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San Clemente Journal

Bottled Pleasure

Feb 01, 2003 08:34PM ● By Don Kindred
by Maggie Zeibak

   There are lots of “ess’s” to remember when it comes to appreciating wine. We have to see the color of the wine in the glass, swirl to coat, sniff the bouquet, sip, savor (skip the spit part) then finally, swallow. Could it be that a 5-litre boxed wine is a distant memory and you’ve reached a dizzying newheight of sophistication and become a wine bore? Can we look forward to your knowing comments of “fruity finish”, “chewy” and “full-bodied”? 

     Not so fast, you need to meet Robby Clanton, proprietor of Bob’s Fine Wines, located in the K-Mart Plaza, who really knows the score.

     Keeping most of his extensive inventory offsite in a climate–controlled facility, necessary to present wines at their finest, Clanton continues to run the family business since his father (the original Bob) opened it in 1970. Growing up in the business he met many vintners in Napa Valley, and from working in the shop weekends, while studying for his degree in economics, he developed his passion. “I believe I have the best selection in Orange County,” he says proudly “I have a loyal clientele, ship all over the nation and my reputation has been built by word-of-mouth. You will always have my personal guarantee on every bottle you buy and I want everyone to enjoy wine as much as I do.”

     Hand-tasting the offerings from a vineyard is an essential part of earning Clanton’s stamp of approval. Over a one-hour period, he samples a wine in 15-minute intervals and only accepts about 10% of the wines offered. With a discerning palate, developed over the years, he can then assist customers in choosing a special wine or simply recommend something new. “If you have a question about wines, call me. I’d like to be your advisor and supplier. I can match anyone else’s prices and I’d love to help educate someone starting to appreciate wine. Special orders, weddings and intimate occasions all call for careful wine selection and if you bring in your menu we can help choose the right wine for the meal and still keep within your budget,” he said.

     Those of us who missed the Taste of San Clemente last year, need to mark the calendar this year to take advantage of Robby’s generosity in offering vintage wines and rare tastings from top-notch vineyards. He uncorks quality wines, and if you got through wine bootcamp you’ll know that it is an unusual opportunity to sample a truly fine wine for a nominal fee. The joy of discovering a new wine often leads to triumphant emails to fellow aficionados but for savvy consumers, sometimes a private party wine tasting is the ultimate sharing of the wealth and knowledge.

     Breaking into the field of rare wines can lead to an obsession like any other interesting hobby. Serious collectors of wine are single-minded in their pursuit of a perfect collection. As with many hobbies, money seems to be a stumbling block, although for down-to-earth satisfaction when it comes to taste, you won’t have to buy the 1978 Chateau LaFitte Rothschild for $9800 that Mr. Clanton has tucked away. With his help you can find something more reasonable for immediate consumption.

     Plans for expanding the store are way overdue which becomes obvious the minute you walk through the door. Cases of wine are stacked on the floor, beckoning closer inspection. Labels such as Duckhorn, Spotteswoode, Heitz and Screaming Eagle catch the eye. French wines, California wines and Portuguese Port all stand at attention. Convenience items such as snacks, cold drinks and beer can be found as well as the opportunity to purchase the all-important lottery ticket, and for those who love to browse, this is a dream come true. While dreaming, dream like the owner, believing that success is getting what you want and happiness is wanting what you get. If Clanton can’t find the perfect bottle of wine for you, then you need to move on to Mars (stemware not included).

     Fortunately for most of us who may be a little over-awed by sophisticated oenophiles we can cut through the clutter of the wine snobs and cultivate a pure, unadulterated appreciation for a good glass of wine. Perhaps it should be a ruby red, a nose of blackcurrant jam, rose petals, or chocolate and sandalwood, seamless on the palate with a long fruity finish. As a way of introduction, Robby Clanton is offering a special price on a 1998 Silver Oak, Alexander Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon for $54.95 to Journal readers, which most connoisseurs will instantly recognize as a super bargain. Your nose will rise a little higher when you pour it.b

Contact Bob’s Fine Wines, at 496-3313