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Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, November 24, 1999

Values on the Vine


Greet the millennium
with a well-chosen bottle

At least one millennium warning is partly living up to the hype. The champagne shortage that experts had predicted is here.

"It has come to pass," said Lyle Fujioka of Fujioka's Wine Merchants. "The premium cuvees are very tightly allocated right now. If you're not buying now, don't expect to find them."

Jay Kam of Vintage Wine Cellar concurred. "For the nicer champagnes, there is a shortage. What you see on store shelves now is what you're going to get. Our suppliers are all out."

But it is only big-label, expensive bubbly that is running dry. Less expensive labels will be easy to find. "There will be more than enough sparkling wine on the market," said Fujioka.

And smaller, less familiar producers are still available, according to Chuck Furuya.

"For many last-minute shoppers, it may be a blessing in disguise as it will encourage them to try a relative unknown, which hopefully will be one of the fine boutique houses we are just starting to see in Hawaii."

He suggested Araujo, Viader, Coche-Dury or Agrapart Champagne, instead of Robert Mondavi, Louis Latour or Veuve Clicquot.

This month's list of "values" is a bit higher-priced than usual, because of the more exclusive nature of these millennium wines.


Richard Field

Owner of R. Field Wine Co.

Before the century comes to an end, make it a point to try wines from a few of the greatest producers of our time: Chave Hermitage and Zind-Humbrecht of France; and Hanno Zilliken from Germany.

Two wines that are must buys are Marrietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot 24 and Laurel Glen Vineyard REDS. Both sell for less than $10 and taste like $20 wines.

All of Mariettta's wines are limited in production and strictly allocated. In other words, there are more customers than there is wine. Its dark, almost opaque, color precedes a dense and complex nose of black fruit, earth, black pepper and spicy Zinfandel aromas with a touch of sweet oak. It maintains the thick glycerine-laden (legs on the glass) body -- a benchmark of this top-flight inexpensive red wine. This will stand up to hearty meat dishes with lots of herbs and spices.

Patrick Campbell is the winemaker and owner of Laurel Glen Vineyard and Winery atop Sonoma Mountain. His wines are considered among the best in America with a price tag that matches. But his REDS is a wonderful soft-styled and smooth wine that goes great with a variety of foods and is thoroughly enjoyable on it own.

Still, champagne is top of mind. Nicolas Feuillatte Cru 1990 at $64.71 knocked my slippers off when I recently tried it. And if that's too pricey, its non-vintage cuvee is a steal at $35.54. Charles Heidsieck 1990 has been rated at 97 points and has toasty, aged flavors and velvety texture ($74.99). If you've never had a rich rosé champagne, open a bottle of Billecart-Salmon Rosé at $54.99, or $31.26 for a half-bottle, and you'll be impressed.

A Chinese proverb intimates what you do on the first day of the year determines the quality of the rest of that year. Don't compromise quality and may you have an exceptionally delicious new year!


Lyle Fujioka

Owner of Fujioka's Wine Merchants

Bullet Piper Sonoma Brut or Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine, Sonoma, $11.95: While so many other domestic sparkling wine producers have increased prices in anticipation of the new year, Piper Sonoma has maintained a great, eyebrow raising price-to-quality schedule. We love both offerings and mood dictates preference -- the Blanc de Noir delivers a subtle red fruit flavor bias while the Brut punctuates with citrus and green apple. Both provide a wonderful sense of toast and fresh dough with crisp, complex flavors that insure satisfaction. And at the price, you'll be able to bathe in bubbly throughout the holidays.

Bullet Rotari Brut Riserva 1994, Italy, $11.95: Some perceive Italy only as Chianti, Barolo and Brunello. For us it's passion, adventure and a treasureland of great, undiscovered values. Over the last several years, we've become enamored with Italy's spumante, or sparkling wine, crafted in the traditional champagne method. Since we assume our customers maintain a "show me" Missouri attitude, we're doing the showing with the Brut Riserva. It sings the old Donovan tune "Call Me Mellow Yellow" with warm aromatics of toast, yeast and baked apples leading to gently mature flavors and seductively creamy texture. The finish of lingering hazelnuts beckons you to another sip.

Bullet Krug Vintage 1995 Brut Magnum Champagne, $450: Yes, we do believe in decadence and outrageous offerings. When Dr. Eugene Doo was named the Bacchus Society's "Mr. Gourmet" in 1998, Remy Krug was among those who joined the local celebration. While here he signed a limited number of his legendary '85 vintage magnums and we've held them in check for those looking for a most special wine gift for the millennium. With simple gold eloquence it states: "Aloha 2000 -- Remy Krug."


Chuck Furuya

President of Fine Wine Imports

Bullet Champagne: Agrapart Blanc de Blancs 1990, $77.67. A stunning "boutique" wine.

Bullet White wine, import: 1995 Paul Chapelle Puligny Montrachet "Champgains," $68.74. Total finesse and refinement. Chapelle is a top consultant for many of our favorite Burgundy, "boutique" estates.

Bullet White wine, domestic: 1997 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay "Sanford & Benedict," $46.13. Truly an amazing California Chardonnay. Such incredible concentration and innate complexity, without showiness or bells and whistles. Just look at how long this wine sits on the palate. Au Bon Climat's flashy, highly prized "Nuits Blanches" bottling will win all of the awards and glamour, but this is what is going into my cellar.

Bullet Red wine, import: 1997 Morgon, Jean Foillard, $30.87. Truly one of a kind. This is a wine all about finesse; you may not understand it with your first sip. The color is what throws you off. It appears almost rosé-like. Just close your eyes and smell the almost exotic perfume and feel the way it just glides down the palate. Different, yes! Just don't let any preconceived notions cause you to miss this wine.

Bullet Red wine, domestic: 1997 Laurel Glen Quintana Cabernet Sauvignon, $16.99. Winemaker Patrick Campbell skimmed off one-third of his '97 Counterpoint and blended it with select grapes he purchased from the Napa and Sonoma counties. It is good, real good. In fact, recently the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago tasted 156 U.S. Cabernets. Quintana was one of only 17 that rated above 92 points and was designated as an "Exceptional Best Buy" as its peers were at least 3.5 times its price. Quintana has Laurel Glen's intriguingly dark and spiced signature character and stylish approach of elegance and balance.


Jay Kam

President of Vintage Wine Cellar

Bullet Carousel Classic Brut, France, $7.99: A real methode champenoise sparkling wine from France at this price is almost unheard of. It is well-textured and balanced with complex fruit aromas. Served chilled, this is great by itself. If you are not the champagne-drinking type, mix this with orange juice and you will have a great millennium cocktail.

Bullet Comte de Dampierre Cuvee Ambassedeurs Brut, France, $26.95: As the millennium nears, it is getting harder to find a quality champagne for less than $30. Dampierre is a small champagne house focussed on quality. Made from some of the best grapes in Champagne, it is a lighter and more delicate style. Perfect for cocktail parties.

Bullet Perrier Jouet "Reserve Belle Epoche du Millenaire" Year 2000, France, $2,500: Celebrate the millennium in grand style with a jerobaum (3 liters) from the exceptional 1995 vintage that is gold-etched, individually numbered and comes in a beautiful beechwood box. Only 2,000 of these beauties were produced. It includes a personal invitation to dinner and an overnight stay in the Maison Belle Epoque (Perrier Jouet's guesthouse) at a date of your choice during 2000 or 2001.

Values on the Vine is published on the last Wednesday of each month. The Star-Bulletin asks each expert on its panel to recommend a pair of wines, at least one of which must retail for about $10. Retail estimates on Chuck Furuya's recommendations are provided by Richard Field as Furuya's company does not set retail prices.

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