FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

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New premium distilled spirits seem to crop up as ubiquitously as some of the grains and herbs from which they are made. While most of these spirits have catchy names and arrive in bottles endowed with vaselike curves and stained-glass hues, very few actually fulfill the promises made by their packaging. However, the reverse is true of Oxley gin, which comes in a plain bottle with a tin base, but dazzles the palate with profuse and complex—yet amazingly delicate—flavors. Its freshness derives from cold distillation at sub-zero temperatures, and its signature ingredient, the herb meadowsweet, imbues it with a honeyed, floral sweetness that is devoid of any hard edge. ($50)

Mary Rocca’s circuitous career demonstrates that, contrary to Thomas Wolfe’s observation, you can, in fact, go home again. When, in 1989, she left her dental practice in Rochester, Minn., where her husband, physician Eric Grigsby, specialized in pain management at the Mayo Clinic, and moved with her family to Napa Valley, she was returning to her roots. She had been raised across the county line, in Sonoma, on her parents’ property, where the family grew most of their own produce. Intent on returning to the agricultural values of her childhood, she began to search for vineyard property. In 1999, she purchased a prized parcel in Yountville (now the Grigsby Vineyard), and a year later she bought the Collinetta Vineyard in Coombsville. From these two locations came the fruit for Rocca Family Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, which was crafted by then-winemaker Celia Welch. (Rocca’s current winemaker is Paul Colantuoni.) Silky and dense, this dark red is laden with aromas of boysenberry, crème de cassis, and soft vanilla. Its broad palate mingles flavors of dark-berry fruit, sandalwood, and caramel. ($75)

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