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Interview with a Vintner

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Michael Yurch, president of Sherry-Lehmann, one of Manhattan's leading wine stores, travels extensively in search of the best as well as the most surprising in wines. He gave us his selections of new wines for the new year, which can be found at 679 Madison Ave.; 212-838-7500;

A Great New Discovery
Last May I went to South Africa for the first time and discovered an extremely picturesque winery called Cape Point, on the continent's southernmost tip, between the Indian and Atlantic oceans. They produce a full range of wines, but I recommend the stunning Cape Point Sauvignon Blanc 2001. It has rich body and creamy complexity ($16).

Buy Now, Drink Later
An incredible wine to buy now and drink in five years is the Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon 1999, from winemaker Jon Engelskirger and proprietor Patrick O'Dell, who have fine-tuned this Napa Valley winery since O'Dell bought it in 1993. It has a solid core of black cherry, plum, currant, anise, and cedar. It's hard to wait five years, but you'll be rewarded if you do ($38).

The Big Deal
One of my favorite California Pinot Noirs is the Hartford Court "Sevens Bench" Pinot Noir 1999, which is handcrafted in small quantities. It's absolutely pure Pinot Noir fruit, with a touch of blackberry and black plum. It doesn't knock your head back with power: It's a big wine but subtle, with grace and elegance. ($58).

Italian Masterpiece
The 1997 vintage is probably the Brunello of the century. Fanti Brunello di Montalcino 1997 has wild fruit on the bouquet and is well-focused, with velvety tannins. It's an absolute fruit bomb right now. In ten years it will be softer and more elegant. The alcohol will be less apparent, the color will dissipate a bit, and the fruit will be more complex ($75).


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