Vintages Release August 2004
By Natalie MacLean
Recommended Fortified Wine
671123 CHURCHILL'S CRUSTED PORT $29.95 Btld 2000, Churchill Graham: Terrific value. Plumy dried fruit and almonds. Vintages Catalogue (VC): The increasingly rare 'crusted' Ports are designed to appeal to vintage Port drinkers. Churchill Graham ages this blend of several vintages in barrel a minimum of two to three years before bottling. It is then matured in their cellars a further three years prior to release. Enjoy immediately or mature for 5+ years in bottle. It is best to stand crusted Ports upright for 24 hours before opening, then decant. My score: 92/100.
Recommended White Wines
640508 SAUVIGNON BLANC RESERVE 2002 $15.95, VQA Okanagan Valley, B.C., Sumac
Ridge: Lovely SB with a rich feel; not herbals like those from New Zealand. More like a bridge between SB and chardonnay. Score: 89/100.
643288 SAUVIGNON BLANC 2002 $22.95, Alexander Valley, California, Chateau
Souverain: Lovely. Juicy ripe tree fruit. More floral than herbal. Great with chicken or pork. VC: The winery does a whole cluster press to yield more fruit aromas and flavors. They blend in 5% Chardonnay to add a layer of body and fruitiness to the wine, then age for five months in French oak barrels, 17% of which are new. My score: 89/100.
937086 RIESLING 2003 $18.95, Clare Valley, South Australia, Annie's Lane: Lemon lime vibrancy. Nicely balanced acidity makes it an ideal companion to seafood, salads and cream-sauce dishes. Score: 88/100.
925420 CHARDONNAY 2002 $27.95, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand, Wither Hills: I fell for their SB in the last release. Nice spicy pear in this chard. Ripe and delicious. Score: 90/100.
606848 SAUVIGNON BLANC 2003 $19.95, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand, Framingham Wine Company: Yea for a screw top! I hope these become more common soon... I love not wondering whether a wine has cork taint as I open it. VC: The 2003 vintage is very delicate, with … a lovely spread of flavors, pure and intense. Ripe, with sweet-fruit characters and fresh, finely balanced acidity, it's a sophisticated wine that carries the dry style superbly with a very long finish. My score: 89.5/100.
957670 SAUVIGNON BLANC 2003 $18.95, Nelson, South Island, New Zealand, Seifried Estate: I've recommended this one four years in a row now. A consistently good producer of mouth-watering SBs. Time for a happy mouth dance. All of these NZ SBs are terrific food wines: seafood, salad, pork, chicken, pasta (especially cream-sauce) and others. Score: 90/100.
975672 SAUVIGNON BLANC 2003 $19.95, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand: Kim Crawford: One of my favorite SBs... and I hesitate to say that since I'd like to buy this one myself. Lively, ripe, many layers. VC: Bright and generous. Impressively balanced to show touches of ripe melon against tart grapefruit and lime flavors that echo nicely on the lively, delicately herbal finish. Drink now. My score: 91/100. Favorite White Wine
928564 CHARDONNAY 2002 $16.95 'Visión', Casablanca Valley, Chile, Viña Cono
Sur: Every time I see this name, I roll my eyes. But then I taste the wine and all is forgiven. This one is oaky, buttery, round, blousy and breathless. Lovely with lobster in butter or cream-sauce dishes. Score: 88/100.
671131 VIOGNIER 2002 $16.95 'Visión', Colchagua Valley, Chile, Viña Cono
Sur: A terrific example of this floral, exotically aromatic wine. Perfect with Asian dishes. VC: Stunningly good, with opulence and poise. A tropical delight with huge orange-pineapple ice cream aroma, a hint of fresh mint and licorice. Barely there wood spice from the 30% fermented in oak. Full bodied, rich yet surprisingly poised, perhaps due age of vines. Viognier was grafted onto 50 year old chenin rootstock. Drink now while bloom is on. My
996017 GEWURZTRAMINER 2001 $19.95, 'Cuvée Bacchus', AC Alsace, France, Les Vign. De Pfaffenheim: Lychee nuts and ripe spicy pears. Wonderfully aromatic and expressive. Another great one with Asian dishes. Score: 89/100.
711325 POUILLY FUMÉ 2002 $20.95, AC, 'Les Cocques' Domaine Patrick Coulbois, Loire, France: Lovely, mouth-watering sauvignon blanc, with citrus notes. Cries out for food like a lonely wanderer on a desolate field. Bring me your salads, bring me your poor huddled cream sauces and pork rinds. Score: 90/100.
950873 RIESLING 2002 $15.95, QbA, Estate Bottled Weingut Zilliken, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany: Pretty wine, and again, ignore the name (wine gut?!). Floral and mineral nuances. Lovely with food or on its own. Score: 90/100. Best Value White Wine
480517 'JEAN-BAPTISTE' RIESLING KABINETT 2002 $ 15.95, QmP, Estate Bottled Weingut Gunderloch, Rheinhessen, Germany: Meaty, full-bodied. Mouth-watering acidity for food. Dark, brooding pears. Vunderbar! Score: 88/100.
Recommended Red Wines
534545 ZWEIGELT/GAMAY 2000 $11.95, 'Mosaic', VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Henry of Pelham: Smoky, okay essence of deep purple. Perfect for the barbecue. Full-bodied and mouth-watering for when you're discussing something less mindful than chaos theory. Score: 86/100.
914176 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2001 $11.95, 'The Riverside Collection', California, Foppiano Vineyards: A dry wine with sweet raspberry fruit aromas and palate. Medium-bodied. Chicken and pork would be companionable. Score: 87/100.
939322 PINOT NOIR 2002 $26.95, Sonoma County, California Chateau St. Jean: Another dry wine with sweet cherry fruit. Lovely. Balanced. Smooth. Score: 90/100.
719435 PINOT NOIR 2002 $33.95, Sonoma Coast, California La Crema: Another long-time favorite though it's getting pricey. (Wonder if the marketing manager gets this newsletter?) Smooth, silky, rich with ripe fruit. Bids conversation and camaraderie. Medium-bodied. Perfect for salmon and pate.
448241 'BIN 61' SHIRAZ 2001 $24.95, Clare Valley, South Australia Leasingham
Wine: Packs a punch. For those who measure their palate wallop per penny. Full, full-bodied. Forget food, you'll need all your appetite for this wine alone. Score: 89.5/100. (This type of score tends to really annoy winemakers but I don't do it for that reason... I see a huge chasm between 89 and 90... see notes below.)
606277 'BROKENBACK' SHIRAZ 1999 $29.95, Hunter Valley, South Australia The Rothbury Estate: Love it! I've been there and it's all honest-to-goodness woin mate. Shiraz of shattering intensity, with Bordeaux intensity and breeding. Black pepper and dark plums. This wine spent 18 months in French and American oak. Age 2-5 years or drink now. Score: 91/100.
692509 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2000 $22.95, Limestone Coast, South Australia, Heathfield Ridge Wines: A performer year after year. Ripe plums and black berries. A happy wine with a sunny disposition. Medium to full-bodied.
744367 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 1998 $14.95, 'Premium', Victoria, Australia, Three Steps Vineyards: A port-like nose. May be ever-so-slightly past its prime so drink now. Nonetheless it is delicious with ripe cherries and a leather backbone. Score: 86/100.
692558 'GRAND PYRENEES' 1999 $29.95, Pyrenees, Victoria, Australia, Warrenmang Vineyard: Very full-bodied, huge in fact. Slight grip on the palate. Juicy ripe red fruit. Will age 3-5 years easily. Score: 90/100.
692517 GRENACHE 2001 $19.95, Clare Valley, South Australia, Mitchell Wines: Deliciously different. Ripe raspberries and plums, spicy. Score: 90/100.
640219 'ROCKFORD' MOPPA SPRINGS 1999 $36.95, Barossa Valley, South Australia, Rockford: Huge yet well structured. Could easily age 3-4 years. Leather, spice and earth. VC: Rockford wines until very recently were only available either through Adelaide retailers or over the 'farm gate'. Perhaps because of the scarcity of its wines, Rockford has developed a bit of a cult reputation in the wine world. Moppa Springs is considered one of the driest areas in Barossa Valley. The region has a fairly cold, wet and frosty winter and spring followed by a long, dry, hot and dusty summer, conditions considered ideal for growing Grenache, Shiraz and Mataro Mourvèdre – the grapes found in this blend. A well-textured, multi-layered wine of real style. Brambly, mellow, dark plum, licorice and aniseed. My score: 93/100.
721589 SHIRAZ/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002 $17.95, 'Tantalus', Barossa Valley, South Australia, Elderton Wines: Medium- to full-bodied. Bursting with ripe red fruit. Great with chicken, pork and steak if not too spicy. Score: 89/100.
998542 'THE ROGUE' 2002 $17.95, Cabernet/Merlot/Shiraz, Adelaide Hills, South Australia, Nepenthe Wine: Classic nose of mint and dark fruit, cassis. Long finish. Score: 90/100.
998476 'THE LODGE HILL' SHIRAZ 2001 $24.95, Clare Valley, South Australia, Jim Barry Wines: Dry wine with sweet red fruit aromas and palate. Full-bodied. Score: 90/100.
606178 MERLOT 2002 $29.95, Bullrush Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand, Matua Valley: Rich and round. Warm mocha notes and good grip. Excellent with steak and game meats. Score: 90/100.
261792 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002 $12.95, Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite, Colchagua Valley, Chile, Viña Los Vascos: The Chilean venture of the owners of Château Lafite-Rothschild. Terrific value. Nicely balanced, easy-drinking wine. Great with chicken or pork. Score: 89/100.
960807 RESERVA CARMENÈRE 2001 $13.95, 'Castillo de Molina', Lontué Valley, Chile, Viña San Pedro: Mouth-watering dark fruit and cassis. Another great value. Score: 88/100.
928291 MERLOT 2001 $17.95, 'Visión', Rapel Valley, Chile, Viña Cono Sur: Number three from this winery. Perhaps I should own stock? No, wait, that would be a conflict of interest; the vinous equivalent of insider trading. Big, juicy plums. Great value. A Silver-Medal winner at the 2003 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles in Belgium. Score: 88/100.
699611 CHÂTEAU LA CLAYMORE 2000 $23.95, AC Lussac-St-Émilion, Bordeaux,
France: VC: Deep burgundy in color with aromas of black cherry, vanilla, wild game, smoked meat and mineral. Dry, concentrated and chunky with firm tannins. Full-bodied with a long tannic/fruit finish. Will reward 3-5 years in a cellar. My score: 89.5/100.
925537 FIXIN 1999 $35.95, AC, Burgundy, France, Domaine Pierre Gelin,
Vitic.: Fixin' for some good wine? This one is delicious with ripe cherries and earthy notes. Classic Old World finesse. Score: 90/100.
923680 BARBERA D'ASTI 1998 $12.95, DOC, Vecchi Ricordi, Piedmont, Italy, Cantine Valcolli: Fantastic value. Round yet great acidity for food, especially tomato-sauce pasta. Score: 89/100.
976308 SQUINZANO ROSSO 2000 $10.95, DOC, Coop Agr. Santa Barbara, Puglia,
Italy: One for the Yellow Tail crowd. Juicy, really ripe and simply. Score: 86/100.
718122 CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2000 $24.95, DOCG, Castello Gabbiano: Tuscany, Italy: Good robust rustic chianti; macramé ready. Cherries and a grip. Bring on the pasta. Score: 90/100.
971432 'MAGARI' 2001 $69.95, IGT Toscana, Italy, Ca'Marcanda/Gaja: Want to splurge? Drink this and you say to yourself, "This guy knows what he's doing." Damn, why do have to love the expensive ones? Leather, smoke, cherries and the promise of a better life. Score: 94/100. Favorite Red Wine
135293 'LE POIANE' VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 1999 $19.95, DOC, Veneto, Italy, Fratelli Bolla: Delicious. Balanced, medium-bodied. Slips by the palate, leaves a ghostly memory. Score: 90/100.
950220 GARRAFEIRA TINTO 1997 $14.95, DOC Bairrada, Caves Alicança, Portugal: Love it! Leather and spice, everything nice. Help, I'm running out of adjectives. Score: 91/100. Best Value Red Wine
427617 CHÂTEAU DE NAGES ROUGE 2001 $13.95, AC Costières de Nîmes, M. Gassier, Prop.-Récolt., Rhone, France: Terrific wine for a party because will please almost every palate, from those who love full-bodied reds to those who like something more smooth and easy-drinking. Supple red fruit.