The wine business is in a state of consolidation in which fewer and fewer big companies own or represent more and more formerly independent wineries. The result is seldom good news for lovers of unique wines, but if the people I've met from Young's Market are any indication, I'll make an exception. Fellow panelist Karen McMillan left a local distributorship to work for Young's, and her boss was in town recently. Karen is one of the best people I know, and her co-worker David Engen made a great first impression. They took the opportunity to put together a special tasting of high-end reds from their portfolio. Mostly new-world wines, they ranged from pricey to very pricey. Here are the panel's three favorites:
2004 Craggy Range Le Sol Gimblett Gravels, $72
A New Zealand syrah from Hawkes Bay, new-world in origin, old-world in style with layered aromas of plum and cherry punctuated by pepper, spice, cocoa, cigar box and fresh pipe tobacco. Both white and black pepper color the rich palate, blending nicely with ripe cherry and dark berry fruit. Touches of mineral and earth highlight the lengthy finish along with smooth, dusty tannins. An exceptional wine that shows that New Zealand is about more than sauvignon blanc and pinot noir.
2002 Grant Burge The Holy Trinity, $32
The Burge family settled in Australia's Barossa in the 1850s and has been making wine for over a century. This Trinity is a mostly equal blend of old vine grenache, shiraz and mouvedre. It's very Aussie in style with extraordinary aromas bursting forth—bright berry and cherry fruit, anise, nicely integrated oak, white pepper, rose petals and just a hint of dill. Rich but not overwhelming with creamy cherry and red berry fruit flavors backed by subtle touches of pepper and earthy spice. The finish goes on and on, marked by a balancing hit of acidity in this relative bargain of the group.
2003 St. Supery Elu, $57
A traditional Bordeaux blend from Napa Valley: 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, 18 percent merlot, 4 percent petit verdot, 2 percent cabernet franc and 1 percent malbec. Beautiful aromas, refined and lovely, pour from the glass with lavish oak and cedar, cherry liqueur, anise and creamy vanilla. This is an elegantly structured wine that's drinking beautifully with a nice texture marked by softy cherry fruit, mocha and a touch of licorice. Chewy tannins can be felt on the long smooth finish.
This week's panel: Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Engen, Young's Market; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op Wine Shop; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Young's Market; Leslie Young, Spirit Distributing.