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    Eisele is one of the greatest single vineyards in Northern California. Ridge made a Cabernet from this source in 1971 and Joseph Phelps made a succession of fine wines throughout the 70s and 80s. However, since Bart and Daphne Araujo acquired the property in 1991, they have been responsible for producing some of the world`s greatest and most sought after Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines.

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    Between LA and San Francisco, Santa Barbara County may not yet be as well known in wine terms as Napa or Sonoma, but it is an area very fast on the rise. It is already home to some extremely distinguished vineyards and wineries. It’s a diverse place, too; the eastern inland reaches are hotter and are most known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, while the west excels at cool climate, ocean-influenced Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

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    When I visited the Freemans last year, it wasn`t just the beauty of their redwood-ringed estate that impressed me, or how remote it seems if (as I did) you take the back road from Napa over the Mayacamas Mountains. I was particularly struck by how Burgundian the Pinots seemed this time round, even as they retained all their hedonistic Californian fruit.

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    Occasionally in this job I`m tasting a range of wines from a producer I`ve never heard of and very quickly, in wine after wine I`m asking myself - so how the heck did they do this? Previous experience of Washington State wines was entirely of the mega estate kind, so I wasn`t prepared for the intensity and the freshness of Gramercy`s wines - nor for their vivid flavours and the sheer energy present in the glass. After all, we`re talking about wine made by somebody very young - America`s youngest master sommelier in fact.

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    The Rochioli family may be a taciturn bunch, but their focus is on great winegrowing, not public relations. They were early into everything they grow and one of their great advantages is older vines than most people possess. Since they started winemaking (only in the eighties) they have won numerous awards and enormous respect and affection. Many of these are in extremely short supply, with a five year wait to get on the mailing list. The wines are beautifully pure and current family head Tom Rochioli was inspired by trips to Burgundy to further exploit the fine terroirs of his land.

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