FrontRunners: From The Robb Cellar

    MARCHESI DE' FRESCOBALDI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO CASTELGIOCONDO 2000
    The history of Italy’s great wines is a family history, and few families can claim to have lived through more of it than the Frescobaldis, a Florentine clan who have been making wine since 1300. In recent decades, the Frescobaldis also have proved to be one of the most enterprising of winemaking dynasties. Owners of nine Tuscan estates, including Castello di Nipozzano, the family engaged in a partnership with Napa’s Mondavi family, with whom they created the Luce and Lucente Super Tuscans. Their modern business sensibilities blend with a respect for tradition—a balance reflected in the wines from their Castelgiocondo estate in Montalcino. While the property is ancient, its Brunellos are contemporarily styled, warm and bursting with fruit. The 2000 vintage exudes aromas of blackberry, vanilla cream, and anise. On the palate, ripe fruit folds into flavors of plum, leather, rhubarb, and dried meat. ($60) 707.256.2700, www.foliowine.com

    CHIMNEY ROCK ELEVAGE BLANC 2004
    Set as it is at the south end of Napa’s Stags Leap District, Chimney Rock Winery built its reputation, not surprisingly, on a red wine. The estate’s Cabernet Sauvignon–based Elevage blend, which debuted with the1990 vintage, is a testament to the appellation’s capacity for Bordeaux’s noble reds. But as fine a site as Stags Leap is for Cabernet, the region’s dry,coarse-soiled vineyards have put forth relatively few notable whites. Indeed, until now, Chimney Rock has lacked a counterpart to its flagship red blend.

    For its inaugural Elevage Blanc white wine, Chimney Rock sourced grapes from the Rutherford district. The 2004 vintage, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris that aged in oak and stainless steel, reveals its base varietals with a ripe pear nose and crisp grapefruit flavors, but the oak lends a hint of vanilla spice and a creamy texture reminiscent of a Napa Chardonnay. Chimney Rock plans to release the 2004 in April. ($36) 800.257.2641, www.chimneyrock.com

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