In the near future I'm going to be placed over the barbie coals. As my feet catch fire the gate keepers will ask, "Why do you say such nasty things about California wine," (take that, Alice Sari. And that and that!). I need to be armed with answers that can pass as intelligent. This is why, instead of relying on seven year old notes, I'm on a mission. I am tasting wines I malign. This past Tuesday I started with the Sherbrooke Cellars/Liz Willette tasting held at Cru. First I fortified myself: Markus Fries 1976 Auslese Noviander Honigberg!! What a delicious spicy confection, even more delicious and important due to a touch of funk. The 1988 Spatlese Bernkasteler Schlossberg is a wee more subtle and no less delcious. And at $420 a case wholesale? I loved the new Mikulski labels, bold, almost like Dard & Ribos and his Aligot� is extremely charming, Then there was one more star for me before I had to go and do service. Domaine Martray's Brouilly, courtesy of Becky Wasserman. The Les Feuillees (which also should hit in the $20s) is a gorgeous beaujo with just the right amount of refreshing tart to balance out the velvet raspberry. The Cuv�e Corentin, is more brooding and more of a keeper. Then I went to Purgatory. I tasted Finnegan�s Lake. Right in the booklet, the winery's objective was clearly stated. �to source the best fruit available.� So much for words. I tried the Cabernet. And while I applaud the price, an old fashioned $80 a case it had over-ripe, rotted flavors I couldn�t deal with. I�m going to get to the point: I�ve never been able to see the fuss over Brewer-Clifton. Lee Campbell, one of the best sommeliers in town and certain with the most infectious, joy producing smiles, directed me to a table over yonder. �Go taste that chardonnay.� She was talking about Brewer-Clifton, one of the Santa Rita Hills wineries supposedly cult. A cult that I never signed up for. �Why?� I asked. �Just go and do it!� She said, cute dominatrix that she is. Being in an oddly passive mood, I complied. I appreciated that there were no aromatic yeasts at work. No tropical fruit! Great going! The wine was poured quite cold, there was a certain squeak to it. I looked at the label. 16% alcohol! For a Chardonnay? Why do they bother to grow the grape down there? Why? Why? Why? And what was the real alcohol? It was so squeaky I felt it had to have been de-alked. It might have entered the world at an even higher percentage. I don�t understand how anyone could drink it let alone pay about $55 retail for the torture of it. That makes the Mikulski, a way more enjoyable drink with way more complexity, an extreme bargain. On to the 3 Somms, because Lee said, �Try it. I want to see your face when you taste it.� The 3 Somms refers to 3 sommelier�s who confer on the �project.� The 2005 Napa Red? More rotted fruit. I appreciate that it probably was not reverse osmosed to find the �sweet spot,� but perhaps in this case, machine calibration for taste might be a good thing. When Lee saw my facial confusion mixed with a quick spit, she burst out. �It�s good for you!� she said, laughing so hard at me tears came to her eyes.