, black at the core. Luscious raspberry aromas with herbal accents of fennel in the aroma. Fragrant black pepper joins ripe, tart berries on the palate, mouth-filling and fresh. There's a load of fruit and plenty of acidic structure here in an excellent table wine, balanced and appealing; smooth but perceptible tannins and a pleasant earthy note become more evident in the long finish. U.S. importer: Europvin USA, Oakland, Calif. (Sept. 25, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Beautiful with a dinner crafted to match: Lamb burgers, not for the faint-hearted with their natural gaminess brought up with blue cheese and a few minced anchovies, accompanied by a slaw that fused Provencal and Asian flavors with raw fennel sliced paper-thin with red onions and cucumbers in a peanut vinaigrette.
VALUE: Particularly with the rising Euro elevating the prices of wines from Europe in the U.S., this low-teens price is more than reasonable for a wine of this quality.
WHEN TO DRINK: Côtes du Rhône is meant to be drunk, not aged, but that being said, this one will certainly last for several years.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Find prices and vendors for Domaine Réméjeanne on Wine-Searcher.com:
California Wine Club:
This is your last chance to save up to 58 percent during The California Wine Club's September Wine Sale. Choose from a large selection of award-winning wines! To view the full list of wines on sale click here:
California Wine Club's September Wine Sale features a wide variety of California wines. These two from the Central Coast's Firestone Vineyard are mighty attractive in the club's "Super Saver" category at just $5.50 per bottle.Firestone 2002 Central Coast Chardonnay ($5.50)
This is a clear, pale-gold wine with delicious fresh-fruit aromas of apples and pears enhanced with an appetizing note of candy-apple caramel. Flavors mirror the nose, full and fresh, ripe fruit properly balanced by gentle acidity. Good, straightforward Chardonnay, exceptionally appealing with a mild goat cheese. (Sept. 26, 2004)Firestone 2001 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon ($5.50)
Very dark reddish-purple, almost black, this hearty red is exceptionally forward in the aroma department, surrounding cherry-berry fruit with a whiff of cocoa and a distinct back note of green bell peppers. Full and ripe in flavor, lush, sweet fruit seems soft at first, but appropriately tart acidity becomes evident on the palate. A nicely balanced red in the easy-sipping style. (Sept. 26, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Both these straightforward varietal wines are versatile with a range of foods. We served them with assorted cheeses and found the Chardonnay, as noted, particularly well-matched with an ash-marbled "Sofia" goat cheese from Capriole in Southern Indiana, a mild, complex white cheese similar in style to the more familiar Cypress Grove "Humboldt Fog" from California. The red served particularly well with a mellow cave-aged Swiss Emmentaler.
VALUE: While the California Wine Club sale lasts (it ends Sept. 30), both wines are worth serious consideration by the case as "house" wines at this remarkable price. The suggested winery retail for the Cabernet is $18, and $15 for the Chardonnay.
WHEN TO DRINK: Not intended as cellar keepers, but both wines are fresh and fine; no hurry to drink them up.
WEB LINK: Learn more about Firestone and its wines at the winery Website,
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Available in California Wine Club's September Wine Sale,
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Oxford Town Wine: The heat was on in Vintage 2003
Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Hard-to-understand varieties
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:
Bargain Bin: Two from Argentina (Sept. 24, 2004)
Basic Burgundy: Does vintage matter? (Sept. 22, 2004)
WT101: Zin and Primitivo (Sept. 20, 2004)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Beets Indian-style (Sept. 23, 2004)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, Sept. 27, 2004