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FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

Robert Mondavi 2000 Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
All things, they say, come full circle: Though Napa Valley fixtures like Robert Mondavi Winery may share the oenological limelight with impressive newcomers to the industry’s ever-growing pantheon, lovers of all that is best about California will return, when occasions call for a native Cabernet Sauvignon, to the cellars of Mondavi et fils. A perusal of the wine media’s steady production suggests that fashion, more often than consistent standards, drives reviewers’ enthusiasms. But a Versace dinner jacket, however audacious a visual declaration, will never entirely substitute for the graceful nonchalance of a classic from Savile Row. Such a classic will be the 2000 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon—an intriguingly lush, concentrated wine. The top note is bright with fruit (blackberry and boysenberry), cedar, and herbs; the tannins are robust. Yet the whole remains serenely balanced and wonderfully silky. ($110) 888.766.6328, www.robertmondaviwinery.com

Rochioli 2001 Estate Pinot Noir
Opinion concerning Pinot Noir is seldom subtle. Devotees of this fussy grape tend, like zealous disciples, to hurl themselves headlong into debate over the relative virtues of region, climate, and style. Some would not consider a wine grown outside the hallowed confines of Burgundy (or even Côtes de Beaune) worthy of so much as a sniff, while others contend that the true nexus of Pinot perfection is Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Still others recognize that the many manifestations of this eccentric varietal each add delicate new shadings to the discerning connoisseur’s variegated palette—and that, if Burgundy represents the moody, amber-lit blood red of the spectrum, Sonoma embodies its vibrant primary counterpart. This bright, fruitful bounty registers admirably in this estate Pinot from the Rochioli family, which has been producing wine in the Russian River Valley since the 1930s. Blended with wines from four different vineyards, this fragrant release fills one’s senses with a jamlike black cherry that gains greater depth from a hint of tobacco smoke and a note of tropical spice. ($40) 707.433.2305, www.paternowines.com

Hangar One Straight Vodka
Boutique vodkas have achieved a ubiquity similar to designer jeans in the early ’80s, when anyone with a name vended a label to match. And like that ill-fated fashion trend, the present decade’s vodka vogue has more to do with marketing than with substance. Hangar One, however, is an exception. This subtle, ingratiating spirit comprises two forms of twice-distilled vodka: one wheat-based and one made from wine (Viognier is the preferred varietal). The two blend to produce a delicate, sweet flavor of vanilla and freshly baked brioche that culminates in a surprisingly long, smooth finish without a hint of bitterness. ($30) 707.462.3221, www.hangarone.com

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