FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

  • The Editors

The National Prohibition Act of 1919 not only empowered the federal government to prevent the manufacture, sale, transportation, and possession of "intoxicating liquors," but also defined these offending waters. In so doing, the legislation made a single provision, the exemption of Communion wine, that allowed at least one would-be target of the law to thrive. By making altar wine during the 14 years of Prohibition, Georges de Latour, who founded Beaulieu Vineyard in 1900, avoided the extinction to which most of the producers in the Napa Valley succumbed. In fact, thanks to a sudden resurgence of piety, de Latour’s business actually expanded, so that when Prohibition was repealed, he had a cellar filled with wines to sell to a thirsty public. This gift of drink is commemorated annually with the reserve Cabernet Sauvignon that bears his name. The Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 is sourced primarily from the original vineyard of 1900 and contains only the winery’s best fruit. The aroma and flavors of blackberry, currant, vanilla cream, and licorice are layered atop a classically elegant structure that has defined the Napa style. Perfect for the holidays, this Cabernet comes in a wooden gift box, which can be personalized with an engraved brass plate. ($105) www.bvwines.com

Among Chardonnays, nothing compares to white Burgundy. And ever since Claude Leflaive settled in Puligny, France, in 1717 and planted his first vineyards, Domaine Leflaive has produced some of the most scintillating, precise, and balanced white Burgundies ever to tantalize the senses. The current regime, however, owes more to Claude’s descendant Joseph, who, after inheriting two hectares in 1905, applied his brilliant engineering mind to the expansion of the domaine’s holdings, buying up plots in vineyards like Le Chevalier and Le Bâtard. Today, his granddaughter, winemaker Anne-Claude Leflaive, carries on the tradition, crafting whites that are the envy of collectors. While Chevalier- Montrachet tends to be lean and mineral, Bâtard-Montrachet exudes deeper aromas and shows a fatter flavor profile. Anne-Claude’s Domaine Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet 2005 is fat indeed, yet it retains its aristocratic bearing. Citrus flowers and toasted almond dominate the nose, while on the palate, cool mineral flavors and a bracing acidity wash down the creamy pear fruit. ($342) www.leflaive.fr

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