Relationship issues aside, I offer my take on 5 bottles that have crossed my path recently:
2005 Qupe Syrah, Central Coast: First things first... Yellowtail makes "shiraz", Qupe makes "syrah". Same grape, yes, but have you ever seen the movie "Twins" with Arnold and Danny Devito? If you did, you will get it. Not to suggest that Qupe is a 6'2" muscleman, but, just like Arnie's character Julius Benedict, this bottle is painfully unaware of its potential. A majority of the syrahs out there dart off the line with a quick mouthfull of red/black fruit, but leave you wanting a second level of flavor. Qupe, on the other hand, eases onto the throttle initially, revs up and begs you to upshift into second and even third gear. $18 at all the usual suspects.
2005 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County: French in simplicity/elegance, Californian at heart. This may be the best bottle of California Pinot that I have had this year. It shrugs off the emerging California trend of syrup and red fruits in favor of balance and minerality. But Santa Barbara is no Burgundy, so the winemaker is not afraid to pave his own Cote d'Or. $19 most everwhere (for the next 6 months or so... just wait because it is sure to go the way of La Crema pinots).
2005 Au Bon Climate Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc, Santa Barbara County: 70% Pinot Gris, 30% Pinot Blanc. This is a white with attitude. Less bright acidity than a sauv blanc, more body with a hit of apples with an underpinning of light oak. It just doesn't have the muscle of competing California chardonnays. But maybe, in the words of Pulp Fiction's Jules Winnfield, chardonnay, "ain't the same fuckin' ballpark, it ain't the same league, it ain't even the same fuckin' sport." The question remains: can Alsatian whites play ball in California? $17 at Blue Fog market (with a new SF location at California and Divis).
2006 New Gerwurz, North Coast of California: For the price, this bottle really made an impression. Gewurtztraminer will do that to you. Spicy, floral, with some Welch's white grape juice. You don't suggest this bottle to all your friends because they just won't get it. It's wierd and funky and its got a personality. It's like the cute friend of yours whose got a strong personality. You would never set her up on a blind date with one of your buddies, because chances are, it's just not going to click. But if you really think about it, you know someone will fall for her big time. And she is monumentally undervalued. $9 on sale at Molly Stones.
Piper-Heidsieck Brut NV, Champagne: I cheated on my local regulars: Gloria, Chandon, Sofia and Piper. She was French and ready-to-go, so I upped the ante about $7 in hopes of a novel romp. Passable, yeasty, with some good bubbles. But she just didn't work for it. Honestly, she may as well have stolen my wallet off the nightstand the next morning. $23 at D+M.