Vintages Release December 2005

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Champagne & Sparkling Wine

QUINTA DE CABRIZ MÉTODO CLASSICO BRUTO 2003 Vinho Espumate de Qualitade, DO Dão (Dão Sul Sociedad Vitivinicola) VC: Made with the same process as Champagne, Quinta de Cabriz uses Malvasia Fina and Bical for this Portuguese interpretation. A very dry, lively and zesty sparkling wine that has a lovely aroma profile of apple, peach, floral, mineral and citrus. Medium-body with a lingering crisp, fruit finish. Enjoy with fish. 664631 (XD = extra dry) 750 mL $16.95 My note: A terrific holiday bubbly! Rich and full-bodied with deep toasty flavors and a kiss of oak. Perfect for large parties. Score: 89.5/100.

KRUG 'GRANDE CUVÉE' CHAMPAGNE BRUT AC VC: Food matches: oysters, caviar, sushi. 349688 (XD) 750 mL $214.95 My note: There is nothing like Krug. (I guess that's why here are fanatics called "Krugistes.") Once you taste this sublime champagne, life will become more expensive for you, but ever so much more pleasurable too. Full-bodied with deep rich and toasty flavors. Score: 95/100.

Californian Wine

VIRGIN VINES CHARDONNAY 2004 California VC: It's the cheeky and unpretentious billionaire Sir Richard Branson (not Madonna) that is behind the launch of the cheeky and unpretentious Virgin Vines, a joint venture with Brown-Forman Wines International. Branson says, "Our motto is 'Unscrew it, let's do it'. Enjoy wine as it is meant to be enjoyed, with fun and friends." 674549 (D) 750 mL $13.95 My note: A simple, easy-drinking white that will serve well at large gatherings. Score: 85/100.

CALERA PINOT NOIR 2001 Central Coast VC: Calera is considered among the best Pinot Noir producers in California. Well-known for their pricey single-vineyard bottlings, this multi-vineyard blend is quite impressive and an excellent value. Look for cherry and spice flavors with some typical earthy notes of mushroom and tobacco in this light, silky, and very well structured Pinot. Food match: veal tenderloin, grilled salmon. 692269 (D) 375 mL $16.95 or 933044 (D) 750 mL $31.95 My note: Serious pinot from a classicist. Great structure. Like a dancer who has spent years doing barre work before going on point. Lovely aromas of cherries, spice and earth. Score: 92/100. Favorite Red Wine

CLINE 'ANCIENT VINES' CARIGNANE 2004 Contra Costa County VC: At over 100 years old, Cline's 'Ancient Vines' Carignane is truly ancient for North American vines. Look for dense ripe fruit aromas and flavors as well as some herbal notes and sultry smokiness. Enjoy with grilled lamb chops. 943142 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 My note: Now for something completely different: great for when you want out of your cab or shiraz rut. Full-bodied richness and aromas of plums. Score: 89.5/00.

CLINE 'ANCIENT VINES' ZINFANDEL 2004 California VC: Sourced primarily from the old vineyards in the sandy soil of Oakley and blended with fruit from other vineyards in Lodi, this Zin is made in a very ripe and full-bodied style with lots of berry and plummy fruit as well as leather and earthy notes. Delicious now, it offers amazing value and will continue to develop further with 3-5 years cellaring. 719211 (XD) 750 mL $24.95 My note: Love it! So balanced yet bursting with berry flavor. Lip-smacking great. Score: 93/100.

LANDMARK 'GRAND DETOUR' PINOT NOIR 2003 Sonoma County 566869 (D) 375 mL $21.95 or 737890 (D) 750 mL $39.95 My note: Lovely cherry and berry aromas. A bright, happy wine. Medium- to full-bodied. Score: 91/100.

VIRGIN VINES SHIRAZ 2004 California VC: Always on the look out for a new adventure, Sir Richard Branson has set his sights on the wine world with the launch of Virgin Vines. This infinitely quaffable, fruit forward Shiraz would be ideal for pizza night or sipping over irreverent party conversation. 674531 (XD) 750 mL $14.95 My note: Apparently, Branson's motto for his wines is "screw it, let's do it." I love the closure, though the tagline needs work. This is also a simple but easy-drinking wine, like his white. You certainly won't be analyzing it. Just gulp. Score: 85/100.

Chilean Red Wine

PÉREZ CRUZ CARMENERE RESERVA 2003 Estate Bottled, Limited Edition, Maipo Valley VC: This Carmenère was a Gold-Medal winner at the prestigious Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2005. Quite amazing considering it's only the second vintage from this family-owned winery. 670539 (XD) 750 mL $22.95 My note: Lovin' the wines from this producer, from the low to high end. Aromas of chocolate and dark red fruit. Smooth: glides right to the back of your mouth effortlessly. Score: 92/100.

PÉREZ CRUZ COT RESERVA 2003 Estate Bottled, Limited Edition, Maipo Valley VC: Cot is the regional name for the Malbec grape in Southwest France's Cahors appellation. The Chileans prefer to use Cot in order to distinguish themselves from their Argentine neighbors. This elegant and expressive wine balances blackberry fruit with spicy oak and vanilla flavors. It recently won gold at the 2nd Annual Wines of Chile Awards in the 'Best Other Red' category.
670547 (XD) 750 mL $22.95 My note: Black fruit and robust goodness. A Heart of Darkness wine. Score: 90/100.

Australian Red Wine

BROKENWOOD SHIRAZ 2002 Southeastern Australia VC: Deep ruby in color with a tinge of garnet, it has layers of aromas including smoke, raspberry, red currants, dark chocolate, cherry and vanilla. It's medium full-bodied, dry and fairly crisp with rich fruit replays and soft tannins; well-structured with a medium long finish. Serve with meaty pasta sauces, lamb kebobs or rare steaks. 960435 (XD) 750 mL $23.95 My note: Aromas of mint and black plums. Good acidity for food. Medium- to full-bodied. Score: 90/100.

TORBRECK 'WOODCUTTER'S' SHIRAZ 2004 Barossa Valley, South Australia VC: Torbreck makes some of the most sought-after wines in the Barossa, and while the 'Woodcutter's' Shiraz may be considered their entry level wine, it would easily be considered the top offering of many wineries. An excellent value, enjoy it with a hearty meal of beef stew or New York steak grilled medium-rare. 927533 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 My note: Palate-whacking fruit and alcohol for those who like to whip their taste buds into submission. Need I say it's full-bodied? Score: 90/100.

New Zealand White Wine

KIM CRAWFORD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island 975672 (XD) 750 mL $19.95: Perfectly calibrated stone fruit, herbal refreshment and exotic floral notes. I've recommended this one year after year. Score: 92/100.

2004 Secret Stone Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 12.5% alcohol, dry (661967; $22.95): This winery is located at the top of the island and experienced a longer than usual growing season in 2004. This translated into ripe and refreshing grapefruit, citrus and herbal aromas. Pair it with seafood, shellfish, salads, vegetarian dishes, chicken and pasta in cream sauce. Score: 89/100.

South African Wine

DRAL CELLAR CHARDONNAY 2003 WO Coastal Region (KWV Wines) VC: This wine recently won a Gold Medal and received the Regional South African Chardonnay under £10 (approximately $21.50 CDN) Trophy at the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards 2005. 328559 (D) 750 mL $13.95 My note: Buttery, oaky goodness. Rich and full-bodied. Drink with lobster and corn dishes. Score: 88/100. Best Value White Wine
BUSHMAN'S CREEK CABERNET SAUVIGNON/MERLOT 2003 WO Western Cape VC: A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, this full-bodied wine has an intense nose of black currants and raisins. The fruit aromas replay nicely on the well-structured palate; it has very good balance and a long lingering finish. 659748 (XD) 750 mL $13.95 My note: Bright red fruit and mouth-watering acidity. Drink with tomato-sauce pasta and pizza. Score: 87/100.

French Wine

FRANÇOIS BLÉGER GEWURZTRAMINER VIEILLE VIGNE 2004 AC Alsace VC: Bléger makes this Gewurz in an intriguing off-dry style that beautifully matches spicy Asian food, lemon/dill grilled salmon, pan-seared sea scallops, lobster brioche or stuffed veal tenderloin. 972570 (MD = medium dry) 750 mL $19.95 My note: Viscous, unctuous. Luscious aromas lychee and rose petals. Perfect for Asian dishes and curries. Score: 89/100.

JOSEPH DROUHIN PULIGNY-MONTRACHET 2002 AC 710657 (XD) 750 mL $57.95: A haunting wine with a "somewhereness" about it. Mineral depth and a luxurious lanolin texture. Score: 90/100.

CHÂTEAU ROCHER-BELLEVUE-FIGEAC 1998 AC St-Émilion Grand Cru VC: This is a fruit-forward crowd-pleaser that is ageable for up to a decade, but is definitely enjoyable now with rare beef or lamb dishes. 660506 (XD) 750 mL $37.95 My note: Rich aromas of dark red fruit and mocha. Finesse of the Old World approach. Ready to drink now. Score: 90/100.

MAS DES BRESSADES CABERNET/SYRAH 2003 Vin de Pays du Gard VC: A straightforward, flavorful wine with the ripeness you would expect from the very warm 2003 vintage. Enjoy this with roast leg of lamb or grilled steak. 712174 (XD) 750 mL $17.95 My note: Balanced and full-bodied. Aromas of bitter chocolate. Touch tannic. Drink 2006-2009. Score: 89/100

German Wine
GUNDERLOCH RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2003 QmP, Nackenheim Rothenberg, Estate Btld. 724922 (M) 750 mL $37.95: My note: Gorgeous rich mangoes and pears. This off-dry wine will drink beautifully with Asian dishes and curries. Score: 92/100. Favorite White Wine

KURT DARTING PINOT NOIR TROCKEN 2002 QbA, Dürkheimer Feuerberg, Estate Btld. VC: Showing good variety character, the nose has appealing strawberry, beetroot and cherry drop tones. Dry and soft with good fruit replays on the palate. Light-bodied with a long finish. Enjoy with grilled fish or seafood dishes. 657130 (D) 750 mL $17.95 My note: Medium-bodied wine with bright red fruit. Lovely. Drink with salmon, chicken and pasta. Score: 88/100.

Spanish Red Wine

MIGUEL TORRES 'GRAN SANGRE DE TORO' RESERVA 2001 DO Catalunya VC: Since the time of the Romans, the region where Torres grows and makes their Gran Sangre de Toro has been renowned for its wine production. Made with their best Garnacha (Grenache), Cariñena (Carignan) and Syrah grapes, expect to find raspberry, plum, new leather, blackberry and hints of tobacco leaf. Generally enjoyable now with rare roast leg of lamb or beef, it will also reward short-term cellaring (1-2 years). 733584 (D) 375 mL $8.95 or 315648 (D) 750 mL $15.95 My note: Big black fruit, a pleasant bitter finish. Complete and balanced. Great price. Drink 2005-2008. Score: 88/100. Best Value Red Wine

Canadian Red Wine

REIF CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002 VQA Niagara Peninsula 304162 (XD = extra dry) 750 mL $23.95: Bright red fruit, vibrant acidity makes it a great food partner for meat, chicken and pork. Score: 89/100.

STRATUS CABERNET FRANC 2002 VQA Niagara Peninsula 665034 (XD) 750 mL $32.00: Juicy, mouth-watering red fruit with rich aromas of chocolate. Pair with steak and hearty meat dishes. Drink 2005-2010. Score: 90/100.

QUAILS' GATE 'LIMITED RELEASE' MERLOT 2003 VQA Okanagan Valley 639633 (XD) 750 mL $19.95: Lovely round texture with rich aromas of chocolate and plums. Generous and full-bodied. Drink 2005-2008. Score: 89.5/100.

Dessert Wine

INNISKILLIN RIESLING ICEWINE 2004 VQA Niagara Peninsula VC: This racy and intense Riesling Icewine from the winery that practically started it all in Ontario will perfectly cap off your holiday feast. It would also make an excellent gift for any wine lover on your list. Food match: peach torte 558288 (S = sweet) 375 mL $69.95 My note: Rich, ripe peaches and nectar. Finely balanced. This winery deserves its great reputation, particularly for icewine. Score: 93/100.

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