By The Glass
Winemakers with superstar potential
COLLECTING superstar wines is very much a matter of supply and demand -- specifically, limited production and high demand. And as these "collectibles" draw more praise from the wine press, they become increasingly scarce and expensive.
One of the solutions is to find fledging stars before they become well-known.
The winemakers listed here formerly worked at some of California's most prestigious wineries, side by side with some of the Golden State's superstars.
Such a situation does not guarantee success, but these "spin-off" wines are well worth the effort to find.
2005 Uvaggio Vermentino "Gayla's Vineyard"
(less than $12): The original label was L'Uvaggio di Giacomo (the grapes of Jim). Winemaker/owner Jim Moore, formerly of Bonny Doon, produces wonderfully pure, elegant, absolutely delicious Mediterranean-style wines, grown and produced in California. This vermentino (the grape variety) is his latest release.
The 2005 vintage, from Lodi fruit, captures the highly fragrant floral essence and minerality that the grape is known for, coupled with a roundness and ripeness from the generous California sunshine.
This white wine works wonders with chilled seafood, pan-fried seafood, pasta with white sauces and a slew of vegetable recipes. This is a terrific wine to keep in your refrigerator for afternoon sipping.
2003 Costa de Oro Pinot Noir "Gold Coast Vineyard" ($20): Winemaker/owner Gary Burk worked at Au Bon Climat for eight or nine years, striking out on his own about two years ago. Although he also crafts some stunning, crisp chardonnays, it is his elegant, suave, layered pinot noirs that will make him a winemaking star.
Because the media often overlook these high-finesse wines, I think the availability and prices will be in your favor for some time. It would be hard to find better California pinot noir for your dollar.
These will be harder to find in local stores; check with a wine specialty shop.
2003 L'angevin Chardonnay "Charles Heintz Vineyard" ($42): Winemaker/owner Robbie Meyer used to be part of the team at Peter Michael. I suggest you get some of his stellar chardonnays while you can.
2004 Peay Chardonnay ($50): Vanessa Wong is another former Peter Michael winemaker and her pinot noirs, syrahs and chardonnays are certainly worthwhile. With her husband, Andy Peay's, passionate and dedicated vineyard work, the wines will get better as time goes on.
2003 Drew Family Cellars Syrah "Morehouse Vineyard" (42): Winemaker/owner Jason Drew, formerly from Babcock, has built a winery at his incredible new vineyard, a breath-taking property in the mountains of upper Mendocino. This incredibly elegant, wonderfully pure, single-vineyard syrah is just the beginning for this immensely talented young winemaker.
2004 Kenneth-Crawford Syrah "Evans Ranch" ($34): This dynamic duo (one from Babcock, the other from Lafond) is producing some of the most talked about syrah and grenache in the Santa Barbara area. These are not big, over-extracted Australian wanabes, but elegant, voluptuous, red wines that are both delicious and provocative.
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 email@example.com