Good Value Wines December 2005

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Sparkling Wine

Roederer Estate N.V., $34 California: A California sparkler that has loads of fruit and body. This is the one I recommend when someone asks what's your favorite "reasonably priced" bubbly that's widely available in stores? Score: 89/100.

Veuve Clicquot N.V., 563338 $61.05 Champagne: Pear and hazelnut aromas with a long finish. When you're willing to pay a little more, this is the one I recommend. More toasty, less fruity than the Roederer. Elegant. Score: 90/100.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery Cipes Brut, Okanagan, British Columbia Product number: 314419 $19.95: Hands-down the best Canadian sparkling wine I've ever tasted. And lest that qualification seem too reserved, let me say that this is a marvelous, robust and rich bubbly that holds its own next to the famous non-vintage sparklers from around the world. Toasty goodness, a strong backbone and enough green apple zip to carry you through even the most boring cocktail parties. No sulfites added from this organic winery. If you can get it, order a case of it as your house bubbly. At this price, you can't go wrong. For this wine, and for the others from B.C. below, you probably need to order directly from the winery so I'll include their contact information: 250-764-8000 or 800-667-3538 or visit Score: 90/100.

White Wines

2005 House of Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand dry (554444; $15.40): A zippy white with tangy aromas of gooseberry, grapefruit and peaches. Pair it with pasta, smoked salmon, shellfish and chicken. Several generations of the family have been making wine for 300 years. Score: 88/100. Favorite White Wine

2004 Gunderloch Riverside Riesling Product number: 499814 $10.45 10% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 2 Rhine Rheinhessen, Germany: An off-dry, zippy white wine with lovely ripe aromas of ripe peaches and pears. This wine will go divinely with Asian dishes and medium curries, as well as shellfish, salmon, chicken and turkey. Score: 89/100. Best Value White Wine

2003 Pere Patrirche Chardonnay Vin de Pays d'Oc 621805 $9.95 France: A remarkably balanced and easy-drinking chard for the money. A kiss of oak and aromas of green apples and ripe pears. Pair with lobster, corn dishes, creamy pasta. Score: 86/100.

2002 Chateau des Charmes Riesling VQA 61499 $10.95 12.0% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content : 1 Ontario, Canada: Buckle up and go: this racy riesling zooms along your palate like an Audi along the Autobahn. Zippy, exciting, with a faint whiff of petrol (a good thing in small doses). Rev your lemons! Score: 87/100.

2004 Gehringer Riesling V.Q.A. 171488 $12.00 12% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 2 British Columbia, Canada: This wine is available in the LCBO on the regular list. A good thing too: lovely aromas of lemons and citrus fruit. Great price. Medium body. Pair with chicken, pasta, creamy cheese, Asian dishes. Score: 88/100.

2003 Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Chardonnay VQA 665240 $12.95 14.7% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 1 British Columbia: Buttery, oaky and round like snuggling in a warm sweater in front of a fire. Aged in French and American oak with a full malolactic fermentation. Aromas of apples, peaches and toasty goodness. Drink with sole, chicken, pasta, lobster and corn dishes. Score: 87/100.

2004 Gray Monk Gewürztraminer 11.4% Alcohol/Vol. Okanagan, B.C.: An off dry exotically perfumed white with aromas of lychee nuts and grapefruit. Score: 88/100.

Red Wines

2001 Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 502039 14.1% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 1 South Australia: Loads of black fruit. Full-bodied richness. The red soils in which the vines are grown give the wine an intense flavor. Drink with steak, hamburgers, stew. Score: 89/100.

2002 Palandri Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 602607 $17.95 13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: 1 West Australia: A big wine with plump ripe red fruit. Good acidity makes it great with a wide range of dishes from hearty meat fare to tomato-sauce pasta. Aged in oak 12 months. The stylized reptile on the label is fashioned after Gecko. Score: 88/100.

2002 Wakefield Promised Land Shiraz Cabernet 625343 $14.95 13.5% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 1 New South Wales, Australia: A rich, juicy, full-bodied red that I've recommended for several vintages now. This one also has a lovely spiciness that will make it ideal for pepper steak, tomato-sauce pasta and hearty meat dishes. Look for another adorable sea creature on the label: the seahorse. Score: 88/100. Best Value Red Wine

2001 Penfolds Shiraz St. Henri 510875 $54 14.2% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: XD South Australia, Australia: Robust red with layers of black fruit, toasty oak and warmth. I've been a fan of this wine for several vintages: in my mind it's the best wine for the money in the Penfolds lineup. Score: 91/100.

2003 Matua Valley Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 610964 $15.95 12.4% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 1 New Zealand: Another wines I've recommended for several vintages. Aromas of bright red fruit with vibrant acidity makes it a great dinner companion to meat dishes, pizza, pork and chicken. Score: 87/100.

2003 Pasqua Sagramoso Ripasso Valpolicella 602342 $17.15 13.5% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 1 Veneto, Italy: Lovely Italian red: perfect mouth-watering fruit and acidity for pasta in tomato sauce, lasagna and pizza. Ripe aromas of cherries. Full ripasso means they pass the wine over the skins of the dried grapes like amarone to enhance the color, flavor and structure. Drink with roast meats and hearty conversations. Score: 89/100.

1997 Felix Solis Los Molinas Gran Reserva 620971 $13.95 13.0% Alcohol/Vol. Valdepenas, Spain: Lovely balance and juicy, mouth-watering acidity. Silky texture with the elegance of age. Aromas of raspberries, smoke and spice. Score: 89/100.

2002 Ricascoli Brolio Chianti Classico 3962 $23.90 13.5% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 1 Tuscany, Italy: Lovely balance and great character. Smoky red fruit, ripe cherries, spice and violets. Truffle hunting anyone? This winery is located between Sienna and Florence (nice life). Chianti is made from the sangiovese grape. It's perfect with all the regional dishes such as pasta in tomato sauce, pizza, lasagna, sausages and spaghetti with meat balls. (Really, you're getting too thin, eat!) Score: 90/100.

2003 Cesari Mara Vino Ripasso Valpolicella 506519 $14.95 13.5% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 1 Veneto, Italy: Aromas of chocolate and mouth-watering ripe red fruit. Full-bodied in a velvet glove. For ripasso wines, the winemaker dries the grapes much as they do for amarone wines to give it extra color, texture and flavor. This wine was aged in oak for 6-12 months. I'm a fan of this particular producer from Italy, including his high-end labels. This is an amazing value. Score: 90/100. Favorite Red Wine

2001 Bolla Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC 352757 $34.95 14.5% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 1 Veneto, Italy: That DOC is Italy's quality designation: it doesn't guarantee you a great-tasting wine, but it increases your odds of avoiding a bad one. The grapes for this are dried for 90 days on straw mats to concentrate the flavor. This one is full-bodied and rich but doesn't taste as alcoholic as it is, which is a very good thing given how high the alcohol is. (Best to stay home and watch The Sopranos afterwards.) Drink with roast meats, stew and hearty dishes. Decant for an hour or two first. Score: 90/100.

2003 Louis Bernard Cotes-du-Rhone 561308 $9.95 13.8% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 1 Rhone, France: Spicy ripe red cherries, cedar forest carpet and a racy acidity that makes my heart beat a little quicker. A consistent producer from the Rhone. This wine combines Grenache and syrah grapes. Medium- to full-bodied, supple as a yoga instructor. Drink with veal, game, lamb and steak. (Not that a yoga instructor would likely approve of any of these choices.) Score: 87/100.

2001 Chateau Bonnet 99044 $16.85 12.3% Alcohol/Vol. Bordeaux, France Andre Lurton: Stop moaning that you can no longer afford Bordeaux when you have choices like this. It just means picking a great year, and 2001 was just such (overshadowed as it was by the much-hyped 2000s). A simple and pleasant, medium-bodied bordeaux that would be perfect with a juicy steak or rare roast beef. Aromas of cassis and leather. Chew baby! Old World finesse and balance. A blend of cabernet and merlot. Score: 86/100.

2003 Domaine Preignes Le Vieux Merlot Syrah 532309 $12.70 12.5% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 1 Languedoc, France: This plummy, juicy red from southern France has a soft texture. Medium- to full-bodied. Drink with roast meat or a pepper steak. Score: 87/100.

2003 Sterling Vintner's Collection Merlot 622837 $15.40 13.5% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 1 Central Coast, California: One of the better values coming out of California. This one is plummy, round and full-bodied. Even if you did see the movie Sideways, give merlot a break! You can't drink pinot all the time, can you? Score: 89/100.

2000 E & J Gallo of Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 354274 $16.95 13.5% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 1 California: Another terrific value producer. This wine is superbly made for the money. Aromas of dark plums, currants and berries. Full-bodied. Drink with heart meat dishes. Score: 90/100.

2004 Cono Sure Isla Negra Merlot 516294 13.5% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 1 Chile: Aromas of chocolate and black plums. A simple wine (not as great as the 2003, but still terrific value). Drink with meats and stew. Score: 85/100.

2003 Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 275925 12.2% Alcohol/Vol. Chile: Aromas of black plums, spice, chocolate. Full-bodied with a velvet texture. Aged in oak nine months. Serve with steak, sausage and stew. Score: 87/100.

2003 Carmen Reserve Merlot, Casablanca Valley, Chile (620690; $16.95): This wine comes from the Casablanca Valley, a cool climate region now considered one of Chile's best. Bursting with ripe dark plums, blackberries, dried herbs and spices. It was aged 10 months in French and American oak. Pair this full-bodied wine with steak and stew. Drink 2005-2009. Score: 90/100.

2003 Santa Alicia Carmenere Reserve 309302 $10.15 13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: 1 Maipo valley, Chile: Rich dark fruit with vibrant acidity. Aromas of black plums. Score: 86/100.

2003 Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 253872 $12.95 12.5% Alcohol/Vol. Maipo Valley, Chile: Aromas of bitter chocolate and plums. Full-bodied and supple. Aged in French and American oak for eight months. Drink with grilled and barbecue steak, hamburgers. Score: 87/100.

2003 Robertson Winery Shiraz 610949 $11.95 13.4% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 1 South Africa: A balanced and full-bodied red, with spicy and peppery notes, ripe plums. Dink with beef, roast and stew. Score: 89/100.

2004 Colio Cabernet/Merlot VQA 432054 $10.95 Ontario, Canada: Rich, deep and luxurious. Aromas of cassis and blackcurrant. I've been a fan of the red from this southwestern Ontario for years. Drink with beef and brontosaurus burgers. Score: 89/100.

2003 Mission Hill Five Vineyards Cabernet Merlot VQA 257816 $14.95 12.4% Alcohol/Vol. Okanagan, British Columbia: A balanced, medium-bodied wine with mouth-watering dark red fruit and chocolate aromas. Pair with lamb, steak and game dishes. Score: 87/100.

2002 Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Merlot V.Q.A. 543876 $12.95 13.8% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 1 British Columbia, Canada: This winery has operations in both Ontario and B.C., but consistently, bottle after bottle, I love the wines from the Okanagan by far. Must be the climate, but the reds are rich and layered... terrific value for the money too. This one has aromas of plums, blackcurrants and mocha with a long finish. Medium- to full-bodied. Both French and American oak were used. Drink with grilled steak, veal and hearty meat dishes. Score: 88/100.

2002 Jackson-Triggs Proprietor's Reserve Meritage $19.99 13.8% Alcohol/Vol. Okanagan, B.C.: A blend of cab sauv 40%, merlot 40%, can franc 10%, malbec 7% and petit verdot 3%. Aromas of dark berries, spice and smoke. Pair with lamb, venison and beef. Score: 89/100.

2003 Cedar Creek Merlot, 53535 $27.09 14.5% Alcohol/Vol. Okanagan, B.C.: Plummy and purply with a heart of oak. Full-bodied. To order, call: 416-694-3689 or 604-251-5030. Score: 88/100.

2003 Cedar Creek Platinum Reserve Chardonnay VQA 607218 $28.99 Okanagan, B.C.: This winery loves oak. This chard is warm, round and buttery. To order, call: 416-694-3689 or 604-251-5030. Score: 89/100.

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Copyright © 2005 by Natalie MacLean. All rights reserved. Please ask permission of the author before copying or using this material.