WITH Valentine's Day just two days away, how about a special red wine for your loved one?
Recently in Laguna Niguel, I tasted French Burgundies from the 1,200-year-old House of Thorin, including the rich 1985 Chateau des Jacques Moulin-a-Vent ($13), a noble growth of Beaujolais.
The Thorin family, synonymous with fine Burgundies, traces its heritage back to the 9th Century and the abbey of St. Paul of illustrious Cluny. A settlement, not far from Macon, exists today with the name Romaneche-Thorin and is an awesome reminder of the early roots of wine master Jean Paul Thorin's prestige house.
Just a year ago, the House of Thorin was acquired by the West German house of A. Racke of Bingen, which owns this state's premium winery, Buena Vista of Sonoma, as well as a roster of fine European wine estates including Champagne Bricout of Avize and Kupferberg of Mainz.
The first white wine I tasted was a Premier Cru Chablis, 1986 Fourchaume ($22), shimmering pale gold, of obvious Chardonnay heritage. It was soft with surprising richness, more lovely and gentle than most Chablis, which tend to be biting in total acidity, especially in less-than-great years. This is a winner.
Next, a Chardonnay-Beaujolais Blanc 1986 ($10) from the Romaneche-Thorin Chateau des Jacques estate vineyard. Delicate, suggesting aromas of almonds and vanilla, it was essentially a fine Chardonnay--long and satisfying.
I was not impressed with the 1987 Chassagne-Montrache ($32), or the Puligny-Montrachet ($29.50), but the Meursault ($24) was silky smooth. And though the year, 1987, was less than glorious in Burgundy, the Meursault will not disappoint the curious.
Now the reds. A 1986 Gevrey-Chambertin ($20.50) is obviously born of the aristocratic Pinot Noir, translucent ruby in color, perky in bouquet, slender in body, regal withal. Then came the winners. The 1985 Moulin-a-Vent is the real valentine for you. Beautiful ruby-red with a velvety taste, it may be one of the best Beaujolais wines you'll ever experience. Of course it's of Gamay birth, but this wine is rich, rich, rich. Good drinking right now, it will improve with age.
The Thorin 1986 Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($11.50), with a basically Grenache body and a blend of Carignan, Cinsault, Syrah and other grapes, is a marvelously intense wine. It has a fine berry taste and is not swaggeringly heavy.
Thorin's 1987 Cotes-du-Rhone, L'Escalou ($5), once more of basically Grenache grapes, with Syrah and other varietals like the Chateauneuf-du-Pape, is a charming and supple wine, translucent in jewel hue, almost hinting at cranberry in its beguiling taste.
Time is short for Valentine shopping. Don't let your wine merchant say that these wines are not available. He can get every one of them from importer Young's Market Co. in Los Angeles, the California distributor for Thorin.
Word to the wise: Save some of that Moulin-a-Vent for yourself. For sweetheart-sharing, it's good for both now . . . and tomorrow.