FrontRunner: From the Robb Cellar

Lane Tanner Pinot Noir

Julia’s Vineyard 2001

Nothing about Lane Tanner is either conventional or subdued. A small-town Californian with sun-streaked hair, bright eyes, and a boisterous laugh, she set out to make her mark in the world by combating air pollution and ended up, through several vinelike twists of fate, working beside winemaking legend André Tchelistcheff at Konocti Winery. Despite Tanner’s lack of experience with wine (she had walked into the job at Konocti on a bluff), Tchelistcheff recommended her for the position of enologist with one of his clients, Firestone Vineyard in Santa Barbara County. At Firestone, Tanner learned not only the terroir of the region, but also the intricacies of the Pinot Noir grape from the master, Tchelistcheff himself.

The 2001 Julia’s Vineyard distinguishes itself even from Tanner’s other creations inasmuch as it achieves what few Pinot Noirs do: marrying the forceful fruit of California with the more delicate mold, mushroom, and earth essences we associate with grands crus Burgundies. ($30)

Los Olivos Wine & Spirits




O’Shaughnessy Cabernet Sauvignon

Howell Mountain 2001

The architectural profile of Betty O’Shaughnessy’s elegant new winery is subtle, pastoral, and, above all else, very much of Howell Mountain, its site in Napa Valley, Calif. The gently sloping, slate-colored roofline repeats the forms of purple ridges in the distance; the soft, tawny stone walls echo the earth of the mountainside; and the monumental glass windows invite the sunlight and the landscape indoors. The facility, which, at maximum capacity will produce 6,000 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, currently produces 1,800 under the direction of winemaker Sean Capiaux. But O’Shaughnessy is in no rush to fill her tanks to brimming. She has learned the value of patience—and of quality over quantity—in the pursuit of success. Her winery exemplifies this principle, as does her 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. After 20 months in new French oak, this deep black-blue wine has emerged with a beautiful tannic structure that will enable it to age indefinitely. Its intense plum and black cherry flavors receive a particular piquancy from a touch of briny black olive, and its smoky dark chocolate undercurrent progresses slowly to a smooth, alluring tobacco finish. ($54)




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