FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

After founding his eponymous winery in 2002, Cliff Lede struggled with its numbers. These were not financial figures; rather, the digits in question were the designations used to identify vineyard blocks within his 60 acres in the Stags Leap District. “I couldn’t keep them straight,” he explains. “So I decided we needed to give them names I could easily remember. I’ve always been a fan of rock music, and so we began to name the blocks after classic rock songs.”

This decision inspired the new Rock Blocks series, the first wine from which recently was released to the winery’s mailing list. The Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Cinnamon Stardust 2005 represents a high-amplitude expression of the producer’s terroir. This electrifying Cabernet Sauvignon is blended from the fruit of two vineyard blocks, Cinnamon Girl and Ziggy Stardust, that pay homage to compositions by Neil Young and David Bowie, respectively. True to its rock-and-roll roots, the wine is luscious, even hedonistic, blasting the palate with blackberry fruit, black plum, coffee, ripe red apple, cinnamon, and sage.

Those who miss out on this release will want to sign up now for their allotment of Cliff Lede’s follow-up Cabernet, Moon Sympathy 2006, from the Dark Side of the Moon and Sympathy for the Devil blocks. “We considered calling the wine Dark Devil,” Lede says dryly, “but thought better of it.” ($90) www.clifflede?vineyards.com

Springbank Distillery’s latest Wood Expressions release lives up to past iterations of the Campbeltown region’s characteristically full-bodied whiskies. Christened Longrow Gaja Barolo, the 7-year-old single malt matured for five and a half years in bourbon casks before it was finished off for 18 months in wine casks from Gaja in Piedmont, Italy. The bold spirit delivers heavy peat aromas on the nose, followed by rich hickory, toffee, and ripe-fruit flavors. On the palate, the power of the malt is matched by oak tannins and dried-berry flavors. Only 720 of the 12,120 bottles produced will be distributed in the United States, through Preiss Imports. ($175) www.springbankdistillers.com


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