Wine Picks for April 29, 2006

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BOLLINGER 'SPECIAL CUVÉE' BRUT CHAMPAGNE AC 384529 (D = dry) 750 mL $64.95: One the finest non-vintage bubblies on the market. Muscular, complex, robust and deeply toasty. A wine to toast the fact you bought stock early on in Google. Score: 92/100

Australian Red Wine

JIM BARRY 'THE MCRAE WOOD' SHIRAZ 2002 Clare Valley, South Australia: Product number = 737817 (XD = extra dry) 750 mL $42.95: Borders on too much alcohol, body, fruit and other elements, but for those who like to live life to excess, it's perfect. Pair with hearty meat dishes and barbecue. Drink 2006-2010. Score: 90/100.

ROSEMOUNT 'BALMORAL' SYRAH 2001 McLaren Vale, South Australia: 388918 (XD) 750 mL $64.95: Aromas of black fruit, spice, berries, plums. Full-bodied richness, yet with a lovely balance. I've recommended this wine year after year for several vintages now. Drink 2006-2012. Score: 91/100.

DOMAINE DAY SANGIOVESE 2003 Mount Crawford, Barossa Valley, South Australia: 683243 (D = dry) 750 mL $22.95: Tastes like shiraz to me, but who cares. It's delicious, full-bodied and rich. Aromas of black fruit and mint. Score: 89/100.

HENSCHKE KEYNETON ESTATE 'EUPHONIUM' 2002 Barossa Valley, South Australia: 720433 (XD) 750 mL $49.95: A wine that could lead me to all sorts of temptations: it's haunting, exotic and stunning. Loads of full-bodied aroma and flavor, with marvelous layered nuances. Score: 93/100.

KILIKANOON 'MEDLEY' GRENACHE/SHIRAZ/MOURVEDRE 2002 South Australia: This wine comprises 50% Grenache, 40% Shiraz, and 10% Mourvedre from old estate vineyards in Clare, Barossa, and McLaren Vale. 675256 (XD) 750 mL $24.95: Rich, tannic, big black fruit. Decant 2 hours. Drink with kangaroo or marsupial substitute. Score: 90/100.

WOLF BLASS 'BLACK LABEL' SHIRAZ/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2001 South Australia 960468 (XD) 750 mL $89.95: Gigantic and gorgeous. Dark fruit aromas, tar and currants. The price is crept up about as much as I can take it. After this, its main market will be the founders of Google. Score: 93/100.

MITCHELTON 'BLACKWOOD PARK ESTATE' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003 Central Victoria: VC: The grapes are sourced primarily from the Blackwood Park Estate vineyard in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range near the Goulburn River. Expect a perfumed nose with floral notes mingling with the blackcurrant, plum and mint aromas; a juicy, well-structured palate, fine tannins and good length. 678219 (XD) 750 mL $19.95: My note: Full-bodied, hot and decadent. Score: 89.5/100.

SEPPELT 'ST. PETERS' SHIRAZ 2000 Great Western Vineyards, Victoria 493080 (XD) 750 mL $54.95: Aromas of cassis, ripe plums and blackberries. Full-bodied and delicious. Score: 90/100.

2003 BLACKWELL SHIRAZ BAROSSA 2003 535104 $28.95 Sugar Content: 1 South Australia: Great value. (Note to winery marketing manager: please don't raise the price!) Gorgeous black fruit and spice. Score: 90/100.

D'ARENBERG 'THE FERAL FOX' PINOT NOIR 2004 652891 $26.95 (D) South Australia VC: Though d'Arenberg is best known for championing the McLaren Vale region with a vast array of wines from their home base, they step out to the cool Adelaide Hills to make this delicate and savory Pinot Noir. Now in its third vintage, this silky mix of strawberry, prunes and dried herb flavors, with some spicy notes is a classic match for roast duck. My note: Lovely, vibrant, medium-bodied wine bursting with ripe cherries. Score: 89.5/100.

ROLLING CABERNET MERLOT 2004 (CUMULUS WINES) 678490 $14.95 Sugar Content: 1 New South Wales, Australia: Amazing value. A round, rich wine that is full-bodied and simple with enticing aromas of chocolate and dark fruit. Score: 88/100.

New Zealand Wines

WAIMEA 'SPINYBACK' SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Nelson, South Island VC: The 'Spinyback' lizard is native to New Zealand. Waimea Estates donates 5 cents of every bottle they sell to fund research and education into their namesake. Nelson, after Marlborough, is probably the best place in New Zealand to grow Sauvignon Blanc. The climatic conditions are ideal for the creation of the legendary grass/gooseberry/passion fruit aromas and flavors we've all come to expect in Kiwi Sauvignon. Enjoy with grilled prawns. 694737 (XD = extra dry) 750 mL $16.95. My note: A grassy, herbal, refreshing and delightful white wine. Score: 87/100. Best Value White

MOUNT RILEY PINOT NOIR 2004 Nelson/Marlborough, South Island 694703 (XD) 750 mL $18.95: One third of the blend was aged for eight months in French and America oak casks. Good, zippy attack that makes it a terrific food wine for dishes such as salmon, pasta, chicken. Vibrant aromas of ripe cherries. Score: 88/100.

South African Red Wine

BEAUMONT PINOTAGE 2003 WO Walker Bay Judges, Decanter World Wine Awards 2005: Deep rich color. Deep mulberry fruit, French oak. Full, rich, ripe, complex and long. Very young. Silver Medal. 963116 (XD) 750 mL $22.95. My note: Wow! Makes a pinotage believer out of me (or perhaps a Beaumont believer). Lovely balance of dark red fruit and smoke. Score: 89.5/100.

SUMARIDGE SYRAH 2002 627794 $28.95 (XD) South Africa VC: Winner of a Gold Medal at the 2002 Michelangelo Awards. Sumaridge is the newest winery in the Hemel en Aarde Valley, which already includes Hamilton Russell Vineyards and Bouchard Finlayson. The property is 216 hectares in size and is found on the north facing slopes of the valley, from the foothills of Galpin Peak in the Fernkloof Fynbos Nature Reserve to De Bos Dam, with views over Walker Bay and the Babylonstoren mountains. My note: Black fruit, deep and rich body. Score: 90/100.

French Red Wine

CHÂTEAU LA GARDE 2000 AC Pessac-Léognan 682617 (XD) 750 mL $49.95: Classic bordeaux from a wonderful vintage: cassis, smoke, blackcurrants. Pair with lamb or rare steak. Drink 2006-2010. Score: 90/100.

CHATEAU FEYTIT CLINET 2003 598441 12.5% Alcohol/Vol. (XD) $74.95 Bordeaux: Another classic bordeaux from a hot vintage. Balanced and lovely. Needs to smooth out the tannins so decant for 2 hours or age it. Drink 2007-2011. Score: 90/100.

CHATEAU FOMBRAUGE 2003 591180 12.5% Alcohol/Vol. (XD) $56.95 Bordeaux: Blend comprises 71% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon. Yield is just 24 hectoliters per hectare. Smoke, cassis, dark fruit, leather, joy. Drink 2008-2012. Score: 91/100.

POMMARD CLOS DE LA PLATIÈRE 2003 AC (Prince Florent de Merode, Prop.-Récolt.) Burgundy VC: Medium ruby color leads to pretty aromas of strawberry, sandalwood, beetroot and raspberry. Dry with very good fruit tones surrounded by beautiful fine-grain tannins. Medium full-bodied with a long finish. Needs 2-4 years in a cellar. 681841 (D) 750 mL $45.95. My note: Perfumed with ripe cherries and earth. Classic pinot noir, and not too heavy for this hot vintage. Balanced. Pair with salmon, chicken and roast meats. Score: 89.5/100.

GEVREY CHAMBERTIN 2003 (DOM. VIRGILE LIGNIER) 681833 Sugar Content: 1 Burgundy $64.95: Like a spoiled mistress or pool boy: silky, seductive and way too expensive. But what can you do if you need it? Wonderful aromas of berries, spice and earth. Racy acidity that makes it perfect for roast meats, salmon and drab food you need to compensate for. Score: 91/100. Favorite Red Wine

BOURGOGNE Vincent Girardin Cuvee Saint-Vincent 2002 727966 $19.95 (XD) Burgundy VC: The 2002 vintage in Burgundy was legendary. Here is an early maturing example to warm you up for the shape of things to come. My note: I had wicked thoughts of hoarding this and not recommending it so I could be assured of a ready supply. Then my humanitarian side asserted itself once more and I got on with the business of sacrificing my drinking pleasure for yours. This isn't just an incredible price, it has to be an inventory control mistake. Does burgundy ever get priced like this anymore? Granted this isn't complex, but its lovely, delicious and still of the land. Score: 88/100.

LES JAMELLES MOURVÈDRE 2002 Vin de Pays d'Oc VC: This ever-popular Mourvèdre is a fruity/spicy quaffer that is ideal for hamburgers or sausages off the spring grill, especially on those perfect days in early May when everything is coming back to life. 738237 (D) 750 mL $11.95. My note: A happy and delicious wine that reminds me of zinfandel in its ripe berry character. Ideal for the barbecue. Fantastic value. Buy a case for your summer parties. Score: 88/100. Best Value Red Wine

TARDIEU-LAURENT 'LES GRANDS AUGUSTINS' 2004 Vin de Pays d'Oc VC: A jammy, ripe, grapey wonder that would work nicely with rich meat pasta sauces or steak. It is medium full-bodied with a rich core and soft tannins. 971341 (XD) 750 mL $17.95. My note: Purply, simple and juicy. The Ultimate Barbecue Wine. Score: 87/100.

CH. ETANG DES COLOMBESCORBIERES 2003 681932 375 mL half-bottle 12.5% Alcohol/Vol. $10.95 Sugar Content: 1 Midi: There are so few decent half bottles available that I snap them up when I can. They're ideal to drink when you're on your own or want to vary the wines between courses. This has dark fruit and distinct tannins so decant for an hour so. Score: 86/100.

DOMAINE DE MOURCHON SÉGURET 'GRANDE RÉSERVE' 2004 AC Côtes du Rhône-Villages VC: Mourchon is one of the Rhône's hottest estates at this moment, garnering much favorable press. 988667 (D) 750 mL $25.95. My note: Huge black fruit. Hot at 14.5% alcohol. Alluring aromas of cedar, tobacco and dark red fruit. Pair with hearty meat dishes and stew. Score: 90/100.

'LES DEUX ANGES' SABLET 2004 AC Côtes du Rhône-Villages (Domaine de Cabasse) VC: Give this big, generous red a slight chill and serve with rosemary and thyme roast chicken. The aromas recall blueberry, raspberry, strawberry and thyme and rosemary. It finishes with no hard edges, as its ripe and generous nature is very upfront. 674069 (D) 750 mL $14.95. My note: Great value. Aromas of ripe red fruit. Full-bodied and tannic. Decant for 2-3 hours. One of the loveliest labels and etched glass bottles I've seen. Score: 87/100.

Greek Red Wine

BOUTARI AGIORGITIKO 2003 'Dionysus in Winter', Nemea VC: This easy drinking, food-friendly wine has aromas of blackberry, plum, smoke, earth and a hint of clove. It is dry and ripe, light-bodied with an impressive finish. Enjoy with grilled chicken or pork, gourmet sausages or pizza. 650689 (D) 750 mL $14.95. My note: Soft, simple and slurpy-delicious. Score: 85/100.

Italian Red Wine

TERREDORA DI PAOLO AGLIANICO 2004 IGT Irpinia VC: Aglianico is one of Italy's hidden masterworks. A very approachable, remarkably mellow Aglianico with aromas that suggest cranberry, grenadine, coconut, licorice and fresh herbs. This dry wine is round and ripe with very good balance, a medium body and a lingering finish. Enjoy with lasagna or grilled steaks. 602284 (D) 750 mL $15.95. My note: A love it or hate it wine: fascinating aromas. Like Sex in the City, it won't make you work hard trying to figure out what's in the glass. Great with simple food such as pasta and tomato sauce. Score: 88/100.

TAURINO 'NOTARPANARO' ROSSO 1999 IGT Salento VC: Food match: wild game, roast lamb, mature cheeses. 730937 (D) 750 mL $22.95. My note: Lovely layers with mouth-watering acidity. Liqueur-like intensity and richness of dark red fruit. Pair with lasagna and sausages. Score: 89/100.

CASTELLO DI CACCHIANO CHIANTI CLASSICO 2000 DOCG VC: From a great vintage comes this Chianti Classico from Castello di Cacchiano. Expect plum and dried fruit aromas with more of the same on the palate. This fruity, crisp wine is drinking beautifully now. Enjoy with veal tenderloin. 987255 (XD) 750 mL $25.95. My note: Classic chianti, just missing the woven straw cover. Aromas of cherries and earth. Pair with pasta and tomato sauce or pizza. Score: 88/100.

MARCHESE DE VILLAMARINA 1999 954081 13.5% Alcohol/Vol. (XD) $49.95 Tenute Sella & Mosca: Gorgeous dark layers of chocolate and black plums. Decadent: a wine to fall into and never come back. Decants 2 hours if you can stand the wait. Drink 2007-2013. (Who am I kidding?) Score: 92/100.

Spanish Red Wine

'PRADO REY' CRIANZA 2001 DO Ribera del Duero (Real Sitio de Ventosilla) VC: For a butterflied leg of lamb, you will do very well matching it to this wine. The aromas suggest raspberry, cherry, sage and oak tones. It is dry, assertive with firm tannins. Medium full-bodied with a lingering finish. This will also reward short to mid-term cellaring (2-5 years) 725820 (XD) 750 mL $20.95. My note: Delicious mouth-watering goodness that screams for food (roast meats, pasta, chicken, something!). Decant for 2 hours. Score: 90/100.

VALLFORMOSA GRAN RESERVA TINTO 1999 DO Penèdes VC: Maturing very nicely, this Gran Reserva shows its age in its color, garnet/ruby, but not on the nose or the palate. Cherry, cloves, berries, leather and mushroom are very apparent. It is dry, retains a very good fruitiness, yet still has moderate tannins for continued ageing. A substantial finish. Enjoy with a roast beef dinner. 959494 (D) 750 mL $19.95. My note: Get out of your shiraz rut with this wine. Full-bodied but with better bones (structure/balance) than shiraz can ever hope for. Amazing price. Aromas of leather, dark red fruit and mystery. Score: 90/100.

German White Wine

ERDNER TREPPCHEN RIESLING SPATLESE 2003 (MONCHOF) 670646 7.5% Alcohol/Vol. $17.95 Sugar Content: 7 Moselle-Saar-Ruwer: Vibrant acidity that's ideal for salads, seafood and shellfish. Lovely aromas of ripe peaches. Score: 88/100. Favorite White Wine

California Red Wine

RMW CARNEROS DISTRICT PINOT NOIR 2002 438697 14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
$49.95 Sugar Content: 1: Vibrant red cherries with mouth-watering acidity. Many rich layers of flavor. Pair with roast meats, salmon, chicken. Score: 90/100.

Chilean Red Wine

433920 14.5% Alcohol/Vol. (XD) $14.95 VC: For the three wines in their 'Trio' range, Concha y Toro sources the best regions for the grapes in each blend: this wine is from the Rapel Valley, the Chard combo from Casablanca Valley and the Cab Sauv gang is mostly from Maipo Valley. My note: dark, rich and deep. Great value. Score: 89/100.

Canadian Red Wine

INNISKILLIN OKANAGAN BEAR CUB ZIN 2003 675488 Sugar Content: 1 $29.95 British Columbia: Tastes chocolately and rich like a cabernet. Full-bodied and wonderful. Score: 90/100.


WARRE'S 'OTIMA' 20 YEARS OLD PORT Btld. 2005: Judges, International Wine & Spirit Competition, 2005: Pale, pinkish red with tawny rim. Very rich, intense nose with orange rind, fig, almond and hints of marmalade. Rich, sweet concentration of fruit in the mouth. Excellent smooth flow across the palate and super balance. Long persistent fruit and spice filled finish. Beautiful wine for enjoyment now. Gold 682716 (S = sweet) 500 mL $39.95. My note: A gorgeous dessert wine, lovely on its own or with roasted walnuts, creamy cheeses or fruit desserts. Score: 90/100.

ANGOVE'S ANCHORAGE TAWNY PORT 678672 700 mL bottle 18.5% Alcohol/Vol. Sugar Content: 14 (sweet) South Australia: Naughty Aussies still using the word port when really only fortified wines from Portugal should. Politics aside, this is a wonderful dessert wine with rich caramel and nutty layers. Score: 87/100.

Nat Decants 100-Point Scale

95-100 Brilliant, Exceptional
90-94 Excellent, Superb
89.5 Hovering on the doorstep of excellence, better than very good
85-89 Very Good
80-84 Good (still worth buying and drinking)
79 and below Average to poor (I don't include these in the newsletter due to space constraints)

Favorite Wines: This isn't necessarily the wine with the highest score, as high scores go to the wines that best typify their region and style. Rather my favorite wines are just that: the ones that appeal to me most personally and to my own taste.

Best Value Wines: Not necessarily the cheapest wine, but the one that maximizes the price-quality ratio. (Although I don't always go by strict mathematical ratios on this either, but rather what seems to me to represent tremendous value.)

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Copyright © 2006 by Natalie MacLean. All rights reserved. Please ask permission of the author before copying or using this material.