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FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar: March 2004

Provenance Vineyards 2001 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon
For winemaker Tom Rinaldi, a wine’s beauty and integrity lie at its source. And the sources of Provenance Vineyards’ wines are impeccable: the Oakville, Carneros, and Rutherford regions of Napa Valley. The Cabernet vines have well-established roots and are mature, ensuring consistent and robust flavors. In the 2001 Rutherford, these include a delightful medley of spices on the nose, notably cinnamon and anise. Black cherry traced with beautifully mellow oak coats one’s palate before an unusual, yet pleasant, hint of sweet ruby grapefruit surfaces. The finish delivers tobacco-box essences and a bit of nutmeg. The texture is pure Rutherford. This is a blend that drinks above its station, comparing favorably with the private reserves of some of Provenance’s more illustrious neighbors. ($35) 707.968.3633, www.provenancevineyards.com

Couly-Dutheil 2000 Clos de l’Echo Chinon
Chinon’s very name, like that of Burgundy, conjures a regal air. Located on the cusp of the Loire Valley, Chinon is the birthplace of the modern nation of France; there, Joan of Arc persuaded Charles VII to wage a war against the English that would eventually drive them out. For this reason, perhaps, the French have a saying: “The Loire is a queen, and the kings of France have loved her.”

In the kingdom of wine, however, Chinon has been somewhat isolated in a countryside best loved for its white wines. Yet, Chinon’s reds are not just rich in flavor, but exhibit color and texture like royal purple velvet.

Couly-Dutheil, a family-owned firm, dominates the production of these wines, and its single-vineyard Clos de l’Echo remains one of the appellation’s grandes dames. The 2000 vintage reveals a bouquet of rose petals and soft toasted wood, which on the tongue transform to bright pungent cherry mixed with pomegranate. Fruit gives way to spice on the mid-palate, unfolding a soft molasses and burnt sugar finish wrapped in luxuriously subtle smoke and a satin consistency. ($30) www.bvcwine.com

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