From the Robb Cellar: January 2004

    Stags’ Leap Winery 1999 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
    The Napa lexicon teems with leaping stags: There is the Stag’s Leap District, the celebrated appellation in the southeast section of Napa Valley; there is Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars; and there is (confusingly at times) Stags’ Leap Winery, which is in fact the oldest operation in the district, having been established in 1893. From this comparatively arid region on the eastern bank of the Napa River, against the Vaca mountain range, Stags’ Leap Winery winemaker Robert Brittan coaxes from his 240 acres some remarkable Cabernets, including the recently released 1999, a deliciously ripe vintage. The personality is bighearted, with vibrant cherry and plum, as well as a rich soaking of oak and potent tannins. Despite a cool growing season, the 1999 Estate Reserve delivers luscious flavor and a long, warm finish. ($65) 800.640.5327, www.stagsleap.com

    Stonestreet 1999 Upper Barn Chardonnay
    Located on Stonestreet’s Alexander Mountain Estate—a sprawling tract of 5,400 predominantly wild acres, of which a mere 800 are planted—the Upper Barn vineyard benefits from rather rocky, spartan soil and a delicate, cool climate. The Chardonnay grapes here are handpicked from “old clone” vines, under the supervision of winemaker Mike Westrick, and fermented in 50 percent new French oak barrels. The resulting elixir is a creamy, buttery white that exhibits satisfyingly complex essences of spiced pear, apple, and jasmine, anchored by a smokiness of oak, well-balanced minerality, and an unusually long, honeyed finish. ($40) 800.355.8008, www.stonestreetwines.com

    Hendrick’s Gin
    Connoisseurs of the martini are staunchly loyal to their preferred brand. Harry’s Bar serves any kind of gin you like, so long as it is Gordon’s. Some prefer Plymouth, and this martini lover finds nothing at all wrong with Bombay Sapphire. But variety is the spice of life, and in the case of Hendrick’s Gin, the spice—ever so subtle and refined—is that of cucumbers. This gin is fresh and light, but resolute in its structure. A Hendrick’s martini (or gin and tonic, if you must) garnished with cucumber—not lime—is a perfect preprandial alternative that may become your new drink of choice. ($28) www.cucumbergin.com

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