Wines Picks February 18, 2006

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Spanish Red Wine

ALLENDE 2001 DOC Rioja, Unfiltered: Product number: 954560 (XD = extra dry) 750 mL $28.95: An unfiltered wine with lovely ripe red fruit and deep layers of richness. A touch tannic so decant for 2-3 hours, and let it age. Pair with hearty meat dishes. Drink 2006-2010. Score: 91/100

MARQUÉS DE VITORIA CRIANZA 2000 DOC Rioja VC: Made with 100% Tempranillo, the aromas suggest blueberry, cherry, chocolate, oak and sandalwood. It is dry and lush. It is very polished, full-bodied and has a lingering finish. Food match: empañadas. 678045 (D = dry) 750 mL $16.95. My note: Juice and mouth-watering with ripe plums and berries. A touch tannic so decant this one too for a couple of hours. Drink 2006-2009. Score: 88/100.

IZADI CRIANZA TEMPRANILLO 2001 DOC Rioja (Viña Villabuena) VC: Full ruby in color. Complex bouquet includes cherry, blackberry, caramel, licorice, cherry, Damson plum, blueberry and sweet, well-integrated oak. This is supple, ripe and balanced. Pleasing medium-long finish.
640300 (D) 750 mL $17.95. My note: Full-bodied, almost liqueur-like in its intensity and richness. Terrific value. Score: 88/100.

VIÑA SARDASOL RESERVA 1999 DO Navarra (Bodegas Virgen Blanca S. Coop.) VC: A blend of Tempranillo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. A rich wine with a lively sinewy note, the aromas recall blackberry, oak, coconut, leather and a hint of iodine. Dry and fruity with hint of grippy tannin for balance. Enjoy with pork roast, beef stew or gourmet pizza. 673475 (XD) 750 mL $13.95. My note: Great value for this simple but full-bodied wine with aromas of mocha and red fruit. Score: 86/100.

ALTOS DEL DURATÓN 2002 VdlT Castilla y León (Bodegas y Viñedos Ribera del Duratón) VC: A good match for lamb chops, this cherry, oaky wine also has a hint of tar on the nose. It is dry, quite robust with moderate tannins and very good length to its finish. 672295 (XD) 750 mL $14.95. My note: Balanced and full-bodied. Cries out for food, such as grilled meats and steak. Score: 88/100.

1707 VARIEDADES 2003 DO Almansa (Hacienda el Espino) VC: Hacienda el Espino was founded in 2000 by grape grower Francisco 'Paco' Milan. Paco named this wine '1707' after he discovered that his vineyard encompassed the battlefield of the decisive Battle of Almansa in the War of Spanish Succession (1700-1714). Enjoy this robust, unique blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Syrah and 15% Pinot Noir with Serrano ham, ripened goat cheese or braised veal ribs. 673582 (D) 750 mL $12.95. My note: Fantastic value for this simple, full-bodied red with a pleasant bitter chocolate finish. Score: 87/100.

CASA DE LA ERMITA CRIANZA 2002 Estate Bottled, DO Jumilla 956334 (D) 750 mL $17.95: Aromas of blackberries and raspberries. Delicious, medium-bodied red. Score: 89/100.

VALLE DE SALINAS CRIANZA 2001 DO Yecla (Bodegas y Viñedos de Murcia) 664763 (D) 750 mL $16.95: Juicy and mouth-watering, with deep layers of dark red fruit. A touch tannic, so decant for a couple of hours. Drink 2006-2009. Score: 90/100.

BODEGAS IRANZO 'VERTUS' TEMPRANILLO CRIANZA 2002 DO Utiel-Requena VC: The Quality Assurance laboratory has determined that this organic wine contains 9 mg/L of free sulphur. 669598 (XD) 750 mL $15.95. My note: Good balance, red fruit aromas. Medium- to full-bodied. Score: 87/100.

Spanish White Wine

1707 CHARDONNAY 2003 Barrel fermented, DO Almansa (Hacienda el Espino) VC: Until very recently, red wines dominated here. What little white wine there was came from the indigenous Merseguera and Airén grapes. New producers, like El Espino, planted Chardonnay and are creating fruit-forward, oaky wines in a very New World style. Enjoy with seafood paella or roast chicken. 662213 (D) 750 mL $16.95. My note: An oaky, New World-style chard. Full-bodied and rich. Great price. Score: 88/100.

California Red Wine

SHAFER CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002 Napa Valley 346270 (XD) 750 mL $78.95: I resist recommending wines this expensive because there are so many wines on the market these days that are half the price and just as good. But Shafer is truly an exception. The wines are generally irresistible and you do get what you pay for, if you're willing to pay this much. This gorgeous wine is loaded with aromas of black fruit, smoke and leather. Full-bodied, indeed yes. Score: 93/100. Favorite Red Wine

Australian White Wine

CHATEAU REYNELLA CHARDONNAY 2002 McLaren Vale, South Australia VC: As well as being the state's oldest operating winery, Chateau Reynella is also considered the birthplace of South Australia's internationally renowned wine industry. Look for loads of bright green apple fruit and toasty oak character in this creamy, full-bodied Chardonnay. 510610 (D) 750 mL $25.95. My note: Lip-smacking great. Buttery, oaky and full-bodied. Pair with lobster and corn dishes or pastas in rich creamy sauces. Score: 89/100.

GREG NORMAN CHARDONNAY 2004 Victoria VC: Here's another fine offering from golf pro turned wine proprietor Greg 'The Shark' Norman. This medium-bodied Chardonnay is made in a fairly buttery-oak style with some peachy fruit flavors. Enjoy with linguini and clams in a cream sauce or grilled chicken breasts in a mushroom cream sauce. 552083 (D) 750 mL $19.95. My note: Oaky, but balanced. Good value. Score: 89/100.

Australian Red Wine

BROKENWOOD 'CRICKET PITCH' RED 2002 South Eastern Australia Food match: pasta and light meat dishes. 731638 (XD) 750 mL $22.95. My note: Gorgeous wine from a consistently great producer. Full-bodied but balanced. Score: 90/100.

CHATEAU REYNELLA SHIRAZ 2002 Basket Pressed, McLaren Vale, South Australia: Winner of a Blue Gold Award at the Sydney International Wine Competition 2005. 510628 (XD) 750 mL $29.95. My note: Rewarding and delicious richness. Score: 89.5/100.

HEARTLAND SHIRAZ 2004 Langhorne Creek/Limestone Coast 661934 (XD) 750 mL $17.95: Great value for the money. Dark berries and plums. Mouth-watering acidity makes it dance with a wide range of dishes, including meats and game. Score: 90/100.

KATNOOK ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002 Coonawarra, South Australia 590471 (XD) 750 mL $29.95. Big, black brooding wine with dark fruit and plenty of attitude. Score: 90/100.

SEPPELT CABERNET SAUVIGNON/ MERLOT 2003 Victoria 661942 (XD) 750 mL $19.95. Another Heart of Darkness wine: big, black fruit, foreboding. Score: 89/100.

WOLF BLASS 'GOLD LABEL' SHIRAZ 2003 Barossa Valley, South Australia
Food match: slow roasted lamb shanks with tomato relish and creamy pepper mashed potatoes. 590273 (XD) 750 mL The liquor store's web site shows $29.95 and the brochure $19.95. Full-bodied and delicious. Great value if it's $19.95. Comes with a screwcap, yay! Score: 89.5/100.

New Zealand Red Wine

BORTHWICK VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2001 Wairarapa, North Island VC: Veteran winemaker Paddy Borthwick began his own label in 1996 after decades of working with wineries both in New Zealand and around the world. The 2001 is his winery's third vintage of Pinot Noir and it won a Silver Medal in its youth at the 2002 Air New Zealand Wine Awards. Made in a Burgundian style, expect a mouth-filling and mature Pinot loaded with strawberry and cherry fruit flavors and spicy oak notes. 586065 (D) 750 mL $21.95. My note: Sweet fruit aromas (it's a dry wine though), some oak and a silky texture. Score: 90/100.

COOPERS CREEK PINOT NOIR 2004 Marlborough, South Island VC: This approachable Pinot would be an excellent match for grilled rack of lamb and roast potatoes sprinkled with rosemary. Sourced from three different vineyard sites in Marlborough, expect a wine with good weight and ripe core of strawberry and cherry fruit and a lengthy finish. 599969 (D) 750 mL $19.95. My note: Aromas of bright cherries, mouth-watering acidity. Perfect for salmon, pate or chicken. Score: 89/100.

WAIPARA SPRINGS PINOT NOIR RESERVE 2002 Waipara Valley, North Island 663294 (D) 750 mL $25.95: Lovely combination of cherries, cedar and herbs. Score: 90/100.

South African Red Wine

GRAHAM BECK 'THE RIDGE' 2002 WO Robertson 607812 (XD) 750 mL $24.95: Juicy with dark fruit and mocha aromas. Full-bodied. A touch tannic. Score: 89/100.

French White Wine

COMTES D'ISENBOURG GEWURZTRAMINER 2004 AC (Châteaux et Terroirs) VC: Straw color, with a bright complex nose of flowers, peach, honey, tropical fruit as well as a mineral element. The abundant ripe fruit flavors are well-balanced giving the medium full-bodied wine an attractive edge. There's mineral and spice on the long finish which suggest spicy maki rolls or chicken paprikash as good food matches. 675736 (D) 750 mL $18.95. My note: A medium-bodied white that's perfect for Asian dishes. Score: 88/100.

French Red Wine

CHÂTEAU BARRAIL DU BLANC 2001 AC St-Émilion Grand Cru VC: Mid-ruby in color. The nose features cherry and earth tones. This is medium-bodied with a sweet centre and a lingering finish. 674317 (XD) 750 mL $28.95. My note: Love it! Drink it now (after decanting a couple of hours) or wait three years. Terrific balance, depth and elegance. Score: 90/100.

CHÂTEAU ROQUE LE MAYNE 2003 AC Côtes de Castillon VC: This magnificent Merlot-based claret is made by the estate's extremely talented owner/winemaker, Jean-François Meynard. Though the property has been in his family for three generations, it has really blossomed with his leadership and ability to craft wines of depth, body and fine fruit flavors. His wines offers the quality of a Grand Cru at an incredible price. 674184 (XD) 750 mL $25.95. My note: Aromas of chocolate and dark red fruit. Very Old World in style, deep like a cabernet (even though, yes, I know it's a merlot). Drink 2006-2009. Score: 90/100.

DOMAINE BASSAC SYRAH 2004 Vins de Pays des Côtes de Thongue VC: The Quality Assurance laboratory has determined that this organic wine contains 28 mg/l of free sulphur. Ruby/violet in color. On the nose, cooked berry compote with a floral note. This is light- to medium-bodied and pleasingly soft in texture; a real quaffer. 673210 (D) 750 mL $11.95. My note: Aromas of cherries and pine needles. Juicy and delicious. Score: 87/100.

DOMAINES PERRIN 'NATURE' CÔTES-DU-RHÔNE 2003 AC VC: The Quality Assurance laboratory has determined that this wine contains 9 mg/l of free sulphur. An elegant and approachable blend of Grenache and Syrah, with an environmental conscience. The Perrin brothers of Château de Beaucastel fame have been practicing organic methods for decades. In June of 2005 it was listed as one of the 'Top Ten Organic Wines' by The Independent in London. 948059 (XD) 750 mL $15.95. My note: More ripe berries and cedar. Great value and a consistent producer. Score: 87/100.

Portuguese Red Wine

JOSÉ MARIA DE FONSECA PERIQUITA CLASSICO 2001 'Special Reserve', Vinho Regional Terras do Sado 726679 (XD) 750 mL $26.95: Rich, deep layers of flavor, mocha notes. Score: 90/100.

QUINTA DE PANCAS RESERVA RED 2001 Vinho Regional Estremedura VC: Complex bouquet includes blackberry, spice, tar, mushroom, and leather. Medium to full in body and supple in texture. This is harmonious now and will gain complexity with ageing. 678094 (XD) 750 mL $33.95. My note: Full-bodied but smooth and elegant. Dark red fruit. Can cellar for five years. Score: 91/100.

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