By The Glass
Study up to stay ahead with wines
PEOPLE often ask how we make wine "discoveries" for our restaurants. There is no simple answer. I collect bits of information from fellow master sommeliers and other wine aficionados in major U.S. cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco -- as well as winemakers and vineyard owners in Italy, France, Spain and Germany. And there is always the wine media.
A tremendous amount of research is needed to stay a step ahead. Why? As is the case with any commodity in high demand, it is much easier to get what you want early, before a wine or winery is "discovered." If you are late, you will have to wait in line with everyone else.
To help you keep up to date, here are some trends for 2006:
» Spain and Argentina will continue to provide sensational red wine values. Both countries have an abundance of old, old vines, coupled with a growing number of talented winemakers.
» Southern France also will produce more red wine values. We think of this area as being flat and hot, but there are many very steep, rocky hillside vineyards just being discovered.
» Look to the 2004 German rieslings to be much more classic in style with great purity. Stock up on the top estates, as they will be absolutely gorgeous now and with some bottle age.
Some very ripe and showy wines produced in 2004 will become available this year. In particular, I've tasted some very provocative and seductive Santa Barbara pinot noirs and syrahs out of barrels at Brewer Clifton, Melville, Kenneth Crawford, Drew Family Cellars and Costa de Oro/Duo, just to name a few.
In Paso Robles, I tasted some monumental syrah (and grenache) at Saxum. Further north, the 2004 Peay Chardonnay and the Forman 2004 Chardonnay are two standouts. In the Sonoma area, Fred Scherrer continues his magic with a handful of magnificent 2004s.
The term collectibles refers mainly to cabernet-based reds. For those looking for something else worth saving, consider Mike Officer's portfolio of old-vine, red zinfandels, which are for me as good as this grape gets. Unfortunately, production of each vineyard-designated bottling is small, even as the wines draw more rave reviews.
Pax Wine Cellars: Pax Mahle is a syrah specialist and his small-batch, single-vineyard offerings, although pricey, are worth seeking.
L'Angevin: Peter Michael alumnus Robbie Meyer is just rising to the top of boutique wine producers with his handcrafted chardonnays.
Hovering around $10 a bottle:
Lurton Pinot Gris: A tasty, clean, zippy, everyday drinker from Argentina.
Castano Solanera: A deeply flavored, intriguingly rustic blend of old-vine mourvedre and cabernet.
Bricco Buon Natale Barbera: A Californian and really good!
Chuck Furuya is a master sommelier and a partner in the Sansei restaurants.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org