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April 4-10, 2007

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Wine Tasting

Selby Winery

By James Knight

Ain't it grand that, even during the reign of a president who stays the course of sobriety, our fine local wines continue to be served at White House state dinners? It's particularly fun to imagine interns squirreling away opened bottles afterwards, if we presume that the executive crib bears any resemblance to the rest of the world. The nonpartisan chief sommelier has been partial to Selby Chardonnay through several administrations, as attested to in official menus posted on the wall of that winery's tasting room. Tony Blair enjoyed it with sliced duck breast. Bill Clinton had something similar.

Susie Selby is a Texan as blonde as Semillon who, after pursuing degrees in marketing and business, adopted her late father's dream of opening a family winery in the early 1990s, and worked her way up from cellar rat to winemaker. A few blocks from the winery, Selby pours in one of the boutique tasting rooms that have sprouted like weeds around the Healdsburg Plaza. The day after a grueling wine-tour weekend, we found people a little shell-shocked, but the Selby joint was kick-back and friendly. Absent of food pairing, chewing the fat goes a long way toward having a good time with wine.

Sweet tooths might best appreciate the grassy, lemony 2005 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc ($13). A waft of the 2005 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($28) brings back olfactory memories of sunny days gone by (was it that coconut sunscreen that the girls put on?) with a distinct flavor of lime. Now let me get this straight: She put the lime in the coconut? We drank it all up. The 2005 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($32) has an enticing strawberry aroma, and depending on taste, either falters as too thin or succeeds as delicate.

The deep black cherry 2002 Alexander Valley Malbec ($28) is made for an asado, by which I mean barbecue. Of a yet deeper hue, the 2003 Sonoma County Petite Sirah ($28) hints of coconut and raisin, but it's hard to tell what else might be lurking within this tannin monster. Drinkable now, the 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel ($28) is pure jam on toast and might almost go great with a cup of coffee. I didn't find the 2005 Bobcat Zinfandel ($34) as intense as suggested; dry but declawed, it's redolent of freshly pressed grape skins. If you're putting together an instructional wine aroma kit, be sure to include the 2004 Azevedo Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) and label it "eucalyptus."

Bottom line? More unique than expected. What did I grab a few bottles of to squirrel away? The late-harvest 2000 Sweet Cindy ($12), a tragically sweet potion that is all apricot and Cognac ringed with white raisins dancing around in a delirium.

Selby Winery, 215 Center St., Healdsburg. Tasting Room open daily 11am to 5:30pm. Tastings are free. 707.431.1288.

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