An Atlas of Taste

Most serious wine buffs own an atlas of the vine: Hugh Johnson's classic World Atlas of Wine, now in its fifth edition, usually, or Oz Clarke's more user-friendly New Atlas. At first, it's great fun looking up the map showing the exact patch on the exact hillside where your latest bottle of liquid sunshine hails from. But after a while, it's painful, too. Sure, it's nice, having spent a bundle for a bottle of Clos de Vougeot, to look up the vineyard and see how itlies on a low rise just west of the N74 autoroute; but once there, the eye can't help wandering just a bit farther west, to les Ech麥aux and Musigny, or north to les Charmes, Bonnes Mares, Clos de Tart, Chambertin. . . . Before you know it, you've eye-drunk a thousand bucks worth of great red burgundy: wine you're never, neverbarring a lottery winever going to get a chance to drink for real. It is to satisfy hopeless cravings like these that Campagne wine steward Shawn Mead has invented the Flight Club. If she has her way, every Wednesday from 5 p.m. onward she'll be opening a suite of bottles quite beyond the average pocketbook and offering substantial swigs of each for a flat $25 fee. Not randomly selected fine vintages, either, but a number (usually three) of close cousins among the great names of a great region. Last Wednesday the region was Chⴥauneuf-du-Pape, the undulant plateau on the left bank of the Rh�a few miles north of Avignon where some of the world's most robust reds originate. This week it's Gigondas, another big-red region less than 10 miles from Chⴥauneuf-du-Pape, but only in recent years emerged from the generic "C� du Rh� category. Next week Mead plans to visit the northern Rh� Only a relatively impecunious wine lover can appreciate the luxury of settling down to spend an uninterrupted hour with three half-glasses of indisputably great wine, to put a sensory face to long-familiar names: Vieux T鬩graphe, with its picturesque ruined tower; Chateau de Beaucastel, with its legendary ancient vines; and, from Les Cailloux, one of the earthy, herb-scented productions of the controversial winemaker Andr頂runel. I can easily imagine a sufficiently besotted wine aficionado bellying up to Campagne's bar week after week as Mead works her way up and down the Rh� Loire, and Garonne, across the ravines and mountain passes of Piedmont, along the precipitous slopes of the Mosel. As the atlases have helped us form a picture of the world of wine, the Flight Club offers to return the favor, linking an encyclopedia of savory memories to maps and pictures dreamed over so long. Campagne, 86 Pine St. in the PIKE PLACE MARKET, 206-728-2800. GET THIS "Hogue Cellars in the Yakima Valley of Washington State has made a good chenin blanc over the years, and in fact Washington may be better for growing chenin than California. Washington winemakers often achieve the goal that eludes so many California producers: wines with intensity but without weight."Frank Prial, The New York Times, Wednesday, Feb. 26. We couldn't put it better ourselves, particularly when Hogue's 2000 chenin blanc costs less than $9 a bottle.

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