FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

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Since négociant Camille Giroud established his eponymous label in 1865, the firm’s reputation has rested on red Burgundies from vineyards in the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits, including premier cru locales, such as Gevrey-Chambertin and Pommard, as well as grand cru sites, such as Clos de Vougeot. Only recently, under the stewardship of California winemakers Ann Colgin and Joe Wender, has the house of Giroud ventured to participate in the Burgundian pursuit of producing fine Chardonnay. This foray into white winemaking is something of a departure not only for Camille Giroud, but also for Colgin and Wender, proprietors of Napa Valley’s Colgin Cellars, whose portfolio includes some of California’s best Bordeaux-style wines and a remarkable Syrah. The Camille Giroud Corton-Charlemagne 2004 is a persuasive argument for the general superiority of white Burgundy over red in that vintage. In keeping with the style of this grand cru vineyard near Aloxe-Corton, this silky Chardonnay entices the senses with citrus blossom and briny aromas, preparing them for a palate that layers pear, lemon-lime, and spearmint atop cool, crisp minerality. ($100) www.camillegiroud.com

Beautiful scenery produces beautiful wines: Adherents of this maxim, on visiting La Jota’s majestic Howell Mountain estate in Napa Valley, would expect nothing but masterpieces to issue from the winery. The chalet-like stone structure dates to 1898, when newspaperman Frederick Hess launched the La Jota Vineyard Co. on the 327-acre Rancho La Jota. Though remote from the region’s tourist centers, the Howell Mountain appellation—with the distinctive berry fruit, graceful structure, and consistent balance of its wines—has played a central role in defining Napa Valley Cabernet Sau­vignon, and La Jota’s are among the best. Not far from the winery stand two acres of 30-year-old Cabernet Franc vines, which yield an altogether different wine. The La Jota Howell Mountain Cabernet Franc 2003 is as rich and satisfying as its Cab­ernet cousin, though composed in a slightly darker key. Aromas of blueberry and sweet pine greet one’s nose, while the palate offers blackberry fruit blended with dark chocolate, vanilla, and sassafras. ($60) www.lajotavineyardco.com

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