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FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

Rusack Anacapa Santa Ynez Valley 2002
Santa Barbara County has not proven the ideal location to grow high-quality Bordeaux varietals—as many vintners who aggressively populated the region with these pedigreed vines had discovered by the early 1990s. While some good wines emerged from these labors, most have lacked the vibrancy and structure that characterize the vintages grown in Napa and Sonoma counties. Rusack Vineyards’ Anacapa blend, however, constitutes an exception. While this family-owned estate, hidden in the Santa Ynez Valley’s Ballard Canyon, produces superb Pinot and Syrah, its owners, Alison and Geoff Rusack, and winemakers, Helen and John Falcone, have coaxed from this coastal region a surprisingly stylish Cabernet Franc, which they blend with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2002 vintage sustains a bass motif of black fruit around which notes of anise, rose, cedar, and hints of clove dance playfully. ($36) www.rusackvineyards.com

The Balvenie Single Barrel 25 Year Old
In the fall of 2001, while tasting his way through the Balvenie’s stores of Scotch whisky in search of a suitable spirit for the distillery’s 21 Year Old, Malt Master David Stewart encountered a stash of casks containing a honey-colored liquid that, he decided, demanded a bottling of its own. The Balvenie Single Barrel 25 Year Old ($249), released in the United States last summer, is the delightful result of his discovery. The malt’s golden hue foretells the honeyed aromas and flavors one encounters immediately upon sampling the spirit. Tastes of toffee and butterscotch further sweeten a sensation that turns abruptly toward a spicy finish.
 
Any cask selected for the 25 Year Old yields no more than 250 bottles, each of which Stewart numbers and signs. In honor of Stewart’s 30 years as the company’s distiller, the Balvenie also has released the 30 Year Old ($549), a smooth, complex malt that is a fitting tribute to its master. www.balvenie.com

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