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 California Wine Club
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In This Issue
 Premium Edition: Value-seeking strategy Our biweekly subscription edition studies a fine Italian red ... and an unusual twist on the usual rules for bargain-hunting.
 A visit with Jancis Robinson I review my favorite wine writer's excellent Website (and she repays the favor).
 Cavit 2003 Pinot Noir delle Venezie ($7.99) A very modest Pinot from a less familiar quarter proves quite a pleasant quaff.
 California Wine Club Last Chance to Order - Mother's Day is Sunday!
 This week on A rant about Wine Spectator's tastes in California Rhone-style wines, and a report on an oyster orgy in Hong Kong.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
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Wine Advisor's Premium Edition:
Value-seeking strategy
The Wine Advisor Premium Edition goes into the E-mail tomorrow, as we examine a fine Italian red ... and an unusual twist on the usual rules for bargain-hunting. If you're not already a subscriber, please allow me to encourage you to express your support for by signing up for my only fee-based publication. A subscription is just $24 for a full year of biweekly Premiium E-mail bulletins, which focus on finding the best values in wines in the more upscale price range between about $30 and $50.
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A visit with Jancis Robinson

Jancis Robinson
Call me an Anglophile, but ever since I first became seriously interested in wine, I've favored the British wine writers over their American cousins. I learned Burgundy by reading Coates and Bordeaux from Broadbent, and in my earliest wine-shopping ventures, I rarely went out without Hugh Johnson's little pocket guide in hand.

Soon after that I discovered the work of a younger British wine scribe, Jancis Robinson, in the first U.S. publication of her hardcover book Vines, Grapes and Wines. What a concept! I was instantly smitten by its concept, organizing the world of wine in a grape-by-grape study of all the major varieties ... and quite a few minor ones. Not only did Ms. Robinson carry on her compatriots' tradition of literate, intelligent and graceful prose, but she brought an imaginative, outside-the-box approach to a genre that had been almost ritualistic in its form.

Naturally I bought all the rest of her books as they hit the market, even anticipating the American arrival of her 1989 Vintage Timecharts, an intriguing overview of wines based on their aging profiles over time in the cellar, by picking up a copy in the UK before it reached the colonies. More recently, her How to Taste, A Guide to Enjoying Wine and Jancis Robinson's Wine Course, rank among my top recommendations for introductory wine books; and her editorship of The Oxford Companion to Wine and her partnership with Johnson on The World Atlas of Wine makes these imposing reference books mandatory for any serious wine lover. And having inhaled all her books about wine, it's worth romping through her breezy autobiography, Tasting Pleasure: Confessions of a Wine Lover. She also writes regularly for the London Financial Times and frequently for other publications.

All this is by way of saying that Ms. Robinson's Website, - which she says has now become her primary activity - is one of my favorite wine destinations, and one that I am long overdue in calling to your attention.

Robinson describes her site as "fine writing on fine wines," quietly highlighting a simple priority on writing that I quite frankly doubt would ever so much as occur to American wine scribes like Robert M. Parker Jr. or the crowd at Wine Spectator. is deep with content, and while Robinson has chosen to offer a good bit of it in a subscribe-for-pay section called Purple Pages, she is generous with the free prose as well, offering far more than mere "teasers" at no charge for the casual browser.

Free wine-tasting reports appear every Tuesday in Wines of the Week, for instance; they are worldwide in scope and often in the budget range (recent subjects include Muruve Roble 2003 Toro from Spain, Sonoma Creek Chardonnay 2001 Sonoma County from California, George, Ch Puygueraud 2004 Côtes de Francs from France and Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Rapel from Chile, all affordable wines. Best of all, though, is her lively, conversational style. Consider this sample, regarding the Lapostolle, and you'll see that you're not in Wine Spectator country any more:

"Let me just tell you that the wine is closer to a really top class California Sauvignon Blanc than anything as grassy as a New Zealand Sauvignon or as mineral and severe as a Loire Sauvignon. I enjoyed its tropical fruit flavours and figgy richness that was beautifully balanced by fine, racy acidity. The wine is just bursting with fruit with just the merest hint of minerality on top of a canned grapefruit flavour much, much more delicious than it may sound. Its easy to drink this without food. I know because I did it. But I could imagine it with fat, juicy prawns sautéed in garlic, or with spaghetti with chillies, garlic and oil."

But wait, as they say in late-night television advertising. There's more: Wine news, including links to all her Financial Times articles. Nick's Food News, featuring articles by Nick Landers, who she describes as her "saintly husband," who writes about food and dining for Financial Times and other publications. (One recent treat, Nick's discussion of Steak, Italian, pizza and ice cream in The Big Apple.) The Directory offers an admirable collection of links including recommended wine shops around the world and wine publications including, I am proud to say,; you'll also find Travel Tips and much more in Robinson's free pages.

So with all this free stuff, why pay for the Purple Pages? Believe it or not, the real depth of content is found behind the cashier's window, where members receive an amazing wealth of Robinson's writing, including "exclusive news, observations and insider tips."

Under Inside Information you'll find near-daily exclusive reports to subscribers (recent topics have included "Musty alphabet soup - a guide to wine faults," "Some new high flyers in Chile," "The world according to ['flying winemaker' Michel] Rolland," "A bright star shines in Màlaga" and much more).

The Purple Prose section is reserved for reports that Jancis describes as "little things, the things I shouldn't say, or at least wouldn't dream of saying between hard covers or on the pink pages of The Financial Times."

Paid subscribers also have access to thousands of Robinson's Tasting Notes, a Fine Wine Reference section with her answers to many frequently asked wine questions, a Your Turn department where she answers readers' questions; and most remarkably, full online access to the online edition of The Oxford Companion to Wine.

All this is available for payment of a single annual fee (£69/$129/€99) or four quarterly installments (£19/$34/€29), providing a full year's access to everything published on Purple Pages since they began in 2001. For information or to subscribe, click to the Purple Pages subscription page,

I should mention, by the way, that you're likely to see an article about on one day soon. There's nothing commercial about this arrangement. In a recent E-mail exchange, Jancis and I agreed to trade reviews just for fun, and in the spirit of mutual admiration. This was an easy call for me, as she's been a favorite for a long, long time. If you already know Jancis and her work, I know you'll want to bookmark and give serious consideration to subscribing to Purple Pages. If she's new to you, take my word for this: You're in for a treat.

How to Taste (List Price $25, price $15.75, a 37 percent saving):

Jancis Robinson's Wine Course: A Guide to the World of Wine (List Price $35, price $22.05, a 37 percent saving):

The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson. (List Price $50, price $31.50, a 37 percent saving):

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson, editor. (List Price $65, price $40.95, a 37 percent saving):

Vines, Grapes & Wines: The Wine Drinker's Guide to Grape Varieties by Jancis Robinson. (List Price $27.95, price $18.45, a 34 percent saving):

Tasting Pleasure: Confessions of a Wine Lover by Jancis Robinson. (List Price $15.95, price $11.17, a 30 percent saving):

Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on today's topic (or any other wine-related subject), you'll find a round-table online discussion in our interactive Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, where you're always welcome to join in the conversations about wine.

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.

Robinson hinted that her review of, among other things, will discuss our custom of seeking out those wine bargains that offer upscale drinking without paying a luxury price, so let's honor that tradition today with a report on an unusually low-end wine from Cavit, one of the largest Italian producers. Cavit (Cantina Viticoltori Trento) gets its grapes from more than 5,000 growers in 14 production facilities, making fully 70 percent of all the wine produced in Northeastern Italy's Trentino.

Although Cavit may have a reputation among wine "geeks" as a mass-market producer, its representation by Palm Bay Imports - which won my praise in last Wednesday's column as one of my trusted importers - led me to overcome my instinctive antipathy to "industrial" wine makers long enough to give this modest Pinot Noir from delle Venezie (Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia) a fair try. Verdict: Not bad! It may not pass for Burgundy, but it's clean and fresh, snappy and drinkable, with at least a touch of Pinot Noir character for a very low-end price.

Cavit Cavit 2003 Pinot Noir delle Venezie ($7.99)

This clear, dark-garnet wine offers simple but clean and fresh Pinot aromas and flavors that focus on black cherries and cranberries, light on the palate with a pleasant touch of spice and a fresh, snappy and crisp acidic backbone. It's a simple wine, but clean and well-made, a good companion with food. U.S. importer: Palm Bay Imports, Boca Raton, Fla. (April 30, 2005)

FOOD MATCH: It went very well indeed with a pair of lasagnas, one vegetarian and the other for meat-eaters; its approachable, smooth texture and crisp acidity also serve it well as an aperitif.

VALUE: You can't expect a wine for the ages at a single-digit price tag, but it stands well above the competition.

WHEN TO DRINK: Probably best over the next year or so.

Cavit = "Cah-veet"
Delle Venezie = "Deh-leh Veh-NET-see-eh"

Here's a link to Cavit's tech sheet on its Pinot Noir delle Venezie:

Find prices and vendors for Cavit Pinot Noir on

California Wine Club
California Wine Club:
Last Chance to Order - Mother's Day is Sunday!

Still haven't ordered your Mother's Day gift? No problem! With The California Wine Club you can send an E-Card or take advantage of our special two-day delivery service.

The California Wine Club is a true wine adventure that any Mom would love! Each month includes two bottles of hand selected, award-winning wine and our beautiful 12-page magazine, Uncorked. Just $32.95/month plus shipping.

Send a gift of 3 months or more and we'll include a copy of the book "How To Match Food and Wine" and an Engraved Collector's Wine Box. It's a $35 value, free!

To place your Mother's Day Gift Order, or for more information please call 1-800-777-4443 or visit

This week on

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

Schaefer on Wine: Wine Spectator can't go Rhone again
Wine Spectator's annual "comprehensive" tasting of California Rhone-style wines, with its startling slant toward the North Coast style, inspires Dennis Schaefer to a heartfelt but thoughtful rant for the second year in a row. Because the wine-buying public make purchasing decisions on the basis of perceived expertise, Schaefer points out, The Speck's bias is damaging to Santa Barbara and Central Coast wines.

Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Oyster Orgy in Hong Kong
We turn to the Wine Travel and Restaurants Forum for this week's featured thread from our online discussion groups: Jeff Grossman signs on from Hong Kong with this truly amazing report of dinner with the chef at a top shellfish emporium, featuring tasting notes on the oysters and the wine.

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). Last week, however, we went on a vacation schedule because of my travels, skipping the usual Wednesday Wine Advisor and Thursday FoodLetter. Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Friday Mix (April 29, 2004)

 The importance of the importer (April 27, 2004)

 Chill, man ... but how much? (April 25, 2004)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: White pizza (April 28, 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, May 2, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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