Wine Picks August 19, 2006

By Natalie MacLean Print this page   Send this page to a friend

Washington Red Wine

L'ECOLE NO 41 SYRAH 2003 Columbia Valley: Loaded with blackberries, blackcurrants and pepper. I wish Washington wines were more widely available outside their state: they're fabulous both on taste and price. This one isn't cheap, but it's worth every penny. 001388 (XD) 750 mL $37.95 Score: 90/100.

Chilean Red Wine

VIÑA LA ROSA 'LA CAPITANA' MERLOT 2004 Estate Grown, Barrel Reserve, Cachapoal Valley: There's 10% Carmenère grape in the blend. Looks three times as expensive as it's priced, and tastes twice as good. Aromas of chocolate and ripe red fruit. 655209 (XD) 750 mL $14.95 Score: 89/100.

Australian Red Wine

D'ARENBERG 'THE STUMP JUMP' GRENACHE/SHIRAZ/MOURVÈDRE 2005 South Australia VC: What sets it apart from other 'value wines' is that, rather than being a simple affair, it's rich, savory and brimming with flavor. Look for ripe plum and berry fruit, spice and vanilla flavors. The 2005 blend is comprised of 46% Grenache, 34% Shiraz and 20% Mourvèdre. My note: One of the best values on the shelf. If you like Yellow Tail, you'll love The Stump Jump. 606236 (D) 750 mL $13.95 Score: 89.5/100. Best Value Red Wine

KATNOOK ESTATE MERLOT 2001 Coonawarra, South Australia: Lovely, juicy merlot with layers of black fruit and warmth. 718528 (XD) 750 mL $29.95 Score: 91/100.

New Zealand White Wine

Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand: A refreshing and zesty white with herbal, gray goodness. Pair it with salads, seafood and vegetarian lasagna. 912329 (XD) 750 mL $18.95 Score: 88/100

KIM CRAWFORD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island: I recommend this wine year after year; it's consistently excellent. Lots of herbal, grapefruit and green apple aromas. Drink with salads, seafood and shellfish. 975672 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 90/100. Favorite White Wine

'ZED' SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island (Montana Wines): Great price for this refreshing quaffer. Grassy goodness: rev your lawnmowers! Drink with all the dishes you'd have with the other SBs (no mere coincidence!) Also chicken (not spicy) and pasta you can't make interesting any other way (than a good wine). 683045 (XD) 750 mL $14.95 Score: 87/100.

COTTESBROOK SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island VC: Established in 2002, Cottesbrook unites two family-owned estates, St Helena Wine Estate and Rossendale Wines, to produce Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region. The house style is a wine with aromas of gooseberry, redcurrant bushes and nettles. Expect a ripe, crisp, varietally correct wine that would match grilled asparagus or mushrooms stuffed with goat cheese. MY note: This wine had been in the August 5 catalogue but was moved to today's release. It's herbal, refreshing and zesty. Classic. 657221 (XD) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 89/100.

New Zealand Red Wine

AUNTSFIELD 'HAWK HILL' PINOT NOIR 2004 Marlborough, South Island VC: Auntsfield Estate was the home of the first colonial vineyard and winery in Marlborough. Founded in 1873, it enjoyed a reputation for its fine wines for 50 years. Filmmaker Graeme Cowley and his wife Linda recently revived the property. Their winemaking venture began as a sideline to their family's film business but they have since sold their film production facilities to concentrate on full-time winemaking. With the second vintage of this Pinot, expect a dry, well-structured wine featuring plum, cherry and spice characteristics. My note: Gorgeous, spicy pinot that's full-bodied but balanced and elegant. 694877 (D) 750 mL $23.95 Score: 92/100. Favorite Red Wine

GOLDRIDGE ESTATE 'PREMIUM RESERVE' PINOT NOIR 2004 'Barrique Matured', Marlborough, South Island VC: Great value for Pinot Noir, its medium-pale ruby in color with aromas of cherry, toasty oak, tar, blueberry and an earthy note. Medium-bodied, dry, and crisp with plenty of fruit and oak interplay and a medium long finish. Give it a slight chill and serve with planked salmon or juicy pork chops. My note: Another seductive and spicy little number. I don't think I'll ever tire of pinot. This one has fat plums and other ripe red fruit. 684498 (D) 750 mL $21.95 Score: 90/100.

French Red Wine

CHÂTEAU COUCHEROY 2003 AC Pessac-Léognan (André Lurton) Bordeaux VC: Coucheroy, which means 'the king slept here' in the local Gascon dialect, refers to the night Henri IV, king of France, sought refuge here during a storm. This red wine, a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, is designed as an easy drinking, fruit-forward wine. My note: An amazing Bordeaux for the money. Great fruit yet still has that Old World elegance and finesse. Classic aromas of cassis, smoke and deals brokered in gentlemen's clubs. 944983 (XD) 750 mL $17.95 Score: 90/100.

'CUVÉE DE LA COMMANDERIE DU BONTEMPS' ROUGE 1998 AC Médoc Bordeaux VC: The Commanderie du Bontemps was first established in 1949 by a group of Médoc-based winegrowers and merchants who felt a Wine Order was needed to promote and celebrate the wines of the region. The Order now represents all the major Left Bank growing regions. This wine blend is chosen by a panel of Order members to be representational of the region in each vintage. With this 1998, expect aromas of currant, leather and sea shells. It is dry with ripe tannins supporting the fruit. It is ready to drink and will complement roast or satay beef. My note: A rustic and robust wine but that alluring Old World signature is here too. Tannic, so decant for 1-2 hours before drinking. Ready to drink now and I wouldn't keep it more than another year or two (the fruit will fade). Great price. 687640 (XD) 750 mL $15.95 Score: 88/100.

DOMAINE DES SABLONS SAINT-AMOUR 2004 AC Beaujolais (Georges Duboeuf) VC: Domaine des Sablons is one of the St-Amour region's finest single cru properties. The Gamay from this property is frequently reminiscent of well-made Bourgogne Pinot Noir. Enjoy this, lightly chilled, with grilled salmon or veal tenderloin. My note: not all beaujolais is nouveau. This one is delicious, with aromas of sweet, ripe raspberries and summer's last breath. Medium-bodied. 002923 (D) 750 mL $18.95 Score: 88/100.

DOMAINE DES ASPES MERLOT 2002 Vin de Pays d'Oc Midi (Vign. Roger) VC: Attractive violet color leads to a nose of plum, blackberry, fruit preserves and a note of tar. It is dry, supple, fairly rich, medium full-bodied with a medium long, balanced finish. Enjoy it with barbecued steak. My note: Simple and rustic with black fruit and a tannic, oaky heart. Delicious and full-bodied. Ready for the barbecue. 951665 (D) 750 mL $12.95 Score: 88/100.

CHÂTEAU RASPAIL GIGONDAS 2003 AC Rhone (Christine Melfre, Prop.-Récolt.) VC: Lively aromas of cherry jam, dried fruit, blueberry and a touch of mint dominate the nose of this robust red. It is dry, rich and supple with moderate tannins and a medium long finish. It's an ideal pairing with bison steaks. My note: Lovely depth with ripe cherry aromas. Full-bodied. Decants an hour or two. Drink with hearty meat dishes. 910927 (XD) 750 mL $25.95 Score: 90/100.

CHÂTEAU DE GUEYZE 2000 AC Buzet southwest France VC: A claret-styled wine with aromas of currant, cedar, humus and leather. It is very dry, complex and maturing nicely. This lingering finishing wine would complement roast duck or beef. My note: Dark fruit, Old World style. Balanced, full-bodied and lovely. 687855 (D) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 89/100.

German White Wine

SCHLOSS SCHÖNBORN RIESLING KABINETT 2002 QmP, Hattenheimer Pfaffenberg, Germany: The Schönborn family winemaking tradition goes back to 1349. This lovely Riesling has aromas of ripe pears and peaches. Drink it with chicken, cream-sauce pasta. 928184 (MD) 750 mL $17.95 Score: 90/100 Best Value White Wine

Italian Red Wine

MONSANTO CHIANTI CLASSICO 2003 DOCG Tuscany (Fabrizio Bianchi) VC: An excellent choice for classic Tuscan dishes such as chicken sautéed in white wine and chicken liver crostini, this Sangiovese-based wine has lovely aromas of currant, cranberry, cherry and spice. It is dry with attractive fruit tones and very gentle tannins for balance. It has a lingering, pretty finish. My note: Round and ripe with aromas of chocolate and cherries. Plush and full-bodied. 977421 (XD) 750 mL $21.95 Score: 90/100.

TEDESCHI 'CAPITEL SAN ROCCO' RIPASSO 2004 DOC Valpolicella Superiore Veneto VC: Aromas of rose, blueberry and cherry dominate. Dry with very good rose and cherry replays on the palate. It is crisp, fruity and fresh, with a lingering finish, it will match well with grilled duck breast. My note: Over the top with fruit, flavor and alcohol, but if you want to give your palate a full-bodied whack, this is the wine. 003020 (XD) 375 mL (half bottle) $11.95 Score: 87/100.

Spanish Red Wine

BARON DE LEY RESERVA 2001 DOC Rioja VC: Made with 100% Tempranillo, this wine recently won a Gold Medal at the 2006 Challenge International du Vin. Perfect with grilled lamb or game, expect generous aromas of blackberry and spice, ripe fruit flavors, soft tannins and a long spicy finish. My note: Pleasant wine, medium- to full-bodied. Aromas of dried fruit, leather and dusty long-remembered places. Drink now. 958868 (D) 750 mL $18.95 Score: 88/100.

British Columbia Red Wine

GRAY MONK PINOT NOIR 2004 VQA Okanagan Valley: This is the most northern winery in the province and it produces spectacular reds and whites. This pinot has pleasing notes of tart cherries, beetroot and red berries. Serve it with salmon, pâté or chicken. 251835 (D) 750 mL $17.95 Score: 88/100.

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.)

For more details on how I do my wine reviews and tips on how to find these wines click here.

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