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August 2-8, 2006

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Orson Welles

Wine Tasting Room of the Week

Valley of the Moon Winery

By Daedalus Howell


What may interest both journos and cinephiles about Glen Ellen's Valley of the Moon Winery is the fact that the winery was once owned by Sen. George Hearst, the man who sired newspaper magnate and Citizen Kane inspiration William Randolph Hearst. That Citizen Kane's director and star ended his career hawking vino in Paul Masson TV commercials somehow brings it all full circle for me, but clearly my mind is benumbed from surfing Welles' drunken outtakes on YouTube.com.

Perhaps instead of the epochal utterance "Rosebud" Welles belches in the beginning of Kane, we could dub in "Rosé" and have the man pitching for Valley of the Moon Winery's 2005 Rosato di Sangiovese (which I believe is just a fancy way of saying "rosé made from a popular Italian varietal"). The wine is rife with pleasant dark berry notes, which instantly brought back rosy memories of berry-flavored Hi-C. My traveling companion Eric "Spitzy" Spitznagel, a penman for highfalutin' slicks like Vanity Fair and Esquire, put it more aptly: "It's like a juice box--for adults."

And, yes, that's why he gets paid more than I do.

Spitzy is right, however. The Rosato is a well-packaged gem of a refresher, and a fine way to bring down the mercury during these midsummer valley scorchers. Ditto the 2005 Pinot Blanc, a pithy mÈlange of coconut, mango and tropical citrus that's a nice alternative to the Chards and Sauvignon Blancs currently splashing into summer glasses.

Interestingly, Pinot Blanc is a grape stalked by controversy; many of the vines grown in this country are, in fact, Melon de Bourgogne, a close cousin of Pinot Blanc thanks to an error made by UC Davis (providers of the rootstock) that went undiscovered until 1984. Despite the discovery, many wineries have persisted in calling their melon grapes Pinot Blanc. My palate is not refined enough to suss whether or not the Pinot Blanc in my glass was the real deal, but then, who cares? It would be a dandy sipper even if it was called [insert your favorite expletive here].

The 2003 Sangiovese was introduced by tasting-room staffer Bob Graff as a good "pasta red," which I took to mean that it's either good with a sauce or perhaps in a sauce--frankly, it could work both ways. A quite quaffable table wine, the Sangiovese hasn't the heft of other varietals and consequently makes a fine candidate for daylong imbibing or cooking, or both. The 2003 Barbera has a bouquet that recalls champa incense, which is to say that it has the same sweet and earthy aroma of a girls' dorm room at Sonoma State University circa 1992--a fine place to have been and a fine wine to help remember it.

Valley of the Moon Winery, 777 Madrone Road, Glen Ellen. Open daily, 10am to 4:30pm. Four complimentary tastes are provided; $2 reserve tastes. 707.996.6941. www.valleyofthemoonwinery.com.


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