wine of the week

Courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle:

2003 Barton & Guestier Beaujolais ($9)
Visit the winery at

The summer of 2003 brought record-breaking heat to France, which was devastating to the country in many ways. Wine grapes are famously sensitive to weather, and in some parts of the country, the extreme heat scorched grapes. In normally cool Beaujolais, the heat wave had an interesting impact on the grapes — it made them ripen more, closer to what Americans generally like out of wine.

This vintage of the B&G Beaujolais has unsually ripe fruit, along with the light body and floral aromas we expect from Beaujolais. Its primary flavors are Concord grape and red plum with hints of soy sauce and floral notes. It's very pleasant slightly chilled, to about 60 degrees, and quaffed outside on a warm day. Or, serve it at cellar temperature (65 degrees) with dinner. The light body and relatively low alcohol (12.5 percent) make it an excellent match with all kinds of food — even foods you normally wouldn't have with red wine, such as shellfish (mussels with fried potatoes would be great) or white-flesh fish. If you haven't tried Beaujolais wines before, the unusual 2003 vintage is an easy introduction.

traveling to napa

Touring Napa Valley's Wineries
With so many choices where do you start?

By Daniel Sogg, Wine Spectator magazine,3963,19_1,00.html

How to choose? That's the dilemma. Napa Valley contains well over 200 wineries, and most welcome guests with tours and tasting rooms. While enticing, the wealth of options can be overwhelming for all but the savviest of insiders.

Wine Spectator has eliminated the guesswork. We've focused on producers that offer something distinctive, such as a noteworthy history or spectacular vistas, in addition to the most important element, an entertaining, informative experience. This list just scratches the surface. Napa has dozens of other properties worth visiting, such as Clos Pegase and Hess, which have superior art collections, and Pride, with views from the top of Spring Mountain. But the following 10 estates are some of our favorites and represent an excellent reference point.

As a general rule, larger wineries, such as Mondavi, Niebaum-Coppola and Beringer, have longer hours, with regularly scheduled tours and more tasting and educational facilities. Smaller estates often receive guests by appointment only, because there's a good chance the tour guide is also an owner with work to do around the cellar. Certainly, both small and large estates can present a memorable experience. Always be sure to call ahead (and visit winery Web sites) to determine what's available and when, because hours and options change seasonally and even from day to day. And because county zoning restrictions forbid picnicking at all but a few Napa estates, it's wise to confirm before packing a basket.

At each of these properties expect affable staffs that are passionate about wine and know their stuff. Most vintners charge a fee for the tour or tasting. But given the depth of information conveyed and the quality and variety of wines poured, visits to these properties are among wine country's great bargains.

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[Visit for more on accommodations, restaurants and wineries in Napa Valley.]
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Wine Spectator's Wine of the Week

PAUL AUTARD Côtes du Rhône 2003 (90 points, $14)
Perfumy, with lots of black cherry, vanilla bean, spicecake and mineral notes that ripple through a long, supple midpalate. Terrific acidity pulls it all together for an encore on the finish. Terrific value from a domaine that excelled in '03. Drink now through 2007. 5,000 cases made. From France.

(no subject)

okay dont make fun of me

i have an event coming up, and i need to get nice champagne. however, i really dont know anything about champagne. im looking around the 50 dollar range and something nice and not hard to find. you guys should help me

since you heart wine. (even if wine isnt champagne really. sort of)

k, :)

(no subject)

Alsatian sensation
Formerly part of Germany, this French region makes extraordinary white wines at great prices

Some of the best white wines in the world are made in Alsace. French law forbids growers from planting Chardonnay anywhere in this region of northeast France, or Sauvignon Blanc for that matter. But that's no disadvantage.

The tradition in Alsace (pronounced Al-soss) is to make white wines -- mostly Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat -- in a dry style, which distinguishes them from their counterparts across the German border, where the great majority of Rieslings, for example, are slightly sweet.

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Higher prices for imports make U.S. wines a better deal

One subtle consequence of the drop in value of the U.S. dollar has been the rise in competitiveness of American bargain wines.

In spring 2004, I discovered some wines from Black Swan Vineyards -- Australian wines imported by E. & J. Gallo Winery -- priced at $5 in a small grocery store. They were an amazing value, and I stocked up.

The current vintage is priced at $8, and the two Black Swan wines I recommend are still a good deal. But they suddenly enter another league at that price level. A palatable wine for $5 is a steal. For $8, your options expand, and your standards rise a little.

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Wine Tasting Descriptors

Certain wine descriptors draw more curiosity from our readers than others. They ask, "How did (fill in the blank) get into the wine? Isn't wine just fermented grapes?" It would take a chemistry degree to understand all the issues, so for those who majored in English, here's the down -- and sometimes dirty -- on selected terms used to describe wine:

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[cross-posted to my journal]