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I took the opportunity to attent a most enjoyable wine luncheon the week before last, where I renewed acquaintances with Tom Burgess and Catherine Eddy, of Burgess Cellars. Besides tasting through their regular lineup, I also got to try the pricier Enveiere and Catherine's Ilona. (Prices reflect discounts currently available in Michigan.)

1999 Burgess Enveiere, $45.99: This deep, dark garnet is the third vintage of Burgess' proprietary red blend, created in 1997 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fully matured Estate vineyards. All six Bordeaux varietals went into this, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabenet Franc, Petite Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere. The wine saw 100% new French oak, and approximately 800 cases were produced. It's all about rich, creamy sweet oak, red currant, cassis and black cherry in flavor and aroma, with soft tannins and a nice, earthy finish; with air, a hint of vanilla ice cream cone emerges on the nose. A very nice Napa - esque Bordeaux blend, this (and the following selection) paired quite well with 220's excellent beef panini.

In the early '90s, Catherine Eddy bought ten acres of land on top of Howell Mountain, situated between the Bancroft, La Jota and Liparita vineyards, at a little over 1,700 feet above sea level. She told me that "ten years ago, buying land up there was doable for a normal person," which is no longer the case. She planted vines that are now eight years old, and produced the following lovely wine, made at Burgess Cellars, of course. Tom laughed when asked if he purchased grapes from Catherine, saying, "No, they're too expensive!"

2000 Ilona Howell Mountain Estate, $34.99, 13.1% alc.: Ilona is the westernized version of Elaine, Catherine's mother's name. Consisting mostly of Merlot, with lesser amounts of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, this pretty dark garnet colored claret shows a more feminine personality than the Burgess reds, and is undeniably charming. There's a more delicate perfume here, though no less lovely, showing red currant, black cherry and the faintest hint of rhubarb. These impressions carry over into the ultra - smooth, medium - to - medium full - bodied flavors with nice intensity, soft tannins, balanced acidity and a somewhat earthy finish. Sleek, streamlined, elegant and delicious to drink now, and over the next five years; 800 cases made.

Reporting from Day-twah,

geo t.
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