FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

In 1981, Deborah and Justin Baldwin purchased 160 acres in the Adelaide hills west of Paso Robles, Calif., intending to produce central coast interpretations of first-growth wines from Bordeaux. At the time the Baldwins embarked on their venture, which they named Justin Vineyards, locals were still discovering the impact of the area’s microclimates and soils on diflerent varietals and clones. Justin made its reputation largely on Isosceles—a Pauillacstyle blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc—and Justification, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Yet the producer is equally renowned for Rhône-style wines such as the Justin 2008 Focus, a powerfully constructed Syrah available only at the winery or to members of its Wine Society. The inky-purple wine exudes aromas of sweet pea, smoky bacon, brown spice, and black plum, while dark, velvety fruit ravors coat the palate, gradually revealing accents of coflee, dark chocolate, vanilla bean, and clove. ($95) www.justinwine.com

John McDonald, distillery manager for Balblair Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky, releases whisky from casks for bottling only when the spirit reaches its optimal maturation. For this reason, Balblair—which has used the same water source near northern Scotland’s Dornoch Firth since the distillery originated in 1790—labels its whiskies by vintage rather than by age. Last year, MacDonald decided to bottle the Balblair 1991, which, in May, along with a 1997 vintage, became one of Balblair’s first releases to arrive in the United States. Gold in hue, the 1991 is rich with citrus on the nose and accented by hints of cocoa and molasses. The former bourbon barrels in which it matured impart a delicate spiciness, as well as lingering traces of butterscotch, vanilla, and orange zest. While the 1991 and 1997 are the only vintages currently available to the American market, Balblair’s European oflerings, which include a 1965, 1975, 1979, and 1989, indicate that others will follow. ($130) www.balblair.com

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