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March 2020

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West Coast vintners' endeavors with Rhône varieties are showing new sophistication with each passing vintage, and, while capably capturing the richness inherent in each, these are wines that exhibit more polish and complexity than ever before.

Among the most out-and-out inviting and delectable of the Rhône reds, Grenache is a wine that we have been watching for some time, and the exciting new bunch that has made its way to our tasting table is cause for real celebration

Well-made Syrah can be very serious stuff, and this month's collection of new worthies warrants serious attention. There are examples made for cellaring and others that provide tasty drinking right now, and the across-the-board quality is striking.

Grown throughout Southern France, Mouvèdre has slowly taken hold here in California and has become an important component of a good many savory blends.

Wines made from Carignane, especially those sourced from very old, "heritage" sites are a hearty bunch ideally suited for pairing with hearty roasts, braises and stews.

Cinsault makes unexpectedly delicate and graceful wines and is sure to come as a surprise to those that think all Rhônish reds are big, beefy and robust.

With its intoxicating perfume of flowers and fruit, Viognier is, when well-made, a wonderfully rich wine that is lovely on its own or when matched up with food.

We see a few more bottlings of Grenache Blanc with each new vintage, but more than any other of its pale Rhône relations, Grenache Blanc in California is a work still in progress.

Although Roussanne is usually combined with other white varieties, its rich, slightly honeyed qualities come clearly through, and occasional, unblended bottlings can impress with their richness, structure and fruity strength.

Relatively scarce in California and, like Roussanne, almost always employed in blends, Marsanne makes rich and weighty wines of which we have occasionally been impressed.

Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and a handful of reprised Chardonnay favorites head up the March edition of Best Buys and, if all offer fine value, more than a few are unqualified steals.




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