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This page last updated
Mon, Apr 5, 2004

FEATURED WINES
(with recommended music)

All the wines reviewed on these pages are recommended for being interesting, attractive, drinkable, and maybe even a little unusual. In almost all cases they are either readily affordable or easily available, hopefully both.

Much thought is given to each wine's recommended musical accompaniment... Then again, feel free to substitute your own alternative. It's a way to have fun while indulging our great taste(s).

For a full list of iJamming! wine reviews, please visit the Wine Home Page.

KUNDE ESTATE
SAUVIGNON BLANC MAGNOLIA LANE 2002
SONOMA VALLEY, CALIFORNIA, USA, $14

I've written up Californian Sauvignon Blancs at this web site before: check the whole page on Honig. But I can't resist doing so again after picking up Kunde Estate's 2002 Sauvignon Blanc Magnolia Lane Sonoma Valley, in a rush, for a wine to accompany pasta-and-green vegetables one January night, and being highly impressed by its amenable approach. Kunde is celebrating its Centenary in 2004, and with former Ridge winemaker David Noyes on board for the last fifteen years, it has every right to claim itself one of the better, more traditional producers in Sonoma County. Tradition in the New World, however, is not the same as in Old Europe, which is why the Magnolia Lane nods its hat to the style of Bordeaux whites by blending in 11% Semillon and then shows true independence by adding a smidgeon – just 4% - of my beloved Viognier.

The result is an intriguingly complex wine. In the nose, there's citrus flavors of grapefruit, along with some passion fruit and melon, and a familiar grassy-chalky texture too. Yet it lacks the pervasive gooseberry-asparagus flavors of a classic Loire Sauvignon Blanc and is also absent the heady tropical fruits that are the tell-tale sign of New Zealand's finest. Instead, it offers aromas of refined subtlety and a taste of absolute grace, unusual qualities in a Californian wine. The wine is bigger bodied than many a Sauvignon Blanc, for which you can perhaps credit the Semillon; it's also fuller, rounder and a little more perfumed, which must be the Viognier punching above its weight. There's some honey on the back palate, and an agreeable impression of what the label suggests as spearmint. With just 20% of the blend seeing oak maturation, the rest cold-fermented in stainless steel, the Magnolia Lane is a stellar example of how Californian wineries can be innovative and interesting without being aggressive. And at a sensible price, too.

MUSIC: It's sunny and soft. It's Californian but clearly influenced by Europe. It's subtle and yet easily approachable. Fonda's album Catching Up With The Future will make a perfect match.

SANTA JULIA
TORRONTES
MENDOZA, ARGENTINA 2002
$10

Santa Julia is the brand name given to the everyday, inexpensive wines produced by Argentinean giants Familia Zuccardi. Among the company's five whites is a Viognier, and it's not desperately good. Fortunately, Santa Julia excels at Argentina's own Rhône-like white grape, Torrontes. Of especially high acidity and notably pungent aromas, Torrontes flourishes in the arid climate of the country's northern areas where it is, in fact, the most commonly-planted of all grapes.

The Santa Julia Torrontes hails from the Maipu and Santa Rosa areas of Argentina's prime wine-growing region, Mendoza, where it is estate grown and bottled by Zuccardi. The 2002 Torrontes is an everyday light yellow-greenish color that opens up in the glass to offer the peaches and perfume aroma so reminiscent of Viognier, along with some of the tangerine and cake-like flavors of a sweet Muscat. In the glass it has a bright acidity that distinguishes itself from these two European standards, while offering up a spicy, full-bodied, dry white wine that makes for an ideal aperitif or food wine even if it lacks some intensity and complexity.

Torrontes may be little known, but it's widely available. I've found this wine on sale in a London pub, a Yorkshire wine store and back here in Brooklyn. Better yet, it's shamefully inexpensive: the Zuccardi bottling barely nudges $10. It's almost impossible to find Viognier that good for that price – and you most certainly won't find any hailing from Argentina. I'm not telling you anything you won't hear from the real experts. The 2001 Santa Julia Torrontes was rated 'Excellent Value' by the Wine Advocate, while the 2002 was awarded four stars by Britain's Decanter Magazine, which also hailed it as one of the World's 50 Best Value Buys. The 2003 vintage (remember, the southern hemisphere harvests during the northern hemisphere's spring) has just been released.

MUSIC: Torrontes is vibrant, aromatic, and indigenous to Argentina. So is Buenos Aires native Gaby Kerpel's Carnabailito.


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