It's hard to find a bottle of wine whose back label doesn't boast of aging in French oak barrels. It may soon be equally hard to find one that doesn't credit the clones it's made from. This aspect of viticulture, which involves taking cuttings from a single superior mother vine, is something more wineries are publicizing. Among those citing their clones are Chateau St. Jean (the Robert Young Chardonnay clone), Erath Vineyards (the Dijon 76 Chardonnay clone) and Niebaum-Coppola (the Niebaum Cabernet clone).
There's a lot that's new about Blue Nun: it's actually blue (the bottle, that is) and it comes in two additional incarnations, White Zinfandel and Merlot (sold at wine shops nationwide).
What's shiny and cool on the inside and sturdy but flexible on the outside? California Innovation's ThermalWhiz Collapsible Cooler, a terrific alternative to traditional designs. It comes folded flat, not much bigger than a handbag, but expands to transform into a full-size cooler. A variety of shapes and sizes that range from a small 6-can to a huge 72-can ($14.99 to $49.99) can suit any occasion. The thirty-six can version coolly held two big bottles of cold water, six nectarines, four peaches and some enormous tomatoes (sans icepack) on a 8-hour car trip, and then folded to a flat wisp of a nothing for the return trip. Cool, huh? Available at department and hardware stores. For more information, call California Innovations at 888/413-2665.
Sonoma in the Spotlight
Though decidedly more down-home than its Napa counterpart, the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction, September 5- 7, offers an equal amount of fine wine and great food. For more info,call 707-935-0803.
wine of the month: the 1996 J. A. Ferret Les Moulins Pouilly-Fuissé ($26), one of the few Pouilly-Fuissés that warrant some fuss--and a fairly high price tag. It's big and rich but well-balanced with a lovely floral nose.